My buddy J. came up with a proposition that I found irresistable and also a good blog post too start a flame war. Here is the proposition.
"I forgot to mention to you on Sunday that my latest project is to
recruit my musically astute friends and ask them to provide me with a
list of their top 20 or 25 all-time favorite rock tunes, in approximate
order. I would love to receive your selections, in this regard. Here's
the bribe: I'll do the heavy lifting. All you need to do is put your
list together. I'll burn your selections to a CD and get a copy to you,
along with my choices (if you're interested - and bearing in mind that I
turned my radio off in 1974 and never turned it on again). Other than
the Official Rules, set out below, the only thing to keep in mind is
that your selections should be songs which have stood the test of time
for you, personally (I tried to think of songs that I seem never to tire
of hearing). OK, get to work (and thanks).
Rules of the Favorite Rock Tunes Project:
1. No legitimate rock song is unworthy, as long as they're your
favorites. I know how much you'd like to be writing for Rolling Stone
but this is not yet another tedious effort to catalog "the most
significant rock and roll songs of all time".
2. Although the definition of "rock song" is intended to be
liberal, it is not unlimited. Just because a song hit the pop charts
during the last 50 years does not make it a "rock" song. For
example, the following songs should be avoided, no matter how much you
The Green Berets - Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler
Sukiyaki - Kyu Sakamoto
Abilene - George Hamilton IV
Dawn of Correction - The Spokesmen
Ballad of Paladin - Duane Eddy
Dominique - The Singing Nun
Alabama Jubilee - The Ferko String Band
England Swings - Roger Miller
Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley - C Company Featuring Terry Nelson
Call Me Mr. In-Between - Burl Ives
James (Hold the Ladder Steady) - Sue Thompson
1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero - Bobby Russell
Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast - Wayne Newton
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands - Laurie London
3. No song by Neil Diamond will be permitted.
4. OK, some songs by Neil Diamond will be permitted but only if they
are performed by other people. For example, "I'm a Believer" by
the Monkees is acceptable. Nothing actually sung by Neil Diamond will
be permitted. If you'd like to apply this rule to Paul Anka, too, I
won't argue with you. Or Barry Manilow. Or Nancy Sinatra, for that
5. Ballads are definitely okeedokee, as long as they are "rock"
ballads, at least arguably. "The Tracks of My Tears" by the
Miracles is certainly acceptable (an excellent choice, actually), as is
"Don't" by Elvis Presley, "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy
Sledge, or "Ferry Across the Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
On the other hand, "Just for Old Times Sake" by The McGuire Sisters,
"The Second Time Around" by Frank Sinatra, and "My Coloring
Book" by Kitty Kallen should not be considered. I don't care how
high they charted.
6. By the same token, we all know that way too many country songs have
appeared on the pop charts over the years. That does not turn them into
rock songs, for the purposes of this project. The following are
examples of songs that should be avoided:
Wolverton Mountain - Claude King
Crazy - Patsy Cline
He'll Have to Go - Jim Reeves
Harper Valley PTA - Jeannie C. Riley
Stand By Your Man - Tammy Wynette
Take This Job and Shove It - Johnny Paycheck
Coal Miner's Daughter - Loretta Lynn
Okee From Muskogee - Merle Haggard
Marty Robbins is a toss-up, as is Johnny Horton, I suppose. And Brenda
Lee. And Conway Twitty. And Glen Campbell. And Johnny Cash, too, at
least his work during the late 50s. I mean, "Ballad of a Teenage
Queen" and "Guess Thing's Happen That Way" seem pretty much like
early rock 'n' roll songs. But "Don't Take You Guns to Town"?
"Folsom Prison Blues"? "A Girl Named Sue"? Don't make me
7. Folk songs - uh... no. "Cotton Fields" by the Highwaymen? Sorry.
8. Finally, the USA PATRIOT Act requires me to advise you that any
artist from any country outside of the United States, not allied with
our effort in Iraq, is disqualified from consideration. My apologies to
you fans but the law is the law."
Here's my list, in no particular order.
1.Ballad of El Goodo – Big Star
Usually, when I pick up something years after it was released, it doesn't seem to move me like it may have when it was new, particularly when it has been touted for years. I wasn't able to find a copy of Big Star's Number 1 Record, until the re-release of this along with Radio City.
"Gets so hard at times like now to hold on
Guns they wait to be stuck by
And at my side is God"
2.Surrender – Cheap Trick
Another great pop song, by one of my favorite bands.
"When I woke up, mom and dad are rolling on the couch.
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my kiss records out."
3.My Back Pages – The Byrds
Not the first song that comes to mind when I think of the Byrds but one that I love to sing along.
"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that, now."
4.Honey Hush – Big Joe Turner
A list of great rock songs should span the entire history of rock. This is one of the earliest.
"Don't make me nervous, I'm holding a baseball bat"
5.Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) – Raspberries
Overblown but beautiful. A perfect record and a fitting finale to what must have been a frustrating career for the Raspberries.
"Well if the program director don't pull it
It's time to get back the bullet"
6.Positively Fourth Street – Bob Dylan
All the bile of Buddy Holly condensed and sharpened. Love is hard.
"You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that's winning"
7.All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople
I heard this listening to WNCR in Cleveland on headphones while my family was getting ready to move away from Ohio. I was crying by the time it was over.
"Is there concrete all around me or is it in my head?"
8.Suffragette City – David Bowie
Another perfect rock and roll record and the crunchy guitar riff.
MMMM, wham bam thank you, ma'am.
9. Red Neck Friend – Jackson Browne
I know, it's a dick song. Jackson Browne did at least 2, "Rosie" beign the other. But this one rocks.
"Pretty little one
How has it all begun?
They’re teaching you how to walk
But you’re already on the run"
10. Gun – Uncle Tupelo
I heard Jeff Tweedy say this was the song where he found his voice.
11. Will the Wolf Survive – Los Lobos
12. Badlands - Bruce Springsteen
I know Born to Run gets all the acclaim but I think Darkness is a better record. The guitar playing has never been better on his records.
"Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings,
And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything."
13. Fall on Me – REM
REM, probably the best band of the Eighties, at their most distinct and it bears repeated listenings. Layered harmonies, guitar hooks, great metaphors in the lyrics.
14. The Ledge – Replacements
If not REM, the best band of the Eighties. It's a song about suicide that I find life affirming.
15. Lola – The Kinks
The Seventies had begun.
16. Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
Rock and Roll is here.
17. Oliver's Army -Elvis Costello
Combining hooky melodies with brilliant lyrics.
18. Couldn't I Just Tell You -Todd Rundgren
Post-Beatle Power Pop at its absolute best.
19. That's When I Reach for My Revolver – Mission of Burma
Some deeply buried perfectly crafted rock and roll. Mission of Burma was one of the bands that caused everyone who listened to form a band.
20. Voodoo Chile - Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix took the blues swagger and drove it further.
21. Fools Gold – Graham Parker
On his first two albums, Parker and the Rumour put together some great songs and performances. This song of longing and love hits it.
22. Badge - Cream
George Harrison co-wrote this, IIRC. The guitar parts bring a shiver to me.
23. Marie Marie - Blasters
The story I heard was that Dave Alvin thought they had to start writing their own material and this was the first thing he did.
24. Big Time - Neil Young
Neil Young and Crazy Horse at their best. A song that draws you in. Slobberbone did this one live which blew me away.
25. I Can Hear Music - Beach Boys
As the demons drove him deeper into himself, Brian Wilson made some music with more depth and still kept those incredible harmonies.