A Couple Of Charts

Thorough analysis of the collection makes a modest assessment of the contents possible. I have created two charts, which break down the collection by year and genre.

Songs By Year - High Quality

This graph can be used to develop a historical perspective on popular music. A sharp spike in the number of songs between 1963 and 1973 suggests this is the greatest period in modern music history. Although the right shoulder of the graph is broader and taller, the spikes during 1927-1928 and especially 1937-1940 may be the next most important. The robust inclusion of songs after 1980 reflects a continued quest to find great songs; the modern era of music making is characterized by great talent, with limited frontiers to create truly novel music. There are few major innovations after about 1970. In addition, older music is devoid of the electronics and perfect production techniques sapping its soul. Arhoolie Records founder and collector extraordinaire Chris Strachwitz has spent a life’s work objecting to what he calls Mouse music, the incessant polishing to make the people’s music palatable to the masses. My collection contains thousands of songs he would consider too smooth and trite, but my goal is a balanced perspective highlighting the artistry inside and outside the so-called mainstream.

iPod Collection - Songs By Genre

I have the raw data available, but for this blog entry, it felt right to post the pie chart without the numbers. In general, the collection has grown organically to this point, though during the last couple of years I made a concerted effort to add more jazz.

Characterizing songs by one genre is simplistic. Some songs are true hybrids of classic styles. In many cases genre selection is arbitrary, and the default choice is often the general descriptor “Pop”. The genre data is still a bit sketchy, but the proportions shown are about right.

The days of growing the collection organically and without specific intent are essentially over. The search for new music will be informed by the existing data. I am motivated to add songs to categories that are slivers of the whole pie, and I don’t like the yearly breakdown spiking so sharply around 1968. The data suggests the mining of new songs will best in those less explored areas. As always, I’ll read what the experts say, give the songs a test drive, and add them if they bring breadth and artistry to the collection, and if I like them.

Poking Fun At Self

Recently, Brian Wansink and Aner Tal of Cornell University School of Applied Economics and Management, revised their study called “Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy”. The abstract is shown here:

“The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs or a chemical formula, increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. Belief in science moderates the persuasive effect of graphs, such that people who have a greater belief in science are more affected by the presence of graphs. Overall, the studies contribute to past research by demonstrating that even trivial elements can increase public persuasion despite their not truly indicating scientific expertise or objective support.”


This study was mentioned in a 2014 article titled “7 Ways To Fake Credibility To Build Your Confidence”, by Ms. Samantha Cole in Fast Company Magazine. The article includes this chestnut of an observation:

“Doing everything yourself isn’t a sign of masterful work ethic — it’s a symptom of mistrust, unhealthy perfectionism, and a precursor to burnout.”

— Samantha Cole

Seven Ways To Fake Credibility, by Samantha Cole – Fast Company. October 24th, 2014

It’s not easy for an introvert to let others help do the work, nor do I have the resources to pay for an assistant. This project evolved from a desire to create something of value using my knowledge, and strengths as a “table maker” and lifetime music enthusiast. The last nine months of poring through the data was taxing, and perhaps no one could do it exactly the way I wanted it done. The point of the exercise is to report the perspective of one person who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the sixties and seventies, so I could analyze my own biases, and slowly reveal a diverse list of recommended songs. I resist the temptation to produce the full list, as I hope it has market value as an appendix. The next step is to write a well researched essay on how I built the collection, and how to best build your own — building the perfect iPod collection. In addition, I will develop a variety of descriptive lists to highlight various aspects of the collection. For instance, favorite albums, or favorite solos.

The data and methodology aren’t scientific, but the sample is large enough that I can tell a good story. Most of all, the music soars and makes me feel wonderful.

The Perfect iPod Collection blog is more or less complete. I will modify some existing posts to reflect the current song listings, and edit selected posts for content and grammar. If I can figure out how, I may recirculate a few of my favorite posts to the top of the stack.

The quest for new music is unquenchable, and soon I’ll return to reading reviews and adding songs. I am particularly keen on adding more traditional songs from both foreign and domestic sources, and finding classic versions of much beloved standards. I doubt it will be an all-encompassing activity like the last few years. I’m ready for a more balanced existence, with a chance to devote time and energy to the next big thing.

Revision 1 Complete – Time To Enjoy The Music

Greetings. I’ve spent the last nine and a half months reviewing the list of songs and standardizing the song data. I will now impose a moratorium on new additions, and declare the current collection as Revision 1. This is the largest project I’ve worked on; after years of regular writing and evaluating, I redoubled my efforts and pored through the song data with great purpose. It feels great to be finished, coupled with both exhaustion and a gnawing doubt that it was unimportant work.

