100 Greatest Songs of All Time: 100-51

An epic staff list that's hopefully as timeless as the tracks...

The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, artwork by Steven Fiche
The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, artwork by Steven Fiche

In the fall of 2012, the editors and senior staff writers of Consequence of Sound assembled in various apartments to piece together the 100 greatest songs of all time.

There were debates. There were fights. There was spilt Thai food. Nobody cried, everyone prevailed, and below is the list that came from those long September nights.

They have since remain untouched.


100. Phil Collins – “In The Air Tonight”

Face Value, 1981

Phil Collins wrote a song about his divorce that was so taxing, macabre, and vitriolic that people actually thought he witnessed the death of another human and was seeking either atonement or vengeance with the line, “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.” In truth, Collins just knew that wretched heartbreak would find him sooner or later. Look at his sad face! But even his defeatist mentality and the wringing of his poor British heart stands in the shadow of Collins’ drum work. “In The Air Tonight” sports one of the first and most popular uses of “gated reverb,” a sound that would later define the ’80s snare, Blondie’s CR-78 drum machine that set the lonely mood in the beginning, and one of the best drum fills of all time. There are parts of the world where it is illegal not to air drum that fill. –Jeremy D. Larson


99. Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot”

Daydream Nation, 1988

Thanks in large part to “Teen Age Riot”, a group of No Wave-y, feedback-loving, odd-tuning Glenn Branca acolytes wound up taking a large part in the shaping of indie rock. The introductory track to the legend-making 1988 album Daydream Nation, the tune jammed together rock star riffage and mystical overtone swirls, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore’s guitar prowess pulling the reins of a massive pop hook. Allegedly inspired by an alternate reality in which Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis is appointed president, the song’s rollicking energy is perfectly matched by its inciting lyrics. “You’re never gonna stop all the teenage leather and booze,” Moore smirks, and you can just imagine the waves of kids picking up guitars around the world and starting bands because of Sonic Youth’s empowering eccentricity. -Adam Kivel


98. Kraftwerk – “Autobahn”

Autobahn, 1974

The Autobahn expressway is an achievement of human engineering and a symbol of how technology removes limits. It’s fitting that German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk would pave their own musical thoroughfare in the form of a titular, 22 minute sprawling opener that seats listeners on the passenger side of a drive along the road of electronic ambiance, synthesized vocoding, and automated melody. The avant-garde song is a journey, rather than a destination. And yet, droves of artists and fans alike took the trip, arriving at a thousand new forms of music. From New Wave to rave, to ringtones, mp3s, and all manners of 1’s and 0’s, its novel exploration of technological enhancement make it the song that plugged this brave new world into the computer age, forever changing the digital landscape of popular music. –Dan Pfleegor


97. A Tribe Called Quest – “Scenario”

The Low End Theory, 1992

With the group’s second album, Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest stripped everything down to the essentials, creating a minimalist sound with vocal emphasis on the downbeat. In doing so they produced a genuine fusion of hip-hop attitude with the laid-back atmosphere of cool jazz, hard bop, and rare groove; something not even Miles Davis could accomplish (Doo-Bop?). Initially propelled by word of mouth, it was third single “Scenario” that pushed the album over Gold status. (It has since gone Platinum.) Sampling soul artists in addition to jazz legends Miles Davis and Brother Jack McDuff, “Scenario” is built around a beat developed by Q-Tip, and is a vocal collaboration with Charlie Brown, Dinco D and Busta Rhymes, the three MCs of fellow Native Tongues members Leaders of the New School. During the song’s construction, Q-Tip read Busta Rhymes’ verse and immediately decided to put as the anchor in the relay, reigniting the song’s intensity before its conclusion. However, rather than simply pass the mic to Rhymes at the end of his own verse, Q-Tip wanted Bussa to come in on Tip’s part as a means of setting own verses up, effectively ‘featuring’ Busta Rhymes. Rhymes himself said “[“Scenario”] was the record that pioneered features…That record made me the number one go-to guy for features…for a long time.” –Len Comaratta


96. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “From Her To Eternity”

From Her to Eternity, 1984

It balances the Sturm and Drang psycho-sexual theatrics with a more straight-forward propulsion. It’s one of the first songs written by Cave and all the members of the Bad Seeds — his first band after the goth pioneers The Birthday Party dissolved. The Bad Seeds build a bed of tension with piano stabs and a bass line idling like an 18-wheeler. Cave writhes and shakes with the kind of heroin histrionics that could make Jim Morrison look like Karen Carpenter, all while wrestling his id into submission with lines like, “This desire to possess her is a wound/ And its naggin’ at me like a shrew/ But, ah know, that to possess her/ Is, therefore, not to desire her.” The junkyard in Nick Cave’s head has manifested itself in poems, books, screenplays, film scores, and “From Her To Eternity” is one of the most accurate reflections of his work as an uber-artist who lives without a filter. It’s jagged, desperate, and full of so much noise and love. – Jeremy D. Larson

95. Sleater-Kinney – “Dig Me Out”

Dig Me Out, 1997

While Sleater-Kinney had previously released two LPs, Dig Me Out was the first album to feature force of nature Janet Weiss at the kit. With Weiss’ rolling thunder fills now backing Brownstein’s manic guitar and Corin Tucker’s vibratic howls, the opening title track is the emblem of post-riot grrrl, post-alternative, post-punk, post-everything intensity — of a band that refused to be pigeonholed. Tucker admitted in an interview that they “were a little bit overwhelmed with the success” of the album, but “Dig Me Out” is a perfect pop hook in the midst of a riotous punk package, and it justified their newfound attention. -Adam Kivel


