Posts Tagged ‘Top 100’

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 17

June 20, 2022

96. Martha and the Vandellas – Heatwave

This is one of those songs that I heard over and over as a kid but I am pretty sure the first time I gave it a lot of notice was when I saw it in Sister Act. That movie and its sequel was such a good thing for music performed by these wonderful girl groups. Naturally, the original version is way better than Whoopi Goldberg and her fellows. The lyrics speak not of a literal heatwave but of the heat of passion that is both constructive and destructive. Love can be dangerous and volatile. Martha Reeves was a great singer and the Vandellas the perfect compliment to her. I really love the steady drum beat accompanied by a very nice saxophone (complete with solo). 

97. Diana Ross and the Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love

When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the lyrics of this song because it treated the concept of love like it was an authority. It reminded me of how Sailor Moon often said that she stood for love and justice. The idea intrigued me. This song actually came back to me in a big way when I worked in west Baltimore for a summer. Apparently, the song was a huge hit on the house and club circuit and there was a particular remix that was hugely popular. The song itself is, of course, great. Diana Ross does a great job blending in with the Supremes and they sing as a team. The backing instrumentals are simple but compliment the voices on the track.

98. Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up

This song feels so seventies to me with the mix of brass and guitar with soulful singing. That makes sense as the song is from Mayfield’s self-titled debut album released in 1970. Except it is so energetic from the getgo. It has to be as the song lasts nearly nine minutes and its joyful energy never flags or fails. Mayfield’s vocals sound playful and excited like a celebration. The familiar brass riff with a complicated, driving drum beat make sure the party continues while Mayfield is not singing. 

99. REM – Losing My Religion

Funny enough, this song came out at a time when I stopped going to church and started feeling like church was unnecessary for me. However, singer Michael Stipe has insisted that the song is not about religion. Instead, it is about unrequited love and the slang (which is apparently a thing in the American South) which means losing your cool or ‘flying off of the handle’. This actually fits a lot with me personally as well. Around this time I started to get very angry easily, something I only let go of relatively recently. I have always loved Stipe’s voice as his style could have easily come off as whiny but he does longing and sadness really well. Aside from the lyrics, the rest of the song was basically written by guitarist Peter Buck who came up with the song while learning the mandolin. The guitar work is really good and I can hear where it might have come from that different style.

100. Talking Heads – Once In a Lifetime

One of the main reasons that I picked this song over other songs is the sing-speaking that happens before the song starts and at intervals during the song. The strange rambling of the song is definitely memorable and interesting to me. I find myself repeating “This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife” randomly all the time in my head. I love the instrumentals, especially the groovy drumbeat throughout. I really like when things get weird and this song definitely feels like a musical version of David Lynch. Some of it is very clear but some of it requires interpretation.


Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 16

June 6, 2022

90. Carlos Santana – Smooth (ft. Rob Thomas)

Carlos Santana is a masterful musician and bandleader but I kind of prefer lyrics to my favorite songs. Thankfully, over the years Santana was able to join up with some of the best singers in a way that fit his style. His nineties album Supernatural takes some great musicians and Santana after decades of honing his craft and puts on a hell of a display. This is by far the song that got the most airplay and for good reason. For one, Santana’s guitar riffs are so iconic. Two, the lyrics just feel like what summer has always been to me which is really hitting about now. Thomas does a great job of singing with Santana’s guitar as if the two are in a duet. 

91. Ricky Nelson – Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.

Quick note: I was given the choice of Ricky Nelson or Tom Petty and Tom Petty, while good, always feels forgettable to me. On the other hand, this song is an old standard dating back to 1925 although Nelson did not get a crack at it until the sixties. Most of the previous recordings were done by big singers like Sinatra and Etta James. Nelson’s take on it obviously includes guitar and backing band. His version has more of a poppy feel which also relaxes it a bit. Nelson’s usual rockabilly leanings really shine here as he romps through the song. On a personal note, this is a song that my dad used to sing to my brothers and I when we were little. I do not remember if it was this version that he was emulating but the lyrics were the same.

92. Guns N’ Roses – Mr. Brownstone

I used to listen to Guns N’ Roses a lot, especially around the time of high school. They were inescapable if you were listening to the radio in the nineties. However, I am not as fond of their ballads which felt like they would never end. I much preferred their less popular, grittier songs. At a time when I was listening to Van Halen and Motley Crue rave about how awesome drugs were, this little ditty tells a different story. It definitely feels like I would imagine a drug habit would feel like. A little like a party but a lot like a slow, confusing grind. I love the opening riff of shaky guitar and drums which leads to a repetitive yet funky groove. The vocals are sing-songy instead of Axl’s usual wailing.

93. Booker T and the MGs – Hang ‘Em High

I usually think of this band as background music since all of their songs were instrumentals. They were the house band for Stax Records and worked with legendary bands like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and many more. They had a particular groovy sound that mixed great guitar work with the organ. Their music has been used on countless movie and television soundtracks. I agree with Dan Akroyd (in character as Jake Blues) that this is America’s equivalent to Europe’s classical music. He should know, he worked heavily with guitarists Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn in The Blues Brothers. While it is not a band that I often listen to, it will remain legendary.