Similar to the evolution of the artist profiles, the scope of the effort increased once I delved in. I expected to identify song composer(s) and year of the recording date. By the time I was midway through, I was citing the original disc or CD, and replacing inferior files with higher quality ones. In some cases iTunes has loud, crisp, remastered files, and in others I reloaded my own CD at the 320 kbps maximum data rate. By comparison, songs downloaded during the initial 2005 effort were downloaded at 128 kbps. The collection is still only 84 GB in size.

Over the last couple years, I removed hundreds of songs, while adding well over a thousand new songs. As a result, the average rating has dropped once again. New songs rarely impress on the first or second listen; if they “make the cut”, songs usually receive one or two stars to start, and then sometimes move into the upper echelon of all-time favorites.

Despite the lower average rating, the quality of the collection is much improved, with far greater variety. The shuffle function now yields a delightful cross section of the people’s music.

5-star songs: 82
4-star songs: 623
3-star songs: 1814
2-star songs: 4296
1-star songs: 4111
0-star songs: 23

Total number of songs: 10949
Average song rating: 1.92

Most songs rated zero stars are either short musical segments, cartoon songs, or commercial interludes. Only two full-length songs earn the coveted zero — William Shatner’s classic “Spleen / Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, and one newcomer, Marcia Strassman’s “The Flower Children”. Best remembered as the wife on the 70s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”, Strassman’s impassioned performance seems in direct conflict with the hippie movement. Zero quatloos for the newcomer!


The Flower Children
Marcia Strassman
Uni 55006 (45)
Jerry Goldstein – Tim Hudson – Russ Regan

Internet Research

The effort to complete the recording data was remarkably successful. Gracenote is a Bay Area company that maintains an open source database of CD music info. Theoretically, when you download songs from a CD, the recording data is automatically transferred along with the song file. However, the data is often incomplete or incorrect, and there is no standardized formatting of data. Starting with a hodgepodge of incomplete data, I relied on Internet resources and my own album data to fill out each field. About halfway through, I decided it that in many cases, it would be cool to use the original 45 or 78 rpm single data as the identifying album. Composer data is presented using first and last names of all composers of a given song. Each co-composer is separated by one space and a short dash. For example, “John Lennon – Paul McCartney” is the most common credit for composer. All words in song and album titles are to be capitalized.

After reviewing and researching almost 11,000 entries, the recording year for only 28 songs was not identified. Even more remarkable, the composer(s) could not be found for just 7 songs. About half of the unfinished data is for old Mexican songs. In a few cases, recording year was interpreted from the album release date; if an album was released late in a year, and no specific recording information could be found, I assumed the recordings were made the same year.

I recently added Bad Moon Rising to my short list of 5 star songs. It is a simple, swinging and prophetic little song.

“I hear hurricanes a blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.”

Bad Moon Rising
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fantasy 622 (45)
John Fogerty

My friend Peter P. is a fellow Benny Goodman fan. We were going to try and meet in Michigan next month, but he would have to travel from his home near Toronto. His wife is quite inform these days, so Peter decided he needs to stay home. One of Peter’s favorite Goodman songs is “Where Or When”. Here Goodman’s small band backs Peggy Lee on Christmas Eve, 1941, three weeks after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and America entered World War II in earnest:

Where Or When
Benny Goodman & His Sextet
OKeh 6553 (78 rpm)
Lorenz Hart – Richard Rodgers
Vocal chorus by Peggy Lee.

I use NPR as a primary source for new music. As a result, my modern song choices tend to be outside the mainstream. Here Caitlin Canty performs “Get Up”:

Get Up
Caitlin Canty
Reckless Skyline (LP)
Caitlin Canty

2015 – Another Year Deeper Into The Project

Happy New Year. 2016 will be another year marked by fear, tumult and political activism. We are beginning to experience “limits to growth” caused by dwindling natural resources, especially oil and water. Hopefully, you and your family are warm and well-fed, and have friends and laughter in your lives.

Status Report

I spent most of my time this year editing and improving artist profiles. As the year wore on, I got kind of bored with the editing process, not to mention frustrated by how sloppy the early profiles were. My progress slowed to a crawl, and I finished editing “96. The Eagles” in early November. The first ninety-six profiles are in pretty good shape, but I still have another sixty profiles to edit, and another fifteen or so to create. At this point no guarantees I’ll finish everything. Next year I’ll probably choose selective profiles to work on, anything to stay motivated.