94. Underworld – “Born Slippy .NUXX”

“Born Slippy .NUXX”, 1995

Originally released as a B-side in January 1995, “Born Slippy .NUXX” gained traction in 1996 as the galloping anthem at the conclusion of Trainspotting. The track famously backdropped the wry transformation of Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (Ewan McGregor) from a junkie into a smirking, productive member of society — which is fitting because Karl Hyde penned this song amid his own alcohol addiction, trying to capture the mood of a drunken night. He performed the vocals in one take, telling The Guardian, “when I lost my place, I’d repeat the same line; that’s why it goes, “lager, lager, lager, lager.” The track pushed Underworld into the limelight, and was one of the first of its kind to make the jump from the club to the broader pop culture consciousness. It whetted the palette of the masses for talent like The Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, and The Prodigy, who were able to reach levels of fame unlike many earlier electronica producers. 2012 may be the current high point in EDM, but its status is only possible due to the early ground breaking achievements of Underworld. -Derek Staples


93. Devo – “Uncontrollable Urge”

Q: Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!, 1978

Devo have never been a band to embrace their music with a great deal of fun or playfulness, opting instead to use their music much more deliberately. The high-minded Akron art rockers formed the band as an angry statement against mindless complacency and fall-in-line subordination, and “Uncontrollable Urge”, the first song off their first full-length, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, laid the band’s disdain for modern living bare. A new wave song with punk rock flare, the song didn’t generate the buzz or attention of the band’s later, synth-driven work, but in retrospect “Urge” stands as Devo’s de facto mission statement. When Mark Mothersbaugh laments, “Got an urge, got a surge/ And it’s out of control/ Got an urge I wanna purge/ ’cause I’m losing control,” it’s essentially the Devo philosophy at work, the same one that would drive and inspire the band’s influential output to come. Consider it the launching point where the band’s collegial smarts and punk attitude crashed head on. -Ryan Bray


92. Aphex Twin – “Windowlicker”

“Windowlicker”, 1999


Much of the DNA in the recent boom of electronic music traces back to Richard D. James and this song in particular – which remains his most influential work. James has always been a master at seamlessly shifting between disparate styles of electronic, and “Windowlicker” is the prime example of his prowess. From subtle ambient sections to rigid break-beat segments, it manages to be fun, creepy and beautiful all at the same time. Perhaps the most experimental song to ever chart in a major country (reaching #16 in the UK), “Windowlicker” has an inexplicable ability to draw people in, and will be doing so for years and years to come. -Carson O’Shoney


91. Funkadelic – “One Nation Under a Groove”

One Nation Under a Grove, 1978

“One Nation Under a Groove” reflects George Clinton at the peak of his social and political consciousness. With lyrics superficially speaking to the liberating power of dance and shouts to James Brown’s “Get On the Good Foot”, Clinton connects his own rally cry of positivity and acceptance with the Godfather’s message of unity through music. Beyond such literal interpretation, the song is reveled as one of Clinton’s most spiritually fulfilled songs. Aside from the obvious groove/God substitution, the song is laden with images of a universal consciousness. From the song’s opening lyric (taken from the gospel hymnal “So High”) to the shepherding hand of the groove (“Gonna be freakin’ up and down Hang-Up Alley Way with the groove our only guide”) to simply “getting down on the one which we believe in,” Clinton brought the pulpit to the dancefloor and nobody was the wiser. -Len Comaratta

90. Pixies – “Hey”

Doolittle, 1989

Through rabid swells of white noise, twanging surf rock, and brash lofi overtones, the Pixies grasped more than a simple aesthetic or a particular sound — the Boston-rooted noise aficionados band paved the way for indie rock to reach consistent spins on radio rotations. Along with peers Nirvana and Pavement, the Pixies ultimately catalyzed the boom of lo-fi alternative rock, soaring to mainstream popularity in the early ‘90s. With Black Francis’ yowl and a familiar rumbling bassline, “Hey” seizes you immediately with the strained confession — “been trying to meet you.” Never has a casual greeting been so evocative, philosophical, and soul-jerking than this track, forever cemented as an anthem against displacement, chained to someone so far away, aching for a reconnection. -Paula Mejia


89. Kanye West – “Jesus Walks”

The College Dropout, 2004

“Jesus Walks” is a cultural-religious epiphany masquerading as a pop song. It is sociologically, religiously, and aesthetically rich and undeniably infectious. A drill sergeant, militant snares, and a gospel choir made up of former drug addicts are set directly against soldier hoots and auto-tuned choral harmonies. The lyrics are an anxious call to arms — confused faith personified, and contemplating its own complex stasis. Nothing like it had ever seen mainstream success. With “Jesus Walks”, Kanye West studied his and hip-hop-culture-at-large’s loose faith, simultaneously decrying and emphasizing its importance. West pits his own desperate pleas for deliverance against the oft-misguided faith of his and his contemporaries. He comments on the negative connotations of drug-dealing thugs wearing diamond-encrusted crosses. He fears his sinful past, begs for collective forgiveness, and–gasping for air–raps his way to a plea that he’ll come out standing tall, marching along with all the other sinners, as Jesus guides them all toward salvation. Its ubiquitous popularity across all walks of faith says more than I ever could. -Drew Litowitz


88. Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”

Love Bites, 1978

Singer-songwriter Pete Shelley asks an important question here: “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have?” Except, it’s not his. The line traces back to Frank Loesser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Guys & Dolls, which Shelley took inspiration from before penning the song’s lyrics outside a post office. Broadway allusions aside, the Buzzcocks’ genre-defining anthem works off a simple formula that’s been emulated to death by now. They married the speedy, no-looking-back swagger of punk rock with humbling, copacetic issues that were downright personal — they made pop fast ‘n’ heavy ‘n’ deep. What’s so vital about this track is its erratic love-hate relationship that bottles the incomprehensible struggles and interconnected duplicity involved in any fractured coexistence. A deeply psychological line like “And we won’t be together much longer/ Unless we realize that we are the same,” reads like dialogue, and it’s been speaking volumes for 30 something years. -Michael Roffman


87. PJ Harvey – “Down By the Water”

To Bring You My Love, 1995

Polly Jean Harvey, one of music’s great shape-shifters, combined her fascination with raw electronic instrumentation, American folk (think Leadbelly’s “Salty Dog Blues” refrain), and biblical imagery for the seminal “Down By The Water”. It’s not hard to hear this song in the work of her contemporaries: PJ’s angular whisper-vocals are heard in Sleater-Kinney’s off-kilter howls, and her confessional tone can be heard in Alanis Morissette’s crackling lyrics, and the timbre of her tone had a hand in all of the confessional songwriting that would come in the latter half of the ’90s. The mix of American blues, the supernatural refrain, the filicide (“Little fish, big fish swimming in the water/ Come back here, man, give me my daughter”) on “Down By The Water” represent a vicious and novel rendering of America’s musical past. At 26, Harvey bared her teeth and it was her best look. -Sarah Grant


86. The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

The Band, 1969

On the one hand, the Southern secession stands as a key touchstone in America’s rich evolution and history. On the other, more the Antebellum South is predominantly viewed for its explicit defense of slavery. Leave it to a group of Canadians to bring a sense of desperate humanity to a story that’s more often than not told in the disdainful abstract. Virgil Caine’s story unravels with a “beautiful sadness” as Robbie Robertson once remarked — a starving, helpless soldier recalling the final days of the Civil War. It’s weighty keys and bittersweet harmonies build and crescendo into one of the saddest, most heartwarming takes on one of the most contemptuous pieces of American History. It’s a de facto anthem of southern rock, even though it came from way up north. These were people, fighting for their livelihood, even if they were–directly or indirectly–defending a brutally offensive practice. “You can’t raise a Caine when he’s in defeat,” Levon Helm cries towards the song’s end. Human fragility is pretty hard to see in the history books. Thanks to Robertson and Helm, you can feel it in your bones. -Drew Litowitz


85. My Bloody Valentine – “Only Shallow”

Loveless, 1991

Loveless cemented My Bloody Valentine’s status as the seminal shoegazer band as it shattered the boundaries of what was thought possible in guitar manipulation. Its the opener “Only Shallow” redefined the game almost instantly after that brief drum kick. Thanks to its onslaught of reverb, overdubs, and tremolo, it sounds as if it were recorded at the bottom of the English Channel. Over the next two decades, countless acolytes aped this new guitar sound, but never to an effect as simultaneously jarring and narcotic as the interplay between Kevin Shields’ glide riff and Bilinda Butcher’s sweetly indecipherable coos. -Frank Mojica


84. Sufjan Stevens – “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”

Illinois, 2005

It’s not an easy feat to turn one of the most sadistic serial killers of the 20th century into a sympathetic character. Yet Sufjan Stevens manages to do just that on the emotional centerpiece of 2005’s Illinois. Stevens did his homework too, recounting several minor details of John Wayne Gacy’s troubled life, like “when the swing set hit his head” and his genial attitude among friends and neighbors. Behind the most delicate piano and finger-picked guitar, he makes human the inhuman, until finally directing the lyrics inwards during the song’s finally phrases. “And in my best behavior, I am really just like him” he admits. The continuum of morality from sexually assaulting and murdering almost 30 young boys — with their cars, summer jobs, (oh my God) — to Stevens’ own virtuous Christian beliefs is not as long as you would believe. Even in our most pious and righteous behavior, how much distance can we really put between ourselves and a serial killer?  -Bryant Kitching


83. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”

The Message, 1982

It’s the summer of 1982. You want to prove hip-hop isn’t just for DJ clubs, that it can make a statement? Do as the Bronx’s Grandmaster Flash did: slow down the tempo, stretch out the groove past the seven-minute mark, and — here’s the kicker — call your song “The Message”. That summer, the music world got the, er — message. Thirty years later, this track is so ubiquitously sampled (Ice Cube and Diddy are among the many to have copped that squiggly synth), so endlessly quoted (“Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge!/ I’m trying not to lose my head!”), and so familiar that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary it was. But in 1982, socially conscious hip-hop did not exist. With help from co-writer Ed “Duke Bootee” Fletcher, MC Melle Mel broke down the door with this scathing report from the decaying ghetto. What’s more, before “The Message”, hip-hop wasn’t really about lyrics, or rapping, much at all. By opening up the rhythm track and shifting the focus to Mel’s electrifying verses, the track’s most influential message lies not in the lyrics but in the simple fact that the lyrics carried a message at all. -Zach Schonfeld


