Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

Rollin Stone Top 100 Pt. 14

May 9, 2022

78. The Stooges – Search and Destroy

Iggy Pop and the Stooges were progenitors of punk music and this song definitely shows it. The raw guitars and heavy distortion showed a willingness to push music outside of its comfort noise. The lyrics here also push people out of their comfort zone as they were inspired by news stories about the Vietnam War. The discordant yet rocking sounds definitely put me in mind of the subject matter. This kind of song inspired a lot of my favorites like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and Nirvana.

79. The Four Tops – Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)

A true classic, that was actually another song recorded before the definitive version. The original version was recorded by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds about a year earlier which was just how things were done then, especially in the R&B genre. One thing about these singing groups is that it is hard to do research on the backing bands. The intro sounds like it could be strings (but it’s hard to tell) anyway it gives a bit of anticipation in the intro. The singing is in the spotlight here and Levi Stubbs does a great job leading while the others are in perfect harmony. 

80. Elvis Costello – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again

Yes, there are a ton of choices I could have made with really rocking tunes like Pump It Up, Radio Radio, or Watching the Detectives but I keep coming back to this recording. Technically, this is a Burt Bacharach song as sung by Elvis Costello. However, this recording is too charming not to mention. This comes from the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me which is a really excellent soundtrack. Costello’s playful vocals mix really well with the soft horns and piano work. I also think the song has such good lyrics.

81. The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk

A song that my mom used to sing to me when I was a small child. This is a song that I will forever equate with summer and spending time in either Myrtle Beach or Ocean City, MD (the real Ocean City). I love the sort of swaying tone of the song which is both calm and catchy. I always thought that it was the perfect marriage of surf music and R&B. The song encapsulates a lot of what the summer feels like (even though it’s about a tryst literally under the boardwalk). The lead singer on this single was originally supposed to be Rudy Lewis but he died of a heroin overdose the day before the recording session. Johnny Moore stepped up to the plate in a major way and knocked it out of the park. 

82. Credence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

I was absolutely obsessed with this song for a long time. It got me through some days laden with depressive episodes. It became my unofficial anthem as I often sang it just under my breath as I did a lot of physical labor. It would make me excited instead of tired. Of course, this was a song that I also heard from a young age as my mom was into a lot of southern rock. The guitar riff will live in my head forever and the bouncy lyrics work so well with it. It does not hurt that the song is often used for the soundtracks for a lot of supernatural movies and television shows. It makes sense as it is a song about portents of doom and mysticism. 

83. Eminem – Without Me

There is a lot to choose from as I have been a fan of Eminem’s music since he first showed up. I have not always been a fan of Marshall Mathers but Eminem/Slim Shady is different to me. I like the urgent pace of this particular track. Eminem is a brilliant lyricist as he has a wide-ranging vocabulary and touches on so many parts of pop culture. This track combines a neat horn riff, Eminem’s lyrics, a sort of singsong riff, and actual backing vocals. The music video also includes the highly memorable sight of Eminem dressed as Robin as he acts like a sidekick to Dr. Dre.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 13

March 21, 2022

72. AC/DC  – Highway to Hell

There were a heck of a lot of songs to choose from because AC/DC is one of my favorite bands. Almost all of their tracks are loud, crazy, and lewd. Teenage me used to listen to their greatest hits on repeat as I sat and ate breakfast in the cafeteria. I thought about picking something from their underrated 2000 album which had a grittier feel but I had to go with a classic. Having undiagnosed anxiety, I often needed to get fired up for social situations. This was a song I often heard on the radio as I headed to rehearsals for theater or when I was heading somewhere I did not want to be (but only because of bad brain). The song helped me get fired up and took my mind off of the awful feeling in my stomach. The great guitar licks and that classic high-pitched ode to Satan were always a comfort in bad times.

73. Radiohead – Creep

I kind of missed the boat on Radiohead. I definitely remember being in summer camp when they were really hitting it big. I was in summer camp when people were raving about them but I guess they never caught on with me. Later, I started to hear this song and I liked it. It is the only  Radiohead song that I could name to this day. I wonder now why this song, in particular, did not get ingrained in my head. It was perfectly suited for the gothy/grungy teen that I was. I was always down on myself and the lyrics of the song would have resonated. Maybe it was too slow for teenage me. It is a fun song to sing along to when it pops up on the radio.