In November I began working through the entire music collection, and adding accurate, formatted data for each song. In particular, I am adding or verifying the composer(s), year of recording and musical genre, while also verifying which album each song represents. In addition, I am making sure I have a good, clean recording of that song. Back in 2005, the first few thousand songs were burned from my CD collection using a lowest sampling rate. Many of these songs have remastered, improved version available on iTunes.

This is the first time I’ve gone through the collection song by song, and I’m enjoying it. It has given me the opportunity to better understand the collection as a whole. Also, I’m trying to relax a bit, and not pressure myself so much to create a finished product. I am removing about 2-3% of the songs, while adding hundreds more for consideration. Working my way alphabetically by artist, I have reviewed just over 4000 songs, about 37-38% of the collection. I expect that it will take me three or four months to complete this exercise, at which point I will have an attractive, concise database for further analysis and discussion.

Song Ratings

The average song rating is falling, while the quality of songs in the collection is improving. The rating criteria has gradually changed. Compare the breakdown of ratings since the last update at the end of 2012:

On September 13th, 2014:

Total Songs: 9646 songs

5 star songs: 77 (0.7%)
4 star songs: 679 (7.0%)
3 star songs: 2136 (22.1%)
2 star songs: 3996 (41.4%)
1 star songs: 2736 (28.4%)
0 star songs: 19 (0.2%)

Songs Currently Under Review: 21

Average Song Rating: 2.10 stars
Total Length/Size of The Perfect iPod Collection: 24.9 days/46.7 GB

On December 31st, 2015:

Total Songs: 10519 songs

5 star songs: 76 (0.7%)
4 star songs: 639 (6.6%)
3 star songs: 1912 (18.7%)
2 star songs: 4082 (39.9%)
1 star songs: 3495 (34.2%)
0 star songs: 14 (0.1%)

Songs Currently Under Review: 300

Average Song Rating: 1.99 stars
Total Length/Size of The Perfect iPod Collection: 27.3 days/55.8 GB

Since September 13th, 2014:
1733 songs added to the collection. Quite a few of these are higher quality versions of existing songs.
860 songs removed from the collection.

The average rating per song has continued to decrease. Five years ago it was about 2.4, but as I add new songs to the collection. They are generally assigned a one or two star rating. The quality of the collection is clearly better, and the rating criteria has changed. A one-star song is a song with significant merit, but I also want to keep the size of the collection relatively small. Nevertheless, I think the average rating has gotten too low, so I make efforts to grade a bit higher, even though the song ratings seem less important as the collection evolves.

Over the next year, I will keep “filling holes” in the collection, adding songs from various genres and eras that need better representation.

2015: New Music

I don’t keep up with new music very well. I’m too busy researching old music, and there’s so much new music to choose from. Every year I pay attention to NPR and Rolling Stone Magazine reviews, though I am finding Rolling Stone’s opinions diverging from my own. I place a high priority on traditional instruments in small band settings, where each musician’s voice can be heard. I like a wide variety of sounds, and a syncopated beat. So when 25, Adele’s new CD, with its highly orchestrated sound, earns five stars from Rolling Stone, I’m beginning to think Rolling Stone has lost their way. Adele is a lovely woman and a powerful singer, but her music sounds overproduced, lacks variety, and does not swing. I fear that this great talent will go the way of Whitney Houston and other great modern singers — into the hands of big business, where her talents will be underutilized in the pursuit of maximum profitability. I can only stand so many tearjerker ballads; give this woman a small, swinging band whose talent competes with that big voice, free her from the confines of songwriting royalties, and turn her loose. No more Whitney Houston nightmares of unrealized potential.

Currently I have added fifty-one new songs released in 2015. It doesn’t sound like many, but 10500 songs spread over a ninety year period averages out to about 110-120 per year. As I find more songs, it is likely that the number of 2015 songs will increase. For comparison, there are about eighty songs from 2014. Given my age (57), and the goal of collecting a broad cross-section of music, modern songs are added to fill holes, something that sounds fresh and different.

