Are Entertainment Weekly writers potheads?

A confused and impenetrable "100 Greatest Moments in Rock" issue misses the fleeting pleasures of pop.


Bill Wyman
May 28, 1999 2:00PM (UTC)

List-crazy Entertainment Weekly's newest opus, "The 100 Greatest Moments in Rock," is misconceived and dopily executed. It's not clear whether the point is supposed to be the most important moments historically, in terms of influence, or just the ones that produced good records. And the chronological arrangement, rather than by actual rank, makes the whole thing impenetrable.

Having made the decision to go chronologically, the magazine is stuck mixing up wholly musical moments with more historical ones. Thus "Little Richard records 'Tutti-Frutti'" (37) or "'What's Going On' is released" (43) contends with "John meets Paul" (12), "The Replacements sign to Sire" (91) and more mystifying things like "Green Day's Woodstock II mud melee" (98). The frivolousness of most of the '90s moments ("Milli Vanilli is exposed" [89], "Ginger quits the Spice Girls" [95]) nicely encapsulates what the magazine thinks is important about this decade.

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"Pete Townshend smashes his first guitar" is number 26; "The Who record 'My Generation'" is at 35. The distinction isn't clear. Also included is John Lennon's death (32) -- not what I would consider a great moment in rock -- and which includes this sentence, "In a way that now seems prophetic, the news of Lennon's shooting broke to much of America on 'Monday Night Football.'" Are EW writers potheads? And isn't the importance of Lennon's meeting Yoko Ono (57) that it was the beginning of the end of the Beatles?

There are some extra-musical events, the PMRC hearings (44), for example, but a spotty account of key technology changes -- a hugely important part of rock's evolution -- is shunted into corners away from the main list. Where's the founding of Atlantic Records -- or Sub Pop? The list is fine on hip hop and rap, worse on currently unhip heavy metal. "Stairway to Heaven" gets the big nod (20), whereas the real key to Led Zeppelin's importance was, of course, Jimmy Page's production of the second album -- which included the epochal "Whole Lotta Love." Also, '90s metal -- most importantly Metallica's trés tough and vastly influential "Master of Puppets" -- gets ignored.

EW's dumb list made us realize something else: The greatest moments in rock are musical ones. Not just the best albums, but actual moments, different for everyone every day. For me, last week, it was Elliott Smith crowing, "I'm a color reporter" on that cool song "Bled White." Yesterday, as I recall, it was "Walk Away Renee." Tomorrow, I have a feeling, it might be the drums on "Go Your Own Way," or the guitars on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," Kurt Cobain's singing on "Dumb," the French horns on "A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)" ... or, most likely, a song I've never heard before and never will again in quite the same way.


Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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