I watched VH1’s countdown of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time last week, and of course I have some things to say about it.  First off, here’s the list:

1. The Beatles 2. Michael Jackson 3. Led Zeppelin 4. Rolling Stones 5. Bob Dylan 6. Jimi Hendrix 7. Prince 8. Elvis Presley 9. James Brown 10. Stevie Wonder 11. Bob Marley 12. David Bowie 13. The Who 14. Nirvana 15. The Beach Boys 16. Madonna 17. Queen 18. Pink Floyd 19. U2 20. Marvin Gaye 21. Bruce Springsteen 22. The Clash 23. AC/DC 24. The Velvet Underground 25. Chuck Berry 26. Neil Young 27. Aretha Franklin 28. Elton John 29. Radiohead 30. Aerosmith 31. John Lennon 32. Black Sabbath 33. Guns N’ Roses 34. Tina Turner 35. Johnny Cash 36. Paul McCartney 37. Fleetwood Mac 38. Sly & The Family Stone 39. The Kinks 40. The Police 41. Van Halen 42. Metallica 43. Ray Charles 44. Joni Mitchell 45. Al Green 46. Ramones 47. Jay-Z 48. Rage Against the Machine 49. Parliament-Funkadelic 50. Sade 51. Billy Joel 52. Beyoncé 53. Little Richard 54. Public Enemy 55. Peter Gabriel 56. KISS 57. Iggy & the Stooges 58. Cheap Trick 59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 60. Whitney Houston 61. Cream 62. Genesis 63. Notorious B.I.G. 64. Talking Heads 65. The Doors 66. Justin Timberlake 67. Coldplay 68. Otis Redding 69. Tupac Shakur 70. Def Leppard 71. R.E.M. 72. Janis Joplin 73. Van Morrison 74. The Cure 75. Rush 76. Run-DMC 77. Lynyrd Skynyrd 78. Judas Priest 79. Eminem 80. Mary J. Blige 81. ABBA 82. Steely Dan 83. Earth Wind and Fire 84. Curtis Mayfield 85. The Band 86. N.W.A. 87. George Michael 88. Bee Gees 89. Beastie Boys 90. Elvis Costello 91. Green Day 92. LL Cool J 93. Pearl Jam 94. Mariah Carey 95. OutKast 96. Journey 97. Pretenders 98. Depeche Mode 99. Hall & Oates 100. Alicia Keys

Here are the straight dope details from VH1: “The list was determined by a poll of musicians and music experts. Over 200 artists voted including Alicia Keys, Diddy, Ozzy Osbourne and Carrie Underwood, as well as members of U2, the Police, Metallica and Aerosmith.”  Here is the first problem I have with the countdown: the voting was done primarily by artists.  I am generally in favor of lists like this one being determined by critics rather than artists.  I think that critics are more likely to determine the full range of the musical spectrum, whereas artists may (possibly without even realizing it) focus on the artists most similar to them, particularly the ones they have been influenced by.  Critics, unless they are critics of only one genre, are exposed to so many different artists that they simply have more experience in determining how influential artists have been in all of music.  Certain artists are rather eclectic and would thus be more likely to recognize a wider range of influences; I do not have a problem with these sorts of artists as voters.  They are the artists who think like critics.  I worry that artists do not as often as critics understand the difference between “the greatest of all time” and “my favorite of all time.”  When artists vote, you end up with oddities such as Billy Idol ranking seventies proto-punk duo Suicide at number 1.