74. Hank Williams – Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

I actually first heard this song during my freshman year in college as it was one of many Hank Williams songs that I played during the preshow of Bus Stop. This is by far the one that I would love to sing along with sitting alone in my sound booth. I feel like Williams is at his most playful here both with its vocals and instrumentation. The lyrics are boisterous and really fit the energy of inviting people to a party and having a good time. The song was written based on Williams’ listening to Cajun speech patterns. It tells a little story and makes me imagine a great spread of food too.

75. The Eagles – Take It Easy

This is a chill yet upbeat song that I fell in love with during the summer that I worked with the circus. On rough days it would remind me to calm down and just soldier on. The song would pop up on the radio when I needed those chill vibes. The Eagles is a great band to sing along to on the radio and one that I always come back to. The song was originally supposed to be a track on Jackson Browne’s debut album but he was struggling to finish writing it. He turned to Eagles member Glenn Frey who helped him finish it. It became a track on the Eagles debut album instead. I really love the verses in particular which have a winding way of rhyming and some of those rhymes take a moment to catch up in my mind.

76. The Shirelles – Mama Said

Another song that you have probably heard over and over again in movies, television, and commercials. It was a big hit when the Shirelles originally performed it and it set off a cascade of covers and songs that were inspired by it. This is a great song from a great girl group and their harmony is so on point. The thing is, the lyrics are so true. My mother did warn me about bad days and was there to support me. Life can suck sometimes but hopefully the storm clouds part at some point and the troubles subside. 

77. Beastie Boys – No Sleep Till Brooklyn

The Beastie Boys were the perfect gateway into the world of rap for me. A trio of white and nerdy goofballs who scream rapped their songs was right up my alley. They kind of settled in a space between hard rock and rap which really resonated with me. I remember a period of time when there were a million AMVs set to Beastie Boys songs on programs like Kazaa and Napster. This song is about how tough it is to tour but the band’s determination to make it back to their home base of Brooklyn. The rhymes are as playful as ever but I always loved the defiant refrain which is really fun to sing along to. The epic guitar riffs actually come from Kerry King, guitarist for Slayer.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 12

March 7, 2022
  1. Al Green – Take Me To The River

The phrase “take me to the river” is a phrase that has been in so many songs. Obviously, it usually references the Christian practice of baptism but in general, it embraces the imagery of water as a symbol for renewal. The song speaks of a bad reputation and a need to wash it away with something new. Green’s vocals are just so smooth as he uses a very sweet falsetto. That falsetto was Green’s signature that set him apart from a lot of deeper-voiced Motown legends. I love the groove of this song as Greene practically has a duet with his guitarist.

  1. Cream – White Room

I remember a friend in college getting really pissy about this song. He fiercely claimed that “Cream is more than just White Room? They had more than one song!” Yes, they did have more than one song but this one song is absolutely great. There is a reason that this one still gets a ton of radio play. First, you have Eric Clapton’s killer guitar work which is in top form. Ginger Baker keeps a fine beat as a legendary drummer. The real workhorse is Jack Bruce on bass and vocals. His eerie melodic singing really makes the song as he delivers strange poetic lyrics. They don’t make much sense but they sound really cool.

  1. The Temptations – Get Ready

You have probably heard this song all over in television and in movies. I can hear the song just by reading the title. The song was written and composed by Smokey Robinson. It was one of many songs he wrote for The Temptations during his days with The Miracles. The song is super lively. The horns and drums kick in and rev the song up. By the time we hit a peak, the vocals hit and they are so smooth. The guys’ voices mix together so well. The lyrics could have easily been intimidating in other hands but they sound playful and fun instead. Love is a game and it’s more fun if everybody is playing.

  1. Jackie Wilson – Higher and Higher

Some people, including me, may remember this song more for its appearances in the movie Ghostbusters 2. It kind of becomes the unofficial theme song of the movie as it is played twice. Recently departed director Ivan Reitman needed a song that embodied positive energy and they found it. Jackie’s voice is so positive and fun that it is impossible for me not to smile. The backing track was performed by the legendary Motown Records house band The Funk Brothers. Session singers The Andantes did backup vocals. Earth, Wind, and Fire drummer Maurice White also played on the track. A piece of legendary music history.

