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GRAMMY TIME : THE TOP 10 & THE BOTTOM 10 : You Didn't Ask for Our Opinion, But Here It Is

February 27, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

Christopher Cross and Toto have five Grammy Awards apiece.

The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, combined, have a grand total of . . . one .

And that's the Stones' 1986 Lifetime Achievement Award.

As Mick Jagger told the Grammy audience when accepting the belated lifetime honor, "The joke is on you."

There's a lot more laughs you can get by looking back over some of the Grammy choices. We've come up with our 10 favorite faux pas selections--records that were so far from the creative heart of pop music that they were embarrassments the moment they were announced.

But there also have been times when the Grammy voters chose wisely.

Here's our vote for the 10 best Grammy choices ever--and the 10 worst.

The Best

10. Paul Simon's "Graceland," record of the year, 1987. The album of the same name won as the best album the year before, but this bubbly single was still an underdog in the best record competition, having reached only No. 81 on the charts.

9. Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," record of the year, 1959. A bold victory for this brash newcomer, who also won the best new artist award, beating out, among others, Edd (Kookie) Byrnes.

8. D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, "Parents Just Don't Understand," best rap performance, 1988. It's not that the song is so great--it's just silly fun. But as the first rap Grammy, it deserves some credit.

7. Marvin Gaye, "Sexual Healing," best R&B male vocal, 1982. Better late than never--this was the great soul figure's first Grammy.

6. Crosby, Stills & Nash, best new artist, 1969. Fellow nominee Led Zeppelin was equally deserving, but given the Grammy history, Chicago would have been the more expected choice.

5. John Lennon & Yoko Ono, "Double Fantasy," best album, 1981. It's easy to write this off as a sympathy vote, but it was great to see Ono acknowledged by the music establishment on any terms.

4. The Temptations, "Cloud Nine," best R&B performance by duo or group, 1968. Hardly the best Temptations performance, but--believe it or not--this was the only Grammy awarded to a Motown act in the '60s, when the label truly was "the sound of young America."

3. George Jones, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," best male country vocal, 1980. Jones had long been respected and influential, but his first Grammy award was a pleasant surprise.

2. U2, "The Joshua Tree," best album, 1987. A rare case of the album that most clearly shaped its time actually winning--and the competition wasn't slack, with Michael Jackson's "Bad" and Prince's "Sign 'O' the Times" also nominated.

1. The Beatles, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," best album, 1967. Even with the Beatles' enormous popularity, it seems little short of a miracle that the conservative Grammy voters honored such a revolutionary work.

The Worst

10. Henry Mancini, "The Music from Peter Gunn," album of the year, 1958. When this slight collection--built around the novelty value of the "Peter Gunn" title theme--beat out such landmark works as Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" and "Only the Lonely" in the first Grammy ceremony, we should have known there would be trouble ahead.

9. The Kingston Trio, "Tom Dooley," best country song, 1958. A campfire standard-to-be, sure, but best country song? A folk category was added the next year.

8. Bent Fabric, "Alley Cat," best rock 'n' roll recording, 1962. This instrumental by a Dutch musician was just a step shy of Muzak, but still beat--among others--Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away" and the Drifters' "Up on the Roof."

7. Anita Kerr Quartet, "We Dig Mancini," best performance by a vocal group, 1965. Academy voters were still hoping that the Beatles--whose song "Help!" was also nominated--were just a flash in the pan.

6. Glen Campbell, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," best album, 1968. Better than the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends," which were also nominated?

5. Christopher Cross, five awards, 1980. Cross' lightweight debut album was more distinguished than Pink Floyd's "The Wall"? . . . The lazy song "Sailing" was better than "Fame" or "New York, New York"? . . . Cross was a more significant new artist than the Pretenders? . . . Right, whatever the voters say.

4. Gale Garnett, "We'll Sing in the Sunshine," best folk recording, 1964. Talk about being immune to the changes in pop music. This mellow, quickly forgotten entry actually beat Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

3. Jethro Tull, "Crest of a Knave," best hard rock/metal performance, 1988. The category was introduced in 1988 to honor the new wave of aggressive rock bands, such as Metallica and AC/DC. So you can see why the Shrine Auditorium crowd's stunned silence when the winners--hard-rockers, not --were announced was as deafening as Metallica's performance at the show.

2. A Taste of Honey, best new artist, 1978. The disco group "Boogie Oogie Oogie"-ed over the Cars and Elvis Costello and was never heard from again.

1. Milli Vanilli, best new artist, 1989. There was some talk in the academy of adding a "best lip-syncing with dreadlocks" category the next year . . . just kidding.

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