Darktremor's bone to pick with "Scaruffi-ism"


Piero Scaruffi is (as anyone who's been here more than a day has noticed) regarded very highly by many listologists. Lists are made about him, all of his favorite albums rate very highly across listology lists, and some even directly copy his opinions and base their entire musical listening around what he has to say. It often goes almost to the point of worship. This is ridiculous.

Now, I'm not saying he isn't a great critic. He brings an excellent perspective to music, and provides a fresh look at many (often great) albums that are all but forgotten by other critics. He looks at music in a very different way, and his lists are not carbon-copies of every other critic (for example, there is not a single Beatles album on any of his top album lists - almost unheard of in rock criticism). As a critic, I agree, he's one of the best.

Here's my bone to pick: he's one person! His lists are not canon, they are not absolute authority. They are opinons, his taste in music. While he may label them things like "the best music of all times," that doesn't make it so. It's really his "favorite music of all times." Now, whether he actualy gave his lists those titles in arrogance (something most critics, myself included at times, are guilty of), or out of something lost in translation from Italian to English is irrelevant. It's the fact that so many here actually regard his lists as the best of all times.

I've seen discussions in which listologists are told to listen to an album 10, 20, even 30 more times until they "get it." If they don't like an album that Scaruffi does, it isn't simply a clash in taste; a difference in subjective opinion, it's that the listologist isn't trying hard enough to like what is "clearly" one of "the best albums of all times." Sadder still, is that some will listen to a Scaruffi album literally dozens of times, feeling there's something wrong with them for not rating the album exactly as Scaruffi does. Even I felt this way at some points, before I realized the absurdity of the situation. It's personal taste, not canon!

Thing is, listening to ANYTHING 50 times can eventually make you like it. You eventually associate what you've heard with the positive, relaxing act of listening to music, until hearing the music alone is enough to make you enjoy it. If this happens, you didn't "get" the album, you simply learned to make a classically conditioned association. Rats can do that. This doesn't make you super-intelligent, it makes you a biological creature. In general, if one doesn't "get" an album after about 5 listens (in one time in their life, that's not to say that going back years later won't yield different results), they're probably not going to actually "get" it.

As for Scaruffi's taste, it certainly isn't perfect. Even Scaruffi admits that: his lists and rating do occasionally change. But barring that, his view of music is only one possible way to look at it. Scaruffi values originality above all else in music; I'd even go so far as to say that it's all he values. While I agree that this is a noble aim for an artist, I don't it's the full story when it comes to music. Looking at only this will make for quite a noisy and difficult list of albums and songs: which is exactly what one finds in Scaruffi's lists.

I do believe that an aesthetically pleasing aspect to music is always necessary. I personally think that the best music can be heard when one marries originality with a certain listenability, something that Scaruffi (mostly) despises, unless the listenability is an aspect of the originality (or simply present along with the originality). For example, while both artists explore some of the same ideas at times, I believe that The Orb were greater musicians than Stockhausen. Stockhausen was certainly a greater artist, but The Orb were the better musicians. There's a distinction between the two that Scaruffi often fails to grasp. Originality should not simply be there for originality's sake: it should be there to act as another medium for the musician's expression. If an artist takes a previously inaccessible musical idea and makes it palatable, I think that is a greater musician than the innovator himself.

Scaruffi's lists are so lost in the "meaning" of music, that you can't help but think that he never sits down and simply enjoys it. He's like a visual art critic who is so busy talking about the social commentary of a painting that he misses out on the fact that's it's also quite beautiful, and can't enjoy a painting that is beautiful for beauty's sake.

I know some are inevitably going to tell me that I'm simply not willing to put the effort in, but I think to say that is to miss the point of music, to forget why we all listened to it in the first place: it's there to be enjoyed!

The above is simply my opinion on music, and many will disagree, but that's exactly the point. One SHOULD disagree with other critics and understand that it's just one way of viewing music. With Scaruffi, this often doesn't happen. Many seem to feel that they have to force themselves to love exactly what he does, objectively taking opinions that are really just subjective.

We shouldn't let ourselves forget: music is NOTHING but subjective! Scaruffi just offers one view, not absolute truth.

That's funny. I don't regard him highly at all.

Not even a bit? You don't at least think he's an interesting critic?

I've looked at his stuff before. If you provide me with an example of something he's written that's interesting I'd be glad to read it.

Wow. Not one single thing?

Sorry! (I totally didn't see this post) http://www.scaruffi.com/music/best100.html is the favorite Scaruffi piece around here.

I applaud you for posting this here, if only for your bravery. (The fact that I actually feel inclined to cite your bravery perhaps proves your point.)

I don't have anything against Scaruffi; in fact, a lot of the stuff he digs that I make my way around to is really, really good. But the atmosphere around here is largely ridiculous.

Agreed, I too like Scaruffi. I just take issue with his worshippers.

Interesting post DT. You make some good points here. Thing is, most (all?) so-called "Scaruffists" I've talked with enjoy his recommendations first and only then start to trust Scaruffi, and thus enjoy him as a critic/historian. You seem to imply that the "worship" is blind as opposed to earned. Trust me, if I didn't find his ratings and rankings so ridiculously accurate for my tastes I wouldn't keep listening. I doubt anyone else would either. I was probably lucky that when I first decided to take up Scaruffi's recommendations I chose two relatively easy, but immediately powerful albums (for me), and I also deeply loved a handful of his choices beforehand--so I went into agreement with him rather quickly and built that trust factor perhaps more easily than some. By and large, and by an extremely vast margin, I find his recommendations way more agreeable and enjoyable than any other.

That said, I am glad not everyone agrees with him as much as I do. It would get pretty boring. And I think it is important to have differences in musical opinion, and really, all art.

Also, I think he is much more unpopular on this site than he is popular. There are probably only about 10 or so users who really dig his choices. However I would probably say that a small handful of "Scaruffists" are more active listologists than most, which can perhaps make them seem more prevalent here than others. Perhaps their level of dedication and interest points to the effect the albums have had on them?

Thing is, listening to ANYTHING 50 times can eventually make you like it.

You may be right but I think any sane person can tell the difference of actually and truly falling in love with something as opposed to robotically conditioning oneself to it. I think most of the music on his lists is simply too complex and unique to "robotically" fall in love with. A person knows when that connection really happens. And since it happens so powerfully with the albums Scaruffi recommends you tend to get a bit more dedication there, and a higher degree of trust that those extra listens are gonna unearth something incredible.

I don't imply that the worship is blind at all! I specifically cite that I think Scaruffi is an excellent critic. My issue is with the fact that there's worship - whether it's supposedly earned or blind is to me irrelevant to the fact that it's still worship.

As for people finding his recommendations ridiculously accurate to their liking, the level I've seen of this is impossible. You mean to tell me that your interests in music coincedentally happened to mirror Scaruffi's precisely? Some of the favorite albums lists here are almost precise carbon copies of Scaruffi's lists. You mean to say that they just coincedentally go where on your lists where you put them after being merely exposed to them through Scaruffi's recommendation? That is positioning had no bearing whatsoever on yours (and other scaruffi-ists?). I find that really hard to believe, if that's what you're implying, because the odds of it occurring are astronomical, especially this many times!

When you listen to an album over and over until you like it, it's not going to feel like robotic conditioning, any more than enjoying a sound similar to an ice-cream truck is still enjoyed by adults, even when no ice cream truck is near. Or that we often have some attachment to sogns from our childhood. The difference is generally unnoticeable, and thus, a waste of time. Music is supposed to have SOME immediacy.

It only seems hard to believe for those that haven't thoroughly experienced it, so there's not really much I can say that will convince you otherwise. The odds don't seem so "impossible" to me. Believe it or not, there are some people who have the same or similar ideals as Scaruffi just like there are millions (billions?) who love the Beatles and rank their albums so similarly.

they (billions?) are under the same spell, different well.

But some Beatles fans have Abbey Road as their favorite album, while others prefer Revolver, others Sgt. Pepper's, and still others The White Album. That's because no two people have the exact same taste, and they respond differently to different musical techniques, different lyrics, different emotions. I mean, hell, plenty of people are influenced by critics' opinions; I could tell you a few critics who have definitely influenced my taste and way of thinking about art. But that doesn't mean I have the exact same favorite albums or films as them. Are Scaruffists a group of people who all have more or less the exact same musical taste? How can you all hear the same things and evaluate the albums the same way?

By the way, no one has to respond to this comment, but if you're just going to say that it would make more sense if I listened to the albums until I liked them, don't even bother replying.

it would make more sense if YOU listened to the albums until YOU liked them. "you know you want to listen to them, you are dying to, and you will quit smoking and move all of your money into the orange juice concentrate market; you are happy; you will listen to the albums and love them: you are happy..."

i have been, still am, and will always be influenced by critics; but that term is used very liberally: i will take into consideration ANYONE'S opinion on music as long as they have some sort of experience in that field (for example, psychedelic, pop, metal, electronic, avant-garde, classical, jazz, ...) or any album that i have not heard of and sounds like it might be interesting (A Day On Our Planet - Spicelab [Blind/darktremor], Themes of William Blake's... - Ulver [hinterland] (i forgot that i already had this in my inventory), ... - ... [...], a highly regarded album by a friend) whether or not it is in any specific "genre."

sounds like it might be interesting: this can be as superficial as looking at the cover or taking the name of the album or the artist that created it into account. i have been burned by this before ----> I purchased A Saucerful of Secrets before Piper At The Gates Of Dawn because of the covers, but believe it or not i find that the cooler the name or cover, or whatever i like about it, actually yields me very good results. oh yeah, A Saucerful of Secrets is not bad at all, but i like Piper At The Gates Of Dawn much much more.

Are Scaruffists a group of people who all have more or less the exact same musical taste? How can you all hear the same things and evaluate the albums the same way?

The way I've observed it, a person who starts out agreeing with a portion of Scaruffi's choices is someone who values emotional power in music above all else. As he/she holds to this ideal, he/she tends to agree with the other choices as he/she listens to them more. This is difficult to understand from someone who hasn't done this because a large portion of the albums tend to be complex and challenging and thus take more listens than the average album to cull the emotional power he sees in them.

Now, I've pretty thoroughly delved into his lists and what I've found is that from the viewpoint of overall emotional power the entire list follows a very precise, perhaps even mathematical, logic in its order from top to bottom. Therefore, so long as one holds "overall emotional power" as his ideal he is likely to eventually share strong agreement with the order of Scaruffi's choices.

And yes, sadly, this seems like it can only be thoroughly discovered by intensively going through his list.

i am sorry to completely disagree with you, again, on the "intensively going through [scaruffi's] list" and "eventually share strong agreement with the...choices."

- everyone i have ever purposefully or accidentally (they happen to be in my car, or other scenarios forgotten) played a selection that would be considered somewhat exclusively from, or at least highly rated on scaruffi's list, they make up their mind on the spot and after many-a-listens later they never change their mind, even with abuse from me after playing Sister Ray for the 100th time my one friend still hates it, but puts up with it because we are using my car and my gas. so, you must have some special people you know that 'get' every album that scaruffi rates high. the albums that my friends have liked are the ones that i tried to relate to their previous tastes, and when i go out of that criteria (no matter the person) they always revile my choice. and yes, they too look for emotional power; and no, they have other things to do than listen to the undesired album a dozen more times. !yes, we are treading old frozen waters! there are more things to say...what i do not know? what?

please read my post at least 50 times, thoroughly, before making a response; space the reading out over the next week or so.

I read it 50 times and I still don't get it. ( :

You've taken those quotes out of context. In their correct context they come through with the concept I intended. The way you've put them they appear much more black and white than I put it.

I'll keep this simple, and this is really all I am saying: if someone has similar ideals as Scaruffi he will tend to be able to increase his affinity for the albums as he listens to them more and more.

Even your list has changed considerably since we last had a discussion on this topic. Was this achieved by not listening to the albums or listening to them?

you did not space out the reading over a week or so. context: literally, yes; theorhetically, not by much. ideals: the ideals of the Pop Group, Parable of Arable Land, fit the criteria of what i look for in a certain album (no dominant concrete trait, only what i like to listen to), but though i do like them i do not really care for them the way i do others within the same ideals. my list: both listening and not listening. i rarely listen to Twin Infinitives or A Love Supreme, but they are in fact the two, or among the top (Dylan would probably win out in the end) albums that i would listen to if i only had time to listen to 2 albums. i have burned myself out on albums before: VU & Nico, Astral Weeks. i listen to albums based on mood, not relistening to a short list until i contemplate the trigger. and i still love to listen to Tokyo Storm Warning by Elvis Costello, but he is, on the whole, a very poor composer, and a very poor singer, but i love that song, and other crappy pop songs that he has done. i never have to hear The Agony Is The Ecstasy to know that i truly LOVE that song/EP.
- i doubt this answered anything.

