Dec 04, 2018
Posted by: Hitsville

All of Hitsville’s ranking lists for New York


I’ve done a few lists for New York magazine and its website Vulture — variations on “All 213 Songs by the Beatles, Ranked in Order From Worst to Best.” They seem like listicles, but they are actually quite long, and try to tell the story of the band, along with other things, in addition to the commentaries on the songs.

Anyway, here they all are:


All 15 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees, Ranked

From Roxy Music to Def Leppard.

All 214 Artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ranked From Best to Worst

From Chuck Berry to Bon Jovi.

66 Oscar Monologues and Opening Numbers Ranked, From Worst to Best

From Seth MacFarlane and Snow White to Chris Rock and NPH, with lots of Bob Hope in the middle.

All 147 Michael Jackson Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best

From his voice to his image to his dancing, it was so easy to get swept up in his High Pop Art. Then things got weird.

All 139 the Clash Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best

Death or Glory?

All 165 Pink Floyd Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best

So, you think you can tell Meddle from The Division Bell?

All 213 Beatles Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best

We had to count them all.

All 74 Led Zeppelin Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best

The biggest, loudest, heaviest band of all.

May 12, 2016
Posted by: Hitsville

Recent articles by Hitsville

For the Columbia Journalism Review:
“Nate Silver unloads on the New York Times”

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT’S NATE SILVER ripped into The New York Times in general—and the paper’s new media columnist,Jim Rutenberg, in particular—on the FiveThirtyEight election podcast on Monday. The minutes-long rant included loaded words like “dishonest” and “unethical.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 5.03.30 p.m.

Silver and his operation had an alliance with the Times during the time of the 2012 election. The attack showed that there’s little love lost over the split, at least from Silver’s perspective. It also

 proved that Donald Trump, the apparent victor in a race that reporters across the spectrum called spectacularly wrong up until the very end, is still roiling the media world.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 5.01.15 p.m.For Vulture (New York magazine website):
Radiohead’s Shtick Resonates Anew in the Trump Era With A Moon Shaped Pool

Now, with 48 hours notice, we have A Moon Shaped Pool, which is, leaving aside the annoying lack of a hyphen in the title, a capital-A album. Do you remember the opening passages of King of Limbs? The atonal beeps, like something out of a Terry Riley piece? A Moon Shaped Pool, by contrast, begins with a coursing and dramatic guitar line, as powerful an attack as we’ve heard from the band in more than 15 years, flecked first with some processed strings, and then a hysterical reedy bleat, like a bassoon about to undergo a tracheotomy.

For Vulture (New York magazine website):
His Name Was Prince. And He Was Funky. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 4.59.14 p.m.

With the death of Prince, let’s celebrate “this thing called life,” as His Purpleness himself put it. For him it was inseparable from love — his second and most heartfeltsubject — and from sex, his third and most lascivious. They were all part of the same thing. He was arguably the most crazily multitalented pop star we have ever seen: a singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, performer, and impresario of the first rank. He was also a dutiful actor, a worthy inhabitant of the Madonna-Kardashian-Trump ether of tabloid antics, a narcissist of dizzying dysfunctionality, a crank, and also, in the end — what’s the word? — a presence. I remember being at a Warner Bros. convention, sitting at a big ballroom table with a bunch of cynical journalists. Prince walked by — tiny, in purple and high heels — and we all dropped our drinks. A few minutes later he was onstage rolling around on the top of a white grand piano singing “Nothing Compares 2 U.” We all knew what he was trying to do to the piano. He was a fucker. No, I mean: a literal fucker. Beside everything else, he stood astride the world and fucked famously. He was the world’s most advanced rock star.


Apr 10, 2016
Posted by: Hitsville

Liz Phair, Steve Albini & Me

newcity cover

Twenty-two years ago, the music producer sent me a letter at the Chicago Reader, complaining about a piece I’d written on Liz Phair, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Urge Overkill.  It was 1993 and those three acts were at the front of of a roller-coaster ride of fame as the city’s rock scene came to national attention.


albini fax

The exchange has become part of Chicago rock lore — to this day it comes up regularly in writing about the scene.

