Every year Echoes affiliate WXPN, 88.5FM has listeners vote on their list of the Best885 whatever, albums, road songs, artists, etc. And every year they ask hosts to submit their top ten choices. This year, they’ve made the impossible task of listing the 885 Greatest Rock Songs. I mean, come on! This list could go on forever and the ten I finally selected for the list could change, and did, the minute after I submitted it. And what does “Greatest” mean? Am I making an objective evaluation of the songs I think have the most significance, impact, influence? Or am I simply picking the ten that rocked my socks?
With these best of lists, the tendency is always to go with the music that shaped you in your youth. The latest Alt-rock tune has a lot of trouble competing with a song that’s been in your DNA for 40 years or so. So I’ve tried, not very successfully to step back from that. The criterion I’ve wound up with is music that makes you stomp your feet, shake your head and flail your arms like the most embarrassing looking air-guitarist. It’s the sound screaming out the window of my mother’s 1970 yellow Comet riding up Rte 93 to Hampton Beach in the summer. It’s the songs that I still turn up whenever they come on the radio, even though some of them never come on the radio, but you know what I mean. In other words, when I think “Greatest Rock Songs” I think songs that rock. There’s no ballads, no heart-felt anthems. I’ve excluded much of the music that’s at the core of my existence, and I’ve left out artists like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Levitation, IAMX, The Horrors, Arcade Fire and The Black Angels, all of whom have gotten me through more cardio workouts than I care to mention, for no real good reason at all. And as I write this, I’m definitely having second thoughts about leaving out the Black Angels.
More than that, I think any of 10 tunes by The Rolling Stones could be on this list: “Satisfaction,” “Get off of My Cloud,” “Mothers Little Helper,” Street Fighting Man,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Citadel,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “The Last Time,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Done. But as lists go, that would be boring . Nevertheless, the Stones are at the top with a predictable selection, but one that I think is unassailable.
John Diliberto’s Greatest Rock Songs
(At Least for Today)
1 The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
There is no doubt about this one. One of the greatest riffs in rock., ever. It’s the perfect encapsulation of angst, aggravation and frustration.
3 The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
Someone recently put forth this question, The Kinks or The Clash. My answer was, the Kinks created the greatest rock riff ever in this song and there is no Clash without the Kinks.
4 Steppenwolf – “Born to Be Wild”
I do like those tunes with heavy riffs and here’s another one. But it’s also a song that crystallized the wild abandon of the late 60s and coined the term, “heavy metal.” We are all “easy riders” with our minds blown when you hear this song.
5 Jimi Hendrix – “Purple Haze”
Another seminal riff and a song that screamed freedom of the mind. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Hendrix’s guitar attack alone changed rock forever. And it changed me as well.
6 Electric Prunes – “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”
Another great psychedelic pop excursion from 1966 and an early introduction for me to electronic music with something called a Bigsby wiggle stick combined with massive fuzz tone and feedback going backwards to create that vibrating drone. There’s a reason why it’s the first track on Nuggets. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized they were emulating the sound of dragging on a joint on the fadeout.
7 Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
The apotheosis of grunge. This is the “I’m Eighteen” of the grunge generation, a timeless song of angst that will resonate for generations.
8 Ultravox – “Fear in the Western World”
I could’ve picked the Sex Pistol’s “Holiday in the Sun” but I went with this paranoid high-octane rocket-to-oblivion screed from Ultravox which should rightfully be paired with “Distant Smile,” the song it segues into on the album, Ha-Ha-Ha.
9 Guns ‘n’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
In many ways, Guns ‘n’ Roses isn’t my thing, but like Ultravox and Nirvana, this always seemed to be the perfect dystopian hellride, like Clockwork Orange on a Harley.
10 The Dandy Warhols – “Not If you Were the Last Junkie On Earth”
So many Dandy’s tunes could be on this list, but I picked this crank-up-the- volume ode to Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
These are my picks and I’m not stickin’ to ’em. Ask me tomorrow and except for the Top 4, everything could change. You make your own choices for XPN’s 885 Greatest Rock Songs.
You can see videos for all my selections at the end
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))