I understand. Thanks.

I still find this hard to swallow because there are so many different things that one could find emotionally powerful. Hell, a lot of people think "My Heart Will Go On" is emotionally powerful, but me, I find it boring and lame.

However, maybe you're talking about something more specific, that you're not just talking about emotional power but also the specific way that Scaruffi thinks about emotional power, and then maybe this preciseness would make more sense. I'm sure I won't understand it any better than that.

Well, you're right that even one's view on "emotional power" is subjective. Still, I'm not talking about just any degree of emotional power. I am talking more about the higher/highest degrees of emotional intensity and power. I think very few would argue that My Heart Will Go On is more intensely emotional than the first movement of Beethoven's 5th or the "Ode To Joy" movement of Beethoven's 9th. Similarly, I think most would concur, so long as they looked at it with an unbiased viewpoint, that at least the intensity of Trout Mask Replica is far greater than Celine Dion, regardless if they prefer the emotions of Celine Dion.

"I think very few would argue that My Heart Will Go On is more intensely emotional than the first movement of Beethoven's 5th"

See, I don't think you're right about this, I think you could find plenty of people who think Celine is more intensely emotional. I don't agree with those people, nor do I particularly want to have conversations with those people about art, but I bet you could find plenty of people who are really left cold by Ludwig, who just don't hear anything when they listen to the 5th besides a bunch of instruments playing something that sounds pretty but old-fashioned, who might say they like classical music because they don't want to sound uncultured but when you get right down to it, they cry every time they listen to the Titanic soundtrack because of how beautiful Celine Dion's crooning is, and no matter how many times you play Beethoven for them, they're just not going to feel any differently. Hell, the first time I heard Captain Beefheart was well before I got into very much non-mainstream music, and I didn't think there was much intense emotion when I listened to him. The first song I ever heard was "Ella Guru," and I didn't think it was intensely emotional, just intensely weird.

So yeah, while emotional intensity might be slightly more measurable than some other aesthetic variables, I still think it's very subjective.

Well, there are millions of hardcore Celine Dion fans so I don't doubt it now that I think about it. Like I said at the beginning of my paragraph, even views on emotional power are subjective.

I would say views on emotional power are more subjective than any other aspect of music, because what sounds are and aren't pleasant to us (and our response to them) are so twisted and changed by both our genetic make-up, our experiences, our way of listening to music, and our way of seeing the world. If any one of those are different, and how much something affects you emotionally is gonig to be very different. Although, there are some affecting sounds in our collective DNA (ie: ultra-low frequency tones tend to cause discomfort and anxiety), the majority of emotional reaction to music is reliant on too many factors in one's life. For example, the happiest song in the world would sound miserable to someone if it were the song playing when his son died in his arms.

Technical brilliance is easier to agree on, IMO.

I agree with everything you've said though I do think most anyone is capable of overcoming his "genetics" or "conditioning" and causing a connection to another person, living being or thing, whether immediately or eventually. I think the speed of which this is caused is determined by the person's ability or willingness to confront that person, living being or thing. And I think confront is determined by one's ability to simplify and understand (which is why most people can more easily and rapidly confront and connect to simpler music such as pop music). And I think repetition or an increasing of experience with something can increase ones confront of it and thus his simplification and understanding of that thing, and thus connection with it.

I found the following definitions on the net and found them interesting and applicable to this discussion, just to make sure it is understood what I mean by these terms:

EMOTIONAL: of more than usual emotion; marked by or exhibiting emotion

POWER: Forcefulness; effectiveness:

INTENSITY: Exceptionally great concentration, power, or force.

Also, the following is a common misconception of what I mean when I speak of an album being profound or exhibiting profundity. There are completely separate definitions and I think they sometimes get confused.


1. of the greatest intensity; coming from deep within one

This is the definition I am almost always applying, NOT the following:

2. having intellectual depth and insight; difficult to fathom or understand

Though a portion of the albums do exhibit the second definition as well, that is not what I mean when I say an album is profound. It’s almost always the first one.

Then why aren't your average local emo bands who cry onstage and whose members suffer from severe major depressive disorder topping the list? These bands have their music coming the from the deepest within of all, but it's truly awful stuff.

To me they're not nearly as emotionally powerful or intense as something like The Good Son, Rock Bottom, Trout Mask Replica, Astral Weeks, Yerself Is Steam or even In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Pink Moon, etc. Plus, they're almost always derivitive so instead of coming across like they're really saying something or speaking from the heart, it sounds more like they're grandstanding or postering for sympathy. The albums on my (or Scaruffi's) list, at least to me, are real, devastating and/or awe-inspiring, lived-in emotional experiences. You feel like you've connected to a real person or a real experience or even a real imagination, instead of a whiny brat trying to cash in on his next power chord.

But isn't that a "one true scotsman" argument? The emo kids DO feel those emotions, very powerfully indeed (at least, from my experience talking to some of them, they seem really to be passionate about their music, and truly feel it reflects them, which I think is pretty hard to fake - although their music is boring.). The difference with an album like Trout Mask Replica is that emotions are portrayed using an absolutely new way. That means, that arguments that it's more emotional simply boil down to it being more original, since the emotion can be just as powerful for derivative works - which are not interesting or fun to listen to. Scaruffi's lists have no emotional derivative works on them: everything on his lists are both original and emotional.

I suppose what Scaruffi is saying isn't that emotional power is what's most important: it's the marriage of it with emotion. That excludes artists like BT and many of the most blindingly original glitch and musique-concrete and power noise artists from being at the top of his lists, as well as bands like Hawthorne Heights and Dashboard Confessional.

However, note that Scaruffi rates artists from the abstract, technical-based electronica and IDM much more highly (giving them ratings like 7 and 8 if they're still original) than "bands" like Dashboard Confessional (which tend to get around 4s, 5s, and maybe a 6 or two), if he bothers rating them at all).. Therefore, he values creativity more than emotion. (but not just creativity).

I can't tell if we agree or disagree...you're argument seems to be mostly an agreement with what I've already said...I think.

I don't disagree with you that the EMO kids feel what they're portraying. All I am saying is that, from my point of view, it is a far cry from the depth of emotion portrayed on something like Trout Mask Replica or Rock Bottom.

Ingenuity, as I stated above, is very key towards creating a supremely emotional experience, because then what one is portraying is not so derivative. Originality, when portrayed with enough conviction and connected with by the audience, is usually (always?) more emotional than something that is unoriginal or less original. It tends to carry with it a sense of awe for being one of a kind, tends to provide more depth as it has a much lower chance of growing stale (for the very fact that it is unique).

For an analogy, there is a difference with seeing someone cry at a wedding or about losing his girlfriend, then there is if you were to witness the apocalypse via black mass (Faust), or becoming one with the sea and the cosmos while uncontrollably transforming into multiple episodes and personalities (Rock Bottom), or exploding outwards in all directions while crying the follies of humanity through the guise of a wild beast (Trout Mask Replica), or...

Even if you don't connect with these albums as per the above do you at least understand where I am coming from?

So, in summary, I believe we do agree...

I think I can safely say that:

Scaruffi's (and most/all "Scaruffists") ideal musical experience would be: highly original content delivered with astonishing emotional conviction.

OK, agreed.

I hate giving a short answer to such a long post, but I really just agree.

That's ok man. Sometimes a short acknowledgement is all that's needed. Thanks.

I've got to agree with all this. I've never seen anyone have congruent opinions the way some of the people here do with Scaruffi. Not to say that's necessarily bad, but the only thing these people argue about is whether an album deserves a 9.25 or 9.5, or something similar.

My problem with him is that he's looking too much to make an OBJECTIVE list. His rating system echoes this. A 10 is the BEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME, of which nothing can possibly be better. Meaning, a 10 is absolutely perfect. Of course, there's no such thing as that in the music scene. So he's basing his ratings off something that will never happen.

Another thing I noticed is the vast scope of his site - pretty much every artist I've heard of is there. How many times does he listen to these albums? Also, he seems to be particularly cruel to bands as their careers go on - it seems like if a band releases a 7/10 album, then ten years later releases one of the same quality, that one will get a 4 or 5. Just an observation.

The "listen until you get it" thing is obnoxious to me, too. First time I heard Trout Mask Replica, I loved it, but after the 15th or so listen I got sick of it. Don't get me wrong, I think the albums he lists as best are all good, and some really are great, but that's just his area of expertise. I wouldn't trust his opinion on pop music since he doesn't seem to like any of it.

Also, anyone who doesn't think the Beatles and Radiohead pages are really biased is crazy...

Good point: the odds of such congruency with Scaruffi are close to 0.

I had a longwinded response typed up, but I'll keep this short and to the point.

I understand your viewpoint. I disagree. I myself do not "worship" Scaruffi or his list. I happen to strongly agree with almost every one of his ratings. I could try and explain why I think I have such strong agreement with him, but I won't.

At the bottom of each one of these Scaruffi-inspired lists is an intense passion for the music. I think you're mistaking that for blind devotion to some sort of musical fad.

But again, I can totally understand your skepticism.

I find it extremely difficult to believe that the congruency between so many lists here and Scaruffi's lists comes from coincedentally having the same taste. I've never seen agreement anywhere like I see it in the Scaruffi-ists.

I have a very intense passion for music. I think some of his choices are great, and he's exposed me to some good music, but I think others are completely over-rated. Some albums he dislike I quite enjoy. Does that mean my passion for music is less intense than those who have more inspiration from Scaruffi?

i've seen the same thing with film polls. all those film critics copying each other and pretending to like orson welles and hitchcock!

It's the same as these music snobs with their velvet underground and mr beefhead

Not really. Welles and Hitchcock are fairly mainstream, conventional filmmakers. It's like music critics listing The Beatles as a top band, and that's not what this Scaruffi-ism is all about.

Imagine if a film critic showed up and said, the best film ever made is Fellini's Satyricon followed by all these other unusual, avant-garde films. Then, after saying this, a group of people show up saying that indeed Satyricon is the best film ever made along with a similar list of unusual, avant-garde films following it. And they stated that this objectively so, and if you don't recognize the brilliance that is Satyricon, you just have to watch it a couple hundred more times to appreciate its beauty and emotion. This is what Scaruffi-ism looks like to me, and it all seems most peculiar.

*insert rolling-eyes emoticon*

the exact list i had in mind included welles, hitchcock, renoir, coppola, ozu, kubrick, eisenstein, murnau, fellini.

if any non-critic mentions those as their favourites, they're copying!

The point was that Satyricon isn't a likely candidate that someone might list as best film ever. And the Scaruffi crowd all have a similar list of unexpected candidates.

Let's say my 5 favorite albums are (I really love these albums, but they're not necessarily my top 5.. just first to come to mind):
Burzum - Filosofem
Ulver - Themes from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"
Agalloch - The Mantle
Negura Bunget - OM
Triarii - Pièce Héroique

I would be rather surprised to come across one other person that lists these same albums in their top 10. But the Scaruffi crowd have similar top lists of unusual choices, which simply comes across as quite unusual and suspicious.

Precisely. They're all unusual, barely of albums that Scaruffi lists. It is indeed very suspicious that everyone "seperately" lists the precise same ones as he does, unlike any other critic list.

I've probably wasted enough words on this topic already, but I think the worst part about this fact is that it's BORING. I don't care whether people's opinions are influenced by critics as long as they're interesting; I just don't need to read 10 slightly different arrangements of the same albums being proclaimed as the best albums of all-time. Tell me something new. Tell me how you and Scaruffi differ, tell me albums he overrates, tell me lesser-known albums that Scaruffi might need to give a second look at; don't tell me the same albums I can hear about just by reading his web site. Defend the merits of the albums instead of just telling me to listen to them more and more. I detest banality too, but I find just as much banality in the statements of people who parrot the opinions of an eccentric music critic as I find in people who over-praise the Beatles.

