srijeda, 28. studenoga 2012.

Lucid Culture - 666 najboljih pjesama

Monumentalna lista e-časopisa Lucid Culture. 666 najboljih pjesama svih vremena.

666. Twin Turbine – Susquehanna
Darkly intense, backbeat-driven anthem that recasts eastern Pennsylvania as Twin Peaks territory. Frontman Dave Popeck’s eerie, percussive chords as the verse builds to the chorus are a high point in New York rock history. From the 2006 cd Jolly Green Giant.
665. The Shadows – Man of Mystery
The Shadows got their start backing British pop star Cliff Richard in the 50s before branching out as an instrumental unit, playing twangy, reverb-laden surf and theme music in the same vein as the Ventures. This is arguably their best, a deliciously ominous series of major and minor chords working their way down the scale. Easily found on the file-trading sites; if you’re looking for an album version, it’s on 20 Golden Greats and The Shadows Are Go.
664. Fay Ray – Heatwave
Not a cover of the Martha Reeves R&B hit. This is an original, a fast, growling, minor-key new wave/powerpop song from 1980 by an obscure British band that surprisingly never went anywhere. This was when nuclear weapons were kept under lock and key by central governments rather than being sold openly on the black market. And people were still scared to death. Can you believe? “I didn’t kill, I didn’t fight, I’ll never get home tonight,” frontwoman Sheila Macartney wails. You’re going to have to look hard for this one, perhaps because it was never issued on cd: the only available file seems to be on youtube.
663. The Dog Show – All About Wrong
Like a whole bunch of late 90s/early zeros New York bands, the Dog Show was a spinoff of the late, lamented Douce Gimlet: frontman Jerome O’Brien was Douce Gimlet’s bass player. This is a beautiful, bitter, slowly crescendoing kiss-off ballad, pretty subtle until it hits the point where O’Brien stars railing that if he ever thinks of getting back in touch with the woman in question , he’ll rip the phone off the wall. One of his most potent lyrics. The sonically best version is on the first Dog Show cd, simply titled Demo. While the song isn’t available on the file-sharing sites as far as we can tell, there are plenty of bootleg versions floating around: the best is live at the C-Note in New York in 2001, featuring Kurt Leege (future founder of the brilliant System Noise) doing a rare and absolutely gorgeous cameo on piano.
662. The Bee Gees – New York Mining Disaster 1941
Who says people in their teens can’t write classic songs?
In the event of something happening to me
There is something I would like you all to see
It’s just a photograph of someone that I knew
Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it’s like on the outside?
Don’t start talking too loud, you’ll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones
One of the most haunting pop songs ever written, even if the mining disaster in question was actually in Wales, 1940 (non-American bands of the 60s would Americanize their songs whenever possible just to score a hit). Gently macabre, bell-like minor-key guitar with just a touch of natural distortion from whatever cheap amp 17-year-old Barry Gibb was using in Australia in 1966. This is as far from Saturday Night Fever as Sympathy for the Devil is from the hedge fund that the Stones promoted during their most recent tour. Available at all the file-sharing sites; a nice stereo version is on the Bee Gees Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 album, easily found in the cheapo bins at your local used vinyl purveyor.
661. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Not the gaseously self-indulgent, sidelong suite complete with an interminable, spoken introduction of the various instruments. This is the one that horror fans know by heart, the edited, three-minute instrumental single that was the theme to The Exorcist. One of the catchiest macabre melodies ever . Believe it or not, this was actually a big top 40 hit in 1973. Available at pretty much all the file-sharing sites: you’ll know which is the single and which is the full-length version by the size of the file (guessing around 3 or 4mb). Because the single was so popular, it’s not impossible to find one in fairly decent shape at used vinyl stores that carry 45s.
660. Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
Dismiss this song as part of the soundtrack of every 13-year-old stoner’s life and miss out on the fun. Sure, Geezer Butler’s lyrics aren’t exactly poetic, but they make a point – this is an antiwar song! The various parts of the suite are loaded with those eerie chromatics that early Sabbath loved so much. Sure, there’s that brain-dead guy from that reality show singing, but this song came out thirty years before he became synonymous with dubious tv instead of dubious music. And as just about anyone who’s ever been in a band knows, this song is a blast to play (and just about everyone can – that’s what makes it so much fun.
659. Melomane – Far Out
For a band who traffic in lushly orchestrated, majestically epic art-rock, this New York crew sure are funny. This is a nasty slap upside the head of a trendoid about to emerge from his luxury condo for a night on the town: “You have the most exquisite bedhead to go with your sleepy mind,” frontman Pierre de Gaillande taunts. From the Solresol cd, 2006.
658. The Dog Show – Masterplan
An obscure treasure from circa 2002, New York City, Lower East Side. Cynical, politically charged, artsy mod punk that builds from one of the alltime great guitar hooks. Toward the end, it breaks down into a morass of guitar noise, but then Andrew Plonsky’s soaring bassline emerges from the maelstrom and brings it back to earth. Unreleased and for that reason unavailable at the usual sources, although there are bootleg versions kicking around: get friendly with a clubrat from the era and you might own it someday.
657. John Prine – Mexican Home
“Last night it got so hot outside, you could hardly breathe,” Prine drawls in this death-obsessed, viscerally intense country-rock dirge driven by haunting organ and a sweet horn chart that rises as the chorus kicks in. Obviously, he never intended it to have the universality it’s taken on in the age of global warming. Available at most of the file-trading sites; if you prefer an album version, check your local used vinyl store (beware the horribly remastered cd reissue) for the 1973 album Sweet Revenge.
656. The Blend – The Prize
An uncharacteristically gripping southern rock epic from 1979 by the only New Hampshire band not named Aerosmith ever signed to a major label. Ominous psychedelic intro, ostentatiously bluesy guitar throughout and a long, sizzling twin guitar solo out that beats anything Molly Hatchet ever dreamed of. As it turns out, when the hunter finally tracks down the bear, he doesn’t shoot! “What a lovely creature! How could you kill him, my friend?” The only available files appear to be on youtube, including a good live take from the band’s final show (possibly the last song they ever played together). Originally on the Blend’s second and final MCA album Anytime Delight: check the dollar bins at your used vinyl place. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the lp also contains also the brief, catchy, sarcastic anti-nuclear power anthem For Crying Out Loud.
655. Shattered Faith – Reagan Country
Written in the aftermath of John Hinckley’s failed 1981 assassination of Ronald Reagan, this simple, homicidal punk rock anthem spoke for a generation of disenfranchised kids watching 200 years of democracy being destroyed by Ed Meese and the rest of the California mob who ran the country for eight years. VOTE REAGAN, IN 1984!!! Available at all the file-trading sites.
654. The Kinks – Killing Time
Beautifully pensive, sardonic, somewhat obscure janglerock ballad from their mostly forgotten 1986 album Think Visual, Ray Davies at his incisive, populist best. The link above is a torrent to the whole album; check the dollar bins at your local used vinyl purveyor.
653. Bob Seger – The Fire Down Below
Not the single, a clichéd piano/guitar blues that so-called “classic rock radio” still plays from time to time. This is the ferocious, searing live version from Seger’s 1981 album Nine Tonight. The production is stupendously good – it’s hard to tell, at least on the vinyl album, where the guitar and where the sax are. Blended together, they make a single evil, screaming voice. Play this LOUD for maximum effect. Available at all the file-sharing sites (the live version is about 1mb longer than the studio version), or check the cheapo bins at your local used vinyl purveyor.
652. Marty Willson-Piper – Forget the Radio
One of the two lead guitarists in legendary Australian art-rockers the Church, Marty Willson-Piper is perhaps the greatest twelve-string player of our time. He’s also a first-rate songwriter, if not a particularly prolific one. This one from his 2000 cd Hanging Out in Heaven does double duty as both celebration of the joys and pleasures of vinyl, and as a swipe at commercial radio. It made a good theme song then for the millions who’d tuned out in disgust, and still has resonance for the millions more who’ve found a home in the world of internet, college and pirate broadcasts.
651. Florence Dore – Christmas
The best-known song by this excellent, literate janglerock songwriter (a Faulkner scholar and author, now a professor at Kent State University). First released as a cover by the Posies in the mid-90s, the best version of this harrowingly terse breakup song can be found on Dore’s lone cd, Perfect City, released in 2002.Her beautiful, twangy voice perfectly captures the alienation of being alone at the one time of the year when most Americans are supposed to be surrounded by people, no matter how dysfunctional. The song doesn’t seem to be on any of the file-sharing sites, but the cd is still in print.
650. The Sloe Guns – Dillon
From the first few notes of lead player Mick Izzo’s soaring slide guitar, this beautifully crescendoing outlaw ballad just grabs you and won’t let go. Built around one of the great hooks in rock history, it has the same kind of melancholic grandeur as the Wallflowers’ Sixth Avenue Heartache. Not available on any of the file-trading sites, but the band’s debut cd Loaded, from 2000, is still in print and available at shows.
649. Iggy Pop – Rock N Roll Party
An obscure treasure, the only remotely good cut on an otherwise dreadful 1981 album.  When the Igster gleefully poses the immortal question, “Where we gonna go tonight?” he speaks for a generation of drunks and degenerates. Former Patti Smith sideman Ivan Kral’s chord work toward the end of the song is ferociously intense. The album version (didn’t see any live takes) is available wherever mp3s are found.
648. Devi – Welcome to the Boneyard
Debra, the band’s frontwoman and one of the great guitarslinger sings this wrenchingly beautiful ballad from the point of view of a ghost whose body lies in the smoking hole at Ground Zero after 9/11:
Welcome to the boneyard
Welcome to the place where they look for me
You can try to find me
All you’ll find are the pieces of a broken dream
But the ghost can’t find her way to the loved ones who wait, hoping against hope. From their 2008 debut cd: the layers of guitar, particularly with the Leslie speaker, are exquisite.
647. Amy Allison – Dream World
This is one of the offhandedly chilling “should I go to sleep or kill myself” Americana-pop songs that Allison writes so well. Much of her material is hilarious; this isn’t. Even the song’s homeless people seek solace in dreams, passed out on the sidewalk. From her 2009 album Sheffield Streets.
646. Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Arguably their greatest shining moment. Anyone who thinks all heavy metal is stupid needs to hear this haunting, chromatically-fueled, Middle Eastern-tinged epic. When bassist/bandleader Steve Harris rises from the ashes to introduce the bridge with a terse, stately hook and then twin lead guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray take over, the effect is intense. Nicely macabre, completely over-the-top ending too. All the file-sharing sites have several available: the studio version with all the overdubs (probably the smallest file since most of what’s out there is live) is the best.
645. Melomane – The Ballot Is the Bullet
The zeros’ counterpart to #655 (Reagan Country by Shattered Faith), this one a dark, sobering minor-key art-rock anthem with a great organ solo and equally homicidal intent (the lyric sheet reads “assassinate the precedent,” but that’s not how the vocals go – and since Obama is now President, we now find ourselves where we should be, on the side of the chief exec, not against him.). A braver statement in the face of fascism than you may realize – the band could have been killed for releasing this and the murders never would have been “solved.”  From the 2007 cd Glaciers.
644. The Ramones – Needles & Pins
Their best song was the one they didn’t write or play on (simple as it is, studio musicians had to be brought in to do the backing track). An accidentally brilliant, wrenchingly gorgeous reworking of the early 60s Searchers hit. Seriously: can you imagine Johnny Ramone playing an acoustic guitar this cleanly…or Dee Dee discovering that his bass could create a tone that could cut through the mix so beautifully? At least that’s really Joey on vocals. Available at all the usual sites.
643. Melomane – O Mighty Orb
Arguably this is the New York art-rockers’ most savagely beautiful, majestic epic – and they have many. The centerpiece to their 2008 cd Look Out! it’s the most successful number in frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” this one about death via global warming. The satirical false ending adds characteristic black humor.
642. Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – 1/20/09
This is the one we tried to add to our myspace page, but myspace wouldn’t let us. Hmmm. That bittersweet day when 5.9 billion voices and glasses actually were raised came and went, replaced by the reckoning that we’ll have to start digging out of the wreckage. But all hope is not lost:
I know you won’t soon be troubled with states of reflection
Still a cloistered and dull trust fund kid
You’ll never be hungry or called out or held to the laws
That hang others who do what you did
But maybe one shiny day
We’ll see each other again in The Hague…
From Grimm’s career-best 2009 cd The Ghost of Rock n Roll.
