WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - Counting 'Em Down in Real Time, Part 3 - The Top 285

It's over! WXPN's countdown of the 885 Greatest Artists of all time as voted by the xpn community ended at 7pm Monday October 23rd with the final entry, #1 - THE BEATLES. The only thing better than listening to the countdown was simultaneously listening while reading and participating in the xpn discussion boards. The thread with the most fun was the running commentary on the Comment on Current Artist thread. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog. My picks w/full discussion are here. Coverage of the first three days of the countdown can be found here. Coverage of the middle portion of the countdown is here. The party finally concluded Tuesday when Helen Leicht devoted her entire airshift to playing The Beatles from 10am to 2pm as she celebrated her 30th anniversary on Philadelphia radio. The four hours went by in a flash and the Beatles (and Helen) never sounded better. Helen's anniversary tribute continued Tuesday night at the Philly Local concert at World Cafe Live, taped for future broadcast; full coverage and pictures to be posted soon.

The Finale at World Cafe Live, Monday 10/23/06
David Dye hosted the final three hours of the countdown from World Cafe Live Upstairs, with the listenership invited to hang and party. After the World Cafe break from 2-4pm, David came back on the air at 4pm to present #3 - THE ROLLING STONES. After an hour of prime Stones tracks, the big moment was at hand. After the 5pm news, David began the 5pm hour with no intro other than that the following song begins with a famous drumbeat, going right into the first track of #2 - BOB DYLAN with "Like a Rolling Stone". Nice touch, following an hour of the Rolling Stones with that track.

During the broadcast Dan Reed explained some of the voting statistics. The total number of listeners who voted was approximately 6,400. At the bottom of the list, artists received votes from approximately 10-15 people. The vote count was close between #2 and #3, and even closer between #3 and #4 (about 100 points), however #1 beat #2 by a landslide.

With #2 revealed, it was instantly clear that the final position of the countdown would be #1 - THE BEATLES. And even though the suspense was gone, it with with a celebretory air that Helen Leicht joined David at the mike to introduce the final hour. The good feelings seemed totally mutual between the station staff and the listenership. It was the most fun that two weeks of radio can be, and here's hoping that they come up with another great idea for next year. Remember to click on each photo to enlarge. All photos © W.Kates, 2006.

Matt Reilly & David Dye (proof for Matt's parents that they are really two separate people)

An Open Letter to WXPN
I posted the following to open a thank-you thread to WXPN on the bulletin board. You can read the complete thread with all the replies here.

To: Roger, Bruce, David, Michaela, Helen, Dan, Matt & Robert
(and everyone else who works behind the scenes at xpn)

Congratulations and major thanks for a great countdown broadcast. Radio listening doesn't get any better or more fun than when you can immerse in the music (good, bad or otherwise) and follow the always humorous commentary on the bulletin board - so much for getting any work done these last two weeks.

Your song selection by committee has been absolutely wonderful. Not that we couldn't all nitpick this, that or the other artist but by and large you are firing on all cylinders almost all the time. The opportunities for greatness are being realized more often than not - the sets this morning by Traffic and Warren Zevon were just perfect, to name just two. Respecting the music has never been more evident on the xpn air and I'm sure I speak for many other members and listeners when I say


Here's the Top Fifty Artists of All Time (as voted by 6,400 listeners):


#5 - U2
#12 - THE WHO

#17 - R.E.M.



#36 - THE BAND
#39 - PRINCE
#40 - YES
#50 - STING

Scorecard - Here's How My Picks Did
1. The Beatles - #1.
2. Stevie Wonder - #22.
3. Yes - #40.
4. Genesis - #55.
5. Bruce Springsteen - #4.
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival - #121.
7. Swing Out Sister - Didn't place.
8. The Average White Band - Didn't place.
9. Brian Auger's Oblivion Express- Didn't place.

