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!




Shiflet said...

They get props for the inclusion of Bread, but really "Make It With You" would have been the better choice and naturally it should have been at least cracked Top Ten. You go, Gerr.

Doug said...

yeah, i agree that "make it with you" is the better song. i was thinking bread should be higher too. and honestly, why is air supply on this list? i know they've been the scapegoat for years now but are any of their song actually good? "making love out of nothing" sure isn't.

john o said...

it seems that the list gets more ironic as it moves along, culminating in a top ten which is basically pure cheese. good on them for including "i'm not in love" and "what a fool believes", but this list could've used a bit more AM Gold and a bit less We Love the 80s.

makes me wanna go listen to "put your hand in the hand".

Doug said...

"sister golden hair" or "ventura highway" would have been better choices for an america tune as well. and honestly, "if you could read my mind" should be in the top 15 or so. probably would have a different hall and oates track too. you are right though, john, soft rock for me ended around '82 or so. i'll give them "hello" and "one more night" but anything after that isn't soft rock.
but really, the more i look at this list, i'm pretty cool with it. i have soft rock folder here at home and most of the songs in there are on this list. i was impressed. i would probably have 25-30 or these songs on my list.
a few others that may have made my list:

stephen bishop "on and on"
ambrosia "how much i feel"

anyway, you can't expect them to have all these obscure soft rock tunes here, so i guess i'm at peace with what they have. gerry was miffed though.

on a related note, i hear numero is doing a lost soft-rock comp sometime soon. should be fantastic.

Doug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

updated with some youtube links. watch them.

gremlyn said...


WTF vh1???!!!

and there was no mention of AL STEWART (another fave) as well...


b.miller said...

Gerry --

I appreciate your music and your passion and I agree with virtually every point you make here.

Furthermore, "Soft Rock" was definitely over by '82-'83 at the absolute latest. Also, Bolton, Collins, Marx, Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson should all be taken out back and killed very softly.

Look for my review on the NDA of the Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, John Ford Coley concert at Dayton's lovely Fraze Pavillion over the weekend. It was softasticular?

Shiflet said...

"but this list could've used a bit more AM Gold and a bit less We Love the 80s" sums it up great.

LauraB said...

"Day After Day" by Badfinger!!

sam said...

bobby, please do not have roberta flack killed softly. her song "feel like makin' love" is a classic.

also: most of their '80s inclusions were power ballads. totally not the same thing.

props to them for putting andrew gold's "lonely boy." i would have picked a different leo sayer song and "daisy jane" is a way better america song. "horse with no name" is just a shitty neil young ripoff. i guess "ventura highway" would make more sense, as it was a bigger hit. or "tin man," that song is sweet too. "jackie blue" by ozark mountain daredevils might have been a good choice for this, but it may rock just a little too hard. also, "muskrat love" is a way better captain and tenille song. and what about james taylor? "how sweet it is (to be loved by you)" belongs here more than 95% of these other choices. and of course, art garfunkel. and fuck kansas.

and fuck vh1.

good blog though.

Doug said...

James Taylor and Elton John should be somewhere on this list. Maybe even Carli Simon. I dunno, seems like they wanted to stay away from bigger names like Garfunkel and Elton but that didn't stop them from including Chicago and Hall and Oates and other artist with multiple hits. Retarded.
I agree, Sam, there's a difference between "Monster Ballads" and soft rock. Don't those fuckers watch infomercials?
Through all of this, though, I've come to realize that "If You Leave Me Now" is one of the greatest songs of all time. Have you guys watched that youtube? Amazing.

Lux said...

i'm bored.
and tired.
and i miss andy.
none of which applies to you in the slightest.
but you should know.

Anonymous said...

is this blog history?

Bo said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Gerry:

I agree wholeheartedly--you TOTALLY should have made the list! (Even with Stealer's Wheel, babe!) At least they threw you a bone by declaring the sax solo in "Baker Street" the most softastic one. But take heart--no one on that list made it into a Quentin Tarantino movie like you!


Danny Q. said...

Where's Ambrosia, 10cc, Fleetwood Mac, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Genesis, Heart...
David Soul? Debbie Boone? Anne Murray? Pleeeeease!!!