  1. The Police – Message in a Bottle

I am not the biggest fan of The Police or Sting. Their songs are a bit slow and dreamy for me and some of them downright gave me the creeps. Partially written during The Police’s first American tour, the guitar riff of this song was written for a different song that never came about. I like the bouncy backing track, way faster and rocking than their usual fare. I like the repetition in lyrics and Sting’s cascading vocals that kind of match the layered guitar work.

  1. Frank Zappa – Dancin’ Fool

Zappa was a musical innovator, a man who may have been legitimately insane in all of the best ways. This song is pure unadulterated fun. This kind of song was the inspiration for later acts like Weird Al, Ben Folds, and others who combined comedy and rock and roll. This was Zappa’s second single to make fun of the genre of disco. It is a song about being bad at dancing but doing it anyway. I love the guitar work on the track because it is such a contrast to the silly vocals and everything else. The vocals and xylophone (?) sound like Kidz Bop does disco somehow but hilarious. It is somehow purposefully awful but also really catchy. That was Zappa’s appeal.

Rolling Stone Top 100 pt. 11

February 21, 2022

60. Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen

There is not much to choose from since the Sex Pistols only produced one official studio album. Of course, every song they put out was great. I chose this one because it is a huge middle finger to authority in the devil-may-care style of the Sex Pistols. The song is messy but still pleasing to the ar. My favorite story about this song is that it was banned from radio play because the British love their monarchy more than their people. The band was not to be deterred and decided to put on a concert on a boat in the Thames River so that London could hear the tune. The London police raided the concert but only managed to arrest the band’s manager and entourage while the Pistols managed to slip away and avoided capture.

  1. Metallica – Of Wolf and Man

One of my favorite songs ever for obvious reasons. As is plainly visible, I have an affinity for the wolf for many reasons. This song captures the strength and the cunning and the danger of the wolf. It is a spirit that I try to summon when I am feeling anxious or undeserving. Nothing tops James Hetfield’s growly voice. There is a reason that he is a legend. Couple that with the excellent guitar from Kirk Hammett, drums from Lars Ulrich, and bass guitar from Jason Newsted. This was my favorite lineup of the band at the height of its power. Apparently, their manager thought the song was silly at first not understanding that symbolism is where Heavy Metal really shines.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi

Joni has gotten back into the news again lately because of her stand against Spotify and the known racist Joe Rogan. Joni was a legend who was offered to join the now legendary Woodstock festival, was unable to attend, but still wrote a song that described it perfectly. However, this song is her big hit, and for good reason. She was truly ahead of her time by delivering an environmental and anti-development stance. Her line “paved paradise to put up a parking lot” still rings so true, unfortunately. The song was written in Hawaii which has a history of destruction by white developers. The song itself has such a pleasing melody as well.

  1. Tina Turner – The Best

I feel like everybody within the sound of a radio, television, or movie theater has heard this song since it has been used commercially so many times. It is hard to match the bombastic, louder-than-the-world style and voice of Tina Turner. Her voice is defiant and her instrumentation always matches her well. This is a cover from Bonnie Tyler the year before. The two artists have similar styles but Turner gives her version more soul and more force. Turner also did not just cover the song, she approached the songwriter Holly Knight and had her alter it to suit her desires.

  1. Etta James – Tell Mama

Apparently, Ms. James herself did not really care for this song and often left it out of her sets because she did not see herself as “the Great Earth Mother, the gal you come to for comfort and easy sex.” Regardless, she did credit the song for reviving her career at a critical time and thanked her producer Rick Hall for convincing her to do the song.