10. Joni Mitchell - #10.

And My Next Ten (Honorable Mentions):
11. Del Amitri - #790.
12. Steely Dan - #27.
13. Pink Floyd - #9.
14. Julia Fordham - Didn't place.
15. Tanita Tikaram - Didn't place.
16. Chris Rea - #858.
17. Louis Armstrong - #93.
18. Burt Bacharach - Didn't place.
19. Ray Charles - #47.
20. Nat King Cole - #196.

Monday 10/23/06 - Day Fifteen, The Finale
The countdown resumed at 6am with #12 - THE WHO and #11 - JIMI HENDRIX getting four songs per artist in the 6am-7am hour, after which the top ten began, with each artist getting a full hour. After the World Cafe break from 2-4pm, the countdown ended with a wrap party at World Cafe Live Upstairs. #3 - THE ROLLING STONES was revealed at 4pm, and #2 - BOB DYLAN at 5pm; like with beauty contests, when #2 was announced, #1 was also known. #1 - THE BEATLES ended the the countdown from 6-7pm. What a great ride it's been. We'll all have to deal with countdown withdrawl tomorrow.

Sunday 10/22/06 - Day Fourteen
The countdown resumed at 11am after Sleepy Hollow picking up with #43 - RICHARD THOMPSON and ran four songs per artist until about 9:15pm (pre-empting Mountain Stage and the first hour or so of the folk show to get proper timing for completion tomorrow) ending with #13 - VAN MORRISON.

One of the bulletin board contributors who uses the screen name Uncle Meat (a Frank Zappa album title), uses this Zappa quote as his board signature which I found especially cool: "Without music to decorate it, time is just a collection of dates by which bills must be paid." - Frank Zappa.

As you can tell by looking at the top fifty artist list above, it was a day of heavy hitters. While some sets were better than others, it got to the point that with artists this good, it would be hard to go wrong picking any four songs. The Yes set could have been better but wasn't as bad as it might've been (like the Genesis set). Certain iconic artists seemed to get universal love on the bulletin board, but none more than #16 - DAVID BOWIE who was the beneficiary of an unabashed love fest generating seven or eight board pages of bliss. The board posts were coming so fast and furious that it was hard to keep up. By the last song in the set, "Heroes" it was hard not to get caught up in the euphoria.

Saturday 10/21/06 - Day Thirteen
The countdown resumed at 10am after Sleepy Hollow with the rest of the set by #71 - THE POLICE. Running three songs per artist until approximately 3:30pm when we hit #50-Sting at which point it went to four songs per artist, ending up with #44-FRANK ZAPPA at 6pm. Things started out well, but by afternoon the countdown jumped the shark as all the song selection principles that have governed the last two weeks of countdown seemed to go out the window. The following was all posted in real time during today's playback; read on.

If ever a set of music sounded as great as the weather looks outside right now in Philadelphia, it would be #70 - THE EAGLES with "Already Gone", "One of These Nights" and "Hotel California", Go Egos!

#66 - LUCINDA WILLIAMS - Sounded great on a guitar-driven set of "Passionate Kisses", "Something About What Happens When We Talk" and "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Bruce Warren kickin' it on the early shift today.

#64 - DIRE STRAITS - Should've been in my top ten. Nice set of "Sultans of Swing", "Skateaway" and "Money for Nothing". Can't say anything bad about that last song since it's so iconic but "Brothers in Arms" would've been a way better choice.

#63 - ARETHA FRANKLIN - Had to declare a "snark-free zone" on the bulletin board for the duration of Aretha's set of "Respect", "Chain Of Fools" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (last tune written incidentally by Carole King & Gerry Goffin). Queen of Soul indeed!

#61 - COLDPLAY - Set totally avoided their excellent but perhaps suffering from an overexposure backlash last album X&Y, with a set of "Yellow", "Politik" and "Moses". Bruce Warren mentioned that he changed the song selections on the fly. Keane set me up to finally get into this great band last year. Good showing on the countdown regardless.

#60 - STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN - Hearing "Riviera Paradise" on xpn totally made my day, a guitar master working at the top of his form (almost made up for not hearing "Brothers in Arms" earlier). This is a great track to demo your sound system with. We also heard "Pride & Joy" and "Couldn't Stand the Weather"in a great sounding SRV set.

