Thursday, July 3, 2008

Top Tan List: Songs

Like on my list of favorite albums, each song's importance and impact helped to attain its mention here. Of course, unfair, opinionated bias personal preference helped, too. I've included some great moments of each that make it worth your listen. Enjoy!
10) "A Change Is Gonna Come"
I'm no left-wing radical, but I do believe that, every now and then, change is necessary. So did Sam Cooke, who predicted the revolution of the 60s in this soulful symphony. Great moments: Sam's grand entrance 15 seconds in. What a voice. The second verse is a tragically ironic lyric, considering Cooke's death before the song was released: "It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die...'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky". It's also the line that sums up the song, a plea for an end to injustice.
9) "My Generation"
Dig the Who before they got psychedelic, progressive, or pretentious. They remain the best band to listen to when you're pissed off. Great moments: The balls-out rocking intro, especially in this fast live version. I always loved when Roger Daltrey stutters, "Why don't you all f...", and you expect him to say something a little spicier than "fade away". Ah yes, the song that paved the say for punk. Speaking of which...
8) "Anarchy in the U.K."
This song remains the quintessential punk song. Sometimes, all you need to create a great song are three chords and an intense hatred of authority. Great moments: I love that intro, with its blasting guitars and Keith Moon drums. It gets even better when Johnny Rotten starts screaming the verse.
7) "A Day in the Life"
The culmination of the explosion of creativity that was Sgt. Pepper. What started as two incomplete songs became a symphony of the psychedelic. Great moments: 40 seconds in, Ringo does a brief fill that marks the beginning of the build-up. At 2:09, the tempo perks up as Paul takes over for the bridge. Believe me: not many songs can pull off such a change.
6) "When the Levee Breaks"
Sometimes, a song just hits you. Led Zeppelin could do many things well: blues, folk, quasi-Eastern music among them. But when you think of this great band, you think of their balls-out hard rockers. For many, the definitive work of this band is "Stairway to Heaven", or maybe "Rock and Roll", maybe even "Black Dog". Perhaps I've just heard those tracks a few too many times...but I'll never forget the first time I heard this song. Hard rock's just gotten harder ever since, what with metal, punk, and genres that end with "core", but Bonham's opening drums still pack a punch. Pay your dues, modern rockers. Great moments: Besides the drums, Plant's grand entrance at 1:25, wailing over the band's twisted take on the blues. Speaking of the blues...
5) "I've Got My Mojo Working"
This is far from the first blues song, but it's the one that defines the genre. Simple structure, plenty of room for improvisation, lively lyrics. Great moments: Speaking of this particular performance by the great Muddy Waters...his vocals, of course, which take over the song 36 seconds into this video. At 1:22, Muddy infuses the tune with another trademark of his...the call and response.
4) "Tomorrow Never Knows"
When you think of the Beatles, whether you picture the early mop-top days, the psychedelic phase, or the late classic rock period, do you think of this song? Of course not. That's the beauty of it - it sticks out from the rest of their catalog, no mater what years you look at. A truly unique piece and fitting finale to Revolver that paved the way for another, more experimental classic. Great moments: Some more spectacular vocals come in at at 0:14, this time from the great John Lennon. Things get a little strange at 0:34, when you hear that bird-like sound effect that is actually, believe it or not, Paul's laughing played backwards and sped up.
3) "God Only Knows"
Behold the highlight of Pet Sounds, and that's saying something. It has everything that made that album great...a creative melody, passionate lyrics, great singing and instrumental work, and masterful production tying it all together. Great moments: This is a love song, so when Carl Wilson begins to sing "I may not always love you" 18 seconds in...well, there's something you don't hear everyday! Even Brian himself was skeptical about this line, penned by Tony Asher, but he gave in after hearing the rest. Just a few seconds later, at 0:22, the bass guitar starts to hit some unusually high notes. Well, unusual in most music, but Brian's not afraid to break the rules!
2) Pathétique - "Adagio"
This is a song with a deceivingly simple structure - it's much harder to play than it seems. When I perform it, I try to turn every bar into the telling of a story, and to communicate the emotions involved. That's exactly how Beethoven intended it. He's another guy who, unlike his contemporaries, wasn't afraid to break the rules, and changed the face of music. Great moments: 12 seconds into this performance, "Phrequency" plays the movement's first instance of power with a climb up the keyboard accompanied by a subtle increase in volume. He more noticeably, but effectively, slows down at 2:16 before repeating the famous theme.

Yet again, the Beatles didn't make the top spot. This time, I'm giving it to another of the great British quartets...and it's not the one that often tops lists like this one.

1) "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Like how "God Only Knows" is the quintessential Pet Sounds track, "I've Got My Mojo Working" the definitive blues song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" has everything great about rock music and then some. It's a work of beauty that stands out wherever you put a true Bohemian. Is this song a little cheesy? Of course. A bit pretentious? Yeah. But, when you think about it, isn't that what great rock and roll is supposed to be? Great moments: Right at the start, Freddie Mercury dubs himself enough times to create a one-man choir. The drums kick in at 1:55, and it's time to get out the lighter. Wave it all throughout Brian May's solo starting at 2:36, but abruptly end at 3:03, when the opera kicks in. The old genre meets the new at 3:13, when the band punctuates "Thunderbolts of lightning, very very frightening..." This mad genius continues to 4:08, when the guitar kicks in with a riff that has the mysterious ability to make your head rock back and forth rapidly.


  1. Change is always necessary, and I'm not a left-wing radical! Btw, "A Chane is Going to Come" is amazing; I just got into it last week.

  2. I think every etudianter should just take their music player (not EVERYONE has to have an iPod), set it on random for some number of songs, and then put it on one big music post called "What I listen to". Extra points if embarrassing songs come up.

  3. I'm gonna get busted as a casual Wham! fan...

  4. there´s another list I know with the videos of the 10 best songs ever, for my surprise it´s totally different form that site! Check out and tell me what you think


Your comments are valued greatly. Please adhere to the decorum on the "First time here?" page. Comments that are in violation of any of the rules will be deleted without notice.

3/11 Update - No Moderation

*Non-anonymous commenting is preferred to avoid mix-ups. Anonymous comments are, at the behest of management, more likely to be deleted than non-anonymous comments.