In terms of the actual opinions, I think what I resent the most about this thinking is that Scaruffists keep looking for the most of everything - the MOST innovative, the MOST emotional, the MOST complex - rather than looking for the best amount of everything. I think oftentimes the best music just manages to come together and get everything right rather than attempting to cram as much emotion and complexity into every second of music. The end result is that Scaruffi and his followers end up praising a lot of pretentiously overblown albums. And no matter how many times I listen to them, they're still overblown.


Interest comes in different opinions.

"attempting to cram as much emotion and complexity into every second of music."

i dont think this a bad thing at all.

can you mention alternative albums when you go on these sorts of rants? you speak as though you have other albums in mind, but dont mention which ones. if trout mask replica (or whatever) isnt such and such, what else is out there that we should check out? name names

Well, you're obviously accustomed to thinking about music a certain way, which is not the way I think about music. That's why I haven't listed any alternative albums, because the albums I think really get everything right are albums that Scaruffists are trained to just dismiss offhand. I can't recommend a better Captain Beefheart album because I haven't listened to too many Captain Beefheart albums (and to be fair, I do love Trout Mask Replica).

But take Irrlicht for a perfect example of the overblown albums I'm talking about. The universe forming, expanding, and exploding all in one album. Yeah, great. Give me something that actual human beings talk about or can relate to. And don't just tell me to listen to the damn album again.

If you want to know some albums I love, this list is pretty old and outdated, but it still showcases a good handful of my favorites. I don't think these are the most emotional albums ever, but I do think they are some of the best emotional albums ever.

maybe you wont have any followers because people will listen to the albums you recommend (i probably wont; i have no idea who you are), and then not like them?
maybe scaruffi has lots of followers because people listen to the albums he mentions, and love them.

Exactly. This is what happened to me. Do people think I'm really such a masochist as to continually listen to albums I don't love? Did I listen to Irrlicht 70 times because I want to pretend to be well-informed about music?

But the Scaruffi crowd have similar top lists of unusual choices, which simply comes across as quite unusual and suspicious.

I think this is by far the best anti-Scaruffi-ism point that can be made.

I once listened through the entirety of Scaruffi's rock music history - every single page of it. There were only a couple dozen albums that actually sounded interesting that I couldn't find.

I was actually looking for ways to disagree with Scaruffi. So I was excited when I found albums I thought he had overrated. That happened alot.

I was even more excited when I found albums that I thought Scaruffi had underrated, because that almost never happened. I desperately wanted to find some top-25 material that Scaruffi had only given a 6/10-7.5/10.

I wanted to "uncover" masterpieces that Scaruffi had overlooked, and make the case for their greatness. I wanted to have my own list of masterpieces that no other critic had recognized. More than anything, this is what I wanted to result from massive project of listening to the history of rock music.

It never happened.

That was very disappointing.

Sometimes I thought I had it. I once wrote that Docteur Faust by Igor Wakhevitch was better than Faust. And I wanted badly to believe that. But the more I listened to it, the more I realized that I had psyched myself up about my "find", and that it was good but not as great as I'd originally thought.

I recently did the same thing with Alchemy by Third Ear Band. I just updated my greatest albums list, wherein it has been properly demoted from its earlier perch at #4 all time.

Some might say I just don't have the courage to make the argument for an otherwise unrecognized piece of music.

I never lack the courage to speak my mind, especially on the Internet. The idea of being afraid to speak one's mind on the Internet makes me laugh.

The problem is that I haven't yet found an unrecognized masterpiece that I can make the argument for.

Last year I listened to dozens of 2007 releases before Scaruffi reviewed them, so that I could "find" the next masterpiece before he (or anybody else) did. Lots of underground stuff.

Problem was, nobody recorded any masterpieces last year. Not that I heard, anyway.

I do enjoy briefly profiling artists that Scaruffi missed. Some of them are really great, especially 16-17 and Don Bradshaw-Leather and Moolah. I just wish their albums were a teensy bit better so I could justifiably include them on my "Greatest Albums List" and who a little uniqueness.

But so far, Scaruffi has gotten to all the true masterpieces before I could. :)

Or maybe I really am so brainwashed that I can't think for myself. It is awfully suspicious that we both think Pure Electric Honey is a masterpiece, and nobody else does.

"I wanted to "uncover" masterpieces that Scaruffi had overlooked"

easier to do this with his film history than his rock history

"It is awfully suspicious that we both think Pure Electric Honey is a masterpiece, and nobody else does."

how many other people have heard it?

"But the Scaruffi crowd have similar top lists of unusual choices, which simply comes across as quite unusual and suspicious.

I think this is by far the best anti-Scaruffi-ism point that can be made."

it's a definite trend among scaruffians. the problem was that when i started listening to the great albums recommended by scaruffi, practically everything else i had been listening to up until that point suddenly sounded very quaint -- including the beatles, and most of classic rock.
these new albums could not be unheard ...

the switch from classic rock to beefheart was like switching from black & white to colour television.

Indeed. In a way I'm glad his film history is so incomplete and in Italian, so that I have more opportunity to legitimately disagree with him. :)

His histories of 20th century music, though, are so important I would never wish them away.

Yours was my experience as well. After listening to Scaruffi's picks, everything else sounded either cute or lame. I could never go back to thinking The Beatles or Radiohead were geniuses in history.

Are you freaking shitting me, dude? You are telling me that I could watch movies by these filmmakers that you list and if any of these filmmakers subsequently became my favorite filmmakers that because I'm not a film critic that these filmmakers would not in fact be my favorites but instead I would be copying from the film critics. That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard.

i was being sarcastic

it's as ridiculous as the claim that beefheart fans are "copying" scaruffi's tastes

should fans pretend not to like hitchcock or welles or fellini because critics have already taken them as their own?

Oh, OK. :-)

Really? It can't just be that the films of Welles or Murnau are simply that good?

I don't think so much of Hitchcock or Ozu, and Renoir and Eisenstein are certainly copying.

That said, I'm deeply influenced by critic's lists, no matter how critical I try to be. I wish I could watch the entire history of film (or listen to the entire history of music) without ever seeing a list or reading a review.

"Renoir and Eisenstein are certainly copying."

Oops, I meant they're "overrated."

It can't just be that the films albums of Welles the velvet underground or Murnau captain beefheart are simply that good?

this is the point

the trouble (of "copying" critics tastes) arises because we often come to find these albums or films *through* critics.

what i watch or listen to is hugely influenced by critics, but how i *react* to the music is completely up to me, and is unpredictable.

a young Lorem_Ipsum would laugh if he was told his tastes leaned towards the avant-garde.

the beatles are at the popcorn end of the spectrum. more adam sandler than citizen kane

What does that have to do with anything? No one here was defending or attacking the Beatles.

i wasnt defending or attacking them either.

they were mentioned in the post above as the equivalent of welles and hitchcock (mainstream etc). i disagreed.

i dont think either of them were very conventional either.

No, they weren't conventional. But they are obvious choices, which I think was the comparison he was trying to make above.

This is EXACTLY what I'm trying to say, hinterland!

why is this important to you? you write an essay with a 'bone to pick' about what other people happen to like?


It's not important to me what others happen to like. Read my post at the very bottom - I explain what my purpose here was there (and I assure you, it wasn't to start an all-out war on listology).

which ones do you think are over-rated?

Well, this is obviously personal opinion, and I'm sure you're just going to say that I just can't grasp the brilliance that is these albums, but I really dislike:

- Anthony Braxton - Saxophone Improvisations
- Vampire Rodents - Lullaby Land
- John Vahey - Fare Forward Voyagers
- Nick Cave - The Good Son
- Foetus - Nail
- Red Crayola - Parable of Arable Land
- Morphine - Good
- Anthony Braxton - Alto Saxophone Improvisations
- Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um

There are a few others that I think are over-rated (IE: Rock Bottom is pretty good, but top 25, let alone 2nd best ever? I don't think so.), and others still that I fully agree with and love (IE: Faust - Faust).

I think some of his choices are great, and he's exposed me to some good music, but I think others are completely over-rated.

So do I. Although, as time goes by, I find myself agreeing with him more and more.

Does that mean my passion for music is less intense than those who have more inspiration from Scaruffi?

No, I never implied that. It means I have more passion for a certain kind of music. It means we have different tastes.

Bravo darktremor, no-one's word should be taken as gospel on music or any form of aesthetic artform ever. That said, Scaruffi does know a lot about music and does have impeccable taste, I'd say of all the albums I've got off his lists or that of his "Scaruffists" I've liked around 90% of them.
Also on your point about getting an album I see what you mean, and to some extent I agree - however I would rather an album get better with more listens than a catchy song which you get sick of. Still, I can totally see where you're coming from.

Oh sure, I see nothing against using him as a source of music - like I said, he is a very good critic. My issue is with the plethora of lists here that are almost direct hcopies of Scaruffi's lists - those who apparently like PRECISELY the same music Scaruffi does.

Well this "conversation" is, as expected, really going nowhere. I just came back to check on it and, lo and behold, the ones who frequently listen to Scaruffi's recommendations agree with him, and the ones who don't, well, not so much. And, yes, musical opinion is not, nor has ever been absolute. Can't we just agree that a majority of people are not going to agree with Scaruffi and there are some that are? Isn't this okay? Some people love Scaruffi's recommendations, many do not. Do we need to analyze this further?

My argument here wasn't that some agree with Scaruffi, others do not, my point was that there's a lot of people who seem to force themselves to like Scaruffi's taste, and judge what they should and shouldn't like based entirely around what Scaruffi does.

It is absolutely impossible for two people to have exactly the same musical taste! Yet so many here have just that with Scaruffi!

Well, I understand your viewpoint. I've been in these arguments before and they really never go anywhere, no matter how much I try to slam home my opinions. All I can say is that I love the albums I list more than I can possibly express and if you don't believe me or agree with me or think it's impossible or whatever, that's fine by me. I make the lists for myself and those who want to put them to some sort of use, and by doing that fully understand they will have their share of detractors and/or skepticism.

No, I can't see this going anywhere either. Which is why I have a sort of peace offering at the bottom of the list that somewhat better explains the actual intentions behind this list (and it wasn't the result we're seeing right now).

"some even directly copy his opinions"

you can name names. we're all friends around here

"listologists are told to listen to an album 10, 20, even 30 more times until they "get it.""

i dont get this either, and i'm a scaruffist!

"a certain listenability, something that Scaruffi (mostly) despises"

Detesti la musica melodica...?

No, detesto la banalita! (-quote from his site)

"listologists are told to listen to an album 10, 20, even 30 more times until they "get it.""

I'll hold myself accountable for this one, which is exactly why I developed the "recommended order". I found that most people don't seem to have this kind of patience. Going through in that order tends to limit it to an average of about 10 listens, though once one reaches a certain point it tends to be in many cases much less, which I don't think is too much to ask considering the return one gets.

Originally I was saying this sort of thing because I figured, once started, most everyone would have a similar level of determination as myself or lukeprog, but over time and observation I actually found this wasn't the case. For instance, I procured Half Machine Lip Moves yesterday afternoon and listened to it 6 times before the end of the day. I don't think this is normal...

I think it's silly that you're calling people who don't like an album because they won't listen to it 10, 20, 30 times less dedicated than you are. When you listen that way, you're not unlocking your real taste, or "treasures in the music", you're conditioning yourself to like something. This is probably why so many lists here "coincedentally" match Scaruffi's exactly - because every Scaruffi-ist listens to every Scaruffi album 20 times until they've conditioned themselves to call it one of their favorites, and keep listening to albums until their ratings of them are almost exactly what Scaruffi's are.

How can I argue with someone who not only knows exactly how I feel for this music, but has also exposed me as a fake?

Read the post at the bottom for my response here. Also note that I never called you a fake at any point. That's an inference, which I suppose is understandable, but was not intended.

I think it's silly that you're calling people who don't like an album because they won't listen to it 10, 20, 30 times less dedicated than you are.

I'm not sure why that's "silly". What do you think dedication is? I am much more dedicated to the albums Scaruffi lists than you are just as you are much more dedicated to the electronic music you list than I am.

This is probably why so many lists here "coincedentally" match Scaruffi's exactly - because every Scaruffi-ist listens to every Scaruffi album 20 times until they've conditioned themselves to call it one of their favorites, and keep listening to albums until their ratings of them are almost exactly what Scaruffi's are.

Okay, so for the last 2 years I've wasted hours a week meticulously listening to, reviewing, updating and enthusiastically discussing albums and lists for the mere sake of copying and worshipping Piero Scaruffi. I must be even more a loser than previously suspected... You forgot to mention that we're all secretly getting paid by him to do so as well. This is a conspiracy that must be unraveled!

