30 January 2011

The Friday Top Five (On Sunday)

I've thought about this a while now, and in an effort to have a consistent piece on this blog, I have decided to have what I will henceforth refer to as "The Friday Top Five." In this new "piece" I will continue to subject you all to my completely biased, subjective opinions on matters of triathlon and anything else I feel like torturing you with. Your welcome in advance for the forty-some remaining weeks of the calendar year. Alas! Look on the bright side: if the Mayans are correct, you should only have to put up with my insipid verbiage for but one more year. If I were a betting man, my guess is that the universe will not implode on itself to the size of an atom, and that you will have to go on living with my acute, yet banal, observations and growing neuroticism. Lucky you.

This semester, I am teaching the greatest class in the history of classes taught at the college level—History of Rock and Roll. I have noticed a really interesting phenomenon with my teenage and twenty-something year old students. They know a lot of music from the late 1960's and early 1970's (much more than the generation of students ten years their seniors), because of things like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Others, now have parents that grew up in the generation after the Baby Boomers who actually rocked out to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Most of my students know music from a really narrow window from about 1968-1978. Seriously, most of my students were born after Nirvana's Nevermind was released on Geffen back in 1991. Obviously rock and roll music did not start in 1991, although grunge certainly did, and soon became a widespread commodity to a growing number of white middle class teenagers—just like every other style of music before and after it. Of course, grunge was around before Nirvana. Bands like Sonic Youth and Mudhoney helped to coin the term when talking about their own music, but I remember Nirvana being one of the defining moments of my young musical career. Here were these three white dudes from Seattle playing music that rocked even harder than anything I had ever heard on MTV's Headbangers Ball back in the late 1980's, and they were doing so while donning flannel, torn jeans and sneakers, instead of hair with an insane amount of Aqua Net, and enough makeup and spandex to make Roxanne blush. I knew immediately upon hearing Nirvana—without ever hearing anything from the music rags and talking heads—that this band was definitely ground breaking. Did not end well. I love being able to speak anecdottaly about my experiences with the music. It is really hard to feel "old" talking about Nirvana because I still think of them as really current.

Anyway, one of the things that I get to speak is who I think the best rock singers in history are (I have a PhD in Music—I'm able to decide such things). Throughout the semester, we get to engage with all of this great music and the artists who recorded it.

Without further adieu, here are my Top Five singers in rock and roll history, with some honorable mentions:

 #1: Freddie Mercury: Not a good looking man, but apparently rock singers do not need to be attractive for throngs of women (and men) to go completely hysterical at the mere sight of them (see: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, and David Bowie). You've never seen as many lighters in the air as when Freddy sang Bohemian Rhapsody to an appreciative Wembley Stadium crowd. His voice is dynamic and identifiable, and he can belt it and sing the ballad.

#2: Robert Plant: The lion-maned frontman of one of the most influential rock groups in history—Led Zeppelin admittedly modeled his singing after early African-American blues singers  Ma Rainey and Big Mama Thorton. He had an incredible stage presence and when I listen to Zeppelin tunes like "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," or "Kashmir" on my iPod while I am training, I have to control my testosterone from making me want to run through walls.

#4 Ozzy Osbourne: Even if you do not like his music, this one-time frontman for Black Sabbath whose career has spanned over forty years, had an unbelievable dynamic range an had some of the most incredible intonation (ability to sing on pitch) of any rock singer in history. The Prince of Darkness and Godfather of Heavy Metal has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. That is more than John Tesh and Yanni combined. His reality T.V. show, The Osbournes, introduced a whole new generation to the lifestyle of rich and underserving privileged children of rock icons.

#5: John Lennon: C'mon, what would a list of the greatest rock singers of all time be without the man who sang I Want to Hold Your Hand and Helter Skelter? Those two tunes have dramatically different vocal styles. More, Lennon could be expressive and lyrical with tunes like "Nowhere Man," and deliver in the stuttering vocal declamation of "Come Together." Like Mozart (who lived to only thirty-five years), it would have been fascinating to hear what Lennon's musical output would have been like had his life not been tragically cut short.

#5 Steve Parry: I know what you're thinking, Steve Parry, really.. are you sure you don't mean Steven Tyler. No. I feel funny putting Parry here, because the music is a bit cheesy. Okay, it's a lot cheesy, and I am embarrassed to admit that I can sing just about every lyric from every tune Journey wrote.
The once frontman of the rock band Journey had an amazing instrument—not to mention wrote some of the most catchy rock tunes of the late eighties. Heck, Journey even had a video game. You know you've made it when you have a video game. I think everyone who went to school in the eighties had the tunes "Open Arms" or "Faithfully" as one of the themes for their school dances. The school dance tune was swiftly replaced for the next ten years by the Boyz II Men song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."

