Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blame it on Ray

Although I wasn't even born when Ray Charles's "Hit the Road Jack" made it to number one on the pop charts, the album on which it was later featured, Ray Charles Greatest Hits, was on constant rotation on my parents' record player for years. As the first song I ever remember hearing, it would serve as my gateway drug into a lifelong obsession with popular music, an obsession for which I solidly blame my parents.

Inveterate audiophiles, mom and dad used every bit of spare change left over after feeding and housing us to buy records. So "Hit the Road Jack" was followed by Joan Baez's "Farewell Angelina," which was followed by the Beatles' "Get Back," which was followed by Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," which was followed by Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," which was followed by, well, you get the picture. By the age of ten, I was well on my way to amassing quite a record collection of my own, beginning with one of those Ronco Record compilations of '70s super hits, Elton John's Greatest Hits, and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Ironically, I couldn't sing a single solitary note if you gave me a Bottega Veneta bag to carry it in and any attempts at playing an instrument have ended in hair pulling frustration. Regardless, I remain obsessed.

Which leads me to the topic of conversation the other night, when I challenged a couple folks to list the ten greatest rock songs of all time.

There were, of course, guidelines. To me, greatness should not be limited solely to a subjective feeling (what I like to call the ability of a song to produce goose bumps in the gut), but should also encompass a song's over-arching influence on the pop music scene in general. Finally, I asked that we not go back earlier than the Beatles or later than Nirvana.

Here's my list:

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – the Beatles
Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones
Gene Genie - David Bowie
Baba O'reilly – Who
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
London Calling – Clash
Heart of Glass - Blondie
New Years Day – U2
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

Yes, you're right, there's nothing here by Bob Dylan. That's because although I recognize his utter genius as a musician and pop cultural icon, I don't particularly like any of his songs, and that goes for "All Along the Watchtower," too. What, no Led Zeppelin, either, you may also ask? Well, let's just say, if we were making a list of the most freakin' annoying pop songs of all time? "Stairway to Heaven," like, for sure. Although, I'll give them "When the Levee Breaks" – one of the greatest blue-eyed blues songs ever produced. This version is brilliant. But still not on the list.

How about you? What's on yours?


Jenny said...

"Twist and Shout" - Beatles
"Slow Turning" - John Hyatt
"Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"Country Roads" - John Denver
"It's Not Unusual" - Tom Jones
"Loveshack" - B52's
"Alison" - Elvis Costello

That's 7. I'll be back. I love this post.

Aunty Belle said...


I cannot see the version or play it--thar's jes' a big block --a white square--what the heck??

But, I betcha' had a grand time shoutin' and twistin' while ever'body insisted THEIR favorite be on the top ten list.

Lemm think it over...I'll be back.

Jenny said...

"It's the End of the World as I know it" - REM

"Rush" - Big Audio Dynamite (just watched their 1991 video ahahahahah)

and my last one?

"Hotel California" - Eagles.

Buzz Kill said...

You're lucky you could listen to music with your parents. My father's idea of music was Mario Lanza singing the drinking song!*shutter*

My Top Ten Stranded on a Desert Island Songs I Can't Live Without (in no particular order):

"You Really Got Me" - Van Halen
"Shoot to Thrill" - AC/DC
"Bat Out of Hell" - Meatloaf
"Promises in the Dark" - Pat Benatar
"Thunder Road" - Bruce Springsteen
"Purple Haze" - Jimi Hendrix
"Radar Love" - Golden Earing (yeah, I know)
"Baracuda" - Heart
"La Grange" - ZZ Top
"Blitzkrieg Bop" - The Ramones

I could actually come up with 5 more, but you said 10. Everyone can start making fun of

moi said...

Aunty: You may have to try another browser. I'm in Firefox and it comes up for me, but not always in Safari. Awaiting your list :o)

Boxer: D'oh! "Hotel California"! Genius guitar playing. We're going to see John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett in October - most excellent song writers, both.