For my response to this, read my post at the bottom. Your interpretation is not what I intended to say.

I don't think listenability can be called banal unless there's NOTHING but listenability (which is all too common, sadly). But, if artistic ideas are married to listenability, then you have wonderful music - ideas alone make for a noisy, unenjoyable experience.

I think many, perhaps Scaruffi included, forget that music should be enjoyed.

i think this all boils down to the fact that you dont like 'noisy' music

What does that have to do with anything? That's not what I'm saying at all! I'm just saying that it's suspicious that many people here constantly cite scaruffi with his obscure, rare choices, then make lists of their "uninfluenced by anyone" best albums that precisely mirror Scaruffi's lists, and claim that it isn't just them copying Scaruffi, it's them making lists that happen to be exactly like Scaruffi's. To me, that's suspicious. The choices on Scaruffi's lists are NOT normal! That doesn't make them bad, just suspicious when EVERYONE comes out with them as their personally discovered bests.

My taste in music is utterly irrelevant to this (since I did say that I thought Scaruffi was a good critic, just not a perfect one), but since we've turned this into personal attacks, I do like noisy music, I just like my noisy music to have some actual element of music in it. For example, I love Carla Bley & Paul Haines' Escalator over the Hill, and I love Trout Mask Replica and many other Scaruffi choices. BUT, my lists don't precisely mirror his by any means, as scaruffi-ists do. I actually really don't think it boils down to that at all.

what personal attack?

"The choices on Scaruffi's lists are NOT normal! "

normal ... compared to what?

Normal, compared to what is usually given high ratings on lists (IE: The Beatles, The Byrds, Led Zeppelin; none of whom I'm necessarily supporting or saying are actually the best here, I'm just saying that most rock critics rate them near the top). It's a unique list full of obscure choices that are not obvious at all. It's also a very good one. It just seemed very unlikely to me that one would be able to find and automatically love such unheard of albums seperate of great influence from Scaruffi's lists. By not normal, I mean not common.

"usually given high ratings on lists"

"most rock critics rate them near the top"

what are the names of some of these critics? can u you post their lists?
i dont think that critics have such generic tastes as you seem to be implying

the magazine polls are all the same (DSOTM, beatles, U2, etc), but critics lists are something else altogether.

"Stockhausen was certainly a greater artist, but The Orb were the better musicians."

what does this mean

It means that art and music are not one and the same. The Orb and Stockhausen had the same musical idea of "deconstructing" culture - Stockhausen with Hymnen, and The Orb with Adventure Beyond the Ultraworld and U.F.Orb. However, The Orb is, while still fairly avante-garde, also quite listenable and enjoyable, unlike Stockhausen's work which was generally grating to the ears. Stockhausen was the greater artist for coming up with the idea of musical "deconstruction," but The Orb were the greater musicians for making that idea listenable. Scaruffi, by the way, also holds The Orb in quite high esteem (just not as high as the artists who came up with the "deconstruction" idea and used it more noisily). This is just one example.

But again, this is generally irrelevant to my point. The point of what I posted wasn't to say that this is the right way to listen to music, my point was that I have a slightly different way of listening to music, because EVERYONE has a slightly different way - not that my way is THE way to listen, or better than Scaruffi's or anyone else's, just as Scaruffi's way is no better than anyone else's (well, anyone else who puts some thought into music, but that's a different issue that's been covered enough).

"Stockhausen's work which was generally grating to the ears."

generally grating to YOUR ears. we're not all you.

"for making that idea listenable."

see above

I directly said above that that was just my opinion, and irrelevant!!!:

"But again, this is generally irrelevant to my point. The point of what I posted wasn't to say that this is the right way to listen to music, my point was that I have a slightly different way of listening to music, because EVERYONE has a slightly different way."
- me, the post before

Re: congruency of lists

Though I don't have much reason or interest in arguing these points, I would like to point out that each and every "Scaruffist" list that I've observed, including my own, went through very gradual, significant transformations before it reached a stage of being close to that of Scaruffi's own list. When I started in on Scaruffi's recommendations, if you would've told me my list would've looked like it does now 2 years down the line, I wouldn't have believed you. So I have shared your disbelief before and totally understand where your coming from.

Fair enough then.

Perhaps it's a process that can only be understood when one has gone through it oneself.

This gives me an idea for a list, a more useful one than this overly divisive article.

Note that, although some are taking it as personal insult, I didn't intend to insult anyone by posting this. I really only intended this as a suggestion to consider more albums for placement in lists, even if Scaruffi hates them - to suggest that he isn't truly the perfect critic. I didn't name any names as to who was and wasn't a "scaruffi-ist," nor did I say how anyone got to the point of nearly directly copying his lists.

You see, (I should have posted this in the article to begin with to avoid this pointless flame-war that seems to erupted - and I'm not accusing anyone of being a flamer in particular, it's just sort of something that's erupted) I started falling into what I felt was a Scaruffi-trap recently, in which I would download an album, then if I didn't get it right away, surf over the Scaruffi site and see his opinion. If he had a high opinion, I'd listen to it until I liked it, no matter how low my opinion of it was at the beginning. If he hadn't rated it, or rated it poorly, I'd stop listening to it. It was starting to influence my choices of favorites, and I had an epiphany that I was losing control of my own musical taste: I was treating Scaruffi's reviews and lists as objective truth (all of my favorite albums took at least 2 listens, but never more than 5). Then, thinking back to listology lists, and noting that a number of them were almost exclusively Scaruffi favorites, I thought it might be possible that others fell into the trap that I did. I appreciated the epiphany quite a bit, so I thought an article on the subject might do the same for anyone who may have fallen into that trap (or may not have). I didn't intend this as a personal attack on anyone. Perhaps I worded it too strongly, but I didn't intend to insult anybody, nor did I intend to turn listology into a battleground (which seems to have been split right down the middle).

Now that we've cleared this up (or does that clear it up better?), are we all friends again, or shall the war go on?

Fair enough then.

Perhaps it's a process that can only be understood when one has gone through it oneself.

It seems to go this way. I mean, when I first started I thought there was little to no chance of my list looking like his. As a matter of fact, the idea was so unreal to me that I actually didn't think about it or even consider it. I didn't think too much of Faust or TMR. I thought they were interesting novelties, but not much more. I didn't really see how anyone could truly love them and enjoy them. I really liked Rock Bottom but certainly not on a 9.5 level right away. My favorites were mostly albums I'd already discovered way beforehand, such as Astral Weeks, VU & Nico, The Doors, Blonde On Blonde, Spiderland, Loveless. Desertshore and Third were the first "Scaruffi-only" albums I loved and were also the two that began building the foundation of trust that gradually convinced me to give the others a shot that I hadn't come around to yet. The most significant turning point for me was probably Rock Bottom. Musically, I was never the same again after fully 'getting' that album. It was like witnessing an impossible miracle. After that I just knew Scaruffi was onto something.

This gives me an idea for a list, a more useful one than this overly divisive article.

Great idea.

Note that, although some are taking it as personal insult, I didn't intend to insult anyone by posting this. I really only intended this as a suggestion to consider more albums for placement in lists, even if Scaruffi hates them - to suggest that he isn't truly the perfect critic.

I agree. Music judgement/criticism is all subjective. There's no such thing as an all-inclusive, perfect critic. Everyone will and should have their own opinions. A person who loves the Beatles is no more correct or incorrect than someone who loves Britney Spears or someone who loves Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground.

I didn't name any names as to who was and wasn't a "scaruffi-ist," nor did I say how anyone got to the point of nearly directly copying his lists.

You see, (I should have posted this in the article to begin with to avoid this pointless flame-war that seems to erupted - and I'm not accusing anyone of being a flamer in particular, it's just sort of something that's erupted) I started falling into what I felt was a Scaruffi-trap recently, in which I would download an album, then if I didn't get it right away, surf over the Scaruffi site and see his opinion. If he had a high opinion, I'd listen to it until I liked it, no matter how low my opinion of it was at the beginning. If he hadn't rated it, or rated it poorly, I'd stop listening to it. It was starting to influence my choices of favorites, and I had an epiphany that I was losing control of my own musical taste: I was treating Scaruffi's reviews and lists as objective truth (all of my favorite albums took at least 2 listens, but never more than 5). Then, thinking back to listology lists, and noting that a number of them were almost exclusively Scaruffi favorites, I thought it might be possible that others fell into the trap that I did. I appreciated the epiphany quite a bit, so I thought an article on the subject might do the same for anyone who may have fallen into that trap (or may not have). I didn't intend this as a personal attack on anyone. Perhaps I worded it too strongly, but I didn't intend to insult anybody, nor did I intend to turn listology into a battleground (which seems to have been split right down the middle).

Now that we've cleared this up (or does that clear it up better?), are we all friends again, or shall the war go on?

I appreciate you clarifying. Friends. Of course! Though sometimes I have in the past, these days I rarely take these things too personally so don't worry about it. Flaming arguments or not you are one of my favorite listologists and I check your lists regularly. I still don't know how the hell you find and listen to so many varieties of music...

Perfect. :D

As for how I find so much music, soulseek, and the recommendations engine on last.fm, and I also listen to any suggestion anyone gives me about music (I talk about music to a lot of people, and know a lot of people). Also, whenever I discover a new genre, I search for the best of it, and failing that, search for exclusive labels of the style and download their supposed best parts of the labels' catalogs and listen to them. I find more labels by cross-referencing artists (ie: Miguel Migs is on OM Records. Surf to Miguel Migs from OM Records. Oh, he's also on Naked Music. Surf to Naked Music. Blue Six is apparently Naked Music's best. Then I surf to Blue Six. Hey, they're also on...and so on. I download everything I find along the way with my surfing. It sounds way more time-consuming than it is: I can have a whole collection of a new genre in about 45 minutes (spread over a few days so soulseek can find tracks). Some styles are also discovered accidentally (ie: "hey, this artist who normally does acid jazz put out a really different sounding record, and it's good! Why is it so different (searches on google)? Oh, it's because it's abstract hip-hop." (checks out abstract hip-hop)

Unless I am misinterpreting you, I think the advantage you have over anything I am willing to do is via illegal downloading. Apparently this is very pervasive, so I guess I am more patient than most, and more willing to shell out dough for an artists' work. I own the actual albums of a vast majority of the albums I list, and all the others I borrow from libraries or from friends.

Basically, yes. Call this a rationalization if you want, but I've discovered that you're actually making an artist money through illegal downloading.

You see, artists make close to nothing from albums: it's the corporations that profit, mostly. What makes the money is the concert tours, the albums are more of a promotion. So, when you download music, you're exposing yourself to more artists, who you are more likely to go see and recommend to friends who are then more likely to go see them. This is where a band's real money is made. So, in downloading music illegal, then recommending it, you're advertising for a band's concerts, for free. It's a rather clever ploy of the recording industry to make us pay for what are (from a business perspective) basically advertisements for concerts: the real profit-machines.

This is why I have no guilt whatsoever for illegal downloading. Plus I hate the recording industry, and they're they're a bunch of greedy, money-sucking bastards (remember when they sued that 11 year old girl for having a few Britney Spears MP3s on her computer?). Note that the most pro-illegal downloading band around - Radiohead - is also one of the most profitable.

Most of the artists who would actually be helped by buying albums are the ones who don't need your help - newer, more underground bands tend to make even less money from albums (the higher royalties are essentially briberies from the labels for these cash-cow artists to stay with them, and not go to another label that will offer them higher royalties. When an artist is unheard of, they're only too happy to have any signing at all, and are thus at the mercy of the label, and must thus accept poor royalties). Here's an example of an album I would pay for though (and did):

So, you're helping the artists, and helping to topple the evil giant of the recording industry when you download music (and I do go to shows that I wouldn't if I didn't download music, and I've gotten others to come too). It's a good thing.

Interesting argument. You should be a defense attorney. ( :

haha, thanks :D

"It was starting to influence my choices of favorites, and I had an epiphany that I was losing control of my own musical taste"

so, you're bitching at US about YOUR problem?


every article posted anywhere, anyhow, is the author's problem, and they are bitching to some US somewhere, if those US are willing to read.

"...noting that a number of them were almost exclusively Scaruffi favorites, I thought it might be possible that others fell into the trap that I did."

he is exploring beyond HIS problem and is delving into everyone other than himself. yes, it is his problem, but it is others that perpetuate it.