82. Depeche Mode – “Enjoy the Silence”

Violator, 1990

Sometimes it’s best when the writer doesn’t get their way. If Martin Gore got his, we would all be deprived of Depeche Mode’s biggest and best song: “Enjoy the Silence”. Gore originally intended it to be a slow-paced ballad, but thankfully producer Alan Wilder heard potential and convinced the band to go all out. The result is a fantastic track like none other- the gothic but hooky synths mixed with the not-quite-sure-if-sweet-or-not lyrics gave Depeche Mode a bona fide hit. It’s easy to spot the lasting influence of this song today, as over 15 artists have recorded their own cover versions for various releases. -Carson O’Shoney


81. Wu-Tang Clan – “Protect Ya Neck”

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1992

Middle ground isn’t often a term used to describe The Wu-Tang Clan, but to many fans or soon-to-be fans of hip-hop in 1993, that’s exactly what they were. Landing somewhere between the gangsta repentance of East Coast godfather Kool G. Rap and the relentless West Coast antagonism of N.W.A., Wu-Tang stood out from their peers by being frightening yet funny, intelligent yet arrogant, streetwise yet goofy.

No song embodies their chaos and contradictions like “Protect Ya Neck”, the only tune on Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to feature eight of the group’s then nine members. The metaphors range from simple (“I’m hot like sauce”) to observant (“my clan increase like black unemployment”) to morbid (“I’ll be sticking pins in your head like a fucking nurse”), opening the scratched soul of RZA’s Lowell Fulson and Sly Stone samples to a wildly diverse audience.

If a suburban teenager couldn’t relate to the urban schizophrenia of the lyrics, he could laugh at Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s jokes. For those who felt a closer relationship to the collective’s words, maybe the humor and comic book levels of exaggeration were a means of coping with the violence and decay in their real lives. Of course, Wu-Tang probably didn’t think of any of this of this when recording “Protect Ya Neck”, nor its role in further legitimizing East Coast rap in the wake of Dre, Snoop, and Eazy E. To them, I’ll bet the song was what it was: eight guys crammed in a tiny room trying to outdo one another. -Dan CaffreyAdvertisement

80. Yo La Tengo – “Autumn Sweater”

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, 1997

Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley’s marriage together is such an intrinsic facet to Yo La Tengo. It’s their symbiotic camaraderie that founded the New Jersey collective, and it’s their unique relationship that’s resulted in 12 critically-acclaimed albums in almost 30 years. This partnership, for lack of a better word, is fully realized on Kaplan’s electronic ode to Hubley, “Autumn Sweater”. Off the band’s seminal 1997 LP, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, the track embodies the album’s courageous yet sordid experimentation with folk, noise, and electronics. Though dissimilar to rougher cuts like, say, “Sugarcube” or “Deeper Into Movies”, “Autumn Sweater” glides swiftly with droning organ, synthetic percussion, and Kaplan’s nervous iterations about dealing with anyone but himself. When he repeatedly pleads that “we could slip away,” he’s basking in the idea of being alone with the only person who doesn’t mind sharing his silence. Really, it doesn’t get more awkwardly (or tragically?) universal than that. -Michael Roffman


79. Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”

Rumors, 1977

Maybe it’s the way the kick drum seems to quite literally find a way into your heart, setting the pace for how your body will work for the next four minutes and 31 seconds. Or the slight rattle of Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar string before the vocals kick in. Perhaps it’s the way his voice sounds knocked next to Stevie Nick’s howl, especially when you remember they were staring into one another’s souls as their relationship broke when this was written in 1976. It could be John McVie’s classic, chest-pumping bassline that creeps in halfway, created first before Buckingham musically adopted it, and Nicks wove lyrics around it. It’s hard to pick the best thing about “The Chain” because it’s the inseparable nature of these elements that makes it Rumour’s classic centerpiece, and the only song from the era credited to Fleetwood Mac’s five members. -Amanda Koellner


78. Run-D.M.C. – “Rock Box”

Run-D.M.C., 1984

It bears repeating: Run-DMC are The Beatles of rap music. It’s apparent in the way “Rock Box” was flung onto an unsuspecting MTV audience in 1984, the first time the channel ever played a rap video — the first of what would become many rap videos the nascent channel would later air. “Rock Box” feels rebellious still today in its swagger, knowing that context. It stormed in purposefully without reluctance or apology, met by outrage and epiphany. “Rock Box” transcends time and space to today. You can still feel the shock of discovery of listeners and MTV viewers 28 years ago. “So listen to this because it can’t be missed/and you can’t leave ’til you’re dismissed,” Reverend Run raps, as if shaking a 2012 listener by the shoulders. “You can do anything that you want to/but you can’t leave until we’re through.” Hip-hop wasn’t going anywhere. -Paul de Revere


77. Sly and the Family Stone – “Hot Fun in the Summertime”

“Hot Fun in the Summertime”, 1969

Written as a nod to the relaxing, carefree days of summer, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In the Summertime” captures the group in a mellow frame of mind, riding an easy groove perfect for those lazy days the song tributes. Counter the energy of the band’s two previous singles, “Stand!” and “I Want To Take You Higher”, “Hot Fun In the Summertime” is a low-mid tempo number built around a one-chord piano line played by Rosie Stone in a manner that recalls doo-wop and early R&B ballads. Layered with tempered horns and an elegant string arrangement, coupled with Stone’s somewhat romanticized lyrics, the track evokes a sense of nostalgia for whoever listens to it. -Len Comaratta


76. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On”

…So Addictive, 2001

You don’t really think of anyone with the nickname “Misdemeanor” as subtle, but look: over half the song doesn’t even have a beat. Every other measure is just a little melody plucked on a traditional Indian tumbi. For a song with so much not going on in it, there is so much elastic propulsion by Timbaland and Missy. And Missy puts it down (yes), lasting 20 rounds (yes), literally spitting confidence wrapped up in hyping Timbaland’s unimpeachable beat (holla!). Both are the spotlight, with Missy’s bracketed taglines still burning in the ears because don’t tell me you don’t know the exact pitch of, “Is that. Your. Chick?!”. Missy and Timbo been hot since 30 years ago, and both are reserved and patient enough to just keep letting the song regather itself bar after bar like a big-booty inchworm sent from the future. If you’re not bouncing at least your shoulders when this track comes on — in the club or in the kitchen — you’re doing it wrong. -Jeremy D. Larson


75. Blondie – “Heart of Glass”

Parallel Lines, 1979

Rock bands glittering up with disco is par for the course in the 21st-century indie rock world. Arguably, that mirror-floored bridge was first forged when Blondie released “Heart of Glass” in 1979, the same year as a massive anti-disco riot at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Rock and disco were clearly delineated along geographic and racial lines, not to mention the unspoken but clearly understood sexual ones too, and Blondie was a stalwart of the downtown punk scene of the mid-‘70s. Yet there they were, starting a song with a Roland CR-78 drum machine, and filming their promo video not amongst the grungy graffiti of CBGB, but within the colored lights of Studio 54. In that video, Debbie Harry embraces the club culture mentality of superficiality: She’s the embodiment of apathetic cool. Seen as a sellout by many loyalists, “Heart of Glass” represented the rise of dance music in pop culture, and the transition from the ‘70s to the ‘80s. And what’s more punk than trolling punk fans by releasing and making millions of dollars on a disco track? -Jake Cohen


74. The Smiths – “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”

The Queen Is Dead, 1985

Johnny Marr’s guitar playing on “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” is a stunner; a white light of jangle that yearns right alongside Morrissey: “How can they see the love in our eyes/ And still they don’t believe us/ And after all this time/ They don’t want to believe us.” The Smiths’ first single from their masterpiece, The Queen is Dead, weaves its web via Moz’s lovelorn heart, frustrations, and the unsung brilliance of the bands’ rhythm section of bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. After Morrissey’s “la-la-las” subside, and Marr carries the song to its conclusion, you’ll have bought into whomever the poor man loved. -Justin Gerber


73. The Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop”

Ramones, 1976

When The Ramones released “Blitzkrieg Bop” in 1976, they made a clean break from what rock music was and forged ahead with what it eventually would be. The song’s short, brainlessly simple three-chord formula not only became the band’s personal calling card and trademark, it also served as the first schematics for punk rock and the seemingly endless number of subgenres that sprung from it. Instantly recognizable, comforting in its simplicity and as fresh and fun today as ever, “Blitzkrieg Bop” is punk’s version of the Big Bang theory. Whatever happened before it was crude and primitive, and everything that’s happened since owes all manners of debt of gratitude to Joey’s fake British accent singing Tommy’s words over Dee Dee’s scuzzy bass and Jonny’s shitty guitar. After “Blitzkrieg Bop”, punk music proliferated around the world like a lightning war. -Ryan Bray


72. James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

“I Got You (I Feel Good)”, 1965

James Brown’s signature yawp still sends chills down the spine decades later, and it takes the lead on his biggest hit in a career chock-full of them: “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. Where did The Godfather of Soul go to get that feeling in his vocal take? As he describes his current condition, you can practically see Brown dancing about the hardwood stages he pounced upon. That kind of pure simplicity would underscore Brown’s latter-day sins, where feeling good meant something entirely less innocent. But here is Brown as a soul captain, pure of heart, seeker of joy who also wrote and produced the track himself, which is basically a sped-up, pepped-up version of a song Brown previously recorded (and was featured in the movie Ski Party!). And let’s not forget Maceo Parker’s sax riff and the James Brown Orchestra that prods him into doing the explaining — James Brown gets you. -Justin Gerber


71. Björk – “Army of Me”

Post, 1995

“Army of Me” is an intense manifesto that Björk wrote to get her lazy brother off the couch. The experimental singer-songwriter’s music is surreal, but this was Björk’s first major global success. It topped US, UK, and Europe charts. The song reinterpreted ’70s heavy metal for the technophile generation, which percolated into “industrial rock.” It begins with an explosion (a la Black Sabbath) that triggers noisy synthesizers, and drums that cop the feel of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”. As much as the song is an instant citation for bands like the Ting Tings and Blonde Redhead, it became the great unifier amongst diverse metal genres, from German metalcore to Australian post-hardcore. Apparently, everyone in the world can relate to the idea of a freeloading relative. “Self-sufficiency, please!” –Sarah Grant

