Monday, January 23, 2012

The Abbey Road Cup

I went and did it again. I went and drew up a factoid in search of a purpose. At the end of 2011, Pollstar released its annual ranking of the musical acts that have earned the most money touring North America over the course of the calendar year. You may have seen it yourself, but in case you haven't, I won't mention who that is now because it'll come up later on. Just about all of the articles put the top two acts in the headline, though only the top two; everyone below was saved for the main body of the articles.

Coming as it did around the end of the NFL regular season, for some reason I started wondering what would happen if you took the top two in that ranking every year, and matched them in some kind of championship-game battle of the bands. I mean, we have awards shows to say who did best over the year, but this would be a way to 'settle it on the field', as it were. And then I went and fleshed out a whole entire format, tossing in football-like elements because it is football season and I am totally insane. I even named the darned thing: the Abbey Road Cup. (Or, for sponsorship purposes, the Pollstar Cup.)

Here's what I came up with for a format:

*The two competing acts would be placed on dual stages, one right next to the other. They spend all night long staring each other right in the face. Obviously you would need a stadium for this; we could have cities bid to host it.

*Each act will complete a 12-song set. The two will alternate. Band A will do Song 1, then Band B will do their Song 1, then Band A will do their Song 2, and so on until Band B closes with their Song 12. Because we're theming things after football, the battle will be split into quarters, three songs each per quarter. There will be short breaks between quarters, with a longer break at halftime. Maybe we'll tack on a halftime show featuring the #3 band according to Pollstar, which will be high in hilarious awkward bitterness at not being part of the match itself.

*Who goes first- or, more alternatively, who gets to go last- will be decided by seeding. The #1 seed- the band that earned the most touring- will get to decide whether to go first or second.

*For each song they perform, a band can earn up to 7 points- the value of a touchdown and PAT, of course- depending on the decibel volume of the crowd after each song. (Which won't automatically max out every time; we'll calibrate the thresholds to make it very possible for a band to come in under 7. Remember, both sets of fans are in the stadium at the same time, and some will have a clear favorite. A big fan of Band A is not going to do anything to help Band B if they can help it.)

*Prior to any three of their songs, a band can announce their intention to "go for two"- that is, make their next song worth a potential eight points, the value of a touchdown and two-point conversion.

*Each band is also given three 'interceptions' to use during the concert. Both bands will have a big red button at the front of their stage. After any verse of any song their opponent is singing, a band can hit the button and 'intercept' the song. The intercepted band must stop playing immediately; if possible, maybe we can just shut off their sound equipment. The intercepting band must then take over that song and cover it, from that exact point, or until the opponent decides to take their song back with an interception of their own. As soon as an interception is triggered, it's automatically worth maximum points, awarded to whoever registers higher on the decibel scale when the audience is asked to vote for who did the song better.

*Whoever has the most points at the end of the night wins. In case of a tie, each band will do a 13th 'overtime' song, without interceptions. Higher decibel level from the crowd wins.

This is something I'd want to see. This is something I'd want televised, with a pregame show and colliding CGI helmets and a championship trophy and everything. In fact, tell me this isn't something you'd want to see on TV every year. The only thing left to determine was who would have actually competed in the Abbey Road Cup had it existed in previous years. This seemed a simple, simple search, but actually turned out to be quite difficult, especially when looking for second place. Pollstar didn't go back very far on this on their website, so I had to cobble together names piece by piece, year by year, random site by random nowhere-backwater-that-managed-to-pull-exactly-one-statistical-bit fansite. Eventually, though, I managed to get the matchups running back to 1984, save for 1986, where I only found half the matchup. After 1984, it gets really, really choppy.

Now all any of this needed was a excuse to actually use it for something. Anything.

Then I remembered: I have a blog, and this is something people are clearly having a lot of trouble finding.

So here goes. The Abbey Road Cup matchups from 1984 on, save the #2 seed from 1986 which I couldn't dig up- again, this is the top two touring acts in North America in each given year, as rated by Pollstar. (At least, Pollstar is the measure dating back to 1985. It appears as if Billboard was the stat-keeper prior to that.) The top earner, the #1 seed, is listed first, followed by the second-highest earner, the #2 seed:

2011: U2 vs. Taylor Swift
2010: Bon Jovi vs. Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd)
2009: U2 vs. Bruce Springsteen
2008: Madonna vs. Celine Dion
2007: The Police vs. Kenny Chesney
2006: Rolling Stones vs. Barbra Streisand
2005: Rolling Stones vs. U2
2004: Prince vs. Celine Dion
2003: Bruce Springsteen vs. 50 Cent
2002: Paul McCartney vs. Rolling Stones
2001: U2 vs. 'NSync
2000: Tina Turner vs. 'NSync
1999: Rolling Stones vs. Bruce Springsteen
1998: Elton John vs. Dave Matthews Band
1997: Rolling Stones vs. U2
1996: Kiss vs. Garth Brooks
1995: The Eagles vs. Boyz II Men
1994: Rolling Stones vs. Pink Floyd
1993: The Grateful Dead vs. Rod Stewart
1992: U2 vs. The Grateful Dead
1991: The Grateful Dead vs. ZZ Top
1990: New Kids on the Block vs. Billy Joel
1989: Rolling Stones vs. The Who
1988: Pink Floyd vs. Michael Jackson
1987: U2 vs. Bon Jovi
1986: The Monkees vs. ? (if I had to guess, without confirmation, I'd go with Van Halen, Kiss or Metallica, in that order of confidence, but don't take that for gospel)
1985: Bruce Springsteen vs. Prince
1984: The Jacksons vs. Bruce Springsteen

Go on. Tell me you wouldn't want to see some of these matchups. Tell me a Rolling Stones vs. U2 match in 1997- and a rematch eight years later- wouldn't be the greatest thing ever. Heck, the two look like the Lakers and Celtics for all the times they'd make appearances. Tell me the fans of the Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand wouldn't look weird at each other all night. Tell me Kiss wouldn't be thinking long and hard about whether they really wanted to intercept a song from Garth Brooks.

Now tell me Pollstar and the bands want to see it. Please?

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