Late last summer I spent the day working with a pair of brothers who are sons of a good friend. They both like modern rap/hip-hop music, and after work, I asked them to pick twenty-five songs they thought were great. After listening to each song several times, I kept seven, including three by Kendrick Lamar. My primary objection to most of these songs was overuse of the N-word. I sent them a letter afterwards, thanking them for the suggestions, but making a case that songs where “n*****” is used over and over excludes me. It is socially unacceptable for me to use that word, I don’t want to use that word, and I don’t want to hear it over and over again. Besides, it’s lazy poetry, like fucking saying fuck all the time. Kendrick Lamar appears to be exceptional in this regard, by not relying on the N-word and the same tiresome subjects. Rap music can be cool, but like all music I like compelling lyrics, a melody, and fine music. The self-deprecating tradition of referring to one another as “n*****” is centuries old. I’m allowed to not like it. Perhaps more on this subject in a dedicated post.

Here is a short list of favorite songs released in 2015:

No One Is Alone, Anthony de Mare ★★
The Blade, Ashley Monroe ★★
I Buried Your Love Alive, Ashley Monroe ★★
Mar (Lo Que Siento), Bomba Estéreo ★★
Stepsister’s Lament, Cecile McLorin Salvant ★★

Whiskey And You, Chris Stapleton ★★
The God Of Loss, Darlingside ★★
Before The World Was Big, Girlpool ★★
Speed Trap Town, Jason Isbell ★★
Over And Even, Joan Shelley ★★

King Kunta, Kendrick Lamar ★★
Amor De Lejos, Los Hijos De La Montaña ★★
El Tamalito, Los Hijos De La Montaña ★★
Stories We Could Tell, The Mavericks ★★
Pardon Me, The Mavericks ★★

Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind, Rhiannon Giddens ★★
Should Have Known Better, Sufjan Stevens ★★
Biscuits, Kacey Musgraves ★★

For me, the artist of the year is Rhiannon Giddens, the former lead singer of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a traditional folk band known for playing old-time music. In essence, the band dropped the name and started to support her as the lead attraction. Here Ms. Giddens sings “She’s Got You” at the Grand Old Opry, my favorite new video of the year:

Another highlight for 2015 is Mono by The Mavericks, a veteran country rock band. In this nice audience video, the band plays “Stories We Could Tell” in Grass Valley, CA last May.

Cecile McLorin Salvant has a growing reputation as a great young jazz singer. Here she is in 2013, singing the traditional coal mining song “John Henry”:

There’s a nice country music renaissance. There are some fine young female songwriters out there. In this official video, Kacey Musgraves sings, “Mind your own biscuits and live will be gravy.”

I’ll be back in a few months with some good statistics, and maybe something interesting to say about it.

Finishing The Blog Taking A Long Time!

It’s been two months since the last new post. I am busy with warm weather activities, but still spending some mornings editing old artist profiles — adding pictures, updating video links and song lists, and improving the writing. Some of the old posts are pretty good, and some are a mess. In some cases, I’m adding a few biographical details; in others I’m eliminating thoughts that no longer seem relevant or important. Every now and then I’ll add a new personal connection.

In the new “Artist Rankings” section, if the artist’s name has an active link, I’ve reviewed and edited the profile, and am satisfied with it. Eighty-eight profiles have been reviewed (or were deemed OK), so I have seventy-four more profiles to edit, and fifteen new profiles to write (see previous post for the list of new profiles). I’ll probably edit the existing profiles first. Currently I’m editing about three profiles per week, so it’s easy to see how this process might take six to eight months, plus another three or four months to write the new ones.

I wish it was more exciting right now. The blog evolved over the years, until I found a formulaic approach I like. So I’m making the various profiles into an interactive picture book, reminiscent of the picture books I enjoyed as a child. As always, thanks for checking in.

Finishing Up The Blog

The Perfect iPod Collection blog is nearing its logical conclusion. I began the project almost seven years ago, and started the “big countdown” of my favorite artists a year later. Over the next six years the profiles became more elaborate, as I refined the typical artist template with pictures, videos, and a list of significant contributors. I am deeply indebted to YouTube and Wikipedia; without them, the blog would be woefully inadequate.

Though much time was spent creating the profiles, the majority of time was devoted to research, and the effort to create an integrated, small library of mostly 20th Century music. I’ve spent far too much time with it lately; there should a greater sense of pride when I study and listen to it, but there are many days when the mind is tired of acquiring and evaluating music. I’ll never stop the process of perfecting the little library, still only about 50 GB in size, but I need to pick a stopping point for writing about it. Over the next few months, here is what I hope to accomplish:

1. I recently ranked the artists a second time, with their updated ranking dependent on both number and quality of songs. The artists are ranked by number of stars awarded. In the case of a tie, the greater number of songs prevails. The updated rankings can be found on a new page called Artist Rankings, which will provide a link to each artist profile. The first fifty profiles are edited and linked; once an existing profile is upgraded and edited a final time, I will provide the link on this page. Some of the old profiles are quite brief. They will never be very informative, but I can add a few links, a picture and, if available, update the video links and song lists.

