Posts Tagged ‘Top 100’

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.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 3

September 20, 2021
  1. Bob Marley – Buffalo Soldier

When I was growing up, I never really listened to the lyrics of this song growing up because I had yet to learn history. The song’s title and lyrics make reference to the term Buffalo Soldier which was coined by Native Americans during the Indian Wars. The regiment of black US Army soldiers was given all of the difficult jobs in the military. One of those jobs was to protect colonizers from displaced Native Americans who thought that their hair looked like the pelt of a Buffalo. Marley was a fighter in his own way, fighting for the rights of black people through his music and his activism. The bouncy tune and Marley’s signature calm but forceful voice combine to create a great song.

  1. The Beach Boys – Barbara Ann

There are so many great songs to choose from when it comes to the Beach Boys. A lot of their songs were appropriately fast-paced and uptempo for me. Barbara Ann is just so much fun. The vocals have more of a layered feel as we have not only the usual vocals from the Beach Boys but also William Jan Berry from Jan and Dean (who originally performed the song). Those vocals are bouncy and cut loose and fun. There are not a lot of other instruments as the guys are mostly just jamming the vocals. The single was rushed out by the studio without the band’s knowledge to try and bolster the group’s reputation after the previous release was disappointing. Still, it gave the track a less polished feel which may be why I like it so much.

  1. Buddy Holly – Maybe Baby

My dad used to sing this to me as a kid. That is primarily why I chose this song out of all of Holly’s hits. Apart from my sentimentality, the song is really good on its own. The song is upbeat and up-tempo but somehow still allows Holly to croon out the vocals. The guitar and bass guitar parts form a really fun riff. The song has a little bit of a playfulness but definitely a bounciness that I love. This song (seeing as how I heard it as a baby) was my introduction of the genre of rockabilly. My parents taught me so much about music and how to appreciate it.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

I have been slowly reminded lately that Led Zeppelin is actually a good band. I think that my perception of them is constantly colored by Stairway to Heaven which I dislike so much. They have so many rocking tunes. Early on when I was a kid I was blown away that they had so many Hobbit references in their songs. I just did not get a lot of that from other bands. This song was always my favorite with its battle cry and lyrics about Viking journeys and battles, it really gets your blood pumping. The guitar riffs feel all jangly and exciting. It does not hurt that this song had such a prominent place in Thor: Ragnarok.

  1. Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

The first thing that hits me in this song is the rhythm from the drums as they kick in. Thar rhythm continues through the song like a steady march. Then the high horns kick in. Wonder sings with an obvious joy and passion that is impossible to deny. It is interesting that this is probably the song that saved Stevie Wonder’s career. He had only two moderate hits previously and, as his voice changed, the studio was about to cut him loose. Like me, the producer for this single and the fans really liked Wonder’s new, deeper tenor and he was back on top and headed toward becoming a legend.

  1. Sam Cooke – Good Times

Probably one of Cooke’s most iconic songs (and more commercially sellable than the very important A Change Is Going to Come). As usual, Cooke’s voice is so sweet to the ear as he croons out some great lyrics. The backing instrumentals are really good at staying out of the way and letting Cooke burn things up. The song speaks of the heart and soul of what music is and what feeling good should be.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 2

September 6, 2021
  1. Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady

I listened to a lot of Jimi especially when I was in high school. I had a friend that played a passable cover of his version of All Along the Watchtower. My brother learned to play guitar from watching Hendrix do it. He had many fantastic songs but Foxy (or sometimes spelled Foxey) Lady has long been a favorite of mine. Part of it has to do with this song being prominently used in Wayne’s World. Most of it has to do with the song itself. It is definitely a great display of Hendrix’s wailing vocals with his unique deep voice. The guitar riff also really does it for me. It feels like a revving engine to me as it punctuates each sentence in the song. One thing that really hit me as I went back through Jimi’s catalog to make my selection is that he only had two albums to choose from. It’s still pretty tragic.

  1. James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)

Yes, I went with the cliche. This song just makes me feel good. It starts with Brown’s excited scream and then the funky horns start. The horn riff feels joyous and playful. The drums and horns really punctuate the chorus and give it the oomph it needs. James was never really easy to understand but when he recorded this one, he was clear as a bell. It may be why this is the song most used in movies, television, and commercials. As with all of his songs, James Brown sells the hell out of it with his vocals and leaves everything behind when he’s done.