Interesting post, darktremor.

I certainly like your standpoint. I don't think that Scaruffi's top 25 list should go unquestioned - I think there can be variations in critical assessment, and I'm very glad to see lukeprog take a stand and acknowledge Ys and Glenn Branca's The Ascension as masterpieces, despite Scaruffi only giving them 8/10. Scaruffi is only human; it would only be expected for him to ocassionally overlook the artistic qualities of certain masterpieces. And he has a few self-contradictory opinions. And I think he holds ethnic fusion and cultural hybridity in unusually high regard, as if having these qualities automatically makes a work a masterpiece.

However, I don't agree with your position that "Scaruffi values originality above all else in music; I'd even go so far as to say that it's all he values". I don't think it's so much originality he values as emotional power, which is very difficult to achieve through conventional media. Some have done it (according to him): Bruce Springsteen and Lisa Germano to name a few. Red House Painters weren't the first slo-core band, nor was Klaus Schulze the first minimalist, nor was Faust the first band to ever try to destroy and then reconstruct the entire music landscape. The guitar ensembles of The Ascension may have been predated by Chatham and Bedford, but the emotional force and triumph of Branca's masterpiece is unmatched. Husker Du was not the first hardcore band, and even if they were the first band to put hardcore songs, psychedelic/hypnotic ululations ("Tooth Fairy and the Princess", improvised free-form freak-outs (like at the end of "What's Going On"), and bitter folk-rock laments ("Never Talking To You Again") on the same album, such an achievement would have been trivial if it did not amount to any sort of emotional impact. Also, Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica draws its composition process on many avant-garde composers of the early twentieth century. The chromatic atonal melodies that grace songs like "Sweet Sweet Bulbs" and "My Human Gets Me Blues" are not unheard of when one considers Feldman's indeterminacy. Ives was a lot like Beefheart in a way: complex polyrhythm, conflicting tempi, lots of dissonance, everything going on all at once - but yet a strong sense of beauty, poignancy, and flirtations with popular music - in Ives' case, it was with ragtime; in Beefheart's case, it was with blues. The point is that all music has archetypes and predecessors, but it's when someone can build off of these predecessors with emotionally resonant results that a masterpiece is created.

One last thing: I find it funny that some of the musicians Scaruffi praises severely disagree with his opinions. Captain Beefheart hated Bob Dylan. Mark Stewart hated Captain Beefheart. Ives couldn't stand Wagner, and Aldous Huxley didn't like James Joyce. And Dockstader, whom Daniel Vahnke greatly admired, was not given much critical praise.

"Scaruffi values originality above all else in music; I'd even go so far as to say that it's all he values". I don't think it's so much originality he values as emotional power, which is very difficult to achieve through conventional media.

I fully agree with this and I am glad you pointed this out, as I forgot to earlier. He does value originality of course, but only values it to the degree that it contributes to the emotional power of the album.

But like I said, emotional power is SO subjective.

Of course. And even more specifically, emotional connection. But I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that, once understood, any emotion can be connected to by any person willing to do so. Of course, with more unique emotions it can take a bit more exposure and experience to duplicate and understand them. That's the challenge most run into when confronting the albums on Scaruffi's list. But anyone that's mentally aware (meaning avg intelligence or perhaps a degree above avg), is willing and really dedicates themselves to it can pull it off--every single album. But, and it is a big but (no pun intended), this combination of dedication and willingness seems to be in the vast minority, which leads us to why so many question the value of Scaruffi's choices.

Keep praying, you'll eventually find God. Keep listening, you'll eventually find Scaruffi.

I prefer goats over sheep.

Let's get real here. Try not to take this too personally but have you really understood and paid any attention to what I've said? I respect you and your opinion, and what you're saying is cute and clever and all, but your comment is simply ignorant.

The Ascension and Ys are definitely "masterpieces", and i agree with the orginality argument 100%, but i love the novel musician contrasts, especially Mark Stewart hating Beefheart. got anymore? i love those trivial facts.

It's especially funny since each of those artists who "hated" the other were clearly indebted to them to greater or lesser degree.

A lot of the time, I think artists do that to prevent themselves from being called derivative.

I agree

I have a few more:

Have you ever heard "So That Each Person is in Charge of Himself"? It's a track off a recently released (but recorded back in 1981) Glenn Branca CD. The track consists of an interview with John Cage who had a very low opinion of Glenn Branca.

Oh, and didn't Bob Dylan actually like the Beatles?

yeah, Dylan liked, and still likes the Beatles. i do not have any quote on hand, but he said something to the effect of "the Beatles were doing a [cheesy] pop thing, but they did it in a very [cool/good/great/exciting/(some positive adjective)] way." - i think the quote is in his autobiography that i have not read, though i am a colossal fan of anything he did, good or bad. Dylan best friends with the Beatles. he admired just about everything about them, from what i vaguely recall: McCartney's voice/passion; Harrison's songwriting (which i think he was under utilized - IMO he could have kicked the shit out of all the Beatles albums on his own abilities, but he was swept under the rug, but i am not sure why; did he want to, or was he insecure?????he is by far the best Beatle); Lennon's quirks or something about his personality; Ringo, mmmmm...? Ringo is goofy, period.

i will have to look for that new Branca album with that interview.

Ringo is still producing too. Apparently his latest album got reasonable reviews, but having never been too big of a Beatles fan, I'm not going to check it out.

I don't know much about Harrison, except that he was the "spiritual" one.

haha, i finally heard "So That Each Person is in Charge of Himself" and i would say that i generally agree with Cage on every point he made about Branca and his vision of art and the future of it. i also like that narcissistic vision sometimes, though it is not the most admirable quality of art.

Without reading the existing discussion...

It often goes almost to the point of worship. This is ridiculous.

Yup, I regard Scaruffi very highly. That's because I find his perspective so much better and well-informed than that other music critics.

I'd respond the same way to Albert Einstein or Bertrand Russell. They've all done fantastic work of such relentless quality that it is more rewarding to let their opinions guide my intellectual curiosity than anyone else. That doesn't mean I worship these figures.

I still critically examine everything these guys have to say. I disagree with them on more issues than I can count.

But when I follow the opinions of other music critics, I tend to be impressed about 2% of the time. With Scaruffi, my time is better spent because his opinions point me to something of value more like 30% of the time.

It's the same reason I'm excited when something new is written by Paul Graham or John T. Reed. Their work is of such high quality that I am rewarded by paying such close attention. I do not pay any attention to John Gray because his work has never brought me much value.

Worship is unquestioned fervor. But I question everything I read from Scaruffi.

he may label them things like "the best music of all times," that doesn't make it so. It's really his "favorite music of all times."

Um... doesn't every critic do this? That's the whole point! You put forth your picks, then give an argument for why they are so great and others are not. I think Scaruffi's arguments are usually more persuasive than those of other critics, and that's why I read him.

I've seen discussions in which listologists are told to listen to an album 10, 20, even 30 more times until they "get it."

If you don't like it, you can stop listening to it. What people like AfterHours and I are trying to do is share a wonderful experience we've had.

I did not expect to ever like "Trout Mask Replica" or "Faust." I could've just listened to them once, then never again. And that would've been okay.

But I kept listening, trying to get it. And in the case of those albums (but not with thousands of others), my tastes were able to evolve and now I really enjoy those albums. So I'm glad I stuck with it.

Maybe that won't ever happen to you. Maybe 30 listens won't make Trout Mask Replica sound interesting. That's fine. You don't have to listen to it 30 times, then.

But it did work for AfterHours and myself and many others, and we're so happy we decided to give this music a chance! And learning to love these albums opened our ears to wider worlds of music, too.

I would be impoverished if I'd only listened to music that struck me as enjoyable on first listen. I remember loving Sgt. Pepper's, but never in the same way that I now love Faust or Harmonielehre.

Thing is, listening to ANYTHING 50 times can eventually make you like it.

Really? Not for me. I've heard tons of tracks 50 times that I still dislike. Linkin Park and some Mozart pieces come to mind.

Scaruffi values originality above all else in music; I'd even go so far as to say that it's all he values. While I agree that this is a noble aim for an artist, I don't it's the full story when it comes to music. Looking at only this will make for quite a noisy and difficult list of albums and songs: which is exactly what one finds in Scaruffi's lists.

WOW, no. Mine Scaruffi's archives and you will find thousands of examples of:

(1) extremely original works rated poorly, because they lack artistic or emotional effectiveness, or

(2) relatively unoriginal works rated highly, because they do what has been done before but way better.

If you honestly need examples, I could come up with hundreds in about an hour. But I have better things to do with that hour.

Scaruffi's lists are so lost in the "meaning" of music, that you can't help but think that he never sits down and simply enjoys it.

I don't know; I'd love to ask Scaruffi that question. But keep in mind he is writing primarily as a historian of facts, somewhat as a serious critic, and never (to my knowledge) as someone who writes rants about the exhilaration of listening to good music (like Pitchfork or Lester Bangs).

I'd be surprised if Scaruffi doesn't just sit back and enjoy Shostakovich or Velvet Underground. But he doesn't bother to write, "I smoked a bowl listening to 'Sister Ray' today and it struck me that..." He has no interest in telling you his feelings. He wants to record an academic history of an art form.

With Scaruffi, [criticism] often doesn't happen

For me it sure does. In fact, I disagree with his music opinions more often than I agree with him. But the rate of agreement is so much higher than with any other critic that I do get awfully excited about Scaruffi's writing.

My enthusiasm for and agreement with Scaruffi isn't a sign of an uncritical response on my part. It is simply a response to extremely well-formed opinion.

Being "correct" in art opinions is a different world than being "correct" in science, but:

I really like the work of Einstein. His science, philosophy, and opinions are of such high quality that I spend lots of time reading them. This is not because I'm uncritical, but because Einstein's work is of such high quality. And even he was wrong in some VERY big ways, just like Scaruffi. But Einstein's arguments (and the evidence) are just plain more compelling than those of most people making truth claims.

Same goes for Scaruffi. If his opinions drop in quality, I will be less enthusiastic his work in the future.

For once, Scaruffi is a writer with a big following not because he's good at marketing or caught a lucky break, but because he's so damn knowledgeable and good at what he does! I'm thankful for that.

Well said, you've certainly justified your reasons for your tastes and respect for Scaruffi. I personally find that although some of Scaruffi's lower rated albums I find extremely good, his "best albums" are all amazing and I agree with every single choice, with the exception of TMR which so far I still do not like.
Just out of interest, when did you find Scaruffi's site?

Great question, I wish I knew. I think it was after I found Listology, so if I had the time to trace all my posts at Listology I could probably notice where the Scaruffism started creeping in...

Oh ok, what type of music were you most into before you started dabbling in more Scaruffian albums?

I think maybe it was power metal (Helloween) and progressive metal (Dream Theater). I can't remember.

Dylan? Beatles? Quote?

Here's One:

"We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio station on and eight of the top 10 songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and all those early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. You could only do that with other musicians. It started me thinking about other people."

This was the impetus for Dylan going electric.
And also handily counters the absurd notion that the Beatles weren't original or innovative or, especially in this case, influential. And this from their earliest period- before they even began experimenting with Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.

As for Scaruffi, I have very mixed feelings. While I can applaud his eclectic taste and have been "turned on" to quite a few interesting albums, the absolute fantasy he tries to pass off as a sort of "history" of the Beatles makes his credibility quite suspect. The antagonism he displays shows a level of opinionated amateurishness that a true historian tries desparately to avoid. And I thoroughly agree that his "Best Albums" list is nothing more than a list of personal favorites.

I will say this: If Trout Mask Replica is a 9.5, then certainly Sgt. Pepper's is at least a 9.5 as well. I won't argue the former, but I will defend with everything that my 30 years of making music has taught me the latter. It's that simple. So what I'm getting at is this: Some of the albums that Scaruffi rates highly are truly underrated and deserve to be ranked among the greatest ever. Some. Among. But to rank Husker Du far above Revolver is pure lunacy.

Well, I don't personally think that's pure lunacy, because all album ratings are entirely subjective opinions. Even going on pure influence, one should note that Husker Du nails this hands down: IE: My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, m83, Ulrich Schnauss, Pavement, Broken Social Scene, Ride, Slowdive, Atlas Sound, Mew, Asobi Seksu, Nirvana, and arguably all of the shoegaze and grunge genres and all offshoots of them wouldn't have existed without Husker Du. Plus, it's quite possible that the modern indie scene (which one could easily argue produces the vast majority of all artistically relevant rock music made today) would never have been recognized without them - since they were the band that first pulled "College rock" into wider recogniztion (apparently they were the first "college rock" band to be signed to a major label).

