Friday, June 8, 2007

Gerry Rafferty on VH1's Top 40 Soft Rock Tunes

Hello mates, Gerry here. Doug's been slacking a bit of late so I thought I'd ask if I could guest blog on an issue that needs immediate discussion: VH1's list of the 40 "Greatest" soft rock songs. They use the term "softastic", as if the genre needed even more ironic poking and giggling. Well I'm here to put an end to this ribbing once and for all, and to inform the good people at Video Hits One exactly why they are wrong on so many levels with this list.
It appears to me that they've confused the genre of soft rock with other closely-related musics from the seventies and early eighties. Soft rock lies somewhere between the sweaty sounds of AOR Classic Rock (with your Billy Squier, James Gang types) and Top 40 mom-pop (Debby Boone, Tom Jones) but can sometimes stray into the surrounding genres depending on the artist and song. The best way to distinguish a soft rock tune is to listen closely to the production and the vocal melody and ask a single question: does this song barely rock? In order for a song to be soft rock it must rock little, but never too much. If it rocks too much it's classic, if it doesn't at all, it's pop. Another trick is to be pretty loose with the term rock. For instance, a cool melody in a song may not "rock" in the way a Jimmy Paige guitar riff rocks, but it can rock in a way that tugs at your heartstrings and sticks in your head. Rock by way of creativity and talent. Okay, let's take a look at the and see what they have on the list:

40. Bertie Higgins - "Key Largo"
39. David Soul - "Don’t Give Up On Us"
38. Peter Frampton - "Baby, I Love Your Way"
37. Leo Sayer - "When I Need You "
36. 10cc - "I’m Not in Love"
35. Extreme - "More Than Words"
34. Dan Hill - "Sometimes When We Touch"
33. Cat Stevens - "Peace Train"
32. Kenny Loggins - "This is It"
31. Richard Marx - "Hold On To The Nights"
30. Andrew Gold - "Lonely Boy"
29. Debby Boone - "You Light Up My Life"
28. America - "Horse With No Name"
27. Lionel Richie - "Hello"
26. Harry Chapin - "Cat's In The Cradle"
25. Anne Murray - "You Needed Me"
24. Phil Collins - "One More Night"
23. REO Speedwagon - "I Can't Fight This Feeling"
22. Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson - "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love"
21. Orleans - "Still the One"
20. Captain & Tennille - "Do That To Me One More Time"
19. Michael Bolton - "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You"
18. Toto - "Rosanna"
17. Juice Newton - "Angel Of The Morning"
16. Bread - "Baby I’m - A Want You"
15. Journey - "Open Arms"
14. Seals & Crofts - "Summer Breeze"
13. Carpenters - "Superstar"
12. Starland Vocal Band - "Afternoon Delight"
11. Olivia Newton-John - "I Honestly Love You"
10. Chuck Mangione - "Feels So Good"
09. Hall and Oates - "One On One"
08. The Doobie Brothers - "What A Fool Believes"
07. Kansas - "Dust In The Wind"
06. Air Supply - "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All"
05. Chicago - "If You Leave Me Now"
04. Barry Manilow - "Mandy"
03. Rupert Holmes - "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"
02. Styx - "Babe"
01. Christopher Cross - "Sailing"

My first issue after browsing this list are the glaring omissions, notably the absence of ME. That's right folks, no Rafferty on a soft rock list. Sad, 'innit? I wrote what many consider to be the greatest soft rock song ever in "Baker Street", and another stone cold classic with "Right Down the Line", but neither gem made the list. That right there pretty much invalidates the list for me. Do they think I rock a little too hard to be considered soft rock, or have they simply forgotten me altogether? Another one they forgot about is my dear friend Gordon Lightfoot. They've got "Cat's in the Cradle", which isn't even remotely close to a soft rock tune, but have left out "Sundown". Bullocks. What about Ace's "How Long"? Little River Band's "Reminiscing"? Player's "Baby Come Back"? All of these would be top 20 on my list. Nowhere to be found.
Problem #2: a lot of these songs are not soft rock. As great a tune as Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" is, the song is not soft rock. What it could be labeled is anybody's guess, but it should not be on this list. Orleans' "Still the One"? Too sweaty. They just wanted a good reason to talk about that homoerotic album cover. Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson come from a genre called "quiet storm", look it up. And Debby Boone and Anne Murray, despite owning the proper amount of sugar and cheese to make it, sadly do not barely rock. The Carpenters of course do, because of their tragic story and immense talent. Plus, "Superstar" is just a stellar song.
That said, friends, I must give VH1 credit for choosing some of the greatest soft rock tunes of my generation. Some of them are no-brainers: "What a Fool Believes", "Afternoon Delight", "Summer Breeze", "I Can't Fight This Feeling", "Open Arms". Others took some guts, and I commend them. "Feels So Good" could very well be left off due to it's length and the fact that it is an instrumental jazz track, but in reality it speaks to the very heart of what soft rock is all about. 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" is more of a cultish soft rock song, but if you ask me it'd be in the closer the top. And though my top ten would be vastly different than what is presented, I really can't argue with the quality of their choices, especially with their high placement of "If You Leave Me Now". That song is so beautiful.
Have I rambled enough about this? I think I'll stop. It's just that, well, I was a little hurt when I learned I wouldn't be included in this list. I mean, Richard Marx over the Raff? Okay, okay, I'm done. It's off my chest. Now I'd like to know what you, fine readers, think is the greatest soft rock tune of all time, whether it's included here or not. Don't be shy...these songs are great!