Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ten Greatest Rock Songs

Another poll by Norm Geras, this time asking for our 10 greatest rock-pop songs of all time. And now he's nudging us to send in our lists.

Norm writes that

I won't be including country music (or jazz, blues etc.), but I will count up your submissions, whatever they are. You want Tammy or Dolly, Ella or Billie or Louis? You got it. You're free to define your own boundaries. Your songs may be either singles or tracks off albums. However, here's one restriction. I'm asking for versions or renditions - not just titles. So for example, if you were going for 'Mr Tambourine Man', you would need to specify whether it's a version by Bob Dylan, by The Byrds, or whoever.
It might be easier to come up with the list of the 10 best rock and pop songs left off Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

I've always thought that one measure of a great song is how many bands cover it. It's one thing when a song is covered by Top Forty bands, but then there are songs like "Hey Joe" which were recorded by many artists and were never huge sellers.

One problem with a list of this sort is more thinking doesn't produce more clarity about the ten greatest, it just adds more to the list to be eliminated. I've even stated listening to the "classic rock" station on the radio.

The real problem, though, no one is going to look at your list and just say "those are really cool songs." They are also going to form judgments of your politics, philosophy, worldview.

I'm emulating Norm and excluding blues songs. I've also excluded I also decided to leave out the Beatles and Rolling Stones. I'm sure they'll get enough votes.

Here's my list (First number is from my list of the first 25 songs that made my nominee list, before looking at RS's list. Number in parenthesis is where the song is listed in the RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time)

1. Green Onions Booker T and the MGs (181)
2. Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You–Aretha Franklin (186)
3. Mustang Sally–Wilson Pickett (434)
4. Ode to Billy Joe–Bobby Gentry (412)
5. Moondance-Van Morrison (226)
11. Proud Mary–Credence Clearwater Revival (155)
12. Eight Miles High Byrds (150)
13. Subterranean Homesick Blues Bob Dylan (332)
15. What’d I Say Ray Charles (10)
20. The Weight–The Band (41)

Almost all of these fall into a narrow time range. But this list has more or less coalesced. When I come up with another candidate, I simply can't come up with one to drop. So this is what I'm going with.

Close calls: 6. Purple Haze–Jimi Hendrix 7. She’s About a Mover Sir Douglas Quintet
8. Rescue Me Fontella Bass 9. 96 Tears Question Mark and the Mysterians
10. Sunshine of My Love’ Cream 14. Devil with a Blue Dress Mitch Ryder 16. Black Magic Woman Santana 17. Honky Tonk Bill Doggett 18, Knock on Wood–Eddie Floyd
19. Whiter Shade of Pale–Procul Harum (57) 21. Gimme Some Lovin’–Spencer Davis
22. Take Me Back to Tulsa–Bob Wills 23. Route 66-Nat King Cole 24. The Letter Box Tops
25, Hideaway Freddie King (These are songs that came to mind before consulting the RS list, browing my CDs, listening to 'classic rock' radio, etc.)

Still more close calls; “Rocket 88" Jackie Brentson “Susie Q” Dale Hawkins “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” The Yardbirds “Killing Floor” Electric Flag “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys " Traffic “Tell It Like It Is’ Aaron Neville “Smoking Gun” Robert Cray “Groovin’” Rascals “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” Big Joe Turner "Won't Get Fooled Again" The Who "Whipping Post" Allman Brothers

Send your list to normblog@yahoo.co.uk

If this exercise makes you want to replace some vinyl check out Rhino records. Another company preserving great music from the rock era is Wounded Bird Records.

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