  1. The Kinks – Father Christmas

I did not expect to see a holiday song at all on this list but here we are two-thirds through and we landed on probably one of my favorite songs to listen to around Christmas. It is probably The Kinks’ most punk song and one my mom kind of disapproved of two years ago. The song talks about how gifts are great for the rich but what the poor need is cash and jobs. In our system, cash equals freedom. The music itself is a lot of fun as Ray Davies snarls an anti-class message. Dave Davies’ guitar is especially great here.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 10

February 7, 2022
  1. Howlin’ Wolf – I Ain’t Superstitious

Another blues legend, this is the epitome of Chicago blues in the late sixties. The song was written by bluesman Willie Dixon and first performed by Howlin’ Wolf himself. Many would cover it but nobody could top the original. The music has that classic blues rhythm that is parodied over and over because it is accurate. Something just feels good hearing a blues band tramp its way through a blue song. There is something comforting to hear the creaking, tired voice of an old bluesman. I also used to be obsessed with bad luck and the various talismans of good and bad luck so I am a sucker for that subject matter.

  1. Eric Clapton – Cocaine

Clapton’s vaccine idiocy aside, he is a very well-regarded musician for a reason and there are plenty of problematic people on this list already. Clapton has made a living being a white blues guy and has done well with it. This song is a cover from the version written by JJ Cale that was released the year before. Clapton intended the song to be an anti-drug song however it ended up being a bit too ambiguous. I really like how the song sounds like the audio version of a bad cocaine bender. It sounds like the lights are too bright and things are a bit too loud. The twangy and discordant sounds of Clapton’s singing and the stumbling little rhythm really sell it. It feels like there is some distortion on everything, making everything feel off but groovy.

  1. Dr. Dre – Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang

One of the quintessential rap songs of a period when the genre was absolutely exploding. Dre was just debuting the first album of his solo career long before he quit to make headphones. Putting together an album without NWA must have been quite an experience. The track pairs up Death Row stablemates Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg who would go on to be legends of rap music. The two have very complementary styles. Dre is more forceful while Snoop is more lackadaisical. It puts the energy right in the middle in a comfortable spot. The track samples Leon Haywood’s I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You from 1975. It adds the perfect backing track for a chill rap song like this one. It is also not overproduced.

  1. Grateful Dead – Truckin’

The Dead was always just there when I was growing up until the very vivid memory I had of Jerry Garcia’s death. A friend of mine must have grown up with some hippie parents because he mourned hardcore. The seniors ahead of me in Stage Crew also used to use the term “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” a lot and it took me a bit to figure that one out. This is another song I associate with driving (for obvious reasons). It is such an easy song to listen to and fall in love with. The song speaks of the United States and everywhere a car might go and how much love for the land and the people there is. The song is a rock and blues fusion and the band called it a “catchy shuffle” which is a great description.

  1. Parliament Funkadelic – Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)

I was absolutely obsessed with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at some point and in particular, I loved this song. Psychodelic Funk or ‘P Funk” is such a rich soundscape in every song. You have George Clinton’s gravelly baritone joined by the higher-pitched chorus coming in and then there is the mid-range voice coming in. It all mixes together so well. Like a lot of P Funk, the song mixes together jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and so much more into a fun swirling maelstrom. It feels like a funkier version of Sly and the Family Stone or WAR. There is a reason that George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and the company were known as the best in the business and a reason why this song is considered the best of the genre.

  1. Aerosmith – Walk This Way

One of the first albums I bought with my own money was the Greatest Hits. I still remember the clerk at the record store telling me to ‘play it loud’. Aerosmith has never been one of my favorite bands but I am never sad to hear them come up on the radio regardless of what song is playing. Aerosmith is one of those bands that is such a cartoon that is impossible not to smile. Steven Tyler especially has such a distinctive and weird presence to him. His high-pitched screaming is on clear display here backed by some fun guitar work. The guitar riff is particularly good.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 9

January 24, 2022
  1. Run DMC – King of Rock

Run DMC had a pretty distinctive style that I would describe as bombastic and forceful. While some rappers embrace the harmonies of their poetry, Run DMC deliver their rhymes like slam poets, making you hear every single word. Probably more than most groups, they helped to bridge the gap between rap and rock and therefore the mainstream. The blending of the two is commonplace now but they collaborated with Aerosmith and the WWF. In fact, this song was later remixed for the WWF stable D Generation X. I love the beginning of this song as the MCs trade words. The rest of the song hits hard as a great brag and boast rap song. The guitar and drums add a great background that does not distract from the great rhymes.