2. The Wish List page is no longer relevant. I will replace it with a Links page, with a few relevant links.

3. I will eliminate most early posts, most are which talk about recently added songs, or are early attempts at artist profiles. I’ll keep a few favorites. If you have a favorite old post, please let me know. I’ve cleaned up the Index page to reflect the change.

4. There are fifteen artists remaining, with ten or more songs that merits an artist profile:

Chet Baker
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Stanley Turrentine
Nick Lowe
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mark Knopfler
Wes Montgomery
Jeff Beck
Dizzy Gillespie
Charles Mingus
The Guess Who
The Smiths
Albert King
Sam & Dave
The B-52s

I will eventually complete these, though I may prioritize other interests and writing projects.

5. Finally, I need to finish off the project with a significant analysis and general discussion of the results, which will also be completed in due time.

6. It would be nice to figure out how to get some recognition, and perhaps a little money with this project. There are 177 artists with ten or more songs, and their music comprises 55% of the total collection. Perhaps there is a market for the song list, either alphabetically or by artist. It’s impossible to compete with the All Music guide and Rolling Stone magazine, and their teams of expert analysts; perhaps there’s a place in the world for a charming, individually created list. I’m not convinced that knowledge of music theory is a prerequisite for this exercise, nor do I feel great writing is essential. This exercise also belongs in the realm of collectors and categorizers. It’s vital to value the opinions of other experts, especially the musicians who cover their favorite songs, and follow the lineage of the great songs to their origin. Ultimately, the ratings became somewhat unimportant; either a song is either in the collection, or not. At least that’s how I do it.

Ratings Breakdown, April 14th, 2015:

5 Star Songs: 76 (0.8%)
4 Star Songs: 641 (6.4%)
3 Star Songs: 1959 (19.6%)
2 Star Songs: 4002 (40.1%)
1 Star Songs: 3287 (32.9%)
0 Star Songs: 17 (0.1%)

Songs Currently Under Review: 42

Average Song Rating: 2.01

Status Report (September, 2014)

I have completed a first run through the artists with ten or more songs in my iPod collection. Along the way, I have refined the profiles and added some features. The newer profiles are generally superior to the earlier ones. Partly that is because artists with fewer songs demand less representation.

Song Ratings

The average song rating is falling, while the quality of songs in the collection is improving. The rating criteria has gradually changed. Compare the breakdown of ratings since the last update at the end of 2012:

On December 29th, 2012:

Total Songs: 9465 songs

5 star songs: 98 (1.0%)
4 star songs: 843 (8.9%)
3 star songs: 2534 (26.8%)
2 star songs: 4106 (43.4%)
1 star songs: 1832 (19.4%)
0 star songs: 52 (0.5%)

Average Song Rating: 2.22 stars

On September 13th, 2014:

Total Songs: 9646 songs

5 star songs: 77 (0.8%)
4 star songs: 679 (7.0%)
3 star songs: 2136 (22.1%)
2 star songs: 3996 (41.4%)
1 star songs: 2736 (28.4%)
0 star songs: 19 (0.2%)

Songs Currently Under Review: 21

Average Song Rating: 2.10 stars
Total Length/Size of The Perfect iPod Collection: 24.9 days/46.7 GB

Since December 29th, 2012:
1264 songs added to the collection
1083 songs removed from the collection.

Since September 20th, 2009, 3175 new recordings, both new songs and better sounding recordings of existing songs, have been added. In other words, almost a third of the collection has been replaced. I removed songs I considered non-essential, and added ones I either missed or didn’t know about. I continue to study artists and music that deserve to be represented, and add songs accordingly. When I first completed initial ratings for all 8244 songs in August, 2009, the average song rating was 2.44.

The number of one star songs has increased dramatically. The defining attributes of the one star song have changed; now it generally means “a song I like, good enough to be in the collection”, whereas it used to mean something closer to “a well known song I don’t particularly like, one that often results in changing to a new song.” For major artists like the Beatles, or Elton John, the one star rating includes many good songs not considered essential pieces of work. The one star rating also includes popular standards I find less appealing. Also, new additions to the collection, deemed good enough to be in the collection, often earn one star, with the possibility of upgrade with repeat plays.