641. Nick Cave – The Mercy Seat
Potently sardonic anti-death penalty art-rock anthem originally recorded in 1985. “And anyway I’ve spoiled the fun with all these looks of disbelief,” the wrongfully condemned man in the electric chair tells the witnesses. The best version available may be a recent one: there are scores of live takes floating around the usual places (Nick Cave fans are obsessive and generous with their files). Considering the vigor and intensity of Cave’s recent shows, look for something new.
640. Gruppo Sportivo – PS 78
“Hey Johnny.”
“Do you remember PS 78?”
“Uh uh.”
A sarcastic faux cheerleader anthem from the legendary Dutch new wave satirists, 1979, with peppy organ and girlie chorus, chronicling a bunch of spoiled brats with “rich daddies and big tits” being Ugly Americans during their summer in Europe. Deezer is the only site that seems to have it. If you want the vinyl, look for 10 Mistakes at your local used vinyl store but be careful, only the European version has the song.
639. The Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense, Peppermints.
A strange and beautiful coincidence of terseness and over-the-top 60s excess by these veteran LA jazzcats trying to cash in on psychedelic rock like just about everybody else was doing in 1967. “Who cares what games we choose/Little to win and nothing to lose.” Yeah, whatever. But the song’s Farfisa, and that bassline, are killer. Available for the taking at all the usual places online; if you’ve got the equipment, you could even tape something nice and analog off your local oldies radio station. Or look for an Erica Smith bootleg: her band used to do an amusingly deadpan version (the drummer sang!).
638. Sham 69 – Hey Little Rich Boy
Classic punk rock from the UK, 1977, with a 60s garage feel. Lead player Dave Parsons turns in one of his characteristically incisive, all-too-brief solos behind Jimmy Pursey’s antagonistic vocals. Put this on a ghetto blaster, crank it and walk down Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg (or Portobello Road in London). The best-sounding version, of course, is on the band’s first vinyl album, Tell Us the Truth; mp3s can be ripped from the usual sites.
637. Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad of Lucy Jordan
This harrowing, if dated, synthed-out 1980 new wave-era tale of a woman slowly losing it was written by none other than children’s book author Shel Silverstein! It resonates even more if you recall the song playing over the opening scene in Dusan Makavejev’s greatest film, Montenegro, Susan Anspach staring into the water and wondering if she should jump. The lp version is on Broken English; if you’re willing to settle for a mp3, rip one from one of the usual places.
636. System Noise – Prom Night
An absolutely bloodcurdling, chromatically-fueled anthem inspired by the film Carrie, from the New York art/punk/noise rockers’ 2007 self-titled debut cd. Frontwoman (and cabaret star) Sarah Mucho’s voice wails vengefully over a bloodfeast of tortured guitars.
635. The Dream Syndicate – Halloween
The best song on the first album by Steve Wynn’s legendary noise-rock band was ironically one he didn’t write (lead guitarist Karl Precoda did). Kendra Smith’s matter-of-fact stalker bassline sets the stage for the dueling twin guitars’ savage slasher attack. Play this one with the lights out. The original album cut is the best, but there are numerous live versions by both the Dream Syndicate and Wynn and his band, many of them absolutely transcendent, at
634. Patti Smith – Citizen Ship
Even for Patti, this excoriating, chromatically-charged, semiautobiographical anthem is intense, her own checkered trail from Chicago, 1968: “Everybody up against the wall, show your papers boy!” to her arrival in New York: “Oh what the hell, I fell I fell, it doesn’t matter to me” a metaphor for what happened to the whole country. From the Wave lp, 1979; the link above is a torrent of the whole thing.
633. The Grateful Dead – Brokedown Palace
Gorgeous slow sad country-inflected ballad, the Dead at their most focused and therefore most intense. “Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul,” when all else has failed. As with virtually everything the band did, there are innumerable live versions available: the best we know of is from the 1981 Dead Set double lp. Tons of stuff up at and as well. If you know of a better one please don’t keep it to yourself.
632. Randi Russo – Invisible
Nobody writes more resonant outsider rock anthems than this New York indie rock siren, and this song is one of her best, a particularly triumphant one: “I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible.” And what a gorgeous, glimmering tune. Unreleased, and although it hasn’t made it to the usual file-sharing sites, there are numerous bootlegs floating around.
631. True West – 20th Room
One of the finest of the psychedelic revival bands of the early-to-mid 80s, True West’s live shows are the stuff of legend. This lo-fi concert recording validates their mythic status. Both the band’s guitarists played Telecasters, Richard McGrath’s fluid, melodic lead lines soaring over Russ Tolman’s furious, psychotic noise and chordal work and this is a prime example, a supremely eerie anthem. Originally from their posthumous 1989 lp West Side Stories. In a delightful stroke of fate, the surviving original members reunited this year with a concert in Portland, OR, and there’s an absolutely killer live show from Germany available for streaming here.
630. Karen Dahlstrom – Galena
In 2011, The Bobtown guitarist put out a sensationally good, dark album of original folk songs set in her native Idaho, and this is the best of them, a bitter, gorgeously lush, period-perfect elegaic waltz with Old West vernacular that’s not in the least bit corny. Times were tough in the Gold Rush days!
629. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils – Better Days
Put cynicism aside for a moment and rejoice with this delightfully fun, obscure, upbeat, optimistic country-rock number from 1975. The B-side to the Jackie Blue single, it was reissued on cd in the late 90s and can be found at all the usual sites.
628. Iggy Pop – The Passenger
Iconic in the purest sense of the word: the Passenger here is a metaphor for something far deeper, the Sales brothers’ rhythm section teaming with guitarist Ricky Gardiner to perfectly evoke it. Who said Iggy wasn’t deep? From The Idiot, 1977; the link above is a youtube stream.
627. The Walkabouts – Promised
Long, heartbreaking, exhausted steel guitar-driven country dirge by this extraordinary Seattle band from the late 80s/early 90s who started out sort of punkabilly like X, then went way, way dark and these days, since relocating to Germany about ten years ago, have been mining a beautifully brooding orchestrated rock vein. One of frontman Chris Eckman’s best lyrics: “Never played the main event/always played the sideshow tent.” From the 1994 cd Setting the Woods on Fire; the link above is a torrent of the whole album.
626. Golden Earring – Twilight Zone
An eerie (if completely and utterly misproduced) spy epic from the early MTV era by this usually generically bluesy Dutch “hard rock” band popular in Europe but only a two-hit wonder here. Hard to believe that a better band hasn’t discovered this gem and given it the full-throttle treatment it deserves. Although the pickslides – which make this song – have to stay. Easily found at the usual sites (look for smaller files, because there are considerably longer, inferior live versions kicking around). If you want a sonically superior vinyl version, check the dollar bins at your local purveyor for the 1983 album Cut.
625. Public Enemy – By the Time I Get to Arizona
Infuriated that Arizona’s Republican Governor Fife Symington wouldn’t allow his overwhelmingly white state to observe the Martin Luther King holiday, PE frontman Chuck D wrote this scathingly homicidal response. “20 thousand niggy, niggy brothers in the corner/Of the cellblock – but they come from California,” he noted, considering what an infuriatingly high percentage of the black population there is behind bars. The eerie synth loop behind the tirade is absolutely perfect. From the cd Apocalypse 91: The Empire Strikes Black.
624. Fordfalconblue – Eldorado Road
Exhilarating, vividly imagistic good-to-be-alive anthem from these underrated late 90s/early zeros NYC Americana rockers, lead player Eric Alter (who would go on to acclaim in the Sloe Guns) mixing it up nicely as frontman Richard Wallace’s 12-string clangs magnificently in the background. Never officially released by the band, although there are bootlegs kicking around; Wallace has a solo version on his site.
623. Dumptruck – Alive
The exhilaration of walking out into a cold New England autumn day perfectly captured in three reverberating, jangly minutes by this Boston indie quartet, 1984. REM only wish they ever sounded this good. The mp3 is easily obtained, but nothing beats the deliciously echoey production of the vinyl. From the band’s first album, reissued in the late 90s and not impossible to find where used records are sold; the link above is a torrent of the cd reissue including bonus live tracks from CBGB which aren’t that good.
622. The Electric Light Orchestra – Boy Blue
Jeff Lynne didn’t write many political songs, but when he did he absolutely nailed them. Here’s a blazing, lushly orchestrated riff-rocker further reinforcing the fact that vets are invariably the most fervent antiwar activists. From the 1975 ELO album Eldorado, the best album you’ll ever find used in the dollar bins. And you might.
621. The ChurchAutumn Soon
Obscure, hazily jangly treasure from the legendary Australian art-rockers’ equally obscure 1988 collection of b-sides and rarities, with one of bassist/frontman Steve Kilbey’s most visionary lyrics:
Goodbye Heroica
You overdosed
On years
I asked you for a midnight
You gave me a high noon
When winter puts her hands on you
It must be autumn soon
Church fans are notoriously obsessive collectors: mp3s aren’t as difficult to find as you might think.
620. Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams – See You in the Morning
About as obscure as a song can possibly be. It doesn’t appear that the panstylistic New York rock goddess has ever played the song live, and the only versions extant are unreleased studio outtakes which, predictably, are nowhere to be found online. It’s a terrifyingly sad 6/8 narrative with an early 60s noir pop feel, told from the point of a little girl who’s just lost her mother. Simply one of the most scary, beautiful songs ever written, perhaps explaining why it may never see general circulation.
619. Nightcall – Blackwater
Moonlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood started this short-lived “crime jazz” side project toward the end of the Bush regime: this is a tersely scorching, noir 60s style broadside about the mercenaries from Blackwater, Halliburton and other private armies getting away with murder in Iraq. Available at Nightcall’s myspace
618. Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon – Nostalgia for an Age That Never Existed
Biafra at the peak of his his scathingly funny powers, calling bullshit on kitsch from the 50s onward as the piano tinkles sarcastically behind him. From their 1994 cd Prairie Home Invasion.
617. Television – The Fire
Long, slow, beautifully melodic janglerock: why Television was ever associated with the punk movement (other than that they got their start at CB’s) is anybody’s guess. This is a whole lot closer to the Grateful Dead, with a stinging, slowly crescendoing Richard Lloyd solo out that will make your spine tingle. Available at all the mp3 sites; if you’d prefer vinyl, good luck finding a copy of their 1978 album Adventure.
616. Les Thugs – Bulgarian Blues
These adventurous, artsy, sometimes minimalist French punk rockers hit their peak in the late 80s. Their English lyrics are not their strong suit, but at their best they wrote assaultive, frequently hypnotic songs with layers and layers of roaring reverb guitar. This one from 1988 is their best, with a long, incendiary instrumental outro that goes on and on. Both the superior studio version as well as some intriguing but sonically dodgy live takes are available at the usual mp3 sites.
615. Jenifer Jackson – We Will Be Together
The now Austin-based songwriter is unsurpassed at intricate, beautifully melancholy, jangly pop and this is one of her best, a quintessentially New York song written in the days after 9/11, a woman gazing longingly at Manhattan and what seems to be completely out of reach there:
…I make a wish and cast it from the water’s edge
I watch the saddest season change
From my side of the river
I know that nothing stays the same
But we will be together
From the 2005 cd So High. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to track down a live version: there are several terrific ones out there, but you’ll have to dig for them.
614. Curtis Mayfield – So In Love
Long, lush, absolutely gorgeous keyboard-and-guitar-driven soul ballad from 1972. The song gets bonus points for being the prototype for the Stones’ Fool to Cry. Available at the various mp3 sites; if you must have a cd version, it’s on most of the greatest hits packages out there.
613. John Cale – Half Past France
Every now and then, Cale will actually get specific and write a gem like this: a refugee on a train bound somewhere out of Europe contemplates getting out of the war zone, with considerable trepidation. And his family is still back wherever he’s coming from: will he ever see them again? Absolutely riveting, with some sweet lead guitar. Check your favorite mp3 site; also available on the 1973 album Paris 1919.
