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Music or Muzak of the Millennium?

Seamus on what was called 'The World's Biggest Ever Music Poll'

With a staggering 600,000 cast votes it wasn't surprising that Channel 4 claimed that this was the biggest music poll of the last 1,000 years. Voters were asked what they thought were the finest offerings in ten different categories, among them best male and female artists, best band, and the two biggies, best song and most influential musician of the millennium.

The biggest problem that Channel 4 faced in undertaking a poll like this was the certainty that too many boy-band fans would get their hands on the voting cards. These 'music' fans would distort the results because they would be unaware of any artists that existed before the mid 1990's. If Channel 4 were worrying about this it was with good reason because this is exactly what happened in some of the categories.

In the best band category, Steps came in the top 20. Boyzone and The Corrs finished ahead of both Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. To music fans this was an absolute joke, and must have been absolutely galling for the likes of Jimmy Page. What was noticeable about the best band poll was the prominence of British bands in it. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Queen occupied the top three places, with The Beatles predictably at the top of the pile. This was a just reward for arguably the most talented band the world has known, and it was just the tip of the ice-berg in what was to be a memorable night for 'The Fab Four'.

Madonna was voted best female artist. This was much to the annoyance of the Channel 4 panel (including Bob Geldof, Jarvis Cocker and Beverly Knight) who believed that the likes of Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin were more worthy of the honour. Again the presence of artists such as Natalie Imbruglia at number 12 (on the basis of one album) were highly questionable.

The best male artist honour fell to Elvis Presley. Others who did well were Robbie Williams, Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Marvin Gaye. Bob Dylan amazingly only managed 15th place. However, this was surely due to voter ignorance rather than a lack of quality on Dylan's part.

John Lennon came out on top in both the best songwriter category and as the most influential musician of the Millennium. This was accurate enough although I can't help thinking that the fact Lennon is no longer with us aided him slightly. Some of the results in these categories were downright embarrassing with Robbie Williams being voted the second most influential musician of the millennium. Anyone who voted for Williams here either needs their head examined or needs to buy an English dictionary so they can check out the definition of the word 'influential'. Again, Bob Dylan won't be exactly overjoyed at his ninth place in this poll.

The best album category caused no surprises with 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' taking the honours. The Beatles had two other entries in the top ten, 'Revolver' and 'The White Album'. The pop music merchants somehow managed to fair well in this category, with entries in the top 20 for The Corrs 'Talk on Corners' and Robbie Williams 'Life Thru' a Lens'. By this stage I had resigned myself to the fact that these entries were inevitable.

The best song of the Millennium was the final poll of the night. Again, a certain R. Williams was hanging around like a bad smell as 'Millennium' and 'Angels' came in the top ten. The Beatles were having a field day as 'Hey Jude' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' also did very well. Led Zeppelin's classic 'Stairway to Heaven' made a welcome appearance at number 6. 'Like a Rolling Stone' was a notable absentee from the list. Queen's epic 'Bohemian Rhapsody' took the honour in the end. This was a great tribute to Freddie Mercury, even if it was a debatable decision. It showed just how much the British mainstream music fans appreciated Queen, despite the fact that they were essentially a glam-rock band.

Looking at the results overall, I would have to say that most of the top artists of the last forty years gained recognition in one form or another. But the fact that a lot of people insisted on giving their votes to sub-standard pop acts from the last couple of years left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth.

Seamus O'Neill

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