My argument wasn't that Scaruffi's list of top albums was necessarily lunacy (I'd even say it's one of the better lists around), just that it was, like all lists of top albums, just a subjective list of favorites (as you agree), not worthy of being seen as THE TRUE BEST as many listologists seem wont to do. However, to argue over what should go where on the list and what shouldn't have been ommitted is equally silly, I think, because it's a list of what Scaruffi likes, and only Scaruffi knows what Scarufffi likes. I don't think it's actually possible to make a "best albums" list.

Although, Scaruffi's treatment of the Beatles is interesting. I actually do somewhat agree with what he says of them, especially since the overblown "Beatlemania" phenomenon is still seen with mediocre bands today. And to be honest, I don't hear anything particularly subversive or avant-garde about the Beatles, just an absolute perfecting of cliched pop music, which is something all decent musicologists despise. The Dylan quote is interesting, but it doesn't prove that the Beatles were influential, just that they were popular enough to bring ideas to all corners of the earth. Dylan likely simply hadn't heard anyone who was doing exactly the same thing the Beatles were doing, because, like the quote itself states, there was no avoiding them, and more obscure, artistically relevant bands are harder to find. Although, I don't see how Dylan couldn't have heard artists doing exactly what the Beatles did, because 3-4 minute pop songs consisting of an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus have been around FOREVER - and are therefore now very boring. That's one of my favorite Scaruffi pages, in fact.

Over the Beatles? No, really, you're honestly trying to pass off the illusion that Husker Du was more influential musically than the Beatles? These are exactly the kind of bruised sentiments I see around here all the time. The Beatles influenced groups from the Stones, Dylan, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead and CSN to Yes, Pink Floyd, the Ramones, Stevie Wonder and Elvis Costello- and, yes even Husker Du. And by extension every band each of these artists influenced. You do see where this ends up, no?

I honestly believe that the popularity of the Beatles hinders their appreciation. For, it's really tough to like the popular band when you're trying oh so hard to be different and rebellious (the ironic thing was that the Beatles were popular and rebellious at the same time). If all the Beatles produced was the bubblegum pop of their early career I could understand the criticism. (and FYI: the differences that Dylan spoke of centered on the actual music the Beatles were producing- their experimentation with chord structure and harmony combined with a driving beat. This is why he'd heard nothing like it before and why it was the Beatles and not some other artist who convinced Dylan that electric music was as valid as folk. The link between Dylan and the Beatles is practically unassailable-in both directions- as both have indicated many times the influence they had on each other.)

And if you don't hear anything avant-garde (even though I'm still mystified as to why this should matter more than songwriting) or subversive in the Beatles music I'd suppose you're not listening hard enough. A few examples of songs that are more avant-garde, subversive or biting social critiques include: Rain, Dr. Robert, Tomorrow Never Knows, Strawberry Fields Forever, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Fixing a Hole, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, It's All Too Much, Blue Jay Way, I Am the Walrus, Revolution, Helter Skelter, Revolution 9, Yer Blues, Piggies, Happiness is a Warm Gun, I Me Mine, I Want You (She's So Heavy), Day Tripper. And I would also suppose we could work from there to their respective solo careers- it's tough to find Lennon's work without finding some subversion in there, not to mention the avant-garde stuff he produced.

Finally, I see Scaruffi's Beatles page as simply a revisionist history of the sixties music scene with a particular emphasis on degrading everything the Beatles contributed. If taken as even limited truth I can see how someone can so easily dismiss the single most influential rock band of the era. Unless you want to count people like Chuck Berry and the early rock and rollers who influenced just about everyone who came after.

The one thing I can understand is the prevalence of the Scaruffists here on Listology. It makes sense that a listmaking critic would spawn a listmaking fan base, n'est pas? But I do agree with you when you say that many of the Scaruffite lists look like carbon copies of the original. There just HAS to be someone out there who really enjoys Trout Mask and Rock Bottom but thinks Red Crayola's really terrible.

Oh wait.
I like Trout Mask
I like Rock Bottom
I think Red Crayola sucks

I don't disagree that the Beatles influenced many other artists, I'm just arguing that the only reason the Beatles influenced so many other artists is because they were so popular. Yes, many bands were influenced by the Beatles. However, everything that the Beatles did was exactly what others were doing at the same time - people were just Beatles-influenced because EVERYONE could hear the Beatles, those the Beatles directly copied were not as famous. As an extreme example of this, imagine if no one had heard any rock music of any kind yet to this day, but every album released in rock had still been released: it was just not popular or heard by the mainstream (IE Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, etc., all existed, they were just underground). Imagine I then come along and release an album of surf rock very derivative of the Beach Boys, an album of psychedelic rock very derivative of Pink Floyd, an album of metal very derivative of Metallica, and an album of punk very derivative of The Sex Pistols, and so on, and all of these albums, one after another spawns tons of radio hits and sells record numbers more than anybody else ever has in all of music history. In 40 years, tons of musicians would cite me as an influence, and I'd be named one of the greatest musicians of all time. I wouldn't have done anything interesting or original, I'd just be a pop musician making pop music, because no boundaries would be pushed, no new ideas would be brought forth. However, I'd be the most famous "artist" of all time.

The difference must be drawn between art and entertainment. The Beatles were great entertainment, for sure (as you call it "good songwriting" - in other words, catchy hooks, fun refrains, simple, hummable melodies and silly lyrics), but were artistically (for the most part) devoid. In the same way, many visual artists who make bizarre paintings that are unlike anything ever seen before - but are not neccessarily visually appealing (IE: Marcel Duchamp) - are greater artists than those who make well-painted, beautiful landscapes with visual appeal that are totally familiar to anyone who has viewed almost any quantity of visual art (IE: Thomas Kinkade). Entertainment is there to amuse you. Art is about making something new, interesting, and original, and it's here that The Beatles fail.

(Note that even though I've always thought that the best music is actually a mixture of art and entertainment, The Beatles still fail for me. There is no art to the Beatles at all, just entertainment - it's nothing but pop structure with other people's sound effect ideas on top.)

In fact, I don't think music today would be that different without The Beatles - people would just cite The Beatles less, and cite The Byrds, The Beach Boys, "the merseybeat sound," etc. more. I can't think of anything The Beatles did that someone else didn't.

As for Husker Du being influenced by The Beatles, how? They were directly descended from The Velvet Underground (as they were part of the punk/hardcore movement), who existed as a REACTION to bands like The Beatles (and not directly The Beatles - there was bubblegum pop in every era) and an application of avante-garde concepts like free-jazz (Ornette Coleman is one of their influences) and early minimalism (as is La Monte Young) to rock and folk music. It's a completely different line of influence from The Beatles, and I don't see how The Beatles enter into the Husker Du equation whatsoever.

As for The Beatles and their social critique - they were OK in that respect, but greatly surpassed (and preceded) by artists like Zappa and Dylan. In other words, it was cool at the time to add political commentary into music, so The Beatles did too. They didn't point out anything that hadn't already been pointed out in other music (in a more interesting fashion).

I'm not being a Scaruffi-ist here, I've never liked The Beatles. To me, they've always seemed like every other manufactured boy band in history, no better or more special than The New Kids on the Block (and not all that musically different, either: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro, or some minor variation on it, like two verses instead of three).

I agree with you about Red Krayola, though.

Darktremor you are an utterly in need of musical knowledge with some of your comments. First of all pop music is a major influence on rock music or any kind of music. Just compare their structure to their peers like the Kinks or the Stones. In fact the Beatles were most likeley the first rock artists to combine non blues modality in rock amongst other things they did. The Beatles influence is much more than the Velvet Underground 7 minute two chord drone songs. Which the Beatles did quite effectively on 'Tomorrow Never Knows" in less than four minutes. The Beatles were highly influential is because they are perceived by many the greatest rock artists ever not because they were popular though it did not hurt.

The structure of songs like "I Am the Walrus", "Day in the Life" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" or even "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Harrisons experimentations with eastern music. Revolver and Sgt Peppers on a whole were incredibly groundbreaking albums. By the way the tape loops on "Tomorrow Never Knows" were done by McCartney and the backward tape loops done by Harrison on "I'm Only Sleeping". Even Dylan himself said the Beatles chord structure were alien to him which would partly inspire him to go electric. Again, just compare their structure to their peers like the Kinks or the Stones.

It's your non informed opinions that would say the Beatles done nothing interesting or original. When the Beatles came out Brian Wilson said the Beatles were much more original than us and anyone else in music.

Avante-garde concepts with Rock were done by the Beatles before the Velvet Underground even got into the recording studios. Not that Avant-garde music is great to my ears but the Beatles were using drone, or exotic drones, feedback before the there was a Velvet Undeground. It's hard being musician and having to teach someone like you the truth. Because you won't listen.

I'm going to try to break down their whole career into a few simple bits. Here's the beginning through the end of '65:

50's - played skiffle, then rock and roll (both the black and white kinds) and probably a mixture of the two (at least arrangement-wise).

1960 - the skiffle-rock hybrid develops a more soul/r&b/pop influenced sound called Merseybeat. The Beatles are an early Merseybeat band, but no big deal (actually to their credit that they weren't the first, because the genre started out kind of lame and would be a credibliity step down from before).

1960-62. The Beatles develop a fun, energetic stage show with 50's covers and begin to write songs that are a quirkier variant of Merseybeat, with occasionaly incongruous changes, thanks to McCartney's jazz background. None of these songs were a big deal in their weirdness and they weren't a big deal in exuberant pop-rockitude until Please Please Me.

1963: The Beatles' quirky harmonies/chords/arrangement layering reach their peak with She Loves You, It Won't Be Long, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. They also record a relatively interesting reverby/exotic Harrison song, Don't Bother Me.

1964. I Call Your Name is noteworthy for switching into a ska beat. Not the first to do that of course, and it didn't make for a disorienting random change or anything, so no great shakes. They start merging folk and rock a little (to a greater extent than Merseybeat alread did via it's skiffle influence), but not in any kind of groundbreaking way. They start making use of the 12-string Rickenbacker, but didn't "pioneer" the jingle jangle sound or even the combination of folk, rock, and jingle jangle that led to the Byrds. The A Hard Day's Night
album is mostly a batch of top notch tunes, with little of the striking quirkiness of earlier except for When I Get Home's chorus. I'll Cry Instead is often thought of as an early country-rock song, but it's not to a greater extent than plenty of others. Beatles For Sale continues to mix folk, rock, and jangle, theoretically coming closer to the eventual Byrds' sound. I Feel Fine is a melodic masterpiece and early but insignificant use of guitar feedback (used by at least Johnny Guitar Watson, the 5 Royales, and the Yardbirds).

1965: Yes It Is uses a tone pedal which makes a wavery reverby sound (no big deal) later repeated on I Need You on the Help! album, and I'm Down is a Little Richardy shouter.

The Help! album continues a long the lines of a folkier sound, with a few authentically emotional nuggets, but with a lot of filler. Yesterday is a classic ballad (but not an "innovation"). It's Only Love feeds a guitar through a Leslie speaker (actually not the first to do that, and kind of irrelevant anyway since the only meaninful thing about that factoid it is the resulting sounds, which weren't groundbreaking. Ticket To Ride is sometimes credited with making an early use of Indian drones, but it's really just a mature heavy folk-rocky song (also breaking the 3 minute barrier for their first time). A re-write of sorts, That Means A Lot, extends on the drone-ish aspects of the song, but then again, not really. If You've Got Troubles is a cool countryish/bluesy riff-rocker.

Rubber Soul has 2 straightfoward tunes (Drive My Car, Run For Your Life), two mature ballads (Girl, Michelle), a country-pop song (What Goes On), and three folk-rock songs (You Won't See Me, Wait, which was an overdubbed Help! leftover, and I'm Looking Through You, which is kind of country-ish).