612. U2 – Another Time, Another Place
At the risk of alienating the diehard obscurantist following here, we give you something popular but perhaps not so obvious. This is by far the best song – maybe the only good song – that the band ever recorded. It’s a strangely jangly, uncharacteristically melodic anthem that for one reason or another sounds a whole lot like Television – and like absolutely nothing else U2 ever did before or subsequently. Available at all the mp3 sites and also in the dollar bins at your favorite vinyl retailer – it’s on the Boy album, from 1980.
611. REM – Camera
Typically obtuse Michael Stipe lyric, but what a gorgeously slow, watery janglerock ballad this is, less jangly than it is fluid. It drips alienation. At all the mp3 sites. From the 1983 album Reckoning which is easier to find than you might think: check your local vinyl source.
610. The False Prophets – Suburbanites Invade
Hilarious and sadly prescient reggae-punk from this theatrical LES New York band, 1986, a snide tale of spoiled brats turning working-class New York City neighborhoods into their own private Babylon (as in Babylon, Long Island). From their first Alternative Tentacles album; check the usual mp3 sites. Because they were such a good live band, many of the live takes are even funnier than the original. A regrouped version of the band with a couple of original members continues to tour.
609. Jenifer Jackson – Through Leaves
The panstylistic rock goddess was living in New York and really on a roll, songwriting-wise when she first started playing this gorgeous, hypnotic nocturne live in the days before 9/11. In the weeks that followed it took on an even more poignant significance: “Through leaves I see a body.” From her 2005 cd So High.
608. Iron Maiden – Only the Good Die Young
Uncharacteristically terse (four-minute), snarling, absolutely macabre reverb-guitar anthem galloping along on one of the band’s mightiest sledgehammer hooks. Sure, the vox may be totally Dungeons and Dragons, but the tune and especially the end of the song are scrumptious. At all the usual mp3 sites. Because the original’s sonics are so delicious, it’s worth seeking out the 1988 album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, available cheap at pretty much any used vinyl place.
607. The Leaving Trains – Creeping Coastline of Lights
Like Cortez the Killer, for awhile this song was all the rage as a cover version for indie bands circa 1993 or so. This LA band’s 1984 original from the early indie era is vastly superior to any other version, the song’s beautifully contrapuntal, minor-key janglerock melody perfectly capturing the glimmer of the title. Check your favorite mp3 site but make sure it’s the original; good luck finding the vinyl album, long out of print. And note that the version on the band’s myspace is also a lousy live take.
606. Paula Carino – Lucky in Love
The New York janglerock siren’s greatest shining moment, so far. This is an uncharacteristically quiet, rivetingly haunting 6/8 ballad with one of Carino’s trademark, wickedly metaphorical lyrics, not about the kind of luck the title would imply. Highly recommended for people who like ice cream and beer. From her 2010 cd Open on Sunday.
605. Penelope Houston – Living Dolls
The Avengers’ frontwoman has also enjoyed a spectacular good if vastly underrated career as an acoustic songwriter. This is one of her best early solo songs, a darkly imagistic, minor-key tableau, figures hiding in the shadows in some nameless terror state. Even more relevant than when originally released in 1985. From the cd Birdboys (also still available on high-quality cassette!).
604. Burning SpearColumbus
For almost forty years, Burning Spear AKA Winston Rodney has been making brilliant, socially conscious roots reggae. This one from 1982 is arguably his finest song, a wicked slap upside the head of anyone who ever claimed that Columbus “discovered” America. “What about the Arawak Indians?” Spear asks pointedly over one of his most memorable melodies. The album version is fine, but check the usual sites: Spear fans are compulsive collectors, and there are many sensational live versions out there. One particular ten-minute version from Manhattan Center in 1994 with a spectacular piano intro is the best we’ve heard to date.
603. The Act – The Art of Deception
Obscure, cynical, lyrically-fueled treasure from this fiery two-guitar British band’s lone 1982 album Too Late at 20, with David Gilmour’s kid brother Mark playing lead guitar. Sadly, frontman Nick Laird-Clowes would soon abandon his amped-up Costello-style rock for the lite FM sound that would make him a one-hit wonder with his next project, the Dream Academy. Never released digitally (although occasionally a dodgy homemade mp3 or two will turn up); you’ll have to hunt this down on vinyl, most likely in the bargain bins.
602. NWA – Fuck the Police
This one you know, it’s a rite of passage, a staple of every 13-year-old boy’s playlist, but when it came out in 1988 it was just short of revolutionary. Straight Outta Compton wasn’t the first gangsta rap album (that was Ice-T’s first one), but it’s probably the best and this is what got them in so much trouble (and sold them so many records), Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre all determined to piss off as many people as possible and succeeding brilliantly. MP3s are at all the usual sites although the vinyl version sounds best, especially if you have a system with good bass boost.
601. The Yayhoos – Baby I Love You
The most touching love song ever written…heh heh heh. It’s got a sweet little early 60s style pop melody and nicely swinging guitar from its author, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel from Steve Earle’s band. “I love you baby, just leave me the fuck alone.” From the Yayhoos’ 2002 cd Fear Not the Obvious. Ambel almost always plays this live when he does shows with his trio: check the Lakeside calendar.
600. Tammy Faye Starlite – I Shaved My Vagina for This
The cult artist/comedienne/chanteuse/agitator is the closest thing to Lenny Bruce that we have today, someone who never fails to find her mark because she’s so damn funny. This one, from her first cd, is a typically clever, drop-dead hilarious feminist rant disguised as a country song.
599. Ronnie Earl – Eddie’s Gospel Groove
Although best known for his thoughtfully intricate jazz work, the Boston guitarist got his start in blues and for years worked with Chicago luminaries like Jimmy Rogers. This is his best composition, a startling, ferocious stomp kicked off by one of the great hooks ever. From Language of the Soul, 1994; note that the youtube link above is only a fair approximation of how great this song can get.
598. David J – Bouquets Wreaths & Laurels
The Bauhaus and Love & Rockets bassist is also a terrific songwriter, with the expected noir sensibility. This one from his sensationally good 1992 cd Urban Urbane is one of his best: somebody’s just gotten out of jail and is hellbent for…something. Jazz Butcher guitarist Max Eider turns in some of his finest, most gorgeously fluid lead work here. Available at all the usual sites. There’s also a song on David J’s myspace called Spalding Gray Can’t Swim…
597. Amy Allison – Turn Out the Lights
Lucid Culture’s pick for best song of 2007 is one of cult artist Allison’s finest – and she has many – a stark and eerily glistening (if totally misproduced) hit that sounds like a suicide anthem but is actually a kiss-off to the music industry:
In my room
Far from the crowd
My bed’s a tomb
My quilt’s a shroud
I’ve had my fill
Of restless nights
I’d just as soon
Turn out the lights
From the cd Everything and Nothing Too. At her myspace, Allison also has a hysterically funny song about Amy Winehouse smoking crack.
596. Patricia Vonne – Blood on the Tracks
It takes a lot of nerve to steal a title like that, but Mexican-American ranchera-rock siren/actress Vonne – a fierce advocate for immigrant rights – has plenty. This is her best song, a viscerally affecting, guitar-fueled escape anthem galloping along on a fast shuffle beat. “We ain’t never coming back/Our hearts have been scarred, there’s blood on the tracks.” From her 2003 full-length debut cd.
595. The B Loud Three – The Letter
Not a cover of the Box Tops/Joe Jeffrey top 40 hit. When popular 90s New York punk/popstresses the Maul Girls split up, guitarist Leah Roblin AKA Leah B. Loud started a project of her own, a brilliantly guitar-driven, funny punk/pop trio which would be a quintet by the time their lone 2002 cd came out. This long, wrenchingly dark breakup epic is its high point, one of the most evocative portrayals of late-night, strung-out despair. Not available at the usual sites. Good as the recorded version is, there are equally good bootlegs kicking around: keep your ears open. Roblin has since moved on to the world of classical music…in China.
594. ScrewballWho Shot Rudy
Released just months prior to 9/11, this courageous underground NYC hip-hop joint paints a stark tableau in the wake of a Rudolph Giuliani assassination. Retaliation from then-mayor Giuliani and his thugs came quickly: Screwball was quickly picked up – ostensibly on a drug warrant – and thrown into solitary confinement. From the cd Y2K: The Album; mp3s are floating around the usual sites.
593. REM – Disturbance at the Heron House
Mainstream, 80s style, but good. A slow, methodically jangly, lustrously growling anthem from Document, the 1986 album where they turned up the guitars for the first time. This is one of the first REM songs with any kind of antiwar, anti-authoritarian feel, amorphous as the lyrics may be. Available wherever files are shared.
592. Bob Dylan - Hurricane
Here’s an iconic one, no great surprise, but a song that the list wouldn’t be complete without. And arguably Dylan’s most courageous moment, a song that helped free an innocent man from a life sentence. Email this to anyone who says music can’t change the world. Nice Balkan violin work from Scarlet Rivera, too. Available wherever files are shared; if you’re looking for vinyl, it’s on the otherwise mediocre 1975 album Desire. The link in the title above is a torrent.
591. Jefferson Airplane –  Young Girl Sunday Blues
Post-Summer of Love madness, the Airplane at their most focused and intense, Jorma Kaukonen’s twelve-string sailing over Jack Casady’s crescendoing, growling bass. From After Bathing at Baxter’s, 1968; mp3s are at all the usual sites, but look for a smaller file; much of what’s out there is live and very dodgy-sounding.
590. Cypress Hill – Looking Through the Eyes of a Pig
Shockingly lucid, sympathetic, cynical view of a day in the life of an honest cop just trying to do his job against all temptations. Play this for anyone who thinks all hip-hop is biased against law enforcement. Available at the usual sites; the best version is from the surprisingly good Live at the Fillmore rap-rock cd, considerably longer than the studio take.
589. Paula Carino - Saying Grace Before the Movie
Her beautifully calm, stoic vocals sailing over the song’s bouncing rockabilly beat, New York underground rock siren Carino relates one of her characteristically lyrical, richly allusive tales. In this sardonic yet heartwrenching account of loneliness and alienation, a woman sits alone in a theatre, watching the sad story of a life that might be hers. From her Open on Sunday cd, 2010.
588. Steve Ulrich & Jeremiah Lockwood – The Children Rejoice
Written by Lockwood, the multistylistic guitar genius behind Sway Machinery, this absolutely gorgeous, twangy, reverb-laden instrumental gets really eerie with just a hint of klezmer. One of the best tunes that this duo used to play during a riveting series of shows around NYC circa 2006-07, Big Lazy frontman/guitarist Ulrich adding his own trademark sinister touch. Unreleased, although there are a few bootlegs kicking around.
587. Dead Prez – They Schools
A hip-hop companion piece to Schools Are Prisons by the Sex Pistols/Ex-Pistols. This is a terse, defiant and spot-on look at why so many inner city residents find public school absolutely irrelevant, simply a type of incarceration preparing kids for life behind bars and nothing else. From the 2000 cd Let’s Get Free.
586. The Sea Devils – Viper
Truth in advertising: one of the great modern-day surf music classics, this ferocious minor-key instrumental has fangs. Sea Devils frontman/lead guitarist Andrew Wendel’s intent was to stitch its segments together much in the same way that his hero Duke Ellington composed, and a close listen validates the comparison. Available at the band’s myspace; there are also some live bootleg versions circulating around.
585. History of Brazil – Movie Tune
Don’t bother googling this – the only place you’ll find it is streaming occasionally on Chicago’s marvelous Radio Luxotone. This scorching guitar-and-keyboard anthem from the Maine band’s 1983 cassette-only debut ep blends the majestic fire of 70s art-rock with skittish new wave. Hard to imagine a stronger candidate for inclusion on a “best obscurities ever” compilation. Keyboardist Alan Walker would later go on to found another cult band, retro NYC R&B/Americana revivalists the Brilliant Mistakes.