Honorable Mentions: David Lee Roth, Sting, Bono, Janis Joplin, Roger Daltrey, Jim Morrison

Now, for all you talking heads out there, notice, I did not say most influential. That would be a completely different list. Dylan would be on that top five. Coincidentally, Rolling Stone listed the top 100 singers of all time. Number one on the list was Aretha Franklin. I might have to agree with that analysis. She can sing everything.

Training: Have you ever had one of those weeks that has completely kicked your ass? Wow. I was SO incredibly busy with work and my personal life this week that trying to fit in my training was.... well... insane!  I missed a couple of workouts, but I tried not to miss consecutive swims or bikes or runs. I missed one swim and one bike. I am a slacker, what can I say? I feel awfully guilty, but I have so many projects on the burner that I really have to concentrate on.

The good news? I got fitted for my new Kestrel (post to follow). It is beautiful, and the fitting was amazing. I have never been as comfortable on a bike as I am on this one—really!  I think my Trakkers teammates are going to be VERY excited about their new rides—especially those of us who live near the Arctic Circle who will not have a chance to bike outside until say... our first triathlon in June. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but just a bit.

My hydration during my workouts has been a lot better thanks in part to my First Endurance drink. I have both the Grape and Fruit Punch flavors and enjoy them when I train. I have a tendency to cramp up, especially in my swim because I often forget to hydrate as much as I should during the day. If you have not tried First Endurance yet, I highly recommend that at the very least, you get on board and try it for a couple of weeks of workouts. I like it because it is not real sugary either.

Okay gang, my Kestrel post to follow. Another busy week, but I hope to be communicating from the craziness.

More Soon. Train Smart!


Katie said...

I got engaged at the John Lennon Imagine Memorial in Central Park!

Exciting news on the Kestrel, I was checking some out yesterday at the bike shop. I finally purchased my first road bike!!

Anonymous said...

How the hell did I not make your top five?

Kelly said...

Seriously, I love Journey!!!! that is all.

Aimee said...

That class sounds awesome! What a fun thing to teach!

I'm jealous about your Kestrel. I've seen other bloggers post about their new bikes and they just look awesome!

Kacie Darden said...


Can't wait to for the bike post!

Anonymous said...

The first concert I ever went to was Journey-they (and Steve Perry) have a special place in my heart. and still love them!!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

One ofr two wont make or break the season, its the off season, just trying to get back in the groove and its harder because of all the nbad weather around.

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

You just gave me a flash back to the first time a pimpled faced skinny teenager heard, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- it was epic. Changed my life. Made me go home and hide my GnR and Metallica tapes, I felt betrayed by Motley Crue. Then I remember the first time I heard the "Temple of the Dog" album -- amazing stuff.

You have a solid list of singers - we will debate this over many cocktails in Sandusky. First we will have to define the meaning of "Top" singers. I have Daltry and Morrison higher, especially if we are talking just voice quality. Oh and Chris Cornell is so underrated as well.

Can't wait to pics of the Kestrel!!

Molly said...

on my 21st birthday, a friend gave me $5 to put in the jukebox (is that still a word?) and I played all Zeppelin. While wearing a flannel over a thermal shirt, jeans and clunky boots a la Nirvana. And no one complained. :)

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

If I were in college again, oh, say in NY, I'd have to enroll in your class. Great stuff! I'm officially coming out of the closet and saying that I do love Ozzy. I kinda got hooked on his music during his reality show, which I happen to own the first season on DVD. Ha! Can't wait to see the Kestrel!

Mark said...


you make a VERY valid point about Chris Cornell. I will put him on as honorable mention as well. Important rock singer, and very underrated because.... he could be on the VH1 "Where Are They Now?"

Iron H said...

I like your blog. First time visitor. But I can only agree with one of your top 5 singers: Plant. And he's Number 1. I have to put the following in the top 5 too: Bono, Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and McCartney.

Mark said...

Iron H—thanks for swinging by for the first time AND leaving your mark.

Of course this stuff is fairly subjective, but in terms of vocal agility, range, and intonation, I don't think I would put Vedder or Springsteen in this group. I think Eddie has one of the most unique voices in rock and roll, but you would take out Ozzy for Vedder?! I'm not a hater, I love Pearl Jam and Springsteen's music a lot more than say, Journey's. Okay.... the debate shall continue. I can see where these posts are going.

KC—why does it NOT surprise me that you are an Ozzy fan?!

Kiersten said...

Ditto what Kelly said. Journey is a featured prominently on my workout playlist. That sounds like an awesome class to teach!

Anthony said...

Sounds like you're teaching the children well...

Caratunk Girl said...

Freddy Mercury is a great choice.

I FINALLY got my bike. I am so far behind in blogs and team stuff I hope to catch up this weekend. BUT I promise you some bike porn by Sunday!! You show me yours, I'll show you mine! ha ha :)

Syed said...

Helter Skelter was sung by McCartney. Lennon and McCartney shared lead vocals on I Want to Hold Your Hand so that wouldn't be the best example of Lennon's singing methinks.