Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Why Best Of Lists Suck Redux

Someone on The Gretch Pages posted a link to what Guitar World magazine considers the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Needless to say this piqued my interest in taking a look at what the quote unquote cognoscenti have to say, and with leaded skewer in hand, we shall analyze the opinings. "Stairway To Heaven" tops the list, no surprises there, but then again, it's a majestic piece of work. Number two is "Eruption", a piece which has considerably waned in my estimation over the years. It's nothing more than a self-indulgent dive bombing cadenza, with the dubious distinction of popularizing fretboard tapping (Brian May had done it years before with little notice).

If polls are any reflection of readership, the guitar world has a heap of learning to do, since Kirk Hammet and Dimebag Darrel have songs placed higher in the Top 20 over classics such as "Heartbreaker", "Cliffs Of Dover", "Little Wing","Highway Star" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a notch ahead of Stevie Ray's immortal "Pride and Joy". Down in the 30s, Dimebag Darrel again bests classics such as "Sweet Child Of Mine", "Whole Lotta Love" and "Reelin In The Years" (I would imagine Dimebag Darrel would turn tail in shame if he ever tried reproducing Elliot Randall's monster chops on "Years"). Dickie Betts doesn't pop up on the list until #47, Steve Howe incredibly not until #68, George Harrison not until #69 (although at least they did choose "And Your Bird Can Sing" as his best), and incredibly, "Sunshine Of Your Love" isn't on there at all. Dimebag Darrel and Kirk Hammet seem to get as much respect as Clapton, as far as this poll goes. Needless to say Phil Keaggy is nowhere to be found.

There was a thread on Fark about favorite chain restaurants that have gone out of business or otherwise disappeared, which got me waxing nostalgic for a couple of favorite places. Like any New York kid who grew up in the 60s, my first thought at that thread was Wetson's. McDonalds didn't make it into the boroughs (at least discernibly) until around 1970, (although I remember seeing McD's for the first time in of all places Sayreville, NJ). Your choices, if you wanted to eat fast food were pretty much White Castle or Wetson's, both of which induced far worse looks of anxiety from our parents than the ones we have when our kids demand McD's. Wetson's was seriously greasy, and nearly everyone had a food poisoning story about them. There were some small local chains such as Benson Burgers (one of which was the site of a legendary gang rumble in the late 60s), but as far as kids went, the overwhelming preference was for Wetson's. There was the usual cycle of overexpansion and significant quality decline (considering the initial quality it was pretty hard to tell) and Wetson's soon became a fond fading memory. I wonder if it was simply throwing the towel in against the invasion of the national chains, or simple bad management. I suppose if they opened one up for sheer nostalgia at inflated prices there are a lot of 45-55 year olds who would willingly take their chances on ptomaine if they could recreate the taste.

That actually set off a craving for Howard Johnson's in me. The last time I had HoJo's it was on a road trip with the Mrs., something like 15 years ago, and the place (somewhere in Massachusetts, if I remember correctly) was positively pathetic. Service was glacial, and the fried clams could've been used as a long-term substitute for ball bearings. The butter grilled hot dogs were a bit funky, but went down easy. HoJo's was a real treat when I was a kid, we used to there with Grandma, and get not only ice cream after lunch, but also got to hit the candy counter by the cash register (HoJo's correctly anticipating the marketing trend decades before the "exit via the gift shop" routine at whatever family attraction you go to, hmmmm). Remarketing HoJo's against say Denny's or the loathsome casual dining chains might be an interesting exercise, as there's probably still enough fondness for the name to get people in the door, but it's probably a moot point.

Then of course there was Jack In The Box. Only a couple of 'em that I can recall in the NYC area, but they lasted quite a while. A late night road trip for a couple of their fried burritos (the term chimichanga hadn't come into currency yet) was a common occurrence. The tacos weren't bad but the burgers had issues, as we say.....

Then, there was the fast food joint that was advertised (this was either the very late 70s or very early 80s) as sort of a cross between a themed (think the one bearing the stage name of one Leonard Sly) burger restaurant and a Tex-Mex joint. There were very few franchisees of this place around, and we finally heard of one that had opened up on Long Island somewhere (way out in Suffolk if I remember correctly). I had a friend who was quite the aficionado of the chain restaurant who was most interested in checking this dive out, and he dragged a few of us out there one memorable Sunday afternoon to check the place out. We got there at the dinner hour, and there was no one in the dining room, not a terribly good sign. The restaurant staff was like "Wow, customers!" and needless to say my sense of foreboding deepened. The food was unremarkable, but I felt it wasn't hot enough, and thankfully there were no after effects, so I chalked it up to experience and forgot about it. About a year later, there was a "60 Minutes" piece on this particular chain, showing that the entire enterprise had been some kind of franchising scam and that various Attorneys General were most interested in the operation.


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