584. Douce Gimlet – The Well
New York’s best band from the late 90s and early zeros could play virtually any style they wanted: sad country ballads, cheery janglerock, jazzy pop hits, instrumentals, you name it. This is just about their darkest song, a slow, grinding, art-rock dirge with a screaming, anguished, noisy guitar solo by frontman Joe Ben Plummer. During their almost ten-year existence, Douce Gimlet officially released only one vinyl single, so this is nowhere to be found online. In fact, a studio version of this song may not exist, although there are several terrific live takes floating around. However, the cd Douce Gimlet recorded at Jerry Teel’s legendary Fun House Studios, unreleased during the life of the band, is available for free download here.
583. The Walkabouts – On the Beach
Neil Young cover, even better than the original. Frontwoman Karla Torgerson relates old Neil’s random, threatening images with a casual menace as organ hovers hauntingly in the background: “Get outta town, you know you gotta get outta town…” From the band’s relatively obscure 1990 Sub Pop ep Where the Deep Water Flows.
582. Graham Parker – Disney’s America
The lone good cut on the uncharacteristically weak 1995 album 12 Haunted Episodes is one of Parker’s most beautifully savage. Inspired by a plan to rip up the Virginia countryside to build a Disney theme park, Parker recounts a metaphor-laden tale of a romance that went sour and “drifted like runoff into the Chesapeake Bay:”
You can’t get too excited
You can’t get too enthused
From Dismal Land to the Tragic Mountain
We are not amused
Available at all the usual places. The link here is a nice solo acoustic version on youtube.
581. The Outnumbered – Boy on a Roof
One of the first out gay rockers, future Pansy Division frontman Jon Ginoli got his start playing generic janglerock with this band… this deliriously catchy, reverb-fueled gem with one of the sweetest reverb guitar solos ever is an exception. Originally issued on the Battle of the Garages Vol. 1 lp in 1984; most of the usual sites have the mp3. Parasol has a cd reissue of the 1985 album Surveying the Damage, which also includes this track.
580. Des Roar – Ted Bundy Was a Ladies Man
Gleeful, savagely cynical, pounding anthem by this great New York garage/punk band. As defiantly un-PC as Son of Sam by the Dead Boys, 2008 style. We had this song on the Lucid Culture myspace for months because we never got sick of it. From their demo ep and also available at the band’s myspace.
579. Joni Mitchell – Harry’s House/Centerpiece
Literally the centerpiece of the vastly underrrated 1975 Hissing of Summer Lawns lp, this excoriating dismissal of yuppie smugness and status-grubbing is as potent today as it was then.
578. The Notorious BIG – The Long Kiss Goodnight
The most chilling thing about Biggie Smalls’ writing was that he could see his death coming a mile away; it’s all over side four of Life After Death. This sinister, antagonistic gangsta number finds the man who was arguably the greatest hip-hop lyricist of alltime at the absolute top of his game. At any of the file-trading sites.
577. The Dead Kennedys – Terminal Preppie
This backhanded hardcore punk anti-yuppie puppy broadside resonates today just as much as it did 25 years ago. Except maybe substitute Dave Matthews for the Springsteen reference? From the classic 1983 Plastic Surgery Disasters album.
576. Depeche Mode – Somebody
Terminally depressed 1984 piano-and-voice ballad, a staple of every goth’s collection. Keyboardist Martin Gore, who sings here, is all too aware how maudlin he sounds:
Though things like this make me sick
In a case like this I’ll get away with it
The samples of industrial noise and a train leaving the station end the song on a viscerally chilling note. Available everywhere.
575. The Sweet Bitters – Clocks Fall Back
One of the best songs of recent years perfectly captured what life was like in New York City this year, the careless extravagance of wealth juxtaposed against crushing poverty. Sharon Goldman’s characteristically terse, crystallized lyric soars with harmonies from her bandmate Nina Schmir over a gorgeous, retro 60s folk-pop melody somewhat reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade of Winter. From the duo’s 2009 full-lenght debut cd, also at their myspace.
574. The Coffin Daggers – Mr. Moto
The best version of what may be the greatest surf rock instrumental ever, even if the Coffin Daggers never officially released this particular one. Theirs is scorching punk rock with distorted guitar and eerie Wurlitzer organ, sounding something like Hunter S. Thompson gingerly getting out of bed, gun in hand, the shadows just beginning to fall outside. Not at the usual mp3 sites, although frequently bootlegged. Surf around (pun intended) and see what you find!
573. The J. Geils Band – Angel in Blue
Believe it or not, the Boston bar band responsible for the odious Angel in the Centerfold – the bestselling single of 1981 – also gave us this absolutely beautiful, backbeat-driven ballad pulsing along on a gorgeous Hammond organ riff  (from the same album, even).  Needless to say, quite a contrast, with a nicely cynical lyric: use people and you get used in return. At the usual mp3 sites; if you want vinyl, look for a copy of Freeze Frame in the cheapo bins.
572. James McMurtry – We Can’t Make It Here
Hideously mained vets from Iraq and previous wars filling the sidewalk; shuttered factories; ghettos sprawling; small businesses going under; homelessness rising while CEOs make millions and pay no taxes; corporate media, churches and antidepressants masking the harsh reality; kids gone off to be cannon fodder for Halliburton since the ruling classes sent all the jobs overseas. It’s all here in five brilliant minutes, the most tersely accurate critique of the Bush years you’ll ever hear. “Take a part time job at one of your stores, betcha can’t make it here anymore.” From the Childish Things cd, 2005; there are also several riveting live versions on youtube including this one.
571. Steve Wynn – I Don’t Deserve This
A recurrent theme in the great noir rocker’s work: just when he’s about to go postal, he has an epiphany. In a word, it’s transcendent. Our pick for best song of 2008, this darkly orchestrated backbeat-driven haunter is on his latest cd Crossing Dragon Bridge (there are also several equally transcendent live versions up at as well).
570. The Clash – Clampdown
Ultimately, this song is about selling out. “So you grow up and you come down and you’re working for the Clampdown.” Play this for anyone who doesn’t think Joe Strummer was a visionary. Or for any old punk friend who’s gone soft and rightwing as the years have accumulated. Available at all the file-sharing sites, although many of the files are sonically dubious live takes. The link above is a youtube clip for the original album version.
569. The Clash – The Magnificent Seven
The opening cut on Sandinista, the band’s first venture into hip-hop is definitely the funniest thing they ever recorded. Over a delicious Norman Watt-Roy bass loop, Joe Strummer catalogues the various ways the upper classes were keeping the lower ones down, UK style, 1981. Not much has changed since.
568. Willie Nile – Sing Me a Song
Scorching nouveau-mod anthem from underground NYC rocker Nile’s 1980 debut lp. Pure adrenaline bliss when the long outro kicks in, with all those slamming guitar overdubs. The best version is the original studio take, although the live one from Nile’s Archive Alive cd, recorded in New York’s Central Park, is also tasty. The link above is a torrent of the whole album; it’s also worth checking the dollar bins at your local vinyl joint.
567. Heather Nova – Throwing Fire at the Sun
The corporate labels tried to package this siren as Lilith Fair-style folkie, Sheryl Crow with minor keys, and dance-pop, and for probably all of those reasons, failed miserably. And for all of those reasons you may never have heard of her, which is too bad because left to her own devices, she can give you chills. The version of this aptly tilted anthem from her 1995 Live at the Milky Way ep seems to be Nova at her essential best, holding nothing back, letting that unearthly wail fly for all it’s worth. Keep your eyes open for a new cd due out this year.
566. The Slickee Boys – Dream Lovers
Along with True West, this DC quintet were the best of the psychedelic revivalist bands of the 80s. While their California colleagues mined a janglier vein, the Slickee Boys were faster, more punk and even more intense. On this scampering alienation anthem from their uncharacteristically lacklustre 1985 lp Uh Oh No Breaks, lead guitarist Marshall Keith opens it up with one of his typically sizzling, soaring riffs and then takes a killer solo out. The best version is the one from the album (still available!), although there are a bunch of live tracks out there as well. The band still regularly plays “reunion” shows in the DC area.
565. Stiv Bators – The Last Year
The Dead Boys’ frontman’s not-so-secret wish, never fully realized, was to be a dark powerpop singer. This is his finest moment in that role. Mid-60s noir style songwriting at its darkest and most affecting. Bators would live four more years after singing that this would be his last. Originally released on his superb 1988 solo lp Disconnected, also floating around in mp3land; the link above is a stream at imeem.
564. The Chantays – Pipeline
The original 1963 version of the surf classic is arguably the best, and it’s the electric piano – absent from most every cover version – that makes it. Available everywhere you would expect it to be. If you prefer a vinyl version, the song’s been reissued hundreds of times on compilations: worth a look through the K-Tel albums in the dollar bins at your local used vinyl purveyor. The  Agent Orange version is also very cool.
563. 28th Day – Burnsite
Defiantly multistylistic, pioneering indie rocker Barbara Manning (check out her latest project, the Sleaze Tax) got her start in 1984 with this jangly REMish trio produced by True West frontman Russ Tolman, which sounds absolutely nothing like any of her solo work. In this brisk, rather horrific tale, Manning follows guitarist Cole Marquis’ evil, crescendoing, raga-esque solo with one of the most bloodcurdling screams in the history of rock. Good luck finding the vinyl, out of print for years along with the incomplete “complete recordings” cd once available from artistdirect. Although amazon is still selling the mp3 (a check of the usual share sites didn’t turn up anything.
562. Procol Harum – New Lamps For Old
You know this band, at least from their big 1967 hit Whiter Shade of Pale, a staple of oldies radio. The legendary art-rockers distinguished themselves from the era’s legions of wanky “prog” groups via a darkly ornate, noir, even macabre sensibility, spooky Hammond organ looming in the background. This is one of their lesser-known but most haunting tracks, the band’s intricate interplay perfectly evoking Keith Reid’s disillusioned, despairing lyric. Originally on the 1975 lp Exotic Birds & Fruit; the best version is on their Live on the BBC cd, a 1974 recording finally issued in 1999. Check the usual sites for mp3s. The band still tours Europe albeit sans most of the original members.
561. The Vice Squad – Last Rockers
These early 80s British oi-punks fronted by one Beki Bondage built their career on this pummeling apocalyptic anthem bookended by a ridiculously simple, deliciously ghoulish guitar hook. Available wherever mp3s are traded; if you want the vinyl, the band’s first lp is very difficult to find over here, although the song also appeared on a bunch of 1983-era punk compilations.
560. The Skatalites – You’re Wondering Now
Iconic ska ballad from the early days, 1964, Doreen Shaffer’s stoic, subtly haunting vocals over a sweetly bitter oldschool R&B melody. Covered by everybody but the original is the best, available wherever files are shared. Amy Winehouse, eat your heart out (might do you good – you could stand a little extra weight).
559. Walter Ego - Sunday’s Assassin
One of the rare cover versions on this list – and one of the rarest songs here – this is an LJ Murphy song that Murphy shelved a long time ago before the New York rocker (Murphy’s old bassist) resurrected it. It’s one of the most powerfully evocative portraits of clinical depression ever set to music, a killer pondering whether or not to escape his certain fate when the cops look under his fingernails. Presently unreleased; it doesn’t seem to have made it to youtube either.
558. Love – A House Is Not a Motel
Characteristically eerie, weirdly trippy, artsy chamber psychedelia from Forever Changes, 1967: “The water’s turned to blood, and if you don’t think so, go turn on your tub.”Available wherever mp3s are traded.
557. Randi Russo – Head High While You Lie Low
When the New York indie rock siren had her band together, they would playfully refer to this one onstage as ”the Immigrant Song” because of the Led Zep echoes on the outro. It’s a characteristically scorching, three-part art-rock suite that builds to a dark Middle Eastern-inflected dance driven along by an insistent, macabre bass riff. Unreleased, but there are bootlegs kicking around.
556. The Stooges – Dirt
Slow, haunting, classically-tinged dirge from Fun House, 1972: you can hear Ian Curtis hearing this for the first time and thinking to himself, hmmmm….. The live version on Iggy’s 1979 live TV Eye album is just about as good. If you’re looking for an mp3, prepare for some sifting and look for a smaller file. Ron Asheton, we miss you; some nice footage in the youtube link above.