His note created a months-long letters war in the paper, but I’ve never responded. Recently, a writer in the Reader (which is, sad to say, a shell of its former self) cited the note and dissed me in the process. I thought it was time to talk about some of the issues the letter raised, let folks know how ’93 unfolded from my perspective in the cheap seats, and, not least, settle a few scores.

New City, a competing paper in town, agreed to run the result. It was, editor and publisher Brian Hieggelke said, the longest piece they’d ever run.

You can read the piece — with major and cameo appearances by Phair, Albini, Urge, Billy Corgan, Jim DeRogatis, Brad Wood, Brigid Murphy, Jeff Tweedy, Sue Miller, Joe Shanahan, Jim Ellison, the Stalkers, Courtney Love, and Sheila Sachs — here.


Feb 26, 2016
Posted by: Hitsville

Everything you know about the Oscars and diversity is wrong

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 8.43.52 a.m.I wrote a media commentary story for the Columbia Journalism Review last month right after the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced. The gist of the piece was that it was odd that all the press on the awards didn’t bother to lay out what the academy’s record when it came to recognizing minority actors actually was.

In the weeks since, the cacophony has only gotten worse. Just for the sake of disseminating accurate information, here’s some things you haven’t heard in the debate running up to the show, which is Sunday night.

Please note! Racism in the entertainment industry is a complex, multifaceted beast, with much blame to go around, from discriminatory hiring patterns on the part of the industry to the casual commercial indifference of audiences to films about the black experience.

But, having noticed a lot of changes in the way the academy has gone about its job over the last fifteen years, I think on balance that the criticism of it has gotten into the realm of the irresponsible.

Anyway, if you want to go protest something, here are some things you can put on your placards:

  • Of the 300 Academy Award nominations for acting since 2001, 45 nominations have gone to people of color, including blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, and Asians. That’s 15 percent; some 35 percent of the U.S. are non white. That’s not a huge percentage, but it’s significant. It should be mentioned in every commentary on the awards, instead of leaving the implication that the academy has a terrible record with non-white actors.
  • In 2001, the top acting awards were won by African Americans — Denzel Washington, for Training Day, and Halle Berry, for Monster’s Ball. In the years since, black actors have been awarded the Oscar nine times. Of the 60 statuettes awarded in the last fifteen years, that’s 15 percent. Blacks make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population. It doesn’t mean that much. (It’s not a limit—blacks could get it more than 15 percent!) But it’s not anything to protest about.
  • Since 2001, black and Latino actors have dotted the nominations and the winners: Viola Davis and Penélope Cruz, Eddie Murphy and Javier Bardem, Octavia Spencer and Forrest Whittaker, Ken Watanabe and Lupita Nyong’o, dozens more.
  • The academy has gone out of its way to recognize the overlooked. Quvenzhané Wallis, the incandescent presence at the center of Beasts of the Southern Wild, was nominated for best actress, the youngest actress ever nominated, this for a role in what was probably the lowest grossing film ever nominated for best picture. Barkhad Abdi, the Somali actor in Captain Phillips; Sophie Okonedo, whose background is Nigerian and Jewish, from Hotel Rwanda, Rinko Kikuchi, from Japan, from Babel, and others have broadened the academy’s nominations lists each year.
  • In the context of the paucity of non-white roles in most American films, this recognition is even more significant. No one would make the argument that 15 percent of the roles in Hollywood filmmaking are serious opportunities for blacks, yet blacks have won the Oscar 15 percent of the time. If anything, the academy has dug down to recognize good black roles.
  • This is not an insignificant practice. Nominations and awards increase the recipients’ earning power and filmmaking power.
  • Before 2000 only two women have been nominated for best director. Since then, two more have (Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.) In the first fifty years of the awards, there were no films nominated for best picture that had been directed by a woman. In the last 15 years, eight have. That’s not exemplary, but it’s an improvement.
  • In the best director category, incidentally, a white American man hasn’t won the category since 2007 (the Coen Brothers, for No Country for Old Men), and only four total since the turn of the century. The Mexican directors Alejandro Iñárritu and Alphonse Cuarón won the last two years, preceded by the Taiwanese Ang Lee, and Bigelow. The others were Brits. (But an African-American has never won the award.)
  • In the entire decade of the 1990s, there was not a single film nominated for best picture that had anything to do with the black or brown experience. In recent years there’s been quite a few: Ray, Babel, Slumdog Millionaire, Precious, The Help, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Selma, to name just some, culminating, of course, with 12 Years a Slave, which won best picture as well as two other awards, and created a moral bookend to the rather more rosy-eyed view of the South in the Hollywood touchstone Gone With the Wind, which won ten awards in 1939.
  • And that’s not to mention the films that took an unblinking look at other minority populations, notably Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and The Kids Are All Right, all of which were nominated for Best Picture and won other awards.
  • Over the last ten years or so, the members of the academy have broken themselves of the habit of focusing on high-grossing pictures. This is the biggest and most welcome change in the Oscars, and it’s the one that has made all the other changes possible. In the 1990s, the average box office gross of a best picture winner was $180 million. In the last ten years, it’s been closer to $80 million, and of course the difference is much greater when you take inflation into account. (Ticket prices were half what they are today in 1996.) In other words, the typical best picture today is seen by about one-fourth as many people as in the 1990s.
  • Similarly, the average gross of all the films given the nod for best picture are about one half what it was back in the 1990s. It’s not unusual now to see films that have grossed less than $10 million nominated for best picture. (For comparison purposes, the marketing budget alone for a blockbuster can run $100 million to $200 million.) It’s also common to see no best picture nominees at all appear in the list of the top ten grossing films of each year.
  • One of the complaints this year is that Beasts of No Nation didn’t get a best picture nomination, or an acting nod for Idris Elba. Beasts of No Nation made $100,000 at the box office. $100,000. Hurt Locker, with it’s $17 million gross, was the least-seen best picture winner ever. Beasts made roughly one-half of one percent what Locker made. That it could even be considered for a best picture nomination is a strong example of how wide the academy now spreads its net.