70. Ben E. King – “Stand by Me”

Don’t Play That Song!, 1961

“Stand by Me” made this list because it belongs to all of us. But don’t all songs? No, not like Ben E. King’s timeless plea to his “darlin’.” Couples celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries dance to it at parties; protestors sing it while swaying and holding hands in solidarity; teenagers make out to it just like their parents once “necked” to it; and it’s a set list staple in showers and bathtubs everywhere. A shortlist of artists who have covered it includes Hendrix, a Beatle (you know which one), Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Stephen King (with Warren Zevon standing by him). Like I said, it’s a song for everyone. With “Stand by Me”, King tapped into the most basic of human needs: to not be alone. Strong as we are, or may pretend to be, “if the sky…should tumble and fall/ Or the mountain should crumble to the sea,” not even the strongest among us would want to be alone. And as long as our world remains an overwhelming, confusing, and callous place, each generation will continue to turn to “Stand by Me”. -Matt Melis


69. The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987

“Just Like Heaven” sounds like Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan. It sounds like first kisses and milkshakes with two straws. It’s the tune frontman Robert Smith considers to be The Cure’s best pop song, and the biggest from 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. It was inspired by a day on the sea shore with Smith’s wife, which, with lyrics like “Spinning on the dizzy edge/ I kissed her face and kissed her head/ And dreamed of all the ways I had to make her glow,” makes her one lucky lady. The song was recorded at a vineyard in the south of France, and the descending guitar riff dancing with the ‘80s keys and jumping drums make it sound just as happy as the title suggests. -Amanda Koellner


68. Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”

Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967

Originally a poem celebrating an intimate friendship, then set to music and plucked as a single from his 1967 debut album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne” was the song that bridged Cohen’s move from beat poet to mainstream songwriter. After much speculation about Cohen’s muse, dancer Suzanne Verdal McCallister, a BBC Radio 4 interview with her threw enough light on their relationship and the song’s origins to make further theorizing redundant. The song is as spiritual as it is sensual and not just because it gets biblical. Cohen had met his Suzanne as a young woman who fell in love and married a local sculptor. Later, separated and bringing up her daughter by the St. Lawrence River, she often met up with Cohen for tea and mandarin oranges. Cohen has described “Suzanne” as the best song of his career, likening it to a 1982 Chateau Le Tour. And like many a vintage bottle of wine, it remains there waiting to be drunk. –Tony Hardy


67. Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode”

Chuck Berry Is on Top, 1958

If the aliens ever discover the Voyager’s Golden Record, they will know of rock ‘n’ roll. Chuck Berry’s recording is inside that spacecraft, which I guess could be considered a high honor. Legacy aside, Berry’s masterful synthesis of twang and blues dates back to over 50 years — the definitive golden oldie, with classic guitar courtesy of Berry himself to Lafayette Leake’s blister-inducing piano playing. Hell, even Jerry Lee Louis’ mother told him that he he was good, but he wasn’t Chuck Berry. The rapid fire delivery “Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans/ Way back up in the woods among the of evergreens” pulls in the most steadfast wallflower to dance in a crowd of strangers. In the distant future, when we compress the last 60 years into World War II and The Internet, Chuck Berry will still be more than a footnote.  –Justin Gerber


66. Portishead – “Roads”

Dummy, 1994

Each song on Portishead’s debut Dummy penetrates, demonstrating that the brilliance behind their music is all about timing, and “Roads” captures the band in all its stylized perfection. Beth Gibbons practically begs the lyrics throughout the song, pleading to a phantom: “How can it feel this wrong?” Her infamous mezzo voice enters after a long instrumental intro of synths that tremolo in and out of rhythm, setting a sinister mood far more somber than other tracks on the album. Gibbons pushes and pulls against Geoff Barrow’s sparse drums and Adrian Utely’s orchestration, purring just enough to fool you into thinking she’s winning the war she’s fighting. It’s a song that can never escape new interpretations, as performed live it seems to be a track about unity, while its recorded version is more like a plea, or even a requiem. It’s these porous reactions to “Roads” that make it one of the band’s most accomplished tracks. -Summer Dunsmore


65. The Velvet Underground & Nico – “I’m Waiting for the Man”

The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967

It’s something of a wonder that the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” was not the first track on their immortal 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico. Though the rosy anomaly “Sunday Morning” was penciled in at the last minute, just ahead of “Waiting” in the album’s leadoff spot, everything about track two makes for the ultimate introduction to rock history’s prototypical “forward-thinking band” — from Lou Reed’s half-spoken narrative about venturing to the wrong side of town for heroin to that metronomic, unmistakably-Velvet piano part that relentlessly pounds like an addict’s heartbeat accelerated by anticipation of the imminent high. “I’m Waiting for the Man” opens abruptly, as if to begin in the middle, before your ears are ready for it. Indeed, very few ears were ready for the Velvet Underground in 1967, but Reed’s always been a man with “no time to waste.” A whole new level of art had arrived, even if no one else knew it yet. -Steven Arroyo


64. OutKast – “B.O.B”

Stankonia, 2000

Andre 3000: [whispered] One. Two. One, two, three… YEAH!