555. The Clash – Somebody Got Murdered
A sad, thoughtful anti-violence anthem from Sandinista, 1981. Part of Joe Strummer’s genius was how intuitively he grasped how interconnected we are within the fabric of society, and how – in the case of this song – a seemingly random killing suddenly becomes anything but if you consider the consequences. Somebody please put some headphones on Fraulein Lipni and blast this loud.
554. Jenifer Jackson – Saturday
The multistylistic songwriter/chanteuse is also a painter, and as she adds layers of narrative to this slowly unwinding, beautifully epic anthem, the portrait of anguished loneliness that emerges packs a wallop that transcends the song’s quiet understatement. In other words, typical Jenifer Jackson. This one is on her career-best The Outskirts of a Giant Town cd, recorded live in the studio in 2007.
553. John Lennon – Working Class Hero
You probably know this one, Lennon at his most tersely visionary: a stinging, minor-key acoustic broadside from a guy who always had an uneasy relationship with his blue-collar roots: “You’re all just fucking peasants as far as I can see.”
552. The Crippled Pilgrims – Oblivious & Numb
By the time this song came out on the Washington, DC band’s only full-length lp, Under Water, in 1985, they’d broken up. One of the best of the first jangly wave of indie rock bands, Parasol Records happily reissued their complete recorded works as a single cd. Gorgeously chordal bass work from ex-Government Issue player Mitch Parker.
551. Roy Orbison – In Dreams
“Candy-colored clown! Candy-colored clown!” Dennis Hopper pants, huffing some mysterious substance as a kidnapped Kyle McLachlan observes, apprehension building to absolute terror. One of the many classic scenes from Blue Velvet, right up there with “PABST BLUE RIBBON!!!” Out of context, the song is still awfully good, Orbison at his darkest. MP3s are everywhere you would expect them to be; your best shot at getting this on vinyl is on one of the innumerable greatest-hits comps rather than the original 1963 lp.
550. The Dukes of Stratosphear – 25 O’Clock
This is XTC pseudonymously doing a loving, spot-on parody of 60s psychedelia (particularly the Electric Prunes) while making great fun of stoners with what seems like a million tracks of backward masking, phased guitars, keyboards, echo and reverb effects. Listen to this high and the joke is on you. The title track from the band’s 1985 vinyl ep, it’s available wherever mp3s are.
549. Agent Orange – Mr. Moto
The only song that appears on this list twice (the Coffin Daggers’ organ-stoked version is #574), this is a terse, scorching, distortion-fueled version of Paul Johnson’s surf classic. Every note, every beat of this song counts for something. One of the extra tracks on the cd reissue of the band’s lone classic album Living in Darkness, from 1981; if you’ll settle for a mp3, they’re available at the usual sites.
548. The Sex Pistols – New York
The way Chris Thomas produced all those layers of Steve Jones’ guitar is one of the great studio achievements ever. Except that it left the grand total of two tracks for Johnny Rotten, who blew out his voice on the first take of the first song…and then had to do the rest of the album. And maybe sounded better for it. “A kiss, a kiss, sealed with a kiss, kiss this,” he snarls, dismissing his old tourmates the New York Dolls. Sweet pickslide by Jones to wind up the song. At all the mp3 sites; you may have to sift through several dodgy live versions.
547. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City
Many consider his stark, acoustic 1983 album Nebraska to be his best. You probably know this song, the hitman casually explaining that’s he’s got a little job to do: “Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, but maybe someday everything comes back.” Available wherever mp3s are traded; look for a small file, as there are a ton of live versions out there and most are not very good.
546. The Larval Organs – Joyless Now
The Larval Organs were arguably New York songwriter Daniel Bernstein AKA Cockroach’s best project to date, a ferociously lyrical punk/metal outfit that played around circa 2002-04 and put out one classic ep, Posthumous. This is one of their more melodic numbers with a characteristically brilliant, surreal, desperate lyric, a chronicle about completely losing it,“with a heartache the size of a great lake.” The song remains a staple of Bernstein’s live show; the link in the title above is a solo version.
545. The Act – Get It While You’re Young
This catchy, warmly anthemic track from this fiery two-guitar British band’s lone, brilliant 1982 album Too Late At 20 still rings true more than 25 years later. Frontman Nick Laird-Clowes would go on to Zager and Evans Hall of Fame infamy a couple of years later with the Dream Academy and Life in a Northern Town. He makes movie music now, a considerable improvement. The album was never issued on cd; scour the dollar bins at your local vinyl emporium. The link above is a homemade mp3 download.
544. Telephone – Telephomme
By far the best cut on the French rockers’ 1977 debut, it’s far closer to the Boomtown Rats than the amped-up second-rate Chuck Berry stuff on the rest of the album. The song’s theme (and the pun of its title) deal with the frustration about being unable to communicate. Louis Bertignac’s long, screaming guitar solo is amazing.
543. No Trend – Teen Love
Classic obscure no-wave punk epic from this one-hit wonder Washington, DC band. Listen close and you’ll realize that this isn’t just a very smartly rewritten version of the Shangri-la’s Leader of the Pack, it’s a parody of lifestyle capitalism, i.e. the various conformist personas packaged by corporations for high school kids to “choose” from. As funny now as it was when first released in 1982. Available at the usual mp3 sites; if you find the original twelve-inch 45 RPM ep, grab it, it’s rare. And don’t believe the blogosphere: this is NOT proto-emo. It’s black humor.
542. The Dickies – Infidel Zombie
Slinkily dark 1980 punk classic set to a faux spy theme fueled by the late Chuck Wagon’s blaring sax. For a band whose original raison d’etre was to be a parody of punk, they sure kicked some serious ass. From the album Dawn of the Dickies; available wherever mp3s are found, such as the piratebay link above
541. Noxes Pond – Ska (The Art of Walking)
This has absolutely nothing to do with either ska or walking. It’s more than ten minutes of classic noise-rock from this late 90s Lower East Side New York power/funk trio, featuring one of the alltime great nails-down-the-blackboard guitar solos, at least eight paint-peeling minutes of distorted, feedback-drenched madness over a head-bopping groove. This one is extraordinarily hard to find – the version that counts is on a very obscure cassette-only ep.  The guitarist would go on to even further greatness in brilliant art/punk/noise rockers System Noise; the drummer now runs a company that manufactures fantastic, high-quality speakers.
540. Radio Birdman – Found Dead
Thirty-plus years after they started, the legendary Australian punk/garage monsters are still as vital as ever on this macabre, midtempo guitar-and-organ-driven gem. “Said we gotta go far away from here…can you make it alone, now can you? Can you?” singer Rob Younger intones. From their comeback cd Zeno Beach, our pick for best album of 2006.
539. Johnny Thunders – You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory
You know this one: about ten years ago every indie rock band was covering it (and usually butchering it). One of the saddest songs ever written, by a guy who for one reason or another knew a lot about that particular emotion. The original is available wherever mp3s are (avoid the lame, lo-fi solo acoustic outtakes); Rachelle Garniez also does an inscrutably haunting version which is also floating around in bootleg-land.
538. The Great Society – Darkly Smiling
This was Grace Slick’s band before she joined Jefferson Airplane in 1967. By far the best song they ever did, Slick’s vocals on this gorgeously dark, jangly garage-rock smash are a little wobbly, but it’s the melody that slams you upside the head. Her (soon-to-be ex-) husband Darby Slick’s casually crescendoing guitar strumming into the chorus is absolutely killer. Originally from a posthumous double live album from 1970 (the band’s only official release) , it’s surprisingly available at the usual sites.
537. Blue Oyster Cult – Joan Crawford
Surreal, bizarrely comedic art-rock masterpiece about what happens when Joan Crawford rises from the grave: ornate classical piano intro, all kinds of weird effects (“Christina! Mother’s home!”) and a killer bassline by lead guitarist Buck Dharma. From the 1981 lp Fire of Unknown Origin, typically found in the dollar bins wherever vinyl is sold; also available wherever there are mp3s.
536. Lou Reed – Kill Your Sons
Bellevue treated me pretty good
Creedmoor was even better…
All those drugs that we took, they really were lots of fun
But when they shot me up with Thorazine
I’d just smoke and talk like a sonofagun
Dontcha know they’re gonna kill, kill your sons.
Remember, this was 25 years before Prozac. The 1973 album version is on Sally Can’t Dance; mp3s are everywhere you would expect. The link above is a neat live take from Italy, 1983 with the late Robert Quine on lead guitar.
535. Steely Dan – Any World That I’m Welcome To
“…is better than the one that I come from.” Brooklyn may know the charmer under Donald Fagen, but it also knows the contemptuous outsider who obviously didn’t feel very at home there and wrote this somewhat plaintive, uncharacteristically straightforward piano ballad about it. And for good reason: this was 1975 and the borough was in many respects as provincial as rural Alabama. For that matter, parts of it still are: ask someone from Williamsburg. From the album Katy Lied; also available wherever there are mp3s.
534. Rachelle Garniez – Magic Time
The multi-instrumentalist New York chanteuse invariably packs a wallop. This hypnotic number with a hilariously New York-centric intro is one of her more inscrutable songs until you listen closely. Intensity has never been more casual. “I’m walking through this torture garden, smiling,” Garniez sings gently, without a hint of anguish. From the 2004 cd Luckyday.
533. Howlin Wolf – I’ll Be Around
Name another more powerful male singer. No, you can’t. This one features perhaps his most anguished, bitter vocals: “Yeah, I’ll be around, to see what you’re puttin’ out.” The ferocity of Willie Johnson’s lead guitar matches up. Mp3s are out there; the 1954 vinyl single is strictly a collector’s item, although MCA reissued it on the More Real Folk Blues album in all formats in the mid-80s (download the whole thing with the link above).
532. Boogie Down Productions – Bo! Bo! Bo!
Three years before Body Count did Cop Killer, KRS-One wrote this triumphant hip-hop anthem about a black kid out minding his own business and then having to deal with a homicidal, racist cop. From the 1989 cd Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop.
531. The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make
Guitarist Johnny Marr’s finest moment, a striking noir 60s melody almost going over the top of the wave into the surf with all that delicious reverb. And it’s as close as Morrissey would ever come to dropping the affectations and actually singing from the heart. From the band’s 1984 debut lp.
530. The Bongos – Numbers with Wings
The 1982 title track to the Hoboken band’s excellent ep, this is an uncharacteristically haunting if lyrically nonsensical janglerock anthem, Richard Barone’s watery guitar soaring over a brisk dance beat.
529. Ozzy Osbourne – So Tired
It’s hard to type this beneath the deluge of spitballs and rotten vegetables. Ozzy Osbourne, on the alltime top 666?!!!!? Yup. It’s Ozzy’s producers’ brilliantly successful attempt at an ELO-style orchestrated rock ballad, and to his credit, the Ozz-man actually sings it well. Sweet piano, strings and even the bass player stops phoning it in and sounds like he’s having fun. Download it wherever mp3s are found; the vinyl version is available in the bargain bins for a dollar or less on the 1984 Bark at the Moon album.
528. The Supremes – You Keep Me Hanging On
Holland-Dozier-Holland – the black Beatles – were just as good at writing haunting, classically-inflected minor key songs as they were at R&B and this one’s proof. Forget the gazillions of covers – didn’t Bananarama do one at some point in the 80s? – the 1966 hit is the classic. James Jamerson – jazz bassist playing rock – what else is there to say.
527. The Stooges – I’m Sick of You
Absolutely evil proto-punk from 1974, Iggy getting snuck out of heroin rehab to do vocals, James Williamson’s offhandedly vicious guitar over Ron Asheton’s bunker-buster descending progression on the bass. It’s on a million compilations on both vinyl and cd; mp3s are everywhere.
526. The Beatles – Blue Jay Way
Full disclosure: when we inherited this list in its embryonic form from our predecessor e-zine, there were a lot more Beatles songs on it then than there are now. In tweaking and updating it, the consensus was  to give as much space as possible to lesser-known artists who might pique your interest far more than hearing for the umpteenth time just how great the Fab Four were. In fact, in order to keep the list at a total of 666, we jettisoned pretty much every well-known, overplayed oldies radio song we could find. But we couldn’t get rid of this one, George’s hypnotic, psychedelic one-chord salute to nonconformity. “Please don’t be long, please don’t belong.” Best song on the vastly underrated 1968 Magical Mystery Tour album, whose cd sales earn the remaining Beatles zero royalties and therefore without exception should be downloaded for free rather than purchased.
