Rolling Stone takes a shot at best of the '80s

Over the past 20 or so years, Rolling Stone has gone from a bastion of quality rock and political journalism to a bathroom reader filled with lists.

RS makes lists for everything these days. Best band of all time. Best singer. Best guitar player. Best album.

Obviously, some marketing hack told the editorial team that lists can be a print magazine's saving grace. Lists, says Marketing Hack, are accessible to everyone. You don't have to know anything about the underground punk scene in Minneapolis or, say, the checks-and-balances limits on the executive branch, to enjoy lists. Lists are easy to follow and require little effort on the reader's part. Which is good, as most high school grads today find it obnoxious to read anything longer than a text message.

Lists contain bold print telling you where to start reading and each entry is held to about 200 words. This is perfect for an increasingly busy (doing what? who knows, but EVERYONE is just so damn busy nowadays, says Marketing Hack) and borderline illiterate populace.

I don't believe any of this, of course. Unlike marketing hacks, I don't have a universe-destroying black hole where my heart used to be, and I don't embrace cynicism as if it were a virtue.

The ideas mentioned previously are things marketing hacks tell smart people in charge of information vessels such as magazines and newspapers to give them hope. Said smart people believe marketing hacks because they claim to have mystical visions that reveal the secrets and desires hidden within the hearts of young people. The smart people feel they need to know about these young people because these semi-literate, busy-doing-not-much-of-anything-besides-looking-busy young people are the ones who buy all the stuff.

Hence, we get magazines full of lists.

I dig list issues.

I was supremely interested when I saw the new Rolling Stone's list of the best albums of the '80s.

I am on record stating that the '80s are my favorite music decade. I get attacked verbally and sometimes nearly physically when I say such things. But I stand by my belief.

The '80s saw the rise of college radio, post-punk and the American indie movement that sprung in local scenes across the country. The labels SST, Touch & Go, Dischord and Sub Pop started in the '80s. Hip hop caught traction and fired up a brief, but potent revolution in the '80s.

RS's list sinfully shortchanges hip-hop, with no album cracking the top 10. Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" sits at 12. Run-D.M.C. is dumped in the middle of the pack. A crime.

In its never-ending effort to kiss Mick Jagger's arse, RS thrusts the Rolling Stones' flaccid and over-produced "Tattoo You" in the 34 spot — over U2's "War" (40), Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation" (45), Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever" (92!!!) and, good God, Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" (43).

Many of the entries smack of panic moves by the RS editorial board. Everyone with working ear canals knows that the '80s weren't kind to Bob Dylan's oeuvre. It's nothing against Dylan. He's still a legend and one of rock's few geniuses, but ranking the grating "Oh Mercy" album in the 44 slot seems forced. It's as if the editors said, "Oh crap, we can't make a list without including something by Bob Dylan. After all, isn't our rag named after one of his songs?" and chucked in the best of a bad lot.

I could live with this, but by forcing in weak albums by legends such as Dylan, the Stones and Pete Townshend, RS kicked to the curb truly influential work by the likes of the Pixies, Devo, the Cure, Beastie Boys, Love and Rockets, The Minutemen, Erik B. and Rakim, Minor Threat and the entire riot grrl movement. Gah!

(Speed metal, one of the lasting genres spawned in the '80s, is lacking representation on this list. No Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. I wasn't surprised by this, but it disappoints nevertheless.)

The top 10 isn't as bad as it could be, but, again, putting The Clash's "London Calling" at No. 1 seems forced. I love The Clash, but give me "White Riot" any day.

The editors did well by placing R.E.M.'s ground-breaker "Murmur" in the top 10, as well as Talking Heads' "Remain in Light." And Prince's "Purple Rain" is well-placed at No. 2, though I could easily give it the top spot.

The Boss cracks the top 10 with "Born in the USA" — a great work, indeed — but I immediately would switch it out with "Nebraska" or "The River," or the underrated "Tunnel of Love."

Don't get me started about tossing Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" all the way into the 27 spot. You could argue that it belongs in the top three. Name another album more perfect for its time and place as "Appetite" was for the sleazy, cocaine-glazed '80s? You can't.

The list is available at Tell me what you think.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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