#58 - JANIS JOPLIN - Sounded great and way cool as paired with
#57 - FRANK SINATRA - With so many great songs, how could you argue with "Summer Wind", "I've Got You Under My Skin" amd "My Way". The Chairman of the Board unquestionably. Leading joyfully into the next set, by
#56 - SANTANA - Another consummate guitar master, sounding awesome going all the way back to the original studio version of "Soul Sacrifice". Wow, what another great hour of radio.

#55 - GENESIS - Surprisingly not in the top fifty, Genesis was given one of the lamest sets imaginable, with "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", "A Trick Of the Tail" and "Follow You Follow Me". As one of the most accomplished progressive rock bands ever, they deserved better. As if that wasn't bad enough, it was followed by
#54 - PHISH - Argh! Countdown taking a downturn right now. I was willing to listen without prejudice and the first two songs in the set weren't bad but "Gotta Jibboo" sent me right over the edge. How the f**k did this group make the top 100. Yikes!

#53 - THE BEACH BOYS - Got a safe and obvious set of "Good Vibrations", "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Surfin' USA". I daresay Charlie from Bloggerythms would have picked a better set.
#52 - THE KINKS - Nice to hear these Kinks classics but again we're treading very familiar territory here with "You Really Got Me", "Celluloid Heroes" and "Lola"; nice but boring, would rather have heard "Waterloo Sunset".

#51 - SIMON & GARFUNKEL - Another safe and unimaginative set included "Mrs. Robinson", "Sounds Of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water", yawn. What happened to the song selection committee? Either they're not picking songs that way anymore or someone didn't show up to the meeting when they picked this section of the countdown.

#50 - STING - The same holds true for Sting, now with four songs to select, they played none of his really great tunes, only the safe and obvious. WTF? And just when it seemed like things were too totally predictable, on came
#49 - JOHN COLTRANE - Yay, pure jazz. Finally, a well chosen set of "Giant Steps", "Acknowledgement (A Love Supreme)", "My Favorite Things", and "All Or Nothing At All".

- The countdown went back in the tank with this lamest of all possible Billy Joel sets: "Piano Man", "Say Goodbye To Hollywood", "Only The Good Die Young" and "You May Be Right". Much consternation on the bulletin board. I'm sticking to the theory that some key person or persons didn't show up for the meeting when they picked today's sets. A really golden opportunity was missed when they didn't end Billy Joel's set with his Ray Charles song "Baby Grand" knowing that next up in the countdown was
#47 - RAY CHARLES - You could throw darts and not go wrong picking four Ray Charles songs so this set would be hard to screw up but damn if they didn't again stick to the most obvious and predictable hits, at least three out of four. Sheesh. See you on the bulletin board.

Friday 10/20/06 - Day Twelve
The countdown picked up at 6am with #110 - LITTLE FEAT and continued with two songs per artist until sometime a little after 8am when we hit #100- JETHRO TULL (a great set) and began hearing three songs per artist continuing on until 7pm when today's edition ended with song one by #71 - THE POLICE.

Amazing that #105 - Cream, #103 - Crosby, Stills & Nash, and #102 - Traffic didn't make the top 100, but we did get an absolutely perfect set from Traffic with "Glad/Freedom Rider" counting as one song, followed by "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys".

#99 - Warren Zevon a happy surprise in the top 100 with a perfect set consiting of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", "Werewolves Of London" and "Keep Me In Your Heart" that brought lumps to many throats on the bulletin board. #97 - Ludwig Van Beethoven sounded great with Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Fur Elise W. 59, and Symphony No. 8. prompting this post to the bulletin board from spark who wrote: I'm EXTREMELY disappointed we didn't hear any Beethoven original performances, only anemic cover versions.