It's the other 6 songs that make it's reputation. In My Life is not quite the baroque pop song it's claimed to be especially since that'd be in the rock genre (the rock being "pop-rock"), whereas it's just...pop. The mere fact that it achieved the baroque sound by manipulating another instrument is irrelevant since what should matter is the resulting sound. Think For Yourself uses a fuzz bass as if it was a distorted guitar, in the context of a song with a "real bassline", making for a kind of ugly backdrop, but not earth-shattering. If I Needed Someone refrain that sounds like the verse, which sounds like the riff. So it's all just one big exploration of a little motif, which came from a Byrds song. It's credited with being Indian-droney. Might be the first drone/folk-rock hybrid (I don't hear it) but now we're really splitting hairs and, besides, there had already been a few full-blown psychedelic songs by then. The Word is kind of hypnotic thanks to it's repetitive R&B bass, but no biggie, and the drones in that song are actually pretty long in the few places they appear, but are insignificant. Norwegian Wood is authentic and "real" sounding, but not really groundbreaking. It's not a rock song and should instead be compared with it's impressive precedents in the the raga-influenced folk of American Primitive guitarists. The alternate version, with more prominent sitar, is more interesting. Nowhere Man uses double-tracking in an interesting way, making the vocals and instruments more ethereal. It should count as a proto-psychedelic song (but as mentioned the overall style already existed in small corners). 12-Bar Original is an MG's-ish instrumental with stinging guitar, noteworthy (as far as the Beatles go) for it's length.

Day Tripper is a fun riff-rocker (based partially, but not as much as other songs, on Watch Your Step). We Can Work It Out is another great tune and has mood and time signature shifts which don't really amount to an kind of mindblowing disorientation or what have you.

McCartney was experimental with tape loops at the end of '65. We don't know what that sounded like and it was probably no more interesting than dozens of avant garde musicians.

I have to say Sean and Darktremor are utter Scarrufites. The jangle sound is heard on tracks "A Hard Days Night" the jangle fade out and "Words Of Love" which Roger McGuinn based his sound on. The Searchers don't even use the 12 string guitar on "Needles and Pins". They later used it but after the Beatles already used it. "What You're Doing" already combines both jangle and folk rock all before the Byrds. The Byrds. The Beatles differ from the Merseybeat groups because they rocked more than artists like the Searchers. The Byrds, The Mamas and Papas and others went electric because the Beatles were merging folk elements with a energetic beat.

Songs like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" are now considered the basis of power pop.

As for country-rock its all over on Beatles for Sale.

"I Feel Fine'is significant A- it was done on purpose as a recording effect which other were not and it was doubled with a riff.

"I'm Looking Through You" is a folk rock song fused with R&B totally unlike what American Folk Rock Artist were doing.

"The Word" is very funky unlike what the Stones were doing. The use of psychedelic like drones and very innovative use of backward style drumming by Ringo. A good mix of funk with some proto-psychedelic music.

The other point you guys have made are quite laughable.

lol I love the way you accuse the author of the "bone to pick with scaruffi-ism" of being a scaruffite. Nor is sean one of the bigger scaruffites on listology. Many people don't like the Beatles who are not scaruffites. Yeah scaruffi takes his anti-Beatles thing a bit far, I do like some of their songs, but no they are not the greatest band ever. Nor would I consider myself a scaruffite considering I doubt he has heard a lot of the stuff I listen to. To be honest don't you think his rating of St Pepper's as a 7 is fairly generous? When you consider he has listened to a riduculous amount of arguably the peak of musical achievement - classical music. If you gave Beethoven's 9th symphony say a 9.75 or 10 I think the St Pepper's rating is generous.

Perhaps it is your belief that the Beatles are musical geniuses that is laughable.

I'm in no way denying that there's jangle on A Hard Day's Night or Words of Love. Just that other bands did it earlier. The Searchers are just one example (from even before Needle's and Pins). And the fact that they got the sound via a different means (different kind of guitar) is irrelevant. What You're Doing is definitely closer to the Byrds' sound, but it was late October 1964, by which point the Byrds had already achieved their sound (as the Beefeaters).

Sure they were different from other Merseybeat groups. I even allude to that in my post. But it doesn't matter if bands went electric "because" of them. That says nothing about the relative interesting quality of the music, only how it was perceived by the bands in question.

The Beatles are certainly a big influence on power pop. But they're missing a key ingredient, the power aspect (or at least the right extent of it).

Beatles For Sale has no country-rock. Rock with a country influence is not the same as country-rock. It if were, there'd be literally hundreds of country-rock songs before hand anyway.

The point about I Feel Fine is that the combination of rock music and guitar feedback had been done, and had been done on purpose. Even if they were the first to record it (which isn't true anyway), the fact that it had been done before (and more extensively) is what should matter. I Feel Fine still stands as an amazing tune though.

Lots of folkies in New York were doing similar things to I'm Looking Through You dating back to early 1964. And The Word is funky, but the Stones were much funkier at the time. Such as with the released and especially the alternate version of Mercy Mercy (plus there's no need to compare with the Stones in particular). There are no "psychedelic drones" in the song. There's just a sustained organ sound for a few seconds at certain key points that is not very prominent.

The other points I made are all fact-based observations, comparing what makes up their music with that of their contemporaries.
I'm pretty sure none of them are laughable.

Except in a few cases, everything the Beatles did was already done in a rock context in a more in depth way. They did perhaps introduce some new recording/production techniques to rock, but rarely were those techniques contributors a unique actual "sound", so the fact that the techniques were employed was usually moot. When they did manage to come up with unique sounds (either in terms of timbre or chords/melody/harmony, whether or not by virtue of new techniques), they were "less unique" than plenty of other (earlier) artists. Tomorrow Never Knows, Strawberry Fields Forever, and A Day In The Life seem to be by far their most groundbreaking songs, their masterpieces, but even those take a back seat in the innovation realm to earlier works by other artists.

Sean you are at it again how many times must we point out the facts before you shut up. The Byrds derived their jangle sound because of the Beatles. What bands were doing jangle pop in 1964 besides the Beatles and the Searchers. The so called jangle sound on the Searchers " Needles and Pins" is not even clean.

If you want to hear a early folk rock and jangle sound is there 1963 recording of "I'll Be On My Way". Like it has been mentioned before on the Beatles A Hard Days Night album the sound of 12 string guitar, strong backbeat and upfront acoustic folksy sound was all theirs and no one else.

All Music Guide says the Beatles are where power-pop starts. Listen to the drumming on "She Loves You" or "Please Please Me" and tell where the power aspect is absent. Beatles for Sale has songs country rock and it songs like "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" was made to be a country song.

Tomorrow Never Knows, Strawberry Fields Forever, and A Day In The Life seem to be by far their most groundbreaking songs, their masterpieces, but even those take a back seat in the innovation realm to earlier works by other artists

That is your opinion. I find all those songs more groundbreaking than anything that the Velvet Underground ever did.

The Beatles were more innovative. I think the fact that Beatles BEGAN as a mere pop act blinds alot of people to the truth: that what they ultimately became was one of the most, if not THE most influencial rock artists of all time. Even bands like Yes and Genesis were influenced by them,, for Christ's sake.

Rock and Roll on a whole started by absorbing existing styles like country and blues into something new which became Rock and Roll. Rubber Soul in 1965 already shows traces of psychedelic rock with the sitar drones and dreamy vocals of "Norwegian Wood". "Nowhere Man" is basically psychedelic pop and "The Word" lyrically and it's extended organ drones is proto-psychedelic rock.

"Tomorrow Never Knows" uses Indian Music and avant/ musique concrete that certainly invents something new in rock music and pop music in general. The first track recorded for the epochal Revolver L.P., Tomorrow Never Knows (the title lifted from the Tibetan Book of the Dead) was an acid-soaked masterpiece of prime psychedelia. Distorted guitars, Lennon's treated vocals, endless overdubs and the backwards drum loops all prefigure in some way the idea of sampling technology. Most of modern dance music uses these concepts.

This whole notion of a band deriving their sound "because of" another band doesn't mean anything. All you mean to point out is that Band A did it first, so Band B is less innovative, which would be a relevant point whether or not Band B ever heard of band A.

The Searchers and Buddy Holly and others did it first. And this whole clean/not-clean thing doesn't make any sense. If anything it would mean that the whole Beatles-derived jangle, while different, was different in the sense of being more commercial. And the Byrds' was different too, and in a much more interesting/intense way, regardless of it's genesis.

I'll Be On My Way is a good song, but it's not a leap from what had come before. Then by early 1964 NYC folk club scene had already crossed over into a full blown 12-string folk rock hybrid before A Hard Day's Night, which wasn't a breakthrough.

It makes no sense to cite AMG about power pop - or even to cite anyone. That's a logical fallacy, an authority appeal. The point is that She Loves You and Please Please Me are not in the style. All you're saying about I Don't Want to Spoil the Party is that it's a country song. That's not even worth mentioning, as there had already been thousands of them.

When we're talking about groundbreaking, we're referring to the extent to which a piece of music differed from the established paradigm, and the Velvet Underground differed to a much larger extent at an even earlier time.

It's pretty hard not to be "influenced" by a band that's pretty much saturated in the media, so Yes and Genesis don't surprise me. But this is all meaningless, as what should be relevant is a comparison between them and what came BEFORE.

No one's denying that Rubber Soul is a proto-psychedelic album. But every minute of it's creation had a more groundbreaking precedent in other songs, a few of which were already fully psychedelic.

This thing you wrote about Tomorrow Never Knows doesn't have much substance. All you're saying is how it was made and a little of what it sounds like, without any comment on how these concepts were already employed (how it actually "post-figures" rather than pre-figures)

Buddy Holly did not have a jangle sound. His sound twangy. Yes it is important that the Byrds derived their sound listening to the Beatles. Because without them the Byrds would not have went electric. Again revisionist history is at the core in your arguments.

"I'll Be On My Way" is a folk rock song recorded before the Searchers and way before the Byrds went electric.

"1964 NYC folk club scene had already crossed over into a full blown 12-string folk rock hybrid before A Hard Day's Night, which wasn't a breakthrough."

Again what are you on about. Those bands including the Byrds were using acoustic 12 string guitars it was after the Beatles were heard using the 12 string guitar is when the Byrd purchased the 12 string guitar.

If All Music Guide is a logical fallacy then what does that make Pierro Scaruffi. Songs like "She Loves You" and "A Hard Day Night" are now classed as power pop. The latter a big influence on the Who.

You could not get anything more differnet in rock music than songs like "Love You Too","Tomorrow Never Knows" or structurally than "Strawberry Fields Forever".

"I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" is certainly a country rock song. Predating the Byrds, Dylan and the Band. Steve Earle and Gram Parsons attest to this.

Again "Tomorrow Never Knows" with it's sampling over repetitive drum and base line, one or two chords is common in today music scene. As is droning sound over repetitive drum and bass line is also common on modern rock.

All I am saying the Beatles were very influential, very early, innovative and they were able to merge with this with pop music is what set them apart to someone like the Velvet Underground. Get over your obssesion Sean.

Buddy Holly's Words of Love has a jangle sound.
It's not like the jingle jangle is the most intereting thing in the world. It just sounds cool. Let's move on. And I'm not talking abut acoustic folk music. There were several examples of electrification even in 1963.

About fallacies, I'm just saying it's wrong to say something is true because someone said it was, AMG or Piero Scaruffi. Things are true because in an of themselves. Power pop started with the band Big Star, with precedents in the Flaming Groovies and, earlier, the Who's 1965 and 1966 singles. The Beatles simply aren't power pop. And if they were, it's not like that's a big deal.

You're right about Love You To, but only in the sense that it is not a rock song. It's a mini Indian raga with a rock influence. But country-rock did not exist in the sense we refer to today until Gram Parsons, regardless of what he himself might say (another one of those authority appeals).

I think you mean the Beatles version of "Words Of Love" has the jangle sound. Buddy Holly guitar sound is twangy.

Songs like "A Hard Days Night", "Twist and Shout" or even "Ticket To Ride" not power pop. The Beatles were the prototypical power pop band. Go listen to "A Hard Days Night' or "Any Time At All" which the latter two is basically the blueprint of the Who agressive, clanging 12 string sound and pounding drumbeat. The Dave Clark Five is another band who dabbled in power-pop go listen to "Glad All Over".

The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Zombies were basically blues rock. The Beatles who rocked just as hard were more pop orientated. I don't understand why you don't understand the concept. There are legions of power-pop bands influenced by the Beatles namely Cheap Trick, Badfinger, Big Star to name a few.

I am not a huge fan of acts like Captain Beefhart or the Velvet Underground. To be quite frank yeh its not music for the masses but even with that in my opinion its hard to class them as music.