  1. Elton John – I’m Still Standing

This has become a very personal song for me. In my life, I have suffered from anxiety and depression but I am still here and this song has always given me the strength to carry on and has allowed me to reflect on the good things. Part of it is how joyful Elton sounds as he sings instead of being angry and spiteful. We should cut away the bad parts of our lives with joy and not dwell in anger (if we can). The music video is a must-see. It is such a bouncy and fun song with great lyrics. I am happy to see the song getting more love in pop culture lately sung by Taron Egerton in both Rocketman and Sing. Still, Elton John is always best at this song and nothing can top his energy.

  1. The Band – Up On Cripple Creek

They did not have the most descriptive name but The Band definitely inspired a lot of other bands. This song definitely scratches that Southern Rock itch that I was born with. It also feels a bit like Hank Williams. I am always amazed at bands that have the drummer as the lead vocalist because I played drums and it took all of my concentration just to hit the right beats. The song feels really comfortable, talking about having a good time on vacation from the hard work of being a truck driver. I like how the lyrics wind and turn. Interestingly, one of the verses has the characters in the song commenting on Spike Jones, another great musician. I like when bands do that, paying tribute to other great acts.

  1. Pink Floyd – Money

I am not the biggest fan of Pink Floyd which I think is fair because their experimental sound made them kind of a polarizing group. I may not have liked their slower or more out there songs but the band was always interesting no matter what they were doing. This song is my favorite mainly for its rhythm which is immediately set up by the sound of a cash register and other sound effects used like an instrument before a guitar takes over. I also really love the lyrics as an anti-capitalist. “Money is a crime” resonated so much with me at a very formative time in my political evolution. The song was the band’s exploration of their own feelings about socialism which they ultimately rejected in favor of honestly pursuing a material life.

  1. Queen – Killer Queen

There was one point in high school when I was listening to a lot of Queen. Like many people of my generation, I was formally introduced to the band through the movie Wayne’s World. Greatest Hits was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money saved from doing chores. I used to listen to that album a lot in the hallways at school and I fell in love with every single song. However, while friends might borrow the album to recreate the Wayne’s World scene, my favorite was always Killer Queen. I fell in love with the playful dynamics in Freddy’s vocals and the bouncy instrumentals. I also loved the description of this woman in the song and I liked imagining what she might be like.

  1. The Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man

This is a song that I have heard on the radio at least a thousand times in my lifetime and it never gets old. I can recognize it immediately from that initial guitar riff. From there the rhythm picks up and never slows down. It is a perfect driving song that just so happens to be about traveling. It is that romantic view of the drifter, the man who never stays in one place for too long. The guitar work is just so great and feels like sunshine. It is all the more impressive knowing that guitarist Dickie Betts is both playing and singing lead vocals at the same time. Lyrics that sound a bit like an American folktale. Just an all-over good song.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 7

December 27, 2021
  1. Madonna – Beautiful Stranger

A little later in Madonna’s career but honestly this is the one I decided to pick because it is the song that I used to listen to over and over. I originally heard it off of the Austin Powers 2 soundtrack (an absolutely great soundtrack). It is a fast-paced and upbeat song with a lot of throwback instrumentation which sounds like a mix of disco and psychedelic pop. There is even some nice flute in there which I would not have expected from Madonna previous to this. I love the way Madonna’s vocals kind of give a feeling of winding and swaying. The song is a throwback to stuff like Jefferson Airplane and Love.

  1. Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman

I have a distinct memory of singing along to this song with a babysitter when I was very young. When that initial drum beat and super recognizable guitar riff hit, it always gets my toe tapping. Orbison’s voice is so pleasing as he croons out this song. It is a song where Orbison fawns over a beautiful woman who is passing by. For a song about hitting on a woman in public, it is a very respectful song. Orbison makes his offer and is perfectly willing to walk away if the answer is no. I also love Orbison’s little interjections like shouting “Mercy!” and giving off a playful purring growl. Apparently, the idea for the song was inspired by Orbison’s wife not needing money when she went out because of her good looks.