525. Elvis Costello – Episode of Blonde
The King at his vitriolic best, an endless catalog of a pinup’s vices and failings and ultimately a slam at the corporate media who still believe that the Paris Hiltons of the world are sufficient to distract us while the Madoffs rob us blind. Originally released on the 2002 When I Was Cruel, the best version of this song is on the live cd My Flame Burns Blue from three years later.
524. Midnight Oil – E-Beat
Late-period  brilliance from the legendary Australian art-rockers’ Breathe cd, 1996, Jim Moginie doing double duty adding both eerie lead guitar and eerie oldtime analog synth while the band clangs and roars behind frontman (and current Australian Environment Minister) Peter Garrett. You want prophetic? “We gotta prick that bubble in the shopping arcade.”
523. The Move – No Time
Contemporaries of the Who and the Kinks, the Move’s crazed stage antics and instrument-smashing inspired Townshend & Co. to follow suit. Like many of their contemporaries, the band followed a trajectory that took them from mod rock to proto-metal to toweringly beautiful orchestrated songs.  This one, written by future ELO frontman Jeff Lynne is a gorgeously wistful track with acoustic guitar and flute from their final full-length studio album, Message from the Country, from 1971. MP3s abound.
522. Bob Dylan - Masters of War
As with the Beatles (see #526), when we inherited the embryonic version of this list from our predecessor e-zine, it contained a whole slew of Dylan that we deleted to make room for more obscure acts that you’d probably never discover anywhere else but here. But this one we had to keep: “And I’ll stand over your grave til I’m sure that you’re dead.” For Dick Cheney and all of his collaborators. The link in the title above is a torrent of the whole album; if you want a cover, see if you can track down a bootleg of the jazz version done by Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams (it’s in 5/4 time!).
521. The Brooklyn What – I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg
One of the funniest and most dead-accurate anti-trendoid rants ever recorded, this is a furious call to all the cool kids to start a new scene that has nothing to do with fashion, celebrity or inherited wealth. Even better than Costello’s I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea. “I don’t wanna go to Northsix…I don’t wanna hear the fucking Hold Steady!”From the brand-new 2009 cd The Brooklyn What for Borough President.
520. Radio Birdman – Remorseless
A brooding, midtempo haunter from these legendary Australian garage punks’ volcanic 2006 comeback cd Zeno Beach (our pick for best album of the year). The tension of this burning, funereal midtempo song never lets up, punctuated by a characteristically bone-severing solo from lead guitarist Deniz Tek.
519. The Grateful DeadChina Doll
Dark, serious and beautiful, it’s a meditation on violence:
Tell me what you done it for
No I won’t tell you a thing
The 1974 recorded version on Mars Hotel is actually not bad, but as with pretty much everything the Dead ever did, nothing beats a good live take. Portland, Maine, May 1985 maybe?
518. Radio Birdman – We’ve Come So Far to Be Here Today
From the band’s triumphant comeback cd Zeno Beach, our choice for best album of 2006. Everyone in this legendary Australian band except the drummer were over fifty by the time they’d recorded this searing, pounding, macabre punk/surf/garage masterpiece. And they rocked harder – and still do – than most people half their age. The link above is to their myspace where you can hear it.
517. Genesis - Home by the Sea
Don’t laugh: keyboardist Tony Banks’ swirling, ominous organ tune has a beauty that transcends the presence of both a drum machine AND Phil Collins, no small achievement. MP3s are everywhere; if you’re looking for vinyl, dig through the dollar bins for Genesis’ 1983 self-titled album.
516. Badfinger – Baby Blue
The greatest powerpop song ever written? Maybe. One of those songs that pretty much every band alive – every good band, anyway – knows and has run through in rehearsal at least once or twice, because it’s so much fun. MP3s are everywhere; if you’re looking for vinyl, good luck finding the 1972 Straight Up lp.
515. Rocket from the Tombs – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
The legendary, theatrical Cleveland proto-punk band that spawned both the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu released two studio versions of this paint-peeling evocation of the WWII Tokyo firebombing raids, one on a lo-fi compilation of tinny digitized 1974 rehearsal tapes and another on the lacklustre 2004 reunion cd Rocket Redux. Best to look for a bootleg: their version from the second 2003 Maxwell’s show is the best we’ve heard.
514. Procol Harum – Wreck of the Hesperus
Written and sung by organist Matthew Fisher, the centerpiece of this towering, haunting two-keyboard, proto-goth anthem is an anguished, minimalist fuzztone solo from guitarist Robin Trower. What a colossally good band. From the Salty Dog lp, 1969; mp3s at the usual spots.
513. The Moody Blues – Peak Hour
An uncharacteristically hard-rocking, deliciously scurrying evocation of midday business-district madness driven by bassist John Lodge’s furious flights, keyboardist Michael Pinder ending it mischievously with the last four chords from the famous Bach Toccata in D. MP3s everywhere; if you’re looking for vinyl, it’s on the 1967 lp Days of Future Passed, frequently found in the dollar bins. The link above is a youtube clip with about two minutes of the mediocre movie soundtrack-style orchestration that segues into the song.
512. The Gotham 4 – 3001
Ninth House guitarist Keith Otten originally released this towering, savage, flamenco-inflected anthem on the 1997 debut cd by his Kotten project, but it’s his 2006 two-guitar version with this later band that really burns down the house. Unlike what you might think, it’s not a sci-fi epic; the title refers to the number of days in a marriage.
511. Plan 9 – Man Bites Dog
These long-running Rhode Island garage/psychedelic revivalists’ claim to fame during their 80s heyday was their swirling, incandescent five-guitar live show, a high standard that their studio albums didn’t often live up to. This is an uncharacteristically terse, jangly and beautifully produced anthem with some sweet bass work from their otherwise mediocre 1987 lp Sea Hunt. The link above offers a choice of torrents.
510. Eddie & the Hotrods – Get Outta Denver
The British pub rockers’ finest moment, a tense, blazing live version of the Seeg’s Chuck Berry style hippie anthem, ending with the amps howling with feedback:  “You gotta GOOOOOOO!!!” Originally released on the UK-only Live at the Marquee ep, 1976, the following year on the almost as hard-to-find Teenage Depression lp. MP3s abound, and good luck finding the original – although you can use the link above for a torrent of the band’s first four albums.
509. System Noise – No One Saw What I Saw
The New York rockers’ finest moment to date is this savagely macabre, ornately orchestrated six-minute art rock anthem replete with all kinds of tempo shifts, a million layers of volcanic guitar licks swirling around each other, and wild crescendos from frontwoman Sarah Mucho. Unreleased, and once a staple of their live show; what the future holds for this, we’ll see.
508. David Bowie – Rock N Roll Suicide
The whole point of suicide songs is to discourage anyone considering it – those who write that kind of song typically do so as an alternative. Has this anthem ever saved a life? Wouldn’t bet against it. YOU’RE NOT ALONE!!! Last cut on Ziggy Stardust, 1972; mp3s are everywhere.
507. Elmore James – Cry for Me
One of the most technologically advanced artists of his era, James was multi-tracking in stereo as early as 1956! Not to be confused with the boogie Cry for Me Baby, this is a fast, sinister shuffle featuring the great Chicago blues guitarist in terse, fast, minor-key mode without his trademark slide. Mp3s are out there, but be prepared for some sifting.
506. Ian Hunter – Rain
If you count everything in the guy’s prolific post-Mott the Hoople career, Hunter’s got a pretty impressive catalog of gloomy, Lou Reed-ish glamrock. This is a big, swirling, stately, elegaic anthem with towering, monumental post-Sandinista production by the Clash’s Mick Jones. Mp3s are kicking around; if you’re looking for vinyl, it’s on the Short Back and Sides lp from 1981.
505. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Vanishing Girl
One of the greatest hits of the 60s…except that this deliciously twangy, slyly Beatlesque two-guitar pop hit was written and released by XTC in 1985 as part of their Dukes of Stratosphear psychedelic parody project. Love that booming Colin Moulding bassline. MP3s are around; originally issued as the title track from a three-song vinyl ep.
504. Derek & the Dominoes – Layla
No way, no way, no way. This can’t be one of the alltime top 666. “Classic rock radio” has burnt this to toast. Oh yeah? Every year, a new generation of gradeschool kids discovers it with fresh ears. And did you know that for all intents and purposes, the hack who gets all the credit for it basically didn’t write it? That opening guitar lick? Stolen straight out of Personal Manager by Albert King. All those layers of crazy slide guitar overdubs? Duane Allman. And the piano part? That was written and played by the drummer, Jim Gordon, who later went nuts, killed his mother and remains institutionalized in California, 25 years later. Contrarians should check out John Fahey’s lovely 1984 acoustic guitar instrumental version.
503. The PassengersFace with No Name
One of the greatest Australian bands of the late 70s, the Passengers tragically never achieved the fame they so deserved. With their haunting guitar-and-keyboard garage-pop sound and the chillingly direct, wrenchingly heartfelt vocals of frontwoman Angie Pepper, they were on the brink of releasing their first album when their label discovered that Pepper had secretly married Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek. Fearing that she’d relocate to the States (they were right), the album was never released and the master tapes mysteriously went AWOL for years (but happily resurfaced, ending up on the 2001 Citadel cd reissue It’s Just That I Miss You). In the interim, all that had remained of the band’s recorded output was a single rehearsal tape, released on cd in 1985 on the French Revenge label. Despite the dodgy sound quality, the otherwordly quality of Pepper’s voice against the cascades of electric piano on this song will give you chills. On an even more auspicious note, Pepper resurrected the band in 2006 as an acoustic act; other than the new-ish recordings on their myspace, it remains to be seen how far they’ll go with it. The link in the title at the top is an imeem stream for the song.
502. The Notorious BIG – My Downfall
“Yeah, pray and pray for my downfall,” the greatest hip-hop lyricist of alltime taunts over a well-chosen, haunting sample loop, at the same time all too cognizant of how fragile his existence was. No other artist ever saw his death coming so fast, or managed to get in as much intensity before it happened. From Life After Death, 1997; mp3s are everywhere.
501. Steve Wynn & Australian Blonde – King of Riverside Park
From the Momento cd, the great noir rocker’s 2001 collaboration with this Spanish rock band, one of the first albums to be recorded collaboratively on separate continents over email. This is its high point, a gorgeously Byrdsy individualist’s anthem told from the point of view of a bum in the park who triumphantly stands outside it all. “This is my life, ain’t nothing gonna bring me down, I’m the King of Riverside Park.” Strangely, nothing up in the Steve Wynn section at (297 live shows and counting!), although it’s on a live at Lakeside bootleg from 02 or so.
500. The Notorious BIG –You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You
This isn’t about fame. It’s about being forgotten. As great a storyteller as he was a poet, Biggie never would have written any kind of prosaic “get out of the game” cautionary tale. Instead, with last song he ever released, he offered the brutally ironic tale of dead gangster, recalling what he looked like, who he hung out with, his hairstyle, his fashion sense, what he drove, his drug problem, everything but the guy’s name. RIP.

499. Squeeze – Another Nail in My Heart
“And here in the bar, the piano man’s found another nail for my heart,” Jools Holland’s Farfisa blending magically and intensely with Chris Difford’s distorted guitar. One of the most texturally beautiful moments in recorded music history. Never mind the fact that it’s a killer new wave pop hit. From Argybargy, 1980; mp3s are everywhere.
498. Lloyd Cole – Brand New Friend
Cole’s one classic album, 1986’s Easy Pieces, was produced by the same team that did Elvis Costello’s Punch the Clock, who gave its gorgeous, upbeat, snarlingly literate songs a similar robust, frequently horn-driven sheen. Suddenly it looked like Costello had some competition. Sadly for Cole, it was pretty much downhill from there. This is a gorgeously swaying, understatedly bitter, accordion-driven  expansion on an old Jim Morrison lyrical riff. Mp3s are everywhere; the link above is youtube clip of the original video.