The four and five star rating is becoming less common, now only 8% of the collection, versus about 11% five years ago. How many favorite songs can one person have? I now have 756 songs rated as great songs, and the 77 five star recordings, which include a few redundant mixes, are those rare songs I never grow tired of, assuming I don’t wear them out by listening to them repeatedly. If I listen to one of my favorite songs about once a month or so, it always sounds as good as it ever did.

However, in general I am growing somewhat tired of researching music, and that contributes to less enthusiastic opinions. It gets harder to find music that sounds exciting and new to me. My plan remains to add more instrumental and jazz music, and fill in any major areas of folk music I’ve missed, once the countdown of artists is complete. The song ratings are less important than the list of suggested songs. It’s still fun to listen to music with friends and loved ones, see what they think, and then assign a simple rating based on a wide variety of factors. Usually the opinions line up pretty well.

★★★★★ – An all-time great song, reserved for the top 1-2% of the collection. These top songs that usually personal favorites, but it also includes songs (“Stairway To Heaven” is an example) widely accepted as great performances.
★★★★ – An outstanding song, possessing great lyrics, structure and/or musicianship. These tend to be the best songs in their respective musical genre. This category tends to include fewer instrumentals and fewer long pieces of music.
★★★ – A very good song, highly recommended. Both three and four songs also include historically significant performances.
★★ – A good song. The definition of the two star song remains tied to the concept of “not changing the radio station”, or “not fast forwarding to the next song in iPod shuffle mode”. How much joy a song brings when presented randomly is a good measure of a song’s value.
★ – Good enough to be in the collection, with the potential for advancement. This category also includes non-essential but pleasing songs from major artists. Many good songs are found here.

There are still a few songs with zero stars, but these tend to be short pieces of little value, except to provide an amusing interlude between songs while in iPod shuffle mode.

New Artist Profiles

Over the last five years, a new group of artists have enough songs to qualify for inclusion. The next project is to review these artists, and create profiles for those with ten of more songs. Neither Joni Mitchell nor The Smiths currently have ten songs, but their popularity and critical acclaim suggest I should review them, too. Billie Holiday has about thirty-five songs, and in a final ranking of artists, will be among my top fifty favorites. Once these profiles are complete, I’ll make a final list of artists covered, and do the countdown once more, rating the artists by the total number of stars, rather than by the number of songs. Most artists will maintain their position pretty closely, other like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis move up significantly.

Upcoming profiles will include most of the following:

Albert King
Anita O’Day
Billie Holiday
Booker T. & The MG’s
Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
The Carpenters
The Coasters
The Drifters
Elmore James
The Four Tops
Jeff Beck
Jimmy Reed
John Lennon
Joni Mitchell
Loggins & Messina
Lou Reed/Velvet Underground
Mose Allison
Nick Lowe
Robin Trower
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Smiths
Stanley Turrentine
Tom Jones

The 100 Most Played Tunes

iTunes keeps track of how many times each song gets played, a nice feature. With one iTunes library on my desktop computer, plus a secondary copy on my laptop, the iTunes play count is not reliably accurate, but it still gives a good idea of which songs get played the most. Here is the current list of the 100 most played songs in my collection, with analysis to follow.

First 50 Most Played Songs:

Have I Told You Lately (Vegas)(Live), Van Morrison ★★★★
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)(Live), Van Morrison ★★★★★
In The Midnight (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Bright Side Of The Road (Live), Van Morrison ★★★★
All My Loving, The Beatles ★★★★★
I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, The Beatles ★★★★
For Once In My Life, Stevie Wonder ★★★★★
Tighter, Tighter, Alive And Kicking ★★★
Make You Crazy, Brett Dennen ★★★★
Off The Wall, Michael Jackson ★★★★★

The Devil & Me, BR5-49 ★★
The Road To Gila Bend, Los Lobos ★★★★
Everybody Knows, Ryan Adams ★★★★
Someday Baby, Bob Dylan ★★★
One Time, One Night (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★★
Got To Move, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Gentle On My Mind, Glen Campbell ★★★★★
Whining Boy Moan (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
I’m A Loser (Live), The Beatles ★★★★
Since She Started The Ride, Jonathan Richman ★★★

