SongwritersI love me some Top XX of All Times lists. As J will tell you, arguing about shit that doesn't mean anything is kinda like breathing to me. So I was ecstatic last month when I picked up Paste Magazine and saw their "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" cover article, especially when I saw that they had put that bloated waste of Canadian bacon, Neil Young, in as Number 2 behnd Bob Dylan. Oh boy - THIS is gonna be great!
Actually, other than that bit of ridiculousness (sorry Neil Young fans, but he sucks, has always sucked and will always suck until the end of time) the list wasn't too bad. They carefully stated that in polling the group of writers they assembled, including Mark Kemp and local literary luminary Clyde Edgerton, they asked them to "vote for the songwriters they treasured most", not necessarily the "best" or "most influential". I thought there were too many "flavors of the month" included, like Conor Oberst and Sufjan Stevens, and there were people that I just flat don't know so I can't judge. The guys that I thought were obvious (Costello, Springsteen, Mick and Keef, Paul Simon, etc.) were all in there and towards the top, but there were some notable exceptions, some of whom didn't make the readers poll either. So...
How do you leave Difford and Tilbrook (Squeeze), Paul Weller (Jam, Style Council), Fagen and Becker (Steely Dan), Billy Bragg and Peter Gabriel off of that list? At least the readers poll included the last two, but the first 2 songs off of Argybargy alone (Pulling Mussels from a Shell and Another Nail in my Heart) should have been enough for inclusion of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. There are certainly others that merit argument - I've got Mad World and Pale Shelter piping into my brain right now, so Orzabal and Smith are getting a higher ranking than they really deserve in my head right now and local pride makes me want to put Stamey and Holsapple up there as well (Ryan Adams is on the mag list and Ben Folds made the readers poll).
If I were to follow the "treasured most" dictum of the poll, though, my top 10 would be pretty damned predictable. In this order (with the writers poll number in parentheses):
1. (8) Elvis Costello
2. (3) Bruce Springsteen
3. (26) Stipe, Buck, Mill, Berry (REM)
4. (46) David Byrne
5. (18) Bono and co (U2)
6. (29) Tom Petty
7. (33) Pete Townshend
8. (16) David Bowie
9. (12) Glimmer Twins
10. (64) Andy Partridge
with honorable mentions to Holsapple/Stamey (dBs), Paul Westerberg and my boys John Plymale and Bryon Settle from the Pressure Boys. So there.