Buzz Kill: AC/DCs "Who Made Who" nearly made my list – that intro! "Promises in the Dark" is an interesting choice. My fave of hers is "We Belong."

Kymical Reactions said...

First, let me say this: I love you for this post.

Second: Holy crap, this was hard to commit this to my top 10 list. I really need like a top 50 list because I feel like I am leaving out so many. But here goes in no particular order…

Nirvana - Lithium
Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water
The Who - Baba O'Riley
Black Crowes - Hard to Handle
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear (the Reaper)
Black Sabbath - War Pigs
Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Ted Nugent - Cat Scratch Fever
The Guess Who - American Woman
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Pride and Joy

Honorable Mentions: Alice in Chains – Heaven Beside You; RHCP – Under the Bridge; Pink Floyd – Money; STP – Interstate Love Song; Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze and Hey Joe; Nothing Else Matters – Metallica. I could go on and on and on, but I have to stop now.

moi said...

kmwthay: Dahlink, you appear to be a leetle bit obsessed, too, no? Ooooo, "War Pigs." Good one. And "Heaven Beside You" is one of my most favorite songs ev-ah. RIP, Lane Staley, one of the great rock and roll voices of all time. Hmmmm . . . another post is forming . . .

Kymical Reactions said...

Moi: Obsessed is just the tip of the iceberg! It was hard to stop post Nirvana, because Bush and Creed could have snuck their way into that list too. Too many good Beatles and Stones songs to just list one.

I will be making several visits to your blog today - I am really curious to see what ends up on other's lists!

Heff said...

Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water
Black Sabbath - Iron Man
Hendrix - Purple Haze
Kiss - Deuce
Ozzy - Over The Mountain
ZZ Top - LA Grange
AC/DC - Whole Lotta Rosie
Van Halen - Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love

Rush - Limelight
Ted Nugent - Strangle Hold

h said...

1) Beer Drinkers Hell Raisers by ZZ Top

2) Whiskey River by Willie Nelson.

3) Gimme 3 Steps by Skynyrd.

4) Black Dog by Zeppelin.

5) You Shook Me by AC/dc.

6) London Calling by The Clash.

7) Lithium by Nirvana.

8) Welcome to the Jungle. GnR.

9) American Girl. Tom Petty.

10) What's so Funny? Elvis C.

Drinky Crow helped me to compile this list.

Jenny said...

HIATT, not Hyatt. Doi. I've seen him three times in concert. Heff's list doesn't surprise me at all.

Buzz Kill said...

I've seen AC/DC in concert 3 times and could have picked10 of their songs alone. Shoot to Thrill has some of the best Angus Young guitar work of all time.

And I know Promises in the Dark is a guy-hating song, but Pat's vocals are excellent, good guitar from Neil Geraldo and she looked really good in the video (black jump suit with red laces on the sides - yes).

Kymical Reactions said...

How could I leave out Led Zeppelin's Kashmir? What is wrong with me?!

NYD said...

It's kinda hard to find songs that haven't already beem mentioned. These are the songs that really blew me away when I was growing up
1.Brown Sugar Rolling Stones
2.Bad Moon Rising CCR
3.Aqualung & Locomotive breath Jethro Tull
4.Mississippi Queen Mountain
5.The Boys are Back in Town Thin Lizzy
6.Roundabout Yes
7.Karn Evil 9 ELP
8.Layla Derek and the Dominos
9.For your Love The Yardbirds
10.Won't get Fooled Again The Who.
These arn't in any particular order and you've limited us to only ten songs.
There is a whole lotta good music on this page!

moi said...

kmwthay: Too many Beatles and Stones songs is true. That's why I picked the ones I did. They heralded major sea changes.

Heff: Ah! Kiss and Rush make their first appearances of the day . . . Dang, Rush brings back memories. "Limelight" is a good one, although it's hard to beat that sparkling lead guitar in "Spirit of the Radio" for out and out goosebumps.