94. Nine Inch Nails – Head Like a Hole

This is a band whose aesthetic I was a fan of from the start. The band has a style of its own making which is a blend of various genres but could simply be called “industrial” for brevity’s sake. The style takes pieces of The Clash, Depeche Mode, Sick Puppy, Prince, and Public Enemy. All of these disparate styles fed the Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails and led them to create a signature soundscape. From the beginning the song is powerful with “Bow Down to The Ones You Serve”. The drums and instrumentation are wild and create that industrial and dark feeling without being downbeat. Reznor’s vocals wail sometimes and snarl sometimes. It feels like a direct ancestor to bands like Rage Against the Machine.

95. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Gimme Three Steps

A very sentimental choice as this was a song near and dear to my mother and she passed that love along to me. My mom used to play this song to relieve stress while she was in law school. If she could let herself have three steps, she felt she could have run. The lyrics are great as I always thought that this band was part rock band and part comedy band. The lyrics tell the story of a little misunderstanding in a bar and how the singer just wants to get out of it. Everything works here between the dynamic vocals and the rollicking iconic guitar. This band was also the first concert I ever went to (long after the original lineup died in a plane crash) and I sang my heart out all night long until I was hoarse the next day. I must have been no more than fifteen.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Project Pt. 15

May 23, 2022

84. James Taylor – Fire and Rain

In general, this has never really been my kind of music. Taylor is a bit too soft but I recognize his musical talent. I was obsessed with a punk cover of this song when I was a teen. I like the composition of it and Taylor’s guitar work is impeccable. I also always really liked the symbolism of this song. Fire and rain are such good terms for the bad times. Bad times are not all one thing. Sometimes they are the dreary and unrelenting drenching rain that freezes you deep so you think you will never be warm again. Sometimes they burn hot with a more sudden and immediate pain that leaves a scar forever. The song details the trials and tribulations in Taylor’s life and how he overcame them including the suicide of a dear friend, drug addiction, and the depression that came with fame and fortune.

85. Black Sabbath – War Pigs

It is hard to think of Black Sabbath without Ozzy Ozbourne and for sure Ronny James Dio had a lot of hits as their lead singer. However, this is the song that I keep coming back to when I think of the band. When I was a teenager, I was struggling to figure out my own philosophies. I had long discussions with a teacher about being anti-war. It really helped that Black Sabbath was teaching me about these corporate and political greedy pigs who do not care whether we live or die. It was during a time when I was embracing heavy metal and politics. I still had a long way to go but this helped. Aside from the lyrics, the driving guitar lives rent-free in my head forever. The driving beat just makes this sound like a very epic anthem.

86. Tupac – Hit ‘Em Up

This one is kind of sad as it was a diss track written by Tupac and his crew when they were sure that Biggie Smalls had ordered the hit that put Tupac in the hospital. Tupac thought this because Biggie had released a song called “Who Shot Ya?” right after the incident. It ended up being James Rosemond but Biggie and Tupac’s friendship was already shattered. Still, this is one of my all-time favorite rap songs. Tupac’s flow and lyrics are on point and just go together so well. Part of that is also the backing track which includes a great bass line provided by a sample of Dennis Edwards formerly of The Temptations. This track goes hard and is a bit shocking not only in how violent the threats are but also the believability of those threats being carried out.

87. Gram Parsons – Streets of Baltimore

My first reaction to this artist is “who?” because, although the name was vaguely familiar, I could not place it. Then I realized I was thinking of The Alan Parsons Project. This parsons is a country musician so it makes sense that I was not really familiar with his work. So, I started cruising YouTube to see what I could see, and low and behold, he wrote a song about my beloved Baltimore and I actually kind of recognize it. I am truly a sucker for any time that anybody mentions my hometown and current base of operations. The song is very catchy and speaks of Gram’s lover wanting him to take her to Baltimore City. One of the reasons that this song is familiar is that it has been heavily covered since Bobby Bare first sang it.

88. Miles Davis – Burn

Miles Davis had a long and influential career where he schooled the world on just how much a trumpet could do. He was a jazz musician but, like musicians, in his later years, he adapted and evolved. This track is absolutely an example of that as he played jazz fusion live on stage for charity. That guitarist? That is the legendary Carlos Santana. The fusion of jazz and rock definitely earns the name “Burn”. Davis was a true musical genius and everything he did shows that.

89. The Yardbirds – Over, Under, Sideways, Down

This is a band that I always recognize but I can never remember any of their songs even though they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was an absolute supergroup of musicians. This incarnation was led by Jeff Beck (later to be replaced by Jimmy Page) and his guitar work is excellent. The squealing riff he came up with is so unique and catchy. As are vocals by Keth Reif who uses a dark, deep voice kind of like a rockabilly Jim Morrison here. Steady drums by Jim McCarty who is the only one still in the band after all of these decades. This was written during a time when a lot of rock and roll was still heavily influenced by the blues and it shows. 

Rolling 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.

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