  1. John Lennon – Starting Over

I fully believe that John Lennon was a musical genius and was responsible for a lot of great songs when he was in the Beatles. I am not as fond of his solo career but there is a lot of great stuff to pick from. His most famous solo songs are too slow and dreamy for my tastes but this song is a lot of fun. It is also the last single released during his lifetime. It was actually born from Lennon trying to write two other songs (“My Life” and “Don’t Be Crazy”) and he managed to distill them into this song. It is a wonderful love song at a time when he was really enjoying his partnership with Yoko and is really nice. Each time he sees his love, it feels like the first time. I love the simple rocking beat and an almost rockabilly vocal style.

  1. David Bowie – Magic Dance

There are so many songs that I could have picked because I have loved David Bowie since the very first track of his that I heard. I found this selection to be difficult but I eventually went with the track that I love to hear over and over. It also happens to be the song that he sang with bucket loads of Jim Henson puppets. This song was written for the movie Labyrinth (one of five) and the lyrics are mostly silly and fun nonsense. It was designed as a simple dance song for a scene where Bowie’s character is trying to cheer up a crying baby. It is a goofy song but I absolutely love it especially for Bowie’s smiling performance. That is how I always want to remember David Bowie.

  1. Simon and Garfunkel – Cecilia

Apparently, this song was born from a spontaneous moment of joy. At a party, Simon, Garfunkel, and Simon’s brother randomly came up with the rhythm and decided to record it so they could play with it. Somebody grabbed a guitar and joined in. They later went back to that recording which in turn inspired the writing of this song. They looped the original recording and then kept adding elements until they were satisfied. The song’s lyrics have a double meaning. They refer to a lover who is causing the singer pain with her indifferent behavior but also joy through her amorous behavior. It also apparently refers to St. Cecilia of the Catholic canon of saints who is the patron saint of music. They are imploring St. Cecilia to not disappear on them when they need inspiration.

  1. The Doors – People Are Strange

Apparently, the origin of this song is from a very depressed Jim Morrison going on a walk and coming back with the initial lyrics for the song. His depression was apparently replaced with euphoria. The song is a song of the feeling of alienation by outsiders (or possibly people on LSD). Jim Morrison’s signature bluesy voice is really great in this track (as with most of his tracks) and has a haunting lilt to it. I absolutely love John Densmore’s twangy guitar that feels often like it is wandering around.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 6

December 13, 2021
  1. The Who – Behind the Blue Eyes

I definitely went through a period where I was obsessed with this band. When I was an angsty teen, this was absolutely my jam. It made me feel things. This was during a time where I would have claimed that Squeeze Box was my favorite The Who song. As I started to come to grips with my anger management problems, I often clung to this song and tried to reassure myself that I was still a good person. Those were dark days, years really. I really like the shift between the soft and growling vocals and the instrumentation is, as always, top-notch. At some point, I really fell in love with songs that start slow and simple and then break out into full gear shortly after. This is the first such song that really took hold of me.

  1. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I was definitely a huge fan of Nirvana and was at just the right age to be absolutely devastated by the death of Kurt Cobain. I really love most of their songs so it feels kind of weird that my favorite is the one intentionally made to be different from their usual. Cobain intended the song to be a pop song and in his words, he was trying to “rip off The Pixies”. Cobain brought the vocal melody and the guitar riff to the band. Bassist Krist Novoselic said it was “ridiculous” and Cobain made the band play it for an hour and a half almost as a punishment. As a result, the band worked together and it was one of the few songs to have the writing credited to all three members. The vague mumbling lyrics somehow speak of what it feels like to be a teenager. It was all three members firing on all cylinders.

  1. Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line

Another musician that I instantly loved from the very first song which makes choosing my favorite song incredibly difficult. That is the problem with this challenge, of course. The more I love a band or artist, the more difficult it is to choose. Cash was more or less my introduction to country and rockabilly (only two of his genres). The chord progression of the song is actually inspired by listening to guitar backward on a tape recorder so something actually came of listening to a song backward for once. Originally planned to be a slow ballad (which I probably would have dismissed) Cash was convinced to make it more uptempo. The result is a song vowing loyalty with a bit of an edge to it. It feels like there is a concealed aggression to it. Cash’s signature baritone is on display here and feels so good. The song has the usual train rhythm of Cash’s repertoire.