Troll: Very interesting choices! I struggled with my decision to leave GNR off the list. LOVE Elvis Costello.

Boxer: I'm really looking forward to hearing "The Wreck Of The Barbie Ferrari."

Buzz: I often fear that AC/DC has become so ubiquitous, we'll soon forget just how great a band they are. P.S. No one could sing like Pat.

kmwthay: I think if I were to choose a Zeppelin song, it would be "Immigrant Song" or "Kashmir." You and me, we're going to have an Obsess Off :o)

NYD: Aw, man! "Mississippi Queen" is so brilliantly heavy/crunchy - most excellent choice! I'm getting inspired to revisit so many songs.

Kymical Reactions said...

we can have an obsess off anytime. we should start with artists that start with A and work our way to Z. 8)

Gnomeself Be True said...

Wow, it would take me weeks to come up with my 10. I'd come up with 10, then keep remembering one more that I'd have to somehow slot it.
I wonder about Bob Dylan. Why is it we have to acknowledge his greatness if we don't like his songs? His voice is like nails on the chalkboard and his songs are whines. I'm missing the "greatness."

Pam said...

Absolute great choices on your part. I'm going to go with some that I think definitely moved music into a new era, or songs that were important to me for some reason or another.

1. She Loves You - the Beatles. This is the song that brought about the Beatle era to me.

2. Your Song - Elton John. Moved us into the 1970s.

3. Get Down Tonight - KC & The Sunshine Band -- this song moved us into Disco. And I danced a million miles to it at Pistol Patties in Stillwater in 1975.

4. Stayin' Alive by the Beegees, and this song kept us there for a while.

5. A sidetrack here with "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, which was a personal theme song at a tough time in my life.

6. Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. Now we have moved firmly into New Wave. (Although New Years Day by U2 was/is a personal fave and my first MTV experience, which also spoke to me at a tough time in life ... I'm going with Duran Duran because of ... well, Simon LeBon ;))

7. Champagne Supernova by Oasis. And I'm still debating whether I like it better than Wonderwall or not. These songs gave me hope for the future of music.

8. Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. While I agree with you 110% on Sympathy for the Devil as being an ultimate song, Satisfaction is still the signature song of the 60's.

9. House of the Rising Sun by The Animals ... brought in a new sound but it was the first and the best.

10. Tush by ZZ Top. Another signature song, hard southern rock from the 70's and another song I danced a million miles to back in the day.

I'll be back to look at what everyone else said soon ..! Fun post!

VintagePurseGal said...

Ack! This is a tough one. I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied with this list. I kind of surprised myself, though.

"Me 'n' Bobby McGee" Janis Joplin
"Los Angeles" X
"Life's Been Good to Me" Joe Walsh
"Bad Bad Leroy Brown" Jim Croce
"American Woman" The Guess Who
"Bohemian Rhapsody" Queen
"Hotel California" Eagles
"I Wanna Be Sedated" Ramones
"Love Me Two Times" The Doors
"Last Train to Clarksville" The Monkees (Can't help myself. Davy was sooooooo cute.)

K9 said...

"walk away" james gang
"freebird" LS
"killer queen" queen
"cant get no satisfaction" RS
"voodoo chile" hendrix
"the chain" fleetwood mac
"dark side of the moon" in its entirety
"statesboro blues/stormy monday" live at fillmore east the allman bros band
"cities on flames with rock n roll" blue oyster cult

i could do many more of these with southern focus or funkadelic focus...etc...

congrats on the la luz!!!!!!! you are a BAD ASS!!


mississippi queen! class-iqe!

hello to all

K9 said...

carry on - csny
three miles high - the birds

grah! stop me

K9 said...

er...i meant i cant get no satisfaction by DEVO grrherhahaha

and i tried and i tried and i try try try try try try tried

replace for stones can always get what you want

okay i am leaving for real now

Pam said...

NYD has a great list and let me just give a shout out to Troll bringing up "Gimme Three Steps", which is an ultimate classic.

