Monday, January 17, 2011

Rank and File

We love making lists. Lists of the most powerful, best dressed, best left-handed shotputters...somebody's always making a list about something. Whenever I make a list, it's not a simple endeavor. I've done a year-end list of best albums and it takes a lot of time and deliberation.

Even tougher was the set of best-of-the-decade lists I did for the podcast in late '09. But I'd have to say the most difficult list I've worked on is the one I just compiled on my top 100 songs of all time.

Normally, when somebody asks me the incredibly broad question of "What are your favorite songs?", I can't even provide an answer because there's so much involved. But at the behest of Dan Paquette's Music Obsession, a Facebook page I belong to, I spent the last month or so honing a list of the top 100 songs. Dan basically has folks rank their favorite bands, favorite albums, favorite songs, etc., and then does a running recount of the results. Although I don't think he ever just provides people's lists because that would probably blow up Facebook. For the top songs thing, he's going to compile the lists and make a top 1000. Should be interesting.

So for my list, I had to draw up some guidelines. I decided to keep things interesting by limiting two selections per band, which made it tough when you've got bands like Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Who, the Clash, etc., who have many more than two great songs. I also didn't necessarily care about chart success, and I accepted the fact that many great songs would be left off. It had to be songs that I absolutely loved, although I did weigh in the societal impact of songs as well. There were going to be many songs from 60s, 70s and 80s, just by virtue of having more time to sink in, and for my purposes, it was a reflection of what I've listened to over the years.

I started off by just jotting down favorite songs by certain artists, not in any order. Then I let the list sit for a few days and went back to it, and added more. Ultimately I found that pretty much every time I pick it up, the list could be completely different. As the deadline approached, I got to the real hard part: numbering the songs. After I did that, I printed out the list I had and almost immediately came up with another 60 or so songs from artists I had forgotten or overlooked. So then I replaced many of the songs I had picked with new ones. Finally, I just had to say that I was done, because I know I could go in and add or change out a bunch of the selections, and I even did that as I was typing up the final list.

I'm guessing it's going to Dan a while to compile his top 1000 list because the deadline was today, but I'm going to share my list here. I'm sure you may vehemently disagree with some of my choices or not even have heard of some of them. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. It's really just what I like as the top 100. And of course, I could have done a list with many more songs by certain artists, but I chose not to do that.

My choice for the top slot was The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." It used to be Zep's "Stairway to Heaven" but I almost can't listen to that song anymore because it has been played so much on rock radio over the last 40 years. And certainly the Who song has been overplayed, and not just on radio (thank you, CSI: Miami), but it remains as powerful now as when it was released. It's a song with political overtones, and when the Who played it at the first 9/11 benefit show, it was intense.

As for the rest of the list, well, here it is:

2. Kashmir - Led Zeppelin
3. A Day in the Life - The Beatles
4. Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones
5. You Really Got Me - The Kinks
6. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
7. Talking Loud and Saying Nothing - James Brown
8. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
9. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
10. Search and Destroy - Iggy and the Stooges
11. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
12. London Calling - The Clash
13. God Save the Queen - The Sex Pistols
14. Kick Out the Jams - MC5
15. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles
16. Purple Rain - Prince and the Revolution
17. How Soon is Now? - The Smiths
18. Radio Radio - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
19. Runnin' with the Devil - Van Halen
20. Hey Hey, My My - Neil Young
21. Surrender - Cheap Trick
22. It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) - AC/DC
23. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly and the Family Stone
24. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix Experience
25. War Pigs - Black Sabbath
26. Waiting for the Man - Velvet Underground
27. Love Reign O'er Me - The Who
28. So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry) - R.E.M.
29. Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely - Husker Du
30. Bad - U2
31. Bastards of Youth - The Replacements
32. Back in Black - AC/DC
33. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
34. Dancing in the Moonlight - Thin Lizzy
35. Ace of Spades - Motorhead
36. Can't You Hear Me Knocking? - Rolling Stones
37. Precious - The Pretenders
38. Crosseyed and Painless - Talking Heads
39. In Between Days - The Cure
40. Over the Hills and Far Away - Led Zeppelin
41. Unchained - Van Halen
42. Masters of War - Bob Dylan
43. (Don't Fear) The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
44. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
45. Stay With Me - Faces
46. We Want the Airwaves - The Ramones
47. Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith
48. Flashlight - Parliament Funkadelic
49. Lola - The Kinks
50. Sonic Reducer - The Dead Boys
51. That's When I Reach for My Revolver - Mission of Burma
52. Highway Star - Deep Purple
53. Personality Crisis - New York Dolls
54. Let's Stay Together - Al Green
55. Candy-O - The Cars
56. Thirteen - Big Star
57. Tom Sawyer - Rush
58. Rock and Roll All Nite - KISS
59. Fight the Power - Public Enemy
60. Living for the City - Stevie Wonder
61. You've Got Another Thing Comin' - Judas Priest
62. Debaser - The Pixies
63. Mountain Song - Jane's Addiction
64. Theme from Shaft - Isaac Hayes
65. Dear God - XTC
66. 2 Minutes to Midnight - Iron Maiden
67. Roundabout - Yes
68. Master of Puppets - Metallica
69. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis
70. Loser - Beck
71. I'm the Man - Joe Jackson
72. Black Friday - Steely Dan
73. New Orleans is Sinking - The Tragically Hip
74. I Am One - Smashing Pumpkins
75. Coax Me - Sloan
76. So Lonely - The Police
77. The Logical Song - Supertramp
78. I'm an Adult Now - The Pursuit of Happiness
79. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground - White Stripes
80. Divine Intervention - Matthew Sweet
81. Summer Babe - Pavement
82. Outshined - Soundgarden
83. Leash - Pearl Jam
84. Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel
85. Tempted - Squeeze
86. Everlong - Foo Fighters
87. Song for the Dead - Queens of the Stone Age
88. Knock Me Down - Red Hot Chili Peppers
89. Welcome to the Jungle - Guns N' Roses
90. Holy Diver - Dio
91. Karma Police - Radiohead
92. Love is the Drug - Roxy Music
93. What Do I Get? - Buzzcocks
94. Touch Me I'm Sick - Mudhoney
95. Unsung - Helmet
96. Head Like a Hole - Nine Inch Nails
97. Evil Eye - Fu Manchu
98. Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
99. Rise - Public Image Limited
100. High n' Dry (Saturday Night) - Def Leppard

Phew! So that's it. I could sit down right now and come up with 100 different songs that would adequately fit the criteria I set out, but this is my list and I'm sticking to it. For now.

Numero uno:


d. brigham said...

Fantastic list, as expected. I wouldn't put Genesis or Yes on there, and don't know The Tragically Hip. Glad to see you put my favorite R.E.M. song at #28.

Jay said...

Yeah, I didn't have Genesis or Yes on my original take, but I definitely went through a prog-rock phase that needed to be reflected. Didn't dress up as a flower or anything, but still...