Feb 10, 2016
Posted by: Hitsville

Recent Articles by Hitsville

What the Media Failed to Mention in Their David Bowie obituaries
Columbia Journalism Review

bowieA CNN report, for example, went out of its way to mention Bowie’s involvement in a “schoolboy fight over a girl.” Bowie’s own contemporary version of his life then was much different. He told Playboy:

So it was some very pretty boy in class in some school or other that I took home and neatly fucked on my bed upstairs.



The Vulgar Boatmen’s “You & Your Sister,'” 25 Years Later

vulgar boatmenSpending the past few weeks with “You and Your Sister” brought its intensity back to me. There’s a six-minute song called “Drive Somewhere,” recorded with a great deal of unexpected clarity at Ray’s home studio, in Florida. It turns a lethally incisive backing track into a thrilling, expansive trip; the melodic changeups are snapping visions of light. I was immediately back amid the emotional maelstrom of driving, love, the radio, family, all making unified and coherent sense.


Everything You Know About the Oscars and Diversity Is Wrong
Columbia Journalism Review

oscarThe Academy’s switch to awarding most of its nominations to movies that don’t make a lot of money opened the door to the increase, over the last 15 years, in minority performers, as art films and those with more modest designs began elbowing aside slick commercial entertainments.

In 2008, Slumdog Millionaire, a film about a poor Indian boy, won best picture. Two years ago, 12 Years a Slave, the devastating portrayal of the lives of slaves in the pre-Civil War south, dominated the awards, winning best picture for director Steve McQueen, and best adapted screenplay for John Ridley, both of whom are black.

All 74 Led Zeppelin Songs, Ranked from Worst to Best (New York magazine)


Led ZeppelinAll the old terms used to explain this still apply: Zeppelin were a sledgehammer, a steamroller, a juggernaut, a leviathan, picking the music up, turning it into a club, and wielding it unmercifully, often on innocent bystanders and any nearby baby seals.

The first side of the band’s first self-titled album contained arguably the hardest-rocking, most thoroughly enjoyable set of songs any mortals had yet created. It created a sensation, and the group’s earliest tours began to spread the word of a uniquely powerful live assault. Zeppelin soon became the ultimate uncompromising hard-rock band, imperiously traveling the globe to deliver pummeling concerts at ear-splitting volume, attend to the local womenfolk, and take away unprecedented paychecks