And I wish I had said "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.

h said...

I'm pretty darned impressed with the Lists so far. Better than any I've seen in the media.

Thanks Pamokc. In my mind, Skynyrd had a dozen songs better than "Free Bird" and Led Zepplin a dozen better than "Stairway to Heaven" and Deep Purple a half-dozen better than "Smoke/Water".

But the media lists always pick those 3 from those groups.

K9 said...

yes but the point was to choose the seminal work that changed rock history in some way. nobody yells "gimme three steps" in ironic jest at a club or concert as a crack on drunken band request yells.

actually, sweet home alabama is the only #1 song by LS

moi said...

Gnome: Okay, so, off the top of your head, then. Don't THINK about it.

Pam: Great list. Like how you tied the songs into your personal experiences. I had great hope for Oasis, too, but now I'm not so sure.

Wendy: Most excellent list. X is one of my favorite bands of all time (and Under the Big Black Sun ranks in my mind as one of the top ten greatest albums of all time), but what kept them off my list was the fact that they remained associated so closely with the LA punk scene. To the point that they WERE the LA punk scene.

TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who was Exene Cervenka's second husband, with whom she has a child, named Henry?

K9: Oh, you can count on there being more lists with a much narrower focus :o) For now, though, you got it spot on: seminal songs that moved the music forward. Great list. I forget how awesome the Allman Bros. are. Need to dig out my albums . . . And Devo's cover? Classic.

Troll: Yes, but the purpose of this list was to list seminal works. To be recognized as such implies heavy radio play.

h said...

Okay, then I'm changing my vote. But NOT to "Free Bird". It doesn't qualify because:

1) Lynyrd Skynyrd were already huge stars when it was released.

2) The Southern Rock Revival was well established. Perhaps even on the decline.

3) Long mostly slow jams like Free Bird were a specialty of the Allman Brothers and The Outlaws. Both of whom preceded Skynyrd.

The SEMINAL work by Skynyrd then, was "Sweet Home Alabama".

Clowns might shout out "Free Bird" at concerts as some sort of a joke.
But millions of young people in Dixie stood up and yelled "HELL YES!" when "Sweet Home Alabama" was released. Including many who preferred music other than "rock" as their favorite.

So, it was Seminal!

fishy said...

Er...of the titles listed, I think I like your first mention,
"Hit the Road Jack"
However that might be a dog days of summer pick (see Pond Post) and I did NOT see a mention of "The House of the Rising Sun" or " Mr. Bojangles" or "American Pie" or who was that " Sitting on the Dock of the Bay"?

As for changing a culture? The Twist and Chubby Checker or ol' swivel hips Elvis? me vintage but I like my music to, you know, sound like music...and I like my movies to have plots too!

Pam said...

I had House of the Rising Sun and American Pie on my original lists but had to edit because of the only 10 requirement!!!

House of the Rising Sun was *seminal* in that it was the first record to include organ music. (my fave trivia question)

Pam said...

And to Troll: Yes I agree about there being much better songs by those bands than what they are famous for. Gimme Three Steps is just southern rock at its finest (in my opinion). But given that other criteria, then I'm with you, forget Freebird and go Sweet Home Alabama.

czar said...

Yikes. I thought it was going to be pop songs, in which case the list would have included things like “When I Was Seventeen” (Sinatra) and “California Dreamin’” (Mamas and Papas). Top 10 rock songs? I’m glad to see some other folks out there who are tired of Led Zeppelin (as I was by the time I was 14 years old in 1974), but I’d probably have to put one of their songs on there if I was being totally honest. (Same goes for Springsteen.) But I’m not being honest. So this is Czar’s top 10 rock songs that he’d actually want to listen to, in no particular order after the first one. (I’m leaving out rock-era that’s not really rock; otherwise “Tangled Up in Blue” [Dylan] and “Dock of the Bay” [Otis] would be on the list. As would most of the Allman Bros. “Live at the Fillmore East,” which I think achieves something else entirely.)

