Hey all! It's your Saturday Guy here, reminding you to get your Top 10 Greatest Songs of All Time votes in.
My list may come as a shock to those who think of me as a straight-ahead indie and folk rocker. I am, but that doesn't mean I don't like big ballads or musical proficiency. And part of what makes indie vital and necessary is the long shadows cast by some of these artists. Needless to say, this music (and the bushels of songs I was forced to leave out) just thrills me.
Honorable Mentions: It causes me physical pain not to have Jane's Addiction’s "Been Caught Stealing" and anything—anything—by Smashing Pumpkins on the following list (especially since Stephen Perkins and Jimmy Chamberlin are among the best drummers of all time, behind Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Rush’ s Neil Peart).
10. "King of Carrot Flowers" – Neutral Milk Hotel
The sweetness and rawness of indie rock in one lovely three-movement piece that starts soft, becomes a prayer, and then cascades into rock. Let this song stand in for indie rock, especially all the Death Cab for Cutie that should be on this list.
9. "One Night in Bangkok" – Murray Head
Great ’80s music and even a proto-rap. I stop whatever I'm doing when this song comes on. If I see the Chess soundtrack on a friend's shelf, I commandeer their stereo. I'll also let this song stand in for Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Who's Tommy. I love rock opera with a shameful, burning passion.
8. Pictures at an Exhibition – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Can an album be a song, since all the individual songs are really movements? ELP does Mussorgsky with superhuman proficiency. Let this song also stand in for "Karn Evil 9," Iron Butterfly’s "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," and anything by Mozart, Beethoven, or Shostakovich.
7. "Magic Man" – Heart
The female Led Zep.
6. "99 Luftballons" – Nena
In German. I cannot stress this enough. If I hear it in English I actually get upset, except as part of the amazing Jay-Z/Nena mashup "99 Luft Problems." Let this song stand in for all of '80s pop.
5. "Carrie-Anne" – The Hollies
Let this track stand in for all of '60s pop. A coy, charming tune. (If I had room on this list for '60s psychedelica, Donovan’s "Epistle to Dippy" would be somewhere near here, too.)
4. “What I Got” – Sublime
I was a senior when this song almost became the next "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It helped launch a ska/punk craze the took the industry by surprise for the next few years (note how without Sublime 311 and No Doubt might have been one-hit wonders with "Don’t Stay Home" and "Just a Girl"; instead they were putting out singles like "Down," "All Mixed Up," and "Spiderwebs" a year later). If the greatness of a band could be measured by the number of its imitators, Sublime would top The Beatles.
3. "Over the Hills and Far Away" – Led Zeppelin
Of course I almost typed "Stairway to Heaven." It’s a toss-up. Start soft and folky, then explode: the formula for outstanding rock.
2. "F--- and Run" – Liz Phair
A splash of cold water in the face of male rock. Phair delivers the "shocking" (please note the ironic quotes) revelation that women have an interiority, too.
1. "Molly’s Lips" – Nirvana
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" may be one of the most important songs of all time for changing the musical landscape. But "Molly’s Lips" is the greatest. Nirvana takes an already spare Vaselines song and pares it down even further. The result is rock haiku where an entire story takes place in a mere two lines and a refrain:
She said, she'd take me anywhere, she'd take me anywhere, as long as she stays with me / She said, she'd take me anywhere, she'd take me anywhere, as long as I stayed clean / Kiss kiss Molly's lips (x4)
This song is delightfully plastic: it can clock in at under a minute, or repeat ad infinitum, getting more raw and desperate each time. Pure poetry.
Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to vote…