ATL’s finest leaps like a million elephants and silverback orangutans into the most delirious jungle-funk anthem you’ll find on Stankonia — an album divinely ordained to deliver delirious jungle-funk anthems. With its frenzied drum-and-bass stutters, breathless vocals, wah-wah wails, and wild-eyed gospel climax, “B.O.B.” slices and dices André and Big Boi’s diverging interests — Hendrix and electronica, rock and gospel, sexuality and politics — into the most quintessentially Outkastian electro-funk stew this side of “Spottieottiedopaliscious”. Today, the song manages the impossible: it feels like a postcard from the anxious early 2000s, eerily prescient about “bombs over Baghdad”, shouting out laptops, Taco Bell, and Big Boi’s then-unborn son Bamboo, but it sounds like the future. Their only mistake was putting half the album after it. Nothing follows “B.O.B”. -Zach Schonfeld


63. U2 – “Where The Streets Have No Name”

Joshua Tree, 1987

Everyone likes the timeless rags-to-riches story of an underdog. The grander the tale– the higher the hero’s ascension– the better. That’s one reason why U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” has inspired listeners the way it has for a quarter-century. And knowing U2’s music, only a song as epic as “Streets” could be spawned from such a humble place of poverty. Lead singer Bono lived it in his native Ireland and through his missionary work in Ethiopia, where the lyrics to “Streets” were born, scrawled down on a barf bag. The song’s opening echoes are a clarion call from The Most Political Band in the World That’s Here to Save It. Fortunately, Bono and the band’s ONE campaign have been making good on that implied, messianic promise of the song’s beautiful, belted refrain: “And when I go there/ I go there with you/ It’s all I can do.” -Paul de Revere


62. Johnny Cash – “Hurt”

American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002

Trent Reznor has openly admitted that “Hurt” belongs to Cash now. An old, withering ghost of Cash’s exuberant former self sits in a decrepit “House of Cash”. It was hardly a fabrication. If you believe the romance, many will tell you that his cover of “Hurt” is his epitaph for his wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash, who died three months after the video’s filming; and many will also tell you that Cash died of a broken heart, just seven months later. Cash took a song about depressive, drug-induced self-abuse, and created a song that will forever emblemize the tortured feelings that come with reaching the end of a turbulent and extraordinary life — waiting for it to cut off. Thanks to Cash, we’re all primed on how it feels to die of a broken heart. -Drew Litowitz


61. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”

Elephant, 2003

The de facto Seven Nation Army Jack White refers to are the seven simple bass notes that, of course, aren’t even bass notes. Each note its own sovereign land with a booming economy and an intimidating military. That riff – written during a soundcheck in Australia – was achieved by sending a semi-acoustic guitar through a pedal with the octave dropped. The Seven Nation Army is revered in sports stadiums across the globe, a sign of just how much power it wields over its listeners.

Speaking of how Italy’s soccer team utilized the song for their 2006 World Cup run, White said, “Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music. I love that most people who are chanting it have no idea where it came from. That’s folk music.” This track broke Jack and the Stripes wide; and to think, it was almost reserved for a James Bond film (whoops), and record companies didn’t see it as a single. It’s a song about gossiping, and people surely won’t stop talking about or singing it any time soon. –Ben KayeAdvertisement

60. Nick Drake – “Pink Moon”

Pink Moon, 1972

Waxing and waning with metaphors for death, the bleak “Pink Moon” is but one display of Nick Drake’s influence, tragically short yet sharp. His near-cult following continues to expand since his mysterious death in 1974, with his delicate, desolate statements encapsulating the complex soul of a loner. The mystique surrounding Drake’s life and his final album Pink Moon, recorded in just two nights, is made all the more intriguing with his almost paranoid aversion to live performances. “Pink Moon” displays Drake as a master of concision with rich — albeit stripped-down acoustic guitar riffs — and a distinctively chilling, brooding voice. One of the most quietly intense self-portraits of its time, “Pink Moon” is a statement harnessing the dualities that exist between the internalization of anguish and an elegant surface calm. -Paula Mejia


59. Television – “Marquee Moon”

Marquee Moon, 1977

Nearly 30 years after blowing the roof off CBGBs, the middle section of Television’s “Marquee Moon” remains the standard bearer of the long-form, composed guitar solo within most niches of modern rock. Which is funny, because it wasn’t totally composed, nor was it technically a solo. Yet so much of the best guitar rock nowadays bears the fingerprint of  “Marquee Moon” that it can be difficult to understand how all that complementary back-and-forth noodling between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd could have been completed in one take. Regardless, this ten-minute-plus title track and anchor of Television’s masterpiece, a New Wave essential, is a glorious epic that builds and harnesses energy before exploding like lightning on a pitch-black sky, and one that will stand up to the test of time for as long as the electric guitar does. –Steven Arroyo 


58. Black Flag – “Rise Above”

Damaged, 1981

Without discrediting the song entirely, Black Flag’s “Rise Above” has become such a monumentally important track out of not just how good it is, but by the blind hand of chance. Shattering the band’s 1981 debut album Damaged, it’s the opening salvo to one of the most iconic and influential punk rock albums of all time, the initial roar that has forever changed young boys and girls into nihilistic punks for the last three-plus decades. It perfectly summarizes everything that Black Flag represents as a band and pioneers of cultural movement, describing their worldview, emotional depth and poignancy, and their penchant for anarchist sing-alongs with plenty of fuzz and punch in just under two and a half minutes. The album was almost never released/significantly delayed because of MCA’s objections over its anti-parent bent — but if your label can hate it and still manage to release it, then you must be doing something totally right. –Chris Coplan