  1. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – I Second That Emotion

Written based on a slip of the tongue from Robinson, this song ended up really great. It is definitely one of the preeminent examples of Rhythm and Blues. In it, Robinson sings to a young woman who likes stringing men along, telling her that if she changes her mind and is looking for something real, he is up for it. The lyrics are pretty nice considering a lot of love songs pour it on thick. This one comes off as patient and accepting of the situation, a great example of setting and respecting boundaries. The song does not need much instrumentation because of The Miracles voices’ backing up Smokey. Their voices fit together so well from years of working together and knowing each other.

  1. The Everly Brothers – Wake Up Little Suzie

I started looking up Everly Brothers songs because I could not name a single one despite knowing that I had heard them. As I read the titles, the song memories started flowing and I fired up YouTube to listen to a few to make my choice. When I read the title of this song, I could hear the vocals in my head. What I did not remember was the guitar riff which sounds similar to (and may have inspired?) The Who’s I Can See for Miles. This song really bops along and the brothers’ voices and guitar really flow together. It is definitely a great example of upbeat, uptempo 50s rock songs with a little more twang to them.

  1. Neil Young – Southern Man

A controversial song for sure. As the child of a proud South Carolinian, I sided with Lynyrd Skynyrd in the famous feud. I grew up south of the Mason-Dixon and it stung a bit to be talked down to by a Canadian musician. However, my mother also taught me about the everyday racism she experienced growing up in rural South Carolina. She saw things that terrified her and learned from seeing other people’s evil and ignorance. So eventually I saw that Neil Young was right, he was just clumsy about it. You cannot paint the whole American South as racism as many know right from wrong and regret our shameful past. The guitar work is so great with Danny Whitten stepping in for Nils Lofgren. Meanwhile, Lofgren played piano for the very first time and knocked it out of the park adapting a style similar to an accordion.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 5

November 29, 2021
  1. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark

There is a reason why The Boss has been so commercially successful. He has a lot of hits to pick from, all of which I can easily sing along to. I picked this one partly because of memories of the music video where he dances on stage with Courtney Cox. I just associate this song with fun. Springsteen is kind of the king of blue collar, middle-of-the-road rock and roll and I say that as a compliment. He has an easily recognizable vocal style with that rough voice that is also able to croon a bit. This song lives and dies by the drumbeat which just keeps the song going for me. Everything else is actually pretty chill. The guitar and keyboard are pretty slow and fade back to showcase Springsteen’s vocals. There is also a killer sax bit later in the song that I really like.

  1. Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire

One of those truly iconic songs that has been in a ton of movies and television shows. The song is a great showcase mostly for Lewis’ great vocals and piano playing. It was recorded with only bass guitar and drums to back Lewis up. Jerry Lee Lewis is one of those stars for whom a backing band just gets in the way. He is loud and energetic and that was what made him a star. The song also features a rare bass riff since guitars usually get all of the love. Lewis is hitting those keys hard, the piano blowing everything else away. It was a style that a lot of piano-centric musicians (Elton John, Little Richard) would also use.

  1. Fats Domino – Ain’t That a Shame

This song has a relaxed feeling to it as Domino sings about how he won’t be so broken up if his girl leaves him. One of the things the song does that I like is it has the instrumentation drop out during the chorus repeatedly and let Domino stand on his own. Domino’s voice is so smooth and so easy to listen to. This song is listed as rock and roll but feels more like jazz to me but genres can be difficult. Domino was yet another artist who did both vocals and piano in the mid-fifties. He has a smoothness and sardonic air in this song that I really enjoy.

  1. The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated

I have been a huge Ramones fan since I first heard them. Punk in general just has a lot of what I want in general. This song goes a mile a minute and is just so easy to sing along to. Especially the repeated refrain of “Ba ba ba”s. The song is a road song written as a semi-joke by the Ramones based on their experiences being on tour during Christmas and having literally nothing to do and being so bored between shows. They make the lyrics fun even if there is a tinge of worry mixed in there. The guitars just rock away in a constant bop for most of the song accompanied by a driving drum beat.