497. King Crimson – Starless
Arguably the great British art-rock band’s finest twelve minutes or so, a suite that starts out wistful and eventually goes starless and bible black, John Wetton’s bass climbing deliberately and murderously as Robert Fripp holds down the suspense with his guitar. Classical music devotees will recognize a theme from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time – figures that Fripp would be a fan, doesn’t it? From the Red lp, 1979; the link above is a torrent.
496. John Prine – Down by the Side of the Road
Prine at the peak of his drawling, narrative power, an offhandedly scary, death-obsessed tale of a woman’s long fall that leaves her in the song’s title – a shot rings out, a pickup truck pulls up and the rest is left up to you. Nice tune, too. From the Pink Cadillac lp, 1979, reissued on his own Oh Boy label. The link above is a torrent of the whole thing.
495. Randi RussoLive Bait
New York noir rocker Russo’s arguably strongest suit as a songwriter is how she cuts to the chase: she doesn’t waste a note or a word. This big, corrosively powerful antiwar anthem lopes along on a growling Middle Eastern melody – and then it modulates. Sweetly evil, chromatically-fueled lead guitar from Lenny Molotov. From the Live at Sin-e cd, 2005; the link in the song title above is the stream at deezer.
494. King – Taste of Your Tears
Members in good standing of the Zager and Evans Hall of Fame, these wimpy British “new romantics” were the last band you would ever expect to deliver this beautifully wistful 1986 epic pop hit bouncing along on layers and layers of gorgeously watery, staccato wah-wah guitar. Neither the band nor frontman Paul King in his blip of a solo career would ever create anything remotely as good. Mp3s are everywhere; the link above is to the original video (check out those ridiculous haircuts!).
493. Gruppo Sportivo – Mission a Paris
The Dutch rock satirists are haunting despite themselves here on one of their biggest European hits, a spy story spoof with one of the saddest major-to-minor hooks ever, carried by an organ line that manages to be cheery and brooding at the same time. Originally on the 10 Mistakes lp, 1979; there’s also a nice live, mostly acoustic version with accordion instead of the organ on the 1997 Second Life cd. The link above is a torrent of the whole album.
492. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
If you’re a reggae fan, you know this one, the prophetic 1974 title track from what might be the greatest roots reggae album ever. Yet the best version ever may be the one the band was doing in concert in the late 90s, amping it up to ska speed with a much more darkly direct, fiery horn chart. Look for a bootleg – the 1999 Central Park Summerstage version is transcendent.
491. Jenifer Jackson – Dreamland
This gorgeously dark, brooding ballad went through a bunch of permutations before Jackson brought the tempo down for the sparse, mysterious version on her career-best 2007 live-in-the-studio cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town. It’s about coming thisclose to getting what you long for and then…
490. The Electric Light Orchestra – The Way Life’s Meant to Be
70s British art-rock meets noir Phil Spector with a little flamenco feel on this understatedly anguished survivor anthem from the vastly underrated if lyrically bizarre sci-fi themed Time lp, 1981. For this you need a good system: check out Jeff Lynne’s baritone guitar solo…and the kettle drum! The link above is to the youtube stream.
489. System Noise – Daydreaming
Our pick for best song of 2006, it began as an exercise in dynamics, the band exploring what might happen if they wrote a song that started quiet, got loud and then quiet again. This slow, towering, magnificently macabre anthem is the result, Sarah Mucho’s anguished yet brutally self-aware voice soaring over a maelstrom of guitars: “Loneliness is all I have tonight.” From a forthcoming cd; bootlegs abound, including the 2008 video above.
488. Elvis Costello – All the Rage
This furiously defiant, soul-inflected 6/8 kiss-off ballad is the centerpiece of Costello’s 1994 “comeback” cd with his old band the Attractions, Brutal Youth. Still a concert favorite, with one of his most revealing lyrics:
Don’t try to touch my heart
It’s darker than you think
And don’t try to read my mind
Because it’s full of disappearing ink
487. DollHouse – Anymore
With their haunting four-part harmonies and a killer songwriting team in frontwoman Lisa Lost and bassist Frankie Monroe, these noir rockers were arguably New York’s best band for a couple of years in the late 90s and early zeros before calling it quits for good in 2002. This is their finest moment, a heartwrenching requiem kicking off with a characteristically gorgeous, soaring Monroe bassline followed by Lost’s anguished, subdued vocals. The person eulogized here is actually a cat. From their classic 2000 cd Touch the Moon. The link above is to an audio stream of the song.
486. The Saints – Brisbane
Lead guitarist Ed Kuepper’s finest moment in the band. This slowly burning epic is one of the great summer songs of alltime – it just radiates heat and defiance over listlessness. On an unexpectedly prophetic note, the song is subtitled “Security City” – little did the band know what was to come in the following decades. From the 1978 album Prehistoric Sounds.
485. Rachelle Garniez – Quality Star
Arguably the noir-inclined, multistylistic New York chanteuse’s finest hour. It begins all starlit and atmospheric with eerie music-box piano, subtly building to an explosion on the chorus:
You say monsters like us don’t make good husbands and wives
But monsters
Lead such interesting lives
And I don’t know what you’re hoping the future might bring
But monsters
Make the best of everything
And the outro is pure redemption, pure revenge for anyone who’s ever been betrayed. From her classic 2003 cd Luckyday.
484. Ward White – Hole in the Head
I need this job like a hole in the head
I need a hole in the head to keep this job
And I need a head for some reason that escapes me now
There’s no escaping you
Arguably the New York underground songwriter’s most lyrically pulverizing moment, a venomous swipe at corporate greed and selfcenteredness, more apt than ever in these early days of the depression. Beautiful, sparse melody too. From his brilliant 2006 cd Maybe But Probably Not, streaming at his site.
483. Rachelle Garniez – Crazy Blood
Title track to her superb 2001 cd, a haunting, minor-key blues as anguished as anything Bessie Smith or Nina Simone ever wrote – and as uncharacteristically direct as the great New York noir songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has ever been:
No one knows the trouble I’ve been
Torn up, twisted, time and time again
Had a chance to make changes but I threw it away…
482. New Model Army – 225
Fast Lillywhite-beat anthem from the 80s…of course. Justin Sullivan’s prophetic lyrics reprinted in full below:
She stares at the screen at the little words of green,
Tries to remember, what to do next
There’s a trace of frustration, that crosses her face
Searching for the key she should press
And I would help her, if I only know how
But these things are a mystery to me too
And it seems that the corporate eyes they are watching.
She fears for her job and the moments are passing
I stare at her nametag and think to myself
Both you and I
We never asked
For any of this
So let’s take a walk
Up past the chemical works
Where the sky turns green at night
And we’ll talk
About getting away from here
Some different kind of life
But even in the freshest mountain air
The jet fighters practice overhead
And they’re drilling these hills for uranium deposits
And they’ll bury the waste for our children to inherit
And though this is all done for our own benefit, I swear
We never asked
For any of this
This golden age of communication
Means that everyone talks the same time
And liberty just means some freedom to exploit
Any weakness that you can find
Well turn of the TV just for a while
Let us whisper to each other instead
And we’ll hope that the corporate ears do not listen
Lest we find ourselves committing some kind of treason
And filed in the tapes without rhyme, without reason
While they tell us that it’s all for our own protection,
I swear
We never asked
For any of this
This was 1989, folks. From the album Thunder and Consolation. Here’s a cool  video.
481. The Go Go’s – Here You Are
Jane Wiedlin at the absolute top of her game as a songwriter, this time with a gorgeously haunting, atmospheric, Beatlesque ballad:
So if you lose control
And burn a bridge too far
No matter where you go
Here you are
From the band’s triumphant 2001 comeback cd God Bless the Go Go’s. The link above is a download.
480. The Coffin Daggers – Besame Mucho Twist
Some claim that the original is the most widely recorded song of alltime. The Ventures’ surf version was good but nothing like this. By a long shot, the New York surf punks’ savagely macabre cover, a staple of their live set circa 1999-2004, is the best, bringing out every menacing chromatic in the old 1940s Mexican bolero hit. Never officially released, but there are bootlegs kicking around.
479. The Fixx – Driven Out
Songs like this just make you shake your head and wonder, if the band could write something this great, why didn’t they do it again? But they never did. In this fiery, apocalyptic backbeat anthem from their now-forgotten 1988 lp Calm Animals, they finally let the guitars roar free, with a bitter, angry lyric: “Castaways have silent lives with a strength to rival you all.” There’s also a nice acoustic version by the wonderfully named Lenape Fire Turtle.
478. The Slickee Boys – Here to Stay
Old song from the 70s resurrected on their 1989 Live at Last lp. The twin guitar attack of Marshall Keith and Kim Kane is characteristically scorching, with one of their trademark eerie garage/punk melodies. The group – what’s left of them – was still doing annual “reunion” shows in their native Washington, DC area as late as the early part of the zeros. A particularly wild, somewhat loose version of this song is up on the band’s myspace.
477. The Secrets – How to Be Good
A legend in the making: dark New York rock at its purest and catchiest, a downcast, fatalistic anthem built around an irresistible minor-key hook, frontman Brian Stabile chronicling the story of a guy who somewhat defiantly refuses to resist temptation. True to their name, the band rarely played out and didn’t leave much in the way of recordings other than this track from the just-released, gloriously good 2009 NYC underground rock compilation Beefstock Recipes. It’s also on the band’s myspace along with more intriguingly good stuff.
476. Bruce Springsteen – Adam Raised a Cain
Here’s a number completely in touch with the Boss’ working-class roots, from his raging late 70s peak, Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1977, a study in violence getting passed down through the generations: “You’re born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else’s past.” The best version out there is actually the ferocious live take from the multi-lp set, 1985. Good luck finding it online – there’s probably as much Bruce as Dead floating around limewire. The link above is a decent live take from Boston, 1999.
475. Randi Russo - Drowned Crown Revolution
Hypnotic post-Velvets jangle into an aptly ominous chorus that stays just this short of macabre. It’s the closest thing to an actual call to arms that the NY noir rocker has ever written, a warning to anyone who dares question the powers that be:
They’ll hold you back
While holding you down
They’ll run the water
Over your polished crown
They want to see it tarnish
They want to watch it rust
Put your head in a harness
And watch you kick up dust
While they drown you
Unreleased, but it’s a frequent staple of her live show.
474. Leonard Cohen - Who By Fire
Early Cohen at his most deathly: this is the literary person’s People Who Died, predating the Jim Carroll song by a couple of years. One of Cohen’s most haunting numbers, even if his voice hadn’t yet reached foggy bottom and the production is stereotypical late 60s faux-Dylan. From the New Skin for the Old Ceremony album, 1974. Mp3s are everywhere.
473. The Electric Light Orchestra – Showdown
Not the 1973 British blues-lite hit from the On the Third Day lp – this is the careening, absolutely out-of-control live version the band was playing circa 1977-78, building to a swirling cauldron of noise with all the strings going full tilt right before the last chorus. Then they do it again at the end. Worth digging through the files at limewire or elsewhere: the dodgy sound only enhances the mayhem.
472. Otis Rush – All Your Love
Arguably the greatest Chicago blues guitarist, Rush is lefthanded. Perhaps partly for that reason, like Hendrix, Albert King and Randi Russo, his playing has a distinctively dark feel. In Rush’s case, it’s a combination of screaming, tortured bent chords and ominous passing tones that mingle in his flights up and down the scale, giving his sound a special eeriness. If you’re a blues fan, you know this one, scary intro and outro making a somewhat jarring segue with the upbeat boogie in the middle. Mp3s are everywhere. Like all the best blues guys, Rush is at his best live: the 1975 Live in Japan version is choice, but there are other equally good versions (Chicago Blues, NYC, 2001, for example) floating around in bootleg-land. The link above is a characteristically expansive live take.
471. The Coffin Daggers – The Forgotten Prisoner
From the NYC surf instrumentalists’ third self-titled release (and first full-length cd, or at least the longest one they did), from 2004, this is an original and it’s arguably the high point of their career, Peter Klarnet’s bass looming ominously under a cauldron of distorted guitar and horror-movie organ.