My Maria, B.W. Stevenson ★★★★
Catch My Disease, Ben Lee ★★★
Deathly, Aimee Mann ★★★★★
Work To Do, The Isley Brothers ★★★★
Call Me The Breeze, J.J. Cale ★★★★★
Only In America, The Drifters ★★★★
Everywhere I Go, Eilen Jewell ★★★
Victoria, The Kinks ★★★★
Hope Of Deliverance, Paul McCartney ★★★★
Runnin’ Wild, Sidney Bechet ★★★★★

And The Healing Has Begun (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
1234, Feist ★★★
The Dark End Of The Street, James Carr ★★★★
Sea Of Heartbreak, Don Gibson ★★★★
Side Of The Road, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★
The Afterlife (Live), Paul Simon ★★★★★
Little Village (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Jackpot, The Derailers ★★★
Somewhere In Time, Los Lobos ★★★

Uptight (Everything’s Alright), Stevie Wonder ★★★★★
Midnight Rider (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★
Loan Me A Dime, Boz Scaggs ★★★★★
Let It Rain, Eric Clapton ★★★★
I Wan’na Be Like You, Louis Prima & Phil Harris ★★★★★
Multiplication, Eric Gale ★★★
I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Everlasting Love, Robert Knight ★★★★★
Sweet City Woman, The Stampeders ★★★
Duquesne Whistle, Bob Dylan ★★★★

Second 50 Most Played Songs

Soul Limbo, Booker T. & The MG’s ★★★★★
That Summer Feeling, Jonathan Richman ★★★
Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears ★★★★★
Hey Jude, Wilson Pickett ★★★★
Brian Wilson, Barenaked Ladies ★★★★
My Back Pages, The Byrds ★★★★
Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me), Chris Isaak ★★★★
Crowded In The Wings, The Jayhawks ★★★
Precious Time, Van Morrison ★★★
Girl From The North Country (Alt), Bob Dylan (With Johnny Cash) ★★★★

Every Night, Paul McCartney ★★★★
Just Like A Woman, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos ★★★★
Start Again, Teenage Fanclub ★★★★
How Long, Ace ★★★★
One Way Out (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★
I Loved Another Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
A.B.C., Jackson 5 ★★★★
You Didn’t Have To Be so Nice, Lovin’ Spoonful ★★★★

Pineola (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry ★★★★★
Long Grey Mare, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Found Out About You, Gin Blossoms ★★★★
Solitary Man, Neil Diamond ★★★★★
Brown Eyed Girl (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
The Weight, The Band ★★★★★
As Hard As It Is, Fine Young Cannibals ★★★★
Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Still I Long For Your Kiss, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★

Love In A Trashcan, The Raveonettes ★★★
Bend Me Shape Me, American Breed ★★★★
Only The Good Die Young, Billy Joel ★★★★
Nadine (Is It You?), Chcuk Berry ★★★★
Bring It Up (Live), James Brown ★★★
Let Yourself Go (Live), James Brown ★★★★
Today Is Mine, Jerry Reed ★★
Bad, Michael Jackson ★★★★
Somebody Cares For Me, Nick Lowe ★★★
Late In the Evening, Paul Simon ★★★★

I’m Movin’ On, Ray Charles ★★★★
How Do I Let A Good Man Down?, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ★★★
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, Steam ★★★★
Raincheck, Van Morrison ★★★
Blue Sky, The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★★
I Fought the Law, Bobby Fuller Four ★★★★
Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Buddy Holly ★★★
Backwards Walk, Frightened Rabbit ★★★
New Kind Of Neighborhood, Jonathan Richman ★★★
Smile, Lily Allen ★★★

I tend to “wear a song out” when a good one comes along, so many of these are ones I found over the last ten years, played a lot, and now I don’t listen to them much anymore. Far more impressive are the famous songs that made the list. Those are among my all-time favorites. The top four songs on the list are Van Morrison concert performances that I acquired in recent years, and their newness influenced the number of plays, though “Jackie Wilson Said (Live)” in the #2 spot is an all-time favorite. The up-tempo “Vegas” version of “Have I Told You Lately (Live)” provided spiritual sustenance for a couple years solid. It has 130 plays logged in the collection, though the total number of plays must be closer to 200. However, it eventually lust its luster, and no longer sounded like an all-time favorite, hence the downgrade to four stars. In my experience, a hot new song sounds great about the first 50-100 times, and then slowly begins to lose its appeal. Or it doesn’t, and becomes a favorite for life. They are such a gift. Most five star songs in my collection did not instantly become a favorite song. They grow on me over time.