Heavy hitters coming fast and furious now:
#92 - Paul McCartney
#93 - Louis Armstrong
#94 - Carole King
#95 - John Hiatt

#88 - The Moody Blues caught some deservedly heavy snark but I thoroughly enjoyed the set. #87 - WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART who beat out Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin, sounded great with a set that consisted of Overture To The Marriage Of Figaro, Piano Sonata No. 15, and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. In another great stylistic set collision, Mozart was followed by #86 - THE RAMONES who also sounded great although I must admit to never having intentionally listened to them previously.

In another appropos pairing, #81 - TORI AMOS was followed by #80 - ANI DIFRANCO, and while both have a solid constituency as evidenced by their placement on this list, they each seemed to have at least that many detractors on the board today. Later this afternoon there was a virtually snark-free zone as we all enjoyed a sublime set of
#77 - B. B. KING

Get some sleep if you can, the countdown resumes tomorrow morning after Sleepy Hollow.

Thursday 10/19/06 - Day Eleven
The countdown resumed this morning at 6am with #167 -ROXY MUSIC and continued with two songs per artist until today's playback ended with #111 - DAVID GRAY at 7pm. In between there was diversity to extreme once again, a factor that is likely to diminish somewhat as the countdown nears its conclusion.

Lots of snarky fun again today on the bulletin board, with the most disdain reserved for #162 - THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, #122 - MATCHBOX 20, #120 - DAR WILLIAMS, and #116 - JIMMY BUFFETT. David Dye as his bulletin board alter ego Mezzanine actually posted snark alerts just prior to the last two, injecting yet another dimension to the good humor taking place on the board. Creedence had the unenviable position of being sandwiched between Matchbox 20 and Dar.

Crash segues are more common than not these days but here were a pair of entries that actaully complemented each other.

One of the more interesting and varied sequences:

And finally, a few entries of note:
113 - RUSH - Even though is got very little love on the bulletin board while playing, it was awesome of xpn to air a twenty minute Rush track, "2112" as one of thier two tunes. This definitely bodes well for a redeemer for Yes when their turn comes.
121 - CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL - Great song selection of "Lodi" and "Born on the Bayou" especially considering the multitude of great songs they had to pick from.
129 - MICHAEL JACKSON - Board comments more restrained in their snarkiness than you might expect.
133 - GEORGE HARRISON - George's placement essentially ruled out any chance that Ringo might place in the 885.
134 - JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - Still sounding great, reminding of the glory days of Surrealistic Pillow and Volunteers.
141 - XTC - This fine Britpop outfit doesn't normally get anywhere near the xpn airplay that they should.
148 - JOAN BAEZ - Diamonds and Ruse sounded as great today as it ever did.
153 - BRUCE COCKBURN - Another well deserved placement.
158 - ROY ORBISON - Inspired the careers of Chris Isaak and Raul Malo as Michaela so astutely pointed out.

Wednesday 10/18/06 - Day Ten
The countdown resumed at 6am with #227 - G. Love & Special Sauce. Shortly after 11, Matt Reilly (sitting in for Helen) broke into the top 200 with #200 - Shawn Colvin. The countdown continued running two songs per artist until concluding with #168 – CAT STEVENS at 7pm.

Lots of well-deserved snark for #206 – BRIGHT EYES with only a couple of brave posters coming to his defense. Finally one of my HM picks placed, #196 – NAT KING COLE, sounding great with "Unforgettable" and "Route 66" kicking off an amazing set in which he was followed by #195 – NINA SIMONE and #194 – BLACK SABBATH, actually sounding great on "Paranoid" and "War Pigs", great selections. Next up #193 - RANDY NEWMAN. Haven't heard a more interesting, varied, and enjoyable hour of radio in many a day (or at least since last year's countdown).

More rap, hard rock and metal than ever saw the inside of the xpn transmitter on the countdown today. None of my picks hit again today (except for the one HM pick), but here's a few interesting entries.

