Top Ten Songs
NME have celebrated their 60th birthday by compiling a list of the 100 greatest tracks of the magazine’s lifetime.
Henry Rollins once ranted something to the effect that it was no wonder English music was so shitty; once you consider the freezing-cold, rain-soaked climate; night falling at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and their idea of food, which consists of a bit of fish and potato floating in grease.
Joy Division is the perfect case-in-point. And, given that NME is an English magazine, it should have come as no surprise they would elect Love Will Tear Us Apart as the best song of all time. When I hear that fucking song, or that awful band, I hear a neurotic, mentally ill wastrel ‘singing’ over a melody disfigured by tacky 80s synth. Evidently, some people are ‘moved’ by that.
For me, the only thing Joy Division moves are my bowels.
You know what they say: don’t get mad, get even. And here, to no particular effect and for no good reason, I clutter up the internet with my own top 10.
1.Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name
Iron Maiden developed a sound that could only be described as operatic, and drew on suitably grand themes as the foundation to launch it. Their skill as musicians builds through the kind of epic structure they spent their career refining, winding out to a crescendo crowned by the majesty of Bruce Dickinson’s voice.
2.Stevie Ray Vaughan, Little Wing
Not the only cover to make this list. Vaughan carries Hendrix’s riff to its greatest realization. Pure, unfettered genius.
3. Rolling Stones, Shine a Light.
A secular hymn; the song they’ll be playing ay my funeral.
4. Guns and Roses, Welcome to the Jungle.
Appetite for Destruction is the greatest debut album of all time. It is the classic example of the sum being far greater than its parts, a theory proven by the solo careers of its members. Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen to a great band is success. Unfairly (and ignorantly) lumped in with the glam-metal garbage of 80s ‘cock rock’, The Gunners expertly deployed what Slash described as ‘classic rock with a neurotic punk edge’. Indeed, the long, lean shadows of the Stooges and the New York Dolls loom in from the background.
5. The Velvet Underground, Sweet Jane
Proof that the simplest riff well-executed can move you more than the greatest orchestra. The Cowboy Junkies cover of this one goes very close to supplanting it; depends if you prefer Lou Reed’s ‘down on the street’ drawl, or Margot Timmins’s voice that curls into your ear like smoke from the opiate of someone else’s dream.
6. Motorhead, The Ace of Spades
Sounds like a riot at the CFMEU offices after lines upon lines of cheap drugs.
7. Slayer, War Ensemble
The opening track from Seasons in the Abyss. Rollins described Black Flag as ‘the ultimate soundtrack to a full-scale riot.’ If you ask me, War Ensemble is closer to that effect. I’d also submit their song Disciple here.
8. Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah
Pierces the listener with a Telecaster guitar at one end and an otherworldly, sublime voice at the other. Both are married to a wonderful song whose original author simply didn’t have the talent to breathe life into his own creation.
9. AC/DC, Dirty Eyes
An early version of the song that grew up to be ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’. Bon Scott is a legitimate candidate for the greatest rock and roll frontman – ever. He had the white, working class version of ‘soul’, something he could reach down into his throat and pull out like a burning torch. Angus and the lads churn and roll along behind him with a sound that manages to be aggressive, ebullient and sexy, all at the same time. The song ignites the belief in its listeners that ‘genius’, the ability to create that kind of music is inside them, too – all they have to do is reach down and pull it out.
10. The Black Crowes, Descending
Chris Robinson is a candidate for the most soulful white singer ever. In this song particularly, you can hear the worn patches in his voice where the soul comes shining through.
11. The Gaslight Anthem, 45.
Because lists are stupid. And because this song has everything it takes; a stunning voice, great lyrics, and the kind of idealism that provides a flashpoint in the soul of a young, faithful listener. And because there will always be thousands of songs like these, as long as people continue to pick up instruments and sing/scream over the top of them.
Poison Idea, Just to Get Away
“Quit my job, told my boss to stand aside
Grabbed a gun, a fifth of booze, jumped in my ride
I got my girl, she’s sixteen and she’s really special
I can’t slow down, I’ve got a date with the devil
Two tons of steel, one hundred miles an hour
No looking back, grooving on the power…”
Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit
The most grossly over-rated band in history. However, when this song hit it felt like the whole world pushed off the mainstream at a right angle and the massive independent music movement found its feet.
Rollins Band, Low Self Opinon
Rock’s greatest exponents of personal catharsis through sonic means. Hank’s tattoos stand out like the roadmap to some harrowing interior territory. The End of Silence is the most challenging and cohesive album to chart it.
Queens of the Stone Age, Song for the Dead
Hard to pick a single cut from Songs for the Deaf, but this one typifies the mood of what I’d call a concept album about listening to the radio while driving through a parallel reality of the American desert; oblique and existential. Two-Lane Blacktop forty years later.
N.B. This list is entirely personal, as all such lists must be. Feel free to post torrential abuse and your own candidates in the comments.