The 10 Most Egregious Exclusions:
1. Eric Clapton
At least Cream was on the list, but that only represents two years of Slow Hand’s 40-plus year career.  True, some of his best efforts came while with Cream, but he gave us enough classics since then (“Cocaine,” “Layla,” “Tears in Heaven”) that his absence just boggles the mind.
2. Yes
With Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Steely Dan making the list, voters were clearly not afraid to include progressive and/or complicated bands, so why not Yes?  With hits like “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” don’t tell me it was because they were too inaccessible.
3. Buddy Holly
The progenitors of rock ‘n’ roll have got to be on this list, and several of them are.  Elvis made it.  Chuck Berry made it.  Little Richard made it.  But no Buddy Holly?  You’d think that dying in a plane crash and having that moment immortalized as “the day the music died” would have been enough.
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival
The best Southern rock band of all time, except that they didn’t come from the South.  It is hard to place CCR in the pantheon of music, since their brand of “swamp rock” was so unusual, but it was undeniably unusually awesome.
5. Santana
Greatest Latin-American rock band of all time.  One of the greatest guitarists of all time.  One of the longest and most durable careers of a classic rock artist.  Big hits in both classic rock and modern rock eras.  What else do you need?
6. Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane was the most iconic band of the psychedelic era.  Plenty of bands were taking drugs, but they were the only one who could make music that was both fueled by drugs and about drugs and that was both brilliant and coherent.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers
I would argue that the modern rock era began about 1990.  Not too many bands that emerged around that time remain important to this day.  Green Day fit the bill.  So do Pearl Jam.  And so do Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The first two made the list.  Why not RHCP?
8. Daft Punk
When VH1 unveiled their first 100 Greatest Artists list back in 1998, not a single hip-hop artist made the cut.  That may seem hard to believe, but hip-hop was then only starting to become the dominant force in pop music that it is today.  Electronic music has recently been influential on pop music the way that hip-hop started to be about ten years ago, so I guess that voters could not yet fully appreciate how important an artist such as house duo Daft Punk has been.  Maybe next time.
9. “Weird Al” Yankovic
There are other comedy musical artists out there, but Weird Al is the gold standard, and he is miles ahead of anyone else.  It has gotten to the point where his parodies are sometimes bigger than the songs he is parodying (White & Nerdy vs. Ridin Dirty anyone?).
10. Jethro Tull
This is a band whose major accomplishments are either a remnant of the musical past (concept albums) or were never much a part of the music landscape anyway (flute solos).  Their influence might not have been great, but at least there was one Jethro Tull.

If there were at least ten artists who ought to have made the list but did not, then there must have been at least ten who should not have made it but did.  So of those who made the list, here are The 10 Least Deserving:
Sure, they are fun and cheesy, but that has nothing to do with being one of the greatest artists of all time.
Hall & Oates
LL Cool J
I don’t dispute LL Cool J’s rapping ability, but I do dispute the importance of such hits as “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Goin’ Back to Cali” in the great scheme of music.
George Michael
George Michael’s popularity in his heyday far outweighs his legacy, and there is a reason for that.
Cheap Trick
See ABBA and Hall & Oates, except not really cheesy, and slightly more impressive.
Bee Gees
The Bee Gees were one of the few legitimately great disco artists, but there is a reason most of us have moved on from disco.
Everybody loves “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the rest of Journey’s over the top hits, but they are just too fundementally over the top.
Def Leppard
See Cheap Trick.
Alicia Keys
Maybe in another ten years Alicia Keys can be discussed among the greatest artists of all time.
N.W.A. may have changed the rap game and gotten right in the face of the music scene, but did they have any other big hits besides “Fuck tha Police”?  I admit I am not appreciably familiar with rap history, but I feel that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre especially had more significant solo careers.

Other Notable Exclusions:
The Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, Miles Davis (and Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane, and all of jazz), Foo Fighters, Heart, Iron Maiden, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Moody Blues, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Now for those artists who made the list but were ranked too high or too low.  These types of lists are patently difficult when dealing with artists of different genres, as you get into an apples and oranges situation.  So when crying foul over placements too high or too low, it works best to compare artists of a similar vein.

Too Low:
91. Green Day
Finding a political message, extending into Broadway – who knew that this was where the progenitors of pop-punk would end up?  Green Day has remained just as important as a Radiohead, so if modern rock acts such as Radiohead and Nirvana can make it 29 and 14, respectively, then there must be a spot in the top half for Green Day.
82. Steely Dan
Apparently Steely Dan is too complicated for some ears to comprehend.  But that is no excuse for placing more easily understandable bands like Cheap Trick, Fleetwood Mac, and Aerosmith 14, 45, and 52 spots ahead of them.  And ABBA one spot ahead?  Excuse me?
75. Rush
Maybe they are just too weird.  Maybe girls, for the most part, do not get them.  But with hits like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight” and gargantuan efforts like 2112, Rush have certainly had a bigger influence than Def Leppard or even the Police.

Too High:
23. AC/DC
I love AC/DC as much as the next person, but the 23rd greatest artist of all time?  Not when they are 18 spots ahead of van Halen and two ahead of Chuck Berry.
33. Guns N’ Roses
For a guitarist as good as Slash and a singer with as great a voice as Axl Rose’s, GN’R should deserve to be this high.  But most of their songs are so poorly arranged.  With the exception of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and maybe “Paradise City,” Axl sounds so messy, almost as if on purpose.  They get away with the messiness on “Welcome to the Jungle,” and I have lightened up to the over the top balladry of “November Rain,” but the rest represents the worst of 80s hair metal excess.
52. Beyoncé
See Alicia Keys.  I think that Beyoncé has done enough to merit a spot on this list, but I would wait at least a few more years before I would place her as high as 52nd.