174 – CHICAGO - It was kind of lonely out there on the bulletin board defending Chicago against all comers until Charliemusicfan showed up to help hold the fort. "I'm a Man" and "25 or 6 to 4" both sounded awesome today with the late Terry Kath's guitar really taking the spotlight.
175 – SAM COOKE - That is all.
186 – LAURA NYRO- Great to see her held in such high regard.
189 – NORAH JONES - Norah "Snark" Jones takes way more flack for her music than it deserves. I think she's great.
191 – K.D. LANG - Could've been higher but you can't argue with top 200. There is no limit to her talent.
209 – KEB’ MO’ -- Always souding great.
213 – BUDDY GUY - Another guy whose talent is so huge that it's hard to understand why the mass audience hasn't caught on.

Tuesday 10/17/06 - Day Nine
The countdown resumed with at 6am with #284 - Stone Temple Pilots at 6am, still on two songs per artist, ending with #228 – Alice in Chains at 7pm. More snarky fun on the bulletin board today with #251 – VAN HALEN drawing fire along with #274 – STEVE FORBERT. But the most vitriol was reserved for #255 – DIXIE CHICKS, with only two boardies speaking up in the Chicks' defense.

Crazy diversity has characterized the countdown since day one and today was no execption, check out this juxtaposition of sets from this morning, the first and last of which embody the best and worst of that generation of music.


No picks for me again today, my marginal artists' odds getting slimmer and slimmer by the day. Some playback highlights from today:

229 – AL GREEN - The Rev representin' nicely on the countdown.
233 - CHRIS ISAAK - Enjoying Isaak more than ever since his three season tv show.
234 – MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER - "Shut Up and Kiss Me" was a nice reminder of how much fun her early records were compared to the last few.
235 – JONATHA BROOKE - This placement was surprisingly low considering that she might be more dialed in w/xpn than any other artist.
237 – BETH ORTON- Some posts around 5pm questioned whether this was really not the countdown but the women's music hour.
238 – THELONIOUS MONK- Heavy duty thanks to all who voted for Monk.
239 – JOHN DENVER - The snarking was relatively mild (except for one sick joke) and there were any number of positive posts during this set.
244 – WILSON PICKETT - Another soul giant checks in.
247 – PHIL OCHS - My earliest memory of protest singers was Ochs' "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" which still sounded great today. Who knew that there'd be this much support to place him at this level.
248 – EMERSON LAKE & PALMER - There was lots of love on the board today for Renaissance, but not so much for ELP.
249 – DEREK TRUCKS BAND - Not much praise for Trucks during his set but in all fairness the two tracks could not convey Trucks' synthesis of jazz & blues.
252 – BOZ SCAGGS - Man "Loan Me a Dime" sounded great today; thanks xpn for spinning the long one.
253 – GOV’T MULE - I stepped out of my office for a minute and missed the Gov't Mule set.
254 – GORDON LIGHTFOOT - There was an equal amount of begging during this set, for and against Helen playing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". I think I might've played it but the naysayers prevailed. Plus we also learned that "Sundown" was written about an ex-gf of Lightfoot's who later in life was the person who injected John Belushi with his fatal drug OD.
262 – THE SHINS - This set generated as much praise for Natalie Portman (due to her great scene in Garden State) as it did for the Shins.
263 – DR. JOHN- Must've been the right place but it must've been the wrong time. That is all.
264 – RENAISSANCE- Helen not only spun a perfect Renaissance set including the full length "Ashes Are Burning" but also gave a nice mention of the late Ed Sciaky crediting his long standing affinity for this fine band.
265 – TAJ MAHAL - He had to be here, so glad he made it.
281 – JEFF BECK - Same goes for Jeff Beck, if not more so. Would've liked to hear "Because We've Ended As Lovers".
282 – HALL & OATES- Another perfect set with "She's Gone" and "Fall in Philadelphia". Amen.


Charlie Ricci said…
OK, here is my Beach Boys set. We have to give at least one nod to the era that made them famous so I'd open with: "California Girls." "Heros and Villians" would be next, followed by "I Can Hear Music" with Carl singing lead in all of his glory.
William Kates said…
Good set Charlie, thanks. Much better than the xpn selections. I'd have gone with:
"God Only Knows"
"Caroline No"
"California Saga"

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