57. Thin Lizzy – “The Boys Are Back In Town”

Jailbreak, 1976

Jailbreak is still one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll albums in history. Front to back it’s a heart guzzling, soul sizzling effort that chucks the soul into the air. Whereas the patrolling chords of its title track opens the album, it’s this iconic single that splits the album in half whilst ushering in side two. Forget the lyrics — on paper, it reads like a narrator’s script to an Applebee’s commercial — it’s all about vocals and guitars here. That immaculate conception between the late Phil Lynott’s radio-born vocals and those candied dual leads by guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson is why we’re still talking about Thin Lizzy. What’s more, it’s also one of the few tracks, at least that I can recall, where the actual song itself is a part of the story. When Lynott sings about that “jukebox in the corner blasting [his] favorite song,” it’s hard to imagine anything else but this. With “Boys…”, the Irish outfit took the spirit out of every pub in their country and packed it into a four minutes and 29 seconds that’s somehow stretched to 36 years and counting. -Michael Roffman


56. Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”

Talking Book, 1972

Blending elements of pop and funk with his signature voice, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is representative of Wonder’s initial attempts at appealing to the predominantly white rock audience after gaining a significant amount of independence from his label to pursue his own musical vision on his album Talking Book. Originally intending to give the song to Jeff Beck, who not only played on Talking Book but also helped Wonder develop the song’s opening breakbeat, Wonder recorded “Superstition” at the persistence of label head Barry Gordy. Written while at the drum kit, Wonder not only plays the drums on the opening breakbeat, but the Moog bass synthesizer and the clavinet, as well. After a couple years of hinting at a change, with the release of Talking Book and its #1 single “Superstition”, Stevie Wonder completed his shift away from the “Motown Sound” and towards a more personal, introspective style that would characterize his work for the remainder of the decade. -Len Comaratta


55. Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are a-Changin'”

The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964

Bob Dylan didn’t invent the protest song, but he did thrust the genre of socially charged music into the public consciousness like never before with songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Masters of War”, and “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. With American troop levels in Vietnam rising and the Civil Rights Movement aligning itself more and more with folk music, the ‘60s was ripe for a Midwestern transplant with a simple strum, nasal delivery, and a message that something big and unavoidable was about to happen. The powerful convictions expressed in Dylan’s protest songs earned him the burdensome moniker of “voice of a generation” and influenced artists from Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye to Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. Not bad for a scrawny kid from Hibbing, Minnesota. -Matt Melis


54. Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”

The Wall, 1979

Pink Floyd will forever be known as an “Albums Band”, and that’s a fair assessment. Floyd songs often work best in this context; flowing from the first track all the way to the close without skipping a song, or worse, putting on “Random”. However, 1979’s The Wall has an exception to that rule. Say “Disc 2, Track 6” to any Floyd fan and they’ll nod their head in understanding. “Comfortably Numb” is the band at their best, even if they were falling apart while recording it. It’s a song that seamlessly transitions back-and-forth between its menacing Roger Waters-led verses and its gorgeous David Gilmour-wrapped choruses, underscored throughout by the late Michael Kamen’s orchestrations. It manages to feature not one, but two of the greatest guitar solos of all time in its six minute, 22 second run time. You may get tired of hearing “Comfortably Numb” on the radio, but never those solos. -Justin Gerber


53. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

Funeral, 2005

Trying to write an anthem? Give up. On Arcade Fire’s debut record Funeral, the band created one of the greatest calls-to-arms without even using words. The power of that wordless, 22 second, 19-note “Ooooh!” has been borrowed by Spike Jonze and David Bowie, by every little God causing rain storms and turning every good thing to rust, by every repeat visitor to There’s a pounding, soaring fire in its rhythm, a rueful insistence in its sawtoothed guitar, a communal joy in its heartache. “You better look out below!” Win Butler shouts during the frantic coda. No other song has ever sold that sentiment so well while also triumphing over it. –Chris Bosman


52. Jay-Z – “99 Problems”

The Black Album, 2003

Jay-Z’s 2003 Black Album was purported to be his last, and of the LP’s three major singles, “99 Problems” feels like the most powerful and telling note to end a career on. With its stripped down beat, courtesy of the legendary Rick Rubin (at the time, his first hip-hop production in years), the song is Jay-Z at his finest: witty and focused, systematically tearing into major radio, music critics, and crooked police alike with unmatched humor and vitriol (Jack White himself once called the song “the story of America … in a nutshell”). Despite its brooding, thug-ish nature, the track’s found a home in the lighter side of pop culture, becoming a meme, getting dissected by a law professor, and even being performed (though slightly edited) at the Obama Staff Ball, all without becoming a massive parody of itself. Tack this one far, far away from HOV’s list of problems. –Chris Coplan


51. The Who – “Baba O’Riley”

Who’s Next, 1971

The lead track off 1971’s Who’s Next is generally accepted to be the first rock song ever to prominently feature a synthesizer. Thinking about it now, over 40 years after the song was released, it’s hard to imagine a musical landscape without any electronic blips and beeps. Everything else aside, that reason alone justifies its placement on this list. What’s even more remarkable is how well Pete Townshend utilizes his new instrument. Those three famous descending guitar chords don’t come in until almost the one-minute mark, but it doesn’t sound like experimentation, rather a seamless merging of old and new. It’s the sound of a band at their unequivocal peak, shouting from a mountaintop. By the violin solo that brings the song crashing to a close, you can practically hear progressive rock being born. -Bryant Kitching


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