To Darktremor you were commenting on the Beatles structure. The Beatles in every song has at least one unconventional chord progression "I Want To Hold Your Hand" being a great example.

The Beatles though not completely deviod of blues influence were much more modal then acts like The Rolling Stones or anyone else in rock music at the time. Their use of modality was close to folk music rather than blues which is why the Byrds went electric. Add the fact they had a strong backbeat. You have the makings of folk rock.

Here are some example of unusual structures.

"Don't Bother Me" Uses the Dorian Mode in a non blues context.

"Things We Said Today" A very strong folk rock influenced song with exotic Phrygian mode. Very modal sounding song

"I'm A Loser" a country-folk rock song that uses the Mixolydian Mode related to folk music

"Ticket To Ride" a slow very droning dissonant song with heavy broken drum pattern.

"Norwegian Wood" a song thats in 3/4 and is a true example Mixolydian Indian Song

"Tomorrow Never Knows" based really on one chord, using both Dorian and Mixolydian mode

"Eleanor Rigby" Dorian Mode

"She Said She Said" unusual time signatures,
Mixoldian Mode.

" Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" One of many songs where the Beatles are messing with time. Slow quiet verse in 3/4 switching to 4/4 on the loud chorus.

"Good Morning Good Morning" You would have to be technically brilliant drummer to negotiate all the differnent time changes on this song.

"A Day in the Life" The Avant-Rock Mini Suite The song has many psychedelic and majestic sections (with soaring violins and Lennon vocals), and it changes in tempo and mood when McCartney takes the lead, but then it reverts to the old theme from the beginning of the song. The ending note (a simple pound of an E chord on the piano and the backing orchestra) lasts around 30 seconds and really ends the song on an epic note (which it is). Finally, if you wait around long enough you'll hear a vocal experiment at the end that has more psychedelic tinges to it, and while it's creative, it's really unsettling after the masterpiece track A Day in the Life

" Blue Jay Way uses the almost forogtten Lydian Mode maybe the first example in Rock Music to create Indian music without the use of a sitar or a guitar

Thats just a small sample of the Beatles using unconventionl structes in Rock Music.

Sean your last sentence "but even those take a back seat in the innovation realm to earlier works by other artists". I would have to say after listening to what the Beatles peers were doing the Beatles were way more innovative. Just because the Beatles were able to fuse this pop music does not make it less innovative. I think you need to know music before you make the comments you make. You could not be more rudimentary than what the Stones or the Velvet Underground were doing compared to the Beatles.

First of all, rudimentary does not mean less innovative. Sometimes it means more.

I know that having a pop influence does not automatically negate them, but it's just others were actually more experimental. Basically it was yesterday's experimental rock with more pop and less experimentation. All in all, less of a big deal artistically.

I think by structure he's only referring to song structure as in verse/chorus/verse (granted that's not really true, as shown by stuff like It Won't Be Long).

But all this mode and time signature stuff is meaningless. It should be about how the music sounds. Does the way it sounds challenge accepted notions, disorient the listener, and provoke.

"Mode and time signature stuff is meaningless" It was because of this why songs like "She Said She Said" or "Blue Jay Way' sound different than your average rock song.

Maybe to you but for future progressive rock musicians like Robert Fripp, Phil Collins, it was influential in them going prog rock. Can, Donovan and even John Cale have cited the Beatles mixing time signature with modal music was a influence or inspiration on them. What group did John Cale belong to oh yeah Velvet Underground. Go read Lennon Uncut on his opinion of "She Said She Said" or his love for "Norwegian Wood". Then comeback to me and tell me the Beatles were not innovative or influential. The Byrds, The Kinks and the Yardbirds dabbled in this type of music but the Beatles did this a lot thanks to George Harrison. I think you and your Scaruffites are a bunch of revisonists. Or when the Beatles did something unique or out of the box it is casually tossed away.

All you said was that John Cale liked and appreciated the Beatles. There's no trace of any of this in the first two VU albums, and that's what matters.

No music is done without influence or something from the past and that includes the Beatles or the Velvet Underground. John Cale said while he liked the Rolling Stones over the Beatles. He thought the Beatles more brilliant and when "She Said She Said" came out he liked the tricky meter and he told Lou Reed he thought the Beatles were zeroing in something in music that he wanted to do. Its one of his favorite songs ever.

He also liked that the Beatles were adding an Indian Influence on songs like "Norwegian Wood" and that influenced him also.

I admit the Beatles did their share of pop-filler but its their real edgy stuff that influenced much of the underground artists like Pink Floyd and others.

They were many different sides to the Beatles than just pop music.

The first half of what you said is entirely about him liking a song, She Said She Said, not about influence. Hey, that's one of my favorites too. Actually I read about Norwegian Wood, it didn't really influence him, just kind of "inspired" him. The Velvet Underground's sound stands on its own compared to the Beatles, and doesn't stylistically owe to them (not saying it doesn't owe to anyone at all, since of course everyone has influences).

John Cale recently noted the Beatles use of distortion on Revolver had an influence on him and Reed during the VU days. Lonesome Cowboy Bill could have came from the White Album.
Many people have noted that the "experimental" part of VU left with Cale and I tend to agree. Loaded seams very Beatlesque. I will note that Lou Reed was not a fan of the Beatles but liked some of Lennon solo work

Progressively though, the Beatles drifted away from the rock'n'roll style over-used and endlessly repeated by most of their counterparts and began exploring new musical avenues. Nothing was left aside in this exploration: harmony, orchestration and rhythm were all revived and transformed by the Beatles's genius. In 'Eleanor Rigby', they used a quasi-Baroque string orchestration. The construction of 'Penny Lane' is based on a systematic and very unusual change of keys. In their later albums, they sucessfully incorporated traditional Indian music harmony "Love You Too" and Avant-garde techniques used by classical musicians, such as the use of distorted tape loops in studios to create new sounds "Tommorow Never Knows" or aleatoric music "A Day in the Life"

I think it's time to move on to another group. I will say this the only album that the Beatles did where I don't understand the what all the fuss was about was Abbey Road.

Lets say I am not fan of Scaruffi and his Avant elitism. Anyone who has songs like "European Son" listed as a masterpiece is missing something in the taste department.

Here is my response

1. Metrical changes

a. 3/4 meter ("Lucy in the Sky")
b. Changing meters but keeping the same beat ("Back in the U.S.S.R")
c. Changing the meter between various compound and simple meters ("Strawberry Fields Forever")
d. Irregular accents ("A Day in the Life")

2. Melodic changes

a. Larger range
b. Effective combination of stepwise motion and melodic leaps

3. Chromatic harmonies (e.g. v min7, VI7, IV maj7 in "Strawberry fields Forever")
4. Tonal ambiguity
5. Modal sound (Blues influence) (Indian influence) (Folk Influence)
6. Timbre

Electronic filtering and feedback with guitars
Electronic modification of vocals
Acoustic ensembles or instruments
Sound effects
Tape effects

7. More thoughtful lyrics

The following songs all have strikingly original chord progressions: Pre Revolver

There's a place
From me to you
I want to hold your hand
She loves you
Don't bother me (a GH song)
Not a second time
Things we said today (esp bridge)
If I fell (esp intro)
I'll be back (esp bridge)
I'll follow the sun
Help (especially Paul's countermelodies)
The night before (esp bridge)
Another girl (esp bridge)
You're gonna lose that girl (esp bridge)
Drive my car (esp vocal cluster just before chorus)
Norwegian Wood (mixolydian mode)
Michelle (shifting key center)
I'm looking through you

But what you're missing is that all of that is irrelevant! One could put out a song in 23/71 made of train noises overlayed onto Buddhist chanting recorded underwater with someone kicking a box as the beat, but it still wouldn't be all that interesting or original if these sounds were crafted into an easy to hum 3:00 minute jingle-pop song with verse-chorus-verse structure. It would be really good pop, for sure, but still just pop. All your above list proves is that The Beatles could take sounds and innovations other people had already come up with and used for better purposes, and apply them to throwaway pop music. Maybe some of the sound effects are their own innovations, fine, but that still doesn't make them musically brilliant unless they do something musically new with it, which they never did. Perhaps The Beatles were great sound technicians, but they were not great musicians. (I think the best example of this tendency is Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: bizarre sounds abound, all used for simple radio music, perfect for commercials and dentist's offices).

No one does this for any other musician or style of music. For example, when rappers sample or use the sounds of ethnic music or avante-garde music or whatever for their beats, no one calls them great innovators. They say "he has an interesting beat" or "it's a good piece of hip-hop," not "he is pioneering the new genres of ragga-hop and avante-hop."

"Musically brilliant unless they do something musically new with it, which they never did".

That statement is one of the most assinine statements I have heard yet. Here are some examples of doing thingsnew in music they did.

"A Hard Days Night"
"I Feel Fine"
"Ticket To Ride"
"Norwegian Wood"
"Think for Yourself"
"Tomorrow Never Knows"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"Love You Too"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"Straweberry Fields Forever"
"I Am the Walrus"
"A Day in the Life"
"Within You Without You"
"Blue Jay Way"
"Its All Too Much"
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun"
"Helter Skelter"
"I Want You She So Heavy"
"Side Two Abbey Road"

I think you are the one who is missing what is relevant. Everyone in music fuses from what came before them to make something new acts like the Velvet Underground did not invent feedback, drone or the use of classical avant techniques. They fused to make somehting new. Which is exactly the Beatles did also on songs like "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "Strawberry Fields Forever". With the Beatles at least they invented certain things in rock music like backward guitar, or using tape loops or samples to create a psychedelic soundscape or fusing Indian ensembles with rock music. I really can't say that about the Beatles peers.

people who like different songs than you are missing something in the taste department?

To Rank1 above: I just listened to She Said She Said. I think it's by far the best Beatles song (I've heard a lot of Beatles songs, since I have a few friends that are very into them, but this one apparently slipped through the cracks.). I actually enjoyed the song, and the lyrics (which I think very much carry the feel of a magic mushroom conversation) - and I don't particularly like most Beatles songs. However, it is still a pop song, if a more obtuse one (its structure being intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-fade-out). I agree, it's a better side to The Beatles than one usually hears, but I've never heard anything else by The Beatles that was nearly as good (and what I've heard is dozens of songs, like at least 40 or 50). I'd give this one in particular 3.5/5. This doesn't make The Beatles brilliant, genre-defining and defying world-changing artists, merely decent ones (an opinion I always held anyway). And it is still pop music.

Listen to Revolution 9 then. That ain't no pop song.

There are two myths about the Beatles that should be squashed right now. One they had many songs go over three minutes. The other one is the verse-chorus-verse- chrorus model is only 23 times and many of their songs don't even have a chorus. They were actually applauded when they started out as going away from the typcial pop-rock norms of the times.

They recorded 211 songs Considering the relatively few types of form parts, the amount of variation in the Beatles's music is striking. However, songs often start off with (intro)-verse-verse-bridge-verse (57 cases) or (intro)-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge (23 cases

What he's saying is that they're fundamentally all the same. A verse part (alternating lyrics) and either refrain (usually the same lyrics and a diffferent melody which is the catchiest) or a chorus (usually the same lyrics and catchiest as well) and sometimes a different sounding part (bridge) thrown in as well. It doesn't matter how many of each there are or in what order, as the use of whatever structure doesn't shock or disorient the listener (one early exception being the exciting early pop-rocker,It Won't Be Long). What should matter is the creativity of the contents.

That is why someone who is not a musician should not comment on this.
Common Song Forms

The less common song forms below were mostly popular before the rise of rock and pop music in the mid–1960s. Though some pop songs continue to use these forms, today they’re used most often in folk music.
Verse–Verse–Bridge–Verse (AABA)
Most popular songs in the 1930s–1950s used the verse–verse–bridge–verse form, also known as the AABA form. This form usually abides by the following pattern:

Though it may seem impractical—or even impossible—to write a pop song without a chorus, consider that The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” among the most widely played pop songs ever, is written in AABA form. “Hey Jude” is a rare exception, of course, but it proves that even obscure forms can be used to write successful songs.

Verse–Verse–Verse (AAA)- "Tomorrow Never Knows"

The simplest songs use the verse–verse–verse form, also known as the AAA or A form. Traditional folk ballads were written in this form; the singer would sing a song that told a tale in verses with the same melody repeated throughout:

The classic Waterloo, of course, is one of the finest examples of a song written in ABBA form...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs