Inspired by the two J. Eric Smith pieces I re-read today (“Desert Island Disc” and “Beneath the Radar: Rock’s Greatest Secret Bands”), I’m going to try and whittle my collection down to a single desert island disc. Licorice knows how long that will take. I started with a few rules:
1. One track per act. (Which led to some very ugly decisions long before we got here: do you go with Black Flag’s “Rise Above”? Or “Six Pack”? Or “Wasted”?) (NOTE: this rule went away in a limited fashion when second-round draft picks came into play, see below; some bands now appear on the list twice.)
2. The song must be in my current collection (since I need the length). Which drops some tracks I have long, long loved, but no longer own (Blind Approach’s “Think Before You Act”, Battered Citizens’ “Grounded”, Da Shunts’ “Jamie’s Car”, or The Apologizers’ “madsadlad at the Disco”, for example).
3. Because the full limit is eighty minutes, I put an arbitrary cap of five minutes per song unless either (a) the song in question is absolutely superior to anything else that act did in my collection (e.g. Bastards Trained by Bastards’ “Mark Barnsley”) or (b) that’s actually, well, kinda short for the band in question (Alcest’s “Solar Song”).
4. No covers—original compositions by each artist (subject to the strictures in rule 3). This rule is relaxed for bands who exclusively, or almost exclusively, perform “traditional” songs (e.g. Mediæval Bæbes, Fire * Ice, Enter the Haggis) with modern arrangements.
5. I decided to limit myself to stuff from “the rock era” that doesn’t fall into the classical realm (mostly to save myself from having to struggle to throw out Robert Ashley, Arvo Part, and Alvin Lucier).
6. All decisions final: once I had a song, I stick with it, even if it was not necessarily the song I think it was (there are three or four where I wasn’t quite sure if the title went with the song I was thinking of or not).
Once I came up with the initial list (which for the record was 532 songs), I decided with such a large starting base to break the brackets down into four categories to even out the number of eliminations (obviously, you can cram more under-a-minute songs into eighty minutes than over-five-minute songs, which would lead to eliminating longer pieces for convenience’s sake eventually): under a minute, one-to-three, three-to-five, and over-five. Theoretically, then, each bracket would average out to getting rid of half the original time in each round of eliminations and get us closer to eighty minutes. Then added some tracks to fill out the brackets (the “second draft”), ran ’em through the random number generator, and away we go. I was planning on listing out the songs in the introduction, but the list alone was twelve typed pages. That’ll wait for the individual brackets.
Again, the seeds are random—I didn’t place favorites at the top or anything (though the random picker—I used the one at textmechanic.com/Random-Line-Picker.html—did put the song I’d consider the favorite in the top three seeds enough times to make me think it was kinda prescient). This was mostly to keep myself from gaming the system, arranging things so that certain matchups would be forced to come to pass (Corrosion of Conformity’s “College Town” vs. Die Kreuzen’s “In School”? Classic! Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.) or to avoid others (I’ll put it this way: when I was entering things into brackets, seeing some of the first-round matchups in division 3 of 3-to-4:59 was heartbreaking).
Because we’re boiling this massive list down to a subset—eighty minutes of music—rather than trying to pick a single winner, I’m not exactly sure how things are going to work yet as I write this (which for the record is on April 18, 2013). I may fold divisions into one another when they get small enough, and I may even reseed once we got down to the level where we bring the over-fives into the 3-to-4:59 division (if that happens). Or everything may stay separate, including divisions within time breaks. Who knows? With a series this large, I have a lot of time to think about it.
I do know that since the under-ones and over-fives are smaller divisions, we’re not going to be seeing them for a while. Day 1, which has ten(!!) subdays, will appear first, as the oversubscribed one-to-three and three-to-five fields get whittled down to half their sizes, at which point the Day 2s will have another subday in order to include the over-fives, since all matchups there will have thirty-two entrants apiece. After that is when I’ll decide whether to start folding (and thus whether the sixteen-entry under-ones will appear).
But we’ve got time to think about that. For now, it is onto the brackets. I’m figuring for the Day Ones, we’ll post each subdivision on a separate day, and there will initially be four posts a week (which thus equals getting through a division a week): Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and one at some point over the weekend (maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday, maybe it will alternate, who knows?)
And so some Monday, we’ll begin. Get ready to swill some beer and place some bets…
Monday: Day 1A, East Subdivision