  1. Little Richard – Rip It Up

Decidedly not going with the cliche this time. When I think of Little Richard, I always think of him hitting the long high notes as he leans back as he plays the piano. He put his whole body into the music even when he was just sitting at the piano which would inspire plenty of other pianists (ie Elton John). When I was going back through his catalog, this song caught my eye and I realized I had forgotten about it. This song feels like it has a little more edge to it. The bouncy instrumentals make me smile. The slightly aggressive way that he sings about having a good time after work makes me think back to times that I felt the same way. It just feels so good to be done for the day and heading out (or in my case home) to have some fun.

  1. Aretha Franklin – Think

Once again influenced by movies as Aretha’s performance of the song in Blues Brothers is electric and sassy. Aretha may have been known for Respect but she shared it with many other acts. Aretha owned this song and nobody ever came close. I also really like the lyrics better for what Aretha does with them. The way she weaves the words (especially in Blues Brothers) felt like a predecessor to rap music with the speed she’s going. Aretha’s voice has always been one of my favorites and her songs seemed to be more uptempo than some of her contemporaries. I really love the bouncy, happy rhythm as Aretha threatens her lover.

  1. Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack

There are not as many Ray Charles songs that I like as other artists on this list. He was a great singer and piano player but his songs were more crooning than I usually listen to. In fact, my favorite song he ever did was paired up with George Jones called “I Didn’t See A Thing”. It’s just so playful and funny but it doesn’t count for this list. Hit the Road Jack is playful and feels a lot like what I think of as traditional blues. This is definitely a song that does a lot between Ray and his backup singers. Ray gets the majority of it but the back and forth really sells it. The horns are iconic and once again it is easy to guess why this song is also used a lot in film.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Project Pt. 1

August 16, 2021

While I was listening to the radio, one of the morning DJs posed a question about the hosts’ pick for favorite Rolling Stones song. I thought about it and I thought it would be neat to name my number one song for various bands and musical acts. I was originally only going to do Rock but I stumbled on the top 100 Musical Artists list from Rolling Stone magazine so I decided to use that. There are technically two lists so I may jump between them a bit but the first 26 did not change between 2005 and 2011.

  1. The Beatles – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Yes, the Beatles had dozens of really good songs that I could have put here. However, when I was a preteen, I fell in love with Abbey Road and played it often as I walked home from school. While other songs may have more technical skill or more meaning, this is just the lads from Liverpool having a good time. The song also has a dark edge behind its jolly sound which definitely falls within the scope of my interests. There are a lot of clever rhymes that just sound really pleasing to my ear as well.

  1. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues

A lot of Bob Dylan’s most popular songs are too slow and rambling for me. In contrast, this song has a frenetic energy as he rushes toward the finish line. The lyrics are interesting in that they can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Dylan claimed that he was inspired by beat poets like Kerouac and Ginsberg. He was also inspired by the Woody Guthrie – Pete Seeger song “Taking It Easy” and Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”. Thankfully, the music video has some of the lyrics on cue cards because Dylan never was big on diction. Still, he inspired a lot of musicians.

  1. Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

Elvis had a ton of hits as well. I did not really care for his crooning ballads (although they melted many hearts back in the day) but when Elvis was rocking and rolling, I loved his music. I actually performed Elvis songs on stage once for a Church talent show (along with much more talented and not-having-a-panic-attack partners). I think that was when I started to appreciate Elvis more as a musician than the cartoon he was usually portrayed as. Jailhouse Rock just always felt like his hardest-hitting song. I also loved the lyrics as I could imagine the party he is describing.

  1. Rolling Stones – Paint it Black

Something about the haunting, calmer singing with a rocking instrumental really gets to me. Also, as a preteen and teen, I was a bit goth and was the kind of person that would always answer “black” when asked for my favorite color. What really cemented this song as my favorite is the video game Twisted Metal Black which used it as a theme song. When I was in the depths of my worst period of depression, songs like these felt good because I felt less alone.

  1. Chuck Berry – No Particular Place To Go

I was so tempted to put “My Ding a ling” here but I feel like this is my actual answer. The guitar is what really gets me in this one (although most of his songs had great guitar). I like the progression of the song where the music starts jubilant and excited but ends kind of angry. This befits the funny story that the lyrics tell of a bad date night. It was this song that I thought of when I first heard The Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman”. Berry knew how to paint a picture and this song just feels so good.

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