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FAQ--How to use Ranking the Rock Writers
From Rock Around The Clock to Smells Like Teen Spirit, here it is. The first systematic bottom-up look at the writers of the rock era (1955-1991) using only publicly available information, including copyrights, royalty rights, labels and crowdsourced databases. The data set is huge—all three major magazines, 24,426 songs, 11,834 writers and 10,773 writer teams. Each song is scored, then the score is allocated to rank each writer and writer team in the era. What's more, to avoid confusion and duplicate entries, writer aliases and similar names have been rationalized to assign one name to each writer and one writer to each name.
There are two major indexes that work together flawlessly.
Look up a song: The song index has Title, Act, Label, Number, where it charted, earliest entry and highest peak and the writer team. Other song characteristics are noted: instrumentals, and whether words and music have separate writers; songs that originated in a foreign language and were translated or given new English lyrics, and more.
Then look up the writers: The writer index names them all, with each song attributed to them, listed in order of chart strength.
Check what else that team of writers did: The book lists the Top 2000 Writer teams with their songs, and supplemental information is downloadable at this site
Then there are the fun lists:
Top 200 Writers and Writer Teams with their first and biggest songs
Top 100 Writers and Writer Teams in each decade by score and number of charted hits
Top 750 Acts and the writers who supported them (supplemental information downloadable at this site)
Top 100 songs by one, two and three writer teams
And many, many more.
Unique to this book: a timeline for each of the Top 30 Writer Teams showing each hit by chart strength and entry date along with a narrative commentary on their writing career.
With a Foreword by Michael Sigman, Former President, Publisher, LA Weekly: Sometimes Song Lyrics Write Themselves.
Ranking the Rock Writers is only available in print version. Order it directly from us.
There are two major goals for this work. First, to use publicly available information to assign writer credit for songs. This is done for transparency and to allow any other researcher to replicate what has been done here.
Second, to assign each writer one name and allow a name to be used for just one writer. This is called disambiguation.
There are four main reference sections in this book: Writers in alphabetical order (and in rank order to 1000); Songs in alphabetical order; Top 2000 writer teams in rank order (with alphabetical index of writers) and Top 750 acts in rank order (with alphabetical index of acts). These four sections comprise all the individual writers, all the songs and about half the cuts for both writer teams and acts. Decisions on truncating the last two indices were dictated by space considerations.
The song index contains the most complete information. Other indexes have limited information due to space constraints. Using these four indices can answer almost any question asked; some require a little more effort. Here are some sample questions and ways to get at the answers.
Q. How many charted songs did Sting write, and what were they?
A. Start with the writer index for “Sting.” Incidentally, if you started with Gordon Sumner and didn’t find him, a look to the Alias index would show his name of record. He wrote 23 charted songs.
Q. Who wrote “Young Girl” by The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett? Did it chart more than once?
A. Go to the song index, which is in alphabetical order. You will find “Young Girl” was written by Jerry Fuller; it’s not in italics, so it only charted once, but it appeared in all three magazines, entering in March 1968, and it peaked at #1.
Q. Did The Mamas and The Papas ever chart a Cynthia Weil song?
A. Go to the Act alphabetical index. The Mamas and The Papas are #114. Find #114 in the Act numerical index, and you see that Cynthia Weil is not a supporting writer. They did not.
Q. What about Mama Cass?
A. From the Act alphabetical index you see that Mama Cass is not listed, meaning she was below Act #750. This is a little harder. You can look through Cynthia Weil's writer listing for Mama Cass songs or check the list of acts from 751 to 6057 that can be found at this website.
Q. How many songs written by the team of Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Phil Spector charted?
A. Looking in the alphabetical index for writers in the Writer Teams, we see that Carole King had six collaborations in the top 2000, Gerry Goffin had 7 and Phil Spector had 5. The rank they had in common is 1948. Finding that in the numerical order of Writer Teams, the answer is three: “Just Once In My Life” and “Hung On You” by The Righteous Brothers, and “Is This What I Get For Loving You?” by The Ronettes.
Q. What if I didn’t find a number in common?
A. That either means they didn’t collaborate or they were lower than #2000 as a team. Check the list and index of writer teams from 2001 to the end at this website.
Q. Who wrote “A Taste Of Honey?”
A. Did you mean the vocal or instrumental version? In the song index, we find that it charted five times: four as an instrumental. We see that words and music are credited separately in the copyright [IM]; all the instrumentals are credited to Bobby Scott. Tony Bennett has the sole vocal, credited to Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott.
Q. I know “Roses of Rio” started as a song in another language, but are the English lyrics a translation?
A. “Roses of Rio” is credited to Heino Gaze and Carl Sigman. It is noted [FDE] which means that new English lyrics were written to replace the originals, and are new lyrics, not a translation. The original lyricist is not credited.
Q. Who were the top five writer teams?
A. Easy to find in the numerical ranked Writer Team Index. Lennon-McCartney, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Bacharach-David, Jagger-Richards and Gibb-Gibb-Gibb. Also, check the “Top 30 Writer Teams in Words, Charts and Graphs” section for more analytics and stories.
Q. I don’t really understand the scoring. Can you help me be more intuitive about it?
A. Sure. All the details are in the appendix, and a description is on the Methodology page at this website.
Q. I found songs and writers with scores of 0.0. How could they have charted?
A. Three ways. Tagalongs (see appendix) with no independent chart life and lesser lifecycles than the master version were given 0 points, but their chart presence was noted. Also, for Two-Sided Winners, when only one side had an independent chart life, all credit was awarded to that side, but their chart presence was noted. Finally, some songs from 1954 had no chart life in 1955 but were captured for the sake of completeness.
Q. Did B.B. King really write with a guy named Jules Taub?
A. B.B. says no…. The Alias index notes that Jules Taub was also known as Julius Bihari, and the writing credit in the song index has a double-dagger (‡) next to Taub’s name. The Bihari brothers were record label executives. The double-dagger indicates that in the opinion of the researcher he was credited but probably not involved in the writing of the song.
Q. Bobby Whitlock is co-credited for writing “Bell Bottom Blues.” I thought that was all Clapton.
A. Note that Whitlock’s name has an asterisk (*). This means that the primary sources do not agree. In fact, BMI credits him, but the label and copyright do not. The methodology of this book is to be inclusive when there is a credible question, but to note the disagreement.
Q. I found some stuff that I think is wrong.
A. Possible. In a work this size, you can’t rule out mistakes; however, in some cases, when you see all the information it changes your mind about what you think you know about a song. Checking the publicly-available resources—copyrights, labels and royalty rights—can sometimes shed new light on old information.
Q. What was the #1 song of the era?
A. With a little digging, you can figure that out from scores, but I have to save something for the book “Ranking The Rock Era” don’t I?
"Before there is a record….there is a song. The writers finally have their day in the sun, thanks to Bill Carroll. His love for music is matched only by his tenacity and we get to reap the benefit of that union. This book is a most unique compendium and Bill is the only guy on Earth who would undertake such a project. This one is a keeper on my bookshelf.”
“A must-have for music lovers, proving what I’ve always said: The pen is mightier than the chord!”
"Here at last is the go-to book for anyone wondering just who it was who wrote the words and music of their favorite hits: the unforgettable songs which speak to and for their heart."
"The end result captures the chart history of over 24,000 songs, written by nearly 12,000 different songwriters and 11,000 songwriting teams. Bill has even taken into account any known aliases that these writers may have written or published under … and the results are simply staggering. (This is a MASSIVE volume of information … nearly 900 pages listing every charted hit, categorized by both song title AND by songwriter.) ... A must-have for any collection of serious pop chart history."