According to the library, I just listened to Lily Allen’s “Smile”, the 100th most played song, for the 27th time. Hot dance beat from 2006 with a killer opening phrase: “When you first left me I was wanting more, but you were fucking that girl next door, what’cha do that for?”

The list looks some kind of alternate pop music universe, not unlike an AM/FM radio show, but with different choices from a broader cross section. In the wintertime, I use the iPod to power me through gym workouts, so many of these songs are upbeat dance numbers that excite and propel me. If I ever try being a local disk jockey again, I think I shall try to design a musical format that features these types of alternate pop music, with passages of jazz and instrumental music inbetween. I think the simple messages conveyed by songs with words will have greater weight when delivered in smaller doses.

The Most Popular Posts

Finally, here is a list of the most popular artist profiles:

37. Sidney Bechet (777 views)
74. The Crusaders (722)
30. The Kinks (528)
68. David Grisman & Jerry Garcia (447)
58. Sam Cooke (442)
61. Django Reinhardt (Quintet of the Hot Club of France) (386)
59. Artie Shaw (288)
9. Elvis Presley (259)
72. Janis Joplin (Big Brother & The Holding Company) (238)
39. Chris Isaak (222)
14. Ray Charles (193)
84. Bill Monroe (& His Bluegrass Boys) (171)
23. The Allman Brothers Band (162)
69. Miles Davis (120)
42. Randy Newman (111)
75. Louis Armstrong (109)
82. Marvin Gaye (104)
24. Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris) (100)

In addition, the home pages and introductory pages are also commonly viewed, along with a heartfelt post about Raphael Saadiq’s “Love That Girl” during a lonely trip to the desert in early 2009.

The number of hits the blog receives is far from impressive. I like it that way; no need to publicize at this point. I hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, I’m busy building a broad, solid collection of music. It’s getting better all the time.

2012 Year-End Stats

Johnny Cash is taking more time to evaluate than I expected. I didn’t know his career very well, and he has a lot of songs under consideration. Add in holiday festivities and a bit of project fatigue, and I couldn’t turn it around before the New Year. I should have the profile up within a week.

20 profiles will complete the initial phase of the artist countdown. I created 25 in 2012, so completing the project next year is within reach. These top artists have so many songs, but I am more familiar with many of these artists, so coming up with a final rating for songs should be easier for them. Some will be arduous, though; how do you decide what to keep of the Grateful Dead?

Ultimately, the plan is to select 48 more artists to profile, for a round total of 200. The extra 48 profiles would be shorter, but might still take a year or more. After spending some many evenings evaluating songs, I’m growing a bit weary of the process. I have little time or energy to find new music, outside of the profiled artists. After finishing the initial set of profiles, I will likely take a break, so I can return to my other writing project, a book about modern golf course architecture and maintenance.

As of August 27th, 2009, I finished rating all the songs in the original collection. Here is the original breakdown of song ratings:

8244 songs
97 five star songs: 1.2%
915 four star songs: 11.1%
2615 three star songs: 31.7%
3492 two star songs: 42.4%
1112 one star songs: 13.5%
12 zero star songs: 0.1%

Average Song Rating: 2.436 stars

One year ago, the collection looked like this:

9246 songs
98 five star songs: 1.1%
895 four star songs: 9.7%
2659 three star songs: 28.8%
4100 two star songs: 44.3%
1483 one star songs: 16.0%
11 zero star songs: 0.1%

Average Song Rating: 2.297 stars

Today, December 29th, 2012, the breakdown is as follows:

9465 songs
98 five star songs: 1.0%
843 four star songs: 8.9%
2534 three star songs: 26.8%
4106 two star songs: 43.4%
1832 one star songs: 19.4%
52 zero star songs: 0.5%

Average Song Rating: 2.221 stars

549 songs were added in 2012, so 330 songs were removed. I estimate there are about 100-125 songs that were replaced with versions that sound better. Of the 52 songs rated zero stars, about 40 are unrated songs that need to be rated or discarded. A additional 100 or so songs were purchased from iTunes for review and discarded to the “iTunes Songs That Failed To Make The Cut” folder.

The average rating per song continues to fall. I’m concerned that I grow more critical as the project evolves; it feels that way. There may be other factors. Song ratings were generally higher before the blog countdown started; many songs get downgraded when reviewing these great artists at the top of the list. Also, it would be fair to suggest that virtually all of my favorite songs are already included in the collection, so a large percentage of new songs get a one or two star rating.

I hope everyone has a happy, sober and productive 2013.