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Top Ten

When “Real Life Rock”—Greil Marcus’s Top Ten column—first appeared in these pages in 1990, his epic, pop-inflected diary on a dizzying range of subjects was perfectly suited to an art world obsessed with heterogeneity. But what does this critical format provide us today, when the Top Ten’s radical juxtapositions seem as natural as the weather? On the occasion of our “Best of 2003” issue, I asked Marcus to revisit the early days of his Top Ten and to reflect on the virtues and vices of a column that became a genre. —TG

IN ’78 I STARTED WRITING a column on pop music called “Real Life Rock” for New West magazine, which later became California and is now defunct. At the end of every column, there would be a list, the “Real Life Rock Top Ten,” which included things like records, movies, books, somebody’s appearance on the Grammys. In the mid-’80s Doug Simmons, the music editor

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