  1. Prince – Partyman

You do not understand yet how much I was obsessed with Batman (1989) and how formative it was in my early formative years. Looking back, I am absolutely fascinated that they got Prince to do much of the soundtrack of the movie and how well it worked. They also let him make some truly batshit insane music videos for his songs. The song itself is bouncy and fun, Prince at his best for me. I love the drum machine they used as it has a sort of fuzzy sound to it. It really does feel like the best parts of a party and I don’t really like parties. I will forever love this song for the museum scene in Batman but it stands great all by itself.

  1. The Clash – Rock the Casbah

The Clash is another punk band that I love but had a little bit of a different feel than other punk bands as they had a wider range of genres that they mixed in. This song definitely is an example of that wide range. It also has a bit of that great tendency of punk music to attack established political power structures. The song details the clash between a religious dictatorsip and the freeing power of music. Politicians have often either tried to tamp down rebellion in music or coopt it. I love Joe Strummer’s vocals in this as he belts out his lyrics only to be joined by his bandmates for the chorus. Topper Headon is putting in some great work on drums as well.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 4

November 15, 2021
  1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

This is absolutely the kind of song that movies and television use as shorthand for “The Blues”. It has some guitar with a dirty sound to it, the drummer going hard on the downbeat, a wailing harmonica, and almost call and response cadence to the lyrics. The first thing I appreciate about this song is Muddy Waters told me that everything is going to be alright. That’s actually really nice to hear these days. This is the style that artists like George Thorogood tried to emulate. Waters is telling a story with every word and you can really feel his emotion. (So can his backup singer who keeps yelling like a primitive hype man). It almost feels like a prelude to brag and boast rap groups as well.

  1. Marvin Gaye – Can I Get a Witness

A lot of people put more stock into Gaye’s songs about love or sex but I really prefer this song. There is instantly so much joy in this song even though it is about heartbreak. Gaye is singing about how he has been mistreated and wants people to witness him. He wants acknowledgment which I think we can all empathize with. The song is very bouncy while still letting Gaye wail a little with his vocals. He sings over mostly a killer horn section and people clapping (tambourine?) which gives the song a simple feeling.

  1. The Velvet Underground – There She Goes Again

More twangy guitars are always nice. This is another band that I had to look up to remind myself of some of their songs. I have to admit that I am not really familiar with their work although I have heard the name as an influential group and I am somewhat familiar with singer Lou Reed’s later work. I think it is their lack of uptempo songs even though I fully admit that they are true artists. This is the best song that I could find. I do like Reed’s wandering vocals which remind me a bit of Bob Dylan here. It sounds like a great song to chill to if that was what I wanted out of music.

  1. Bo Diddley – Who Do You Love?

I have to admit that I first heard this song performed by George Thorogood and the Destroyers who I was obsessed with at one point. It is a really good song. I actually prefer the instrumentation of this version. Diddley’s band had some great guitar and some simple drumming. Diddley also sounds like he is having a little more fun with it as compared to Thorogood’s almost sinister delivery. In Bo Diddley’s mind, this song is a brag and boast song so that a woman would come away thinking that Diddley was such a badass that she would tell everybody she knows. It is basically just a list of dangerous and edgy things that make the singer look awesome.

  1. Otis Redding – I Can’t Turn You Loose

I first heard this song performed by The Blues Brothers, once again showing the benefit of cover bands who introduce you to great music. Redding’s band and The Blues Brothers band have comparable skills which makes sense because The Blues Brothers band was a supergroup of musicians that backed two comedians. Naturally, Otis Redding is so much better than John Belushi. He is throwing everything he has into this song and giving it so much more flair and soul. Redding sings in that almost gospel style that would be made famous by him, James Brown, and others. The song just really bops along behind Redding, letting him do his thing as he goes pretty hard. There are not many lyrics but sometimes you don’t need them.

  1. U2 – Elevation

I am not a U2 fan. In general, I am not a fan of Bono’s vocal style. I would not call it bad but it is definitely not my cup of tea as he slowly wails about Irish tragedies. This is the best song they have, in my opinion. The Edge and the rest of the band are obviously really good at singing and they got Bono to actually sing something a bit more upbeat, uptempo, and inspirational this time.

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