Roadrunner—Modern Lovers
All Day and All of the Night—Kinks
L.A. Woman—Doors
Panic in Detroit—Bowie
Rock and Roll—Velvet Underground
Somebody to Love—Jefferson Airplane
Layla—Derek and the Dominoes
My Generation¬—Who
Dirty Ass Rock and Roll—John Cale

Two extras, which aren’t rock, except in my mind they rock better than just about anything:

I Know You Rider¬—The Seldom Scene (bluegrass)
Blues Etude—Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, and Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen (jazz, from “The Trio”)

9 said...

interesting about "get down tonight" by KC and the SSB. it is the song played at the end of the movie "sid and nancy". yeah. disco-the great destroyer. but fun. like one of those fat free meringue things.

grherhehahaha. okay okay troll. i wasnt making the case for FB as a personal favorite. just its enduring reference in the kulchur.

Aunty Belle said...

I cain't git no.......
I cain't git no...

list up fer ya'll. since I was readin' Plato and Dante (yeah, right) an neber eber listened to no rock, lest Papa Cracker crack mah noggin. It were a University town in the 60s, so thar' was danger and mah daddy knowed little Aunty would take some careful watchin' over.(I did onc't hear a pop song ya'll ain't listed: Ahab the Arab)

But Uncle say, to tell ya mah street cred comes from Uncle sittin' in skool next to Hotel Califonia's Donny Felder. (yup--Felder went to Gainesville High--heh.) Oh, an' in their little group the Continentals
--Uncle sang a song or two-- was Steven Stills (UF) an' ole Lee Chipley, a sax player.

Felder ackshully played on the local radio station, WGGG, whar' Aunty had her first ever Radio gig. I may have slipped off to a Frat party whar' Felder done Green Onions and Nadine like the real artists, only better. At that time of course, he warn't nuthin' but one more po' boy hatin' skool and lovin' music...playin' at proms and frat parties--and onc't Uncle joined the band for the night when The Continentals played at the Pier in Daytona--but Aunty could not go, bein' VERY underage--Papa Cracker had been a Marine an' thar' warn't no gettin' around him long enough to make it to Daytona an' back.

But I got a photo--heh, a photo that features Chipley , Uncle, Felder off to the side an' a fella that went on to become an Under-Secretary of Defense.

Mercy, folks, I got to get off memory lane ...ain't no tellin' what else may be showin' up.


moi said...

Czar: Like the line that separates oh, say, patriot from dissident, the line between pop and rock is both blurred and thin. So I stuck with rock, as that's the genre that most seems to inform everything else.

Most excellent list, as I knew it would be. I nearly included Panic in Detroit, too. Bowie's tougher than most – everything he did was avant the garde. And I don't think the Kinks get the respect they deserve, so I'm glad you included them.

K9: Rent "Summer of Sam" sometime. 1977 – one of those seismic shift years in American history.

moi said...

Aunty: You have the BEST stories! Thank you for sharing that one. Maybe we'll get to see the photo sometime :o).

VintagePurseGal said...

Wasn't it Viggo Mortenson? I'm more of a John Doe fan, when it comes to looks. The guy who did my Mizpah tattoo looked like John Doe. HOT.

moi said...

Wendy: Ding, ding! Yes, Viggo. I veer more towards Doe, too. I'm still trying to figure out if I find Viggo hawt or not. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Kymical Reactions said...

Viggo is definitely hawt. There should be no figuring out of this one. The first time I remember thinking that was in that movie whose title escapes me at the moment... but it has Gwen Paltrow and Michael Douglas, and Michael tries to kill Gwen and hires Viggo to be the lover... you know?

anyway, yum.

Jenny said...

I came by to make some notes for updating my ipod. These are ALL great songs. Can we have a TOP 100?

divorce court said...


steely dan

czar said...

backtracking: take John Cale off my list. Here's one that went under the radar, and I woke up thinking about it.

Cream: "Sunshine of Your Love"