470. The Slickee Boys - Pushing My Luck
Desperate, alienated, minor-key noir 60s-style pop amped to redline with scorching guitars by the brilliant Washington, DC psychedelic punk band. From their classic 1983 lp Cybernetic Dreams of Pi, still available from TwinTone as a download. As late as a couple of years ago, the band was still doing holiday-season reunion.
469. Jethro Tull – Black Sunday
From the nuclear apocalypse concept album A, from 1980, comes this uncharacteristically terse anthem about “the one day I would trade for a Monday,” as Ian Anderson puts it. The record was supposed to be a solo effort, but as it turned out he ended up putting the whole band on it with him. That’s Fairport Convention’s rhythm section doing the prog-rock thing, if you can believe. Mp3s are everywhere; the vinyl surprisingly makes an appearance in the dollar bins from time to time. And it’s actually excellent – no Dance of the Gnomes, no Viking battle songs, no minstrels in the gallery annoying everyone in the wee hours with their interminably longwinded Scottish ballads.
468. The Passengers – My Sad Day
The legendary Australian new wave pioneers’ frontwoman Angie Pepper once said that she meant every word she sang, a claim that was never more apparent on this anguished yet catchy 1979 pop song blending jangly guitar with ominous Doorsy organ. From the 2001 It’s Just That I Miss You reissue compilation on the Aussie Citadel label, also on the French Revenge cd of rehearsal outtakes, floating around in mp3-land. The group remains active, releasing the haunting, mostly acoustic cd In the Garden of Good & Evil late last year as a trio in Australia.
467. Saint-Preux – Concerto Pour Une Voix
This is sort of like Freebird for vocalese. Just so you know, we deleted Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Elton John to make room on the list for this bittersweet 1969 song without words, iconic in Europe but little-known elsewhere, Danielle Licari soaring into the uppermost ranges as the orchestra swells behind her. Covered by every obscure golden-voiced woman who’s ever posted anything to youtube, the original remains the best.
466. 10 CC – For You & I
This artsy 70s British band alternated between cloying pop and a kind of nerdy Genesis-lite. This is their finest moment, one of most beautiful examples of synthesized orchestration that actually worked, understated epic grandeur rather than cheese. From the 1978 Bloody Tourists album, download it here
465. Absinthe – Messed Up Likes of Us
Not the goth-metal band but the vastly more haunting solo project of soulful baritone crooner and BoDeans frontman Sam Llanas. The longing and anguish in this bitter, Orbisonesque breakup anthem is visceral. From the band’s lone, classic cd, 1999’s A Good Day to Die.
464. The Undertones – When Saturday Comes
Uncharacteristically complex, darkly jangly new wave guitar rock from the Irish band’s 1981 lp Positive Touch. The album version is pretty, but the scorching live version the band was doing circa 1981-83 is absolutely lights out: the video link above only hints at it. Singer Feargal Sharkey would go on to some infamy working for British Music Rights, sort of the UK version of the RIAA.
463. Absinthe – Still Alone
This bitterly and brutally evocative portrayal of life among the down-and-out and soon to be down-and-permanently-out is the centerpiece of the band’s one classic album, 1999’s A Good Day to Die, arguably BoDeans frontman Sam Llanas’ finest moment as a songwriter – and he has many.
462. True WestMorning Light
Not the most interesting lyric, but what an exhilarating, beautiful song, with all those layers of gorgeous, jangling, twanging, roaring guitars. Along with the Slickee Boys, True West were the best of the “Paisley Underground” of early-mid 80s neo-psychedelic bands, driven by the frequently fiery interplay of Richard McGrath and Russ Tolman’s fretwork. From the classic Drifters album, 1984; there’s the cd reissue Hollywood Holiday Revisited out there as well. The link in the title above is to the stream at deezer.
461. The Alan Parsons Project - Day After Day
About 35 years ago, British songwriter/keyboardist Eric Woolfson wrote a song cycle based on several Edgar Allan Poe short stories (hey, don’t laugh, it was the 70s). One thing led to another and it ended up being recorded in 1976 by a group featuring most of the powerpop band Pilot, put together by producer Alan Parsons (hence the name). The lp, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, was a surprise hit, so the group decided to follow it up with a vaguely sci-fi themed, more pop-oriented one, I Robot, that spawned a couple of big radio singles and established the band as a sort of poor man’s Pink Floyd for the next eight years or so. This is its centerpiece, a beautifully wistful 6/8 ballad about looking for lost time.
460. Botanica The Truth Fish
The title track to the NYC noir art-rockers’ classic 2004 cd Botanica vs. the Truth Fish – the only album by an American band not named Rasputina to thoroughly condemn the Bush regime for 9/11 – it’s a scathing broadside addressing the “code orange bullshit of Machiavellian ordeals” of the ensuing months and years, a fiery gypsy dance mutating into a phantasmagorically swinging cabaret tune and then back again. The link in the title above is a ferocious live clip from a recent European tour. It was sort of the theme song from Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch’s legendarySmall Beast residency at the Delancey in New York.
459. Blondie - Angels on the Balcony
Jimmy Destri’s sweeping layers of synth give this sweet powerpop gem a gorgeously lush feel: you don’t even notice how off-key Debbie Harry’s voice is. From Autoamerican, 1980; mp3s abound.
458. Tom Warnick & World’s Fair40 People
No other song by a New York band so perfectly captures a struggling musician’s dilemma than this laugh-out-loud, bitingly funny number by the great carnivalesque rocker: how to get a better gig than an 11 PM Monday night slot where the promoter expects the band to draw at least 40 people? From his criminally underrated 2006 cd May I See Some ID?
457. Hot Tuna – Mann’s Fate
Recorded live to two-track in a crowded San Francisco coffeehouse in 1969, this instrumental captures ex-Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady at the peak of their fiery improvisational powers. From the duo’s debut lp; as you’d imagine, there are innumerable versions floating around and they’re all excellent. The link above is a vintage youtube clip from around the time the album came out (although the visuals don’t sync).
456. The Church Field of Mars
Matching the jangle and clang of the Byrds, the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd and the visionary lyricism of Elvis Costello, the Church were arguably the best rock band of the 80s and are inarguably one of the best of alltime. This isn’t frontman Steve Kilbey’s first song about a ghost, but it is one of his best, punctuated by a rich, watery Peter Koppes guitar solo. Twelve-string player Marty Willson-Piper sings. The Field of Mars referred to here isn’t the one in Paris, it’s a cemetery in Sydney, Australia. From The Blurred Crusade, 1982 (link will take you to a download). Look for the band on US tour in summer 2009, and a new album as well as solo efforts from Kilbey and Willson-Piper.
455. Richard Thompson – I Still Dream
The greatest rock songwriter ever? The greatest rock guitarist ever? Many would say that the answer to both questions is no-brainer and it’s this guy. This wrenching Britfolk-style ballad is a showcase for all kinds of chops: lyrical, compositional and musical. From the Amnesia album, 1987. The link above is a stream of the studio version; here’s a slightly lo-fi but still sweet live take from four years later.
454. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Arabian Nights
John McGeoch’s beautiful, haunting, watery guitar floating floating over a pounding rhythm section, carrying Siouxsie’s eerily microtonal, accusatory vocals. From the Juju album, 1982; the link above is a youtube stream of the original video. Mp3s are everywhere.
453. The Moonlighters - Blue and Black-Eyed
From the longest-lived and arguably the best of the crop of oldtimey bands that sprang up throughout New York during the late 90s, this is an absolutely haunting, period-perfect,  original late 19th century-style ragtime song by bandleader Bliss Blood (formerly of teenage S&M hardcore band the Pain Teens). It’s the sad tale of a prostitute who hurls herself to her death from the fire escape at the notorious dive bar McGuirk’s Suicide Hall on lower Bowery (now a “luxury” condo soon to be a crack house) when she discovers she’s pregnant. Henry Bogdan’s steel guitar solo will give you chills. From the Dreamland cd, 2000.
452. The Sex Pistols – No Feelings
This one you know. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a justification for rightwing selfishness – it’s just a raised middle finger at conformity. “I kick you in the brains when you get down to kneel and pray, you pray to your god!!!” This link is to the version from their last-ever show with Sid Vicious, Winterland, 1977. In case you’re unfamiliar, Bananarama’s deadpan 1981 cover - from when they were still ostensibly punk girls – is hilarious.
451. Steve Earle – F the CC
“Fuck the FCC!” Steve and the band howl. “Fuck the FBI, fuck the CIA, we’re living in the goddamn USA!” A blow for first-amendment rights by one of the Constitution’s hardest-rocking advocates. From the classic 2004 cd The Revolution Starts Now.
450. Robert Cray – Smoking Gun
Wherein the great bluesman decided to write a REM song and succeeded wildly. Like nothing he ever did before or after – maybe that’s a good thing. Love that catchy bassline. And notice how, on the solo, he goes from matter-of-fact swing to absolute redline in a split second? Wow. From the Strong Persuader album, 1986; mp3s are everywhere.
449. Al Stewart – Life in Dark Water
For several years in the 70s, when he was at the top of his game this British rocker was sort of a one-man Pink Floyd. Produced by Alan Parsons and backed by several of the crew who would later be the Alan Parsons Project, his songs were dramatic, historically imbued and gorgeously orchestrated. Stewart is also a notorious thief: he never met a good idea he didn’t want to blatantly steal. Here it’s the “ping” from Echoes by Pink Floyd, put to good use in this haunting, aptly watery epic about the 19th century ghost ship Mary Celeste. From the Time Passages lp, 1978; torrents abound. The link above is a stripped-down acoustic version that only hints at the grandeur of the original.
448. The Stooges – No Sense of Crime
In many cases Iggy & co. did the opiated Exile On Main St. major key bluesy rock thing even better than the Stones and this is a prime example, circa 1972, beginning as an elegiac acoustic ballad and building to a hypnotically pulsing anthem, James Williamson doing a spot-on version of Keith Richards. It’s been anthologized to death (the Kill City lp from the late 70s was the first); mp3s are everywhere.
447. Simon & Garfunkel – Richard Cory
Despite using some pretty primitive amps, a lot of 60s bands got an amazing bass sound and this has some of the best, both boomy and clicky at the same time. Makes you wonder who the player was and what he or she was playing: a hollowbody, no doubt. Then there’s the lyrics, Edward Arlington Robinson’s offhandedly savage poem about the guy who had everything, who went home one night and put a bullet through his head. From Sounds of Silence, 1966; mp3s are everywhere. The link here is a youtube clip.
446. Steve WynnSouthern California Line
This ferocious, stomping, pitchblende anthem is arguably the great noir rocker’s darkest moment, driven by Dave DeCastro’s gleefully macabre, swooping bassline. From Wynn’s best (or at least his longest) album, Here Come the Miracles, 2001, which you’ll see on our upcoming Best Albums of the Decade list sometime this year. Although the studio version of this song is probably the best, the cut on the live Heilbron Burgerhaus cd from 2004 is choice, and there are dozens of other superb versions up at
445. Mychael Danna – Field 4
Bone-chilling Armenian-flavored instrumental from the score to the 1994 Atom Egoyan softcore porn film Exotica. The soundtrack is rustic and exquisite, a precursor to the Everything Is Illuminated score. The film apparently features a young Mia Kirshner doing stripteases in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit.
444.The Goodie Mob – Cell Therapy
“Who’s that peeking in my window? Blam, nobody now!” A savagely offhand call for privacy rights set to a supremely eerie piano sample by the Atlanta group who made a mark in the mid-90s blending hip-hop with oldschool 70s soul. From the Soul Food cd, 1995; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the original video.
443. Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks Theme
As a classical composition, the way the composer takes its central four-note motif and builds around it is nothing short of brilliant. Deservedly one of the most iconic melodies of the late 80s/early 90s. From the 1989 soundtrack to the great, phantasmagorical David Lynch noir show (imagine David Lynch on network tv now, the idea is preposterous!), mp3s are everywhere.
442. Body Count – Cop Killer
Over a melody that very cleverly quotes Los Angeles by X, future tv character actor Ice-T talks justice and revenge in the wake of the Rodney King scandal, 1992. The right-wing backlash was so vitriolic that the label caved in, recalled the album and reissued it without the track; copies from the era are a collector’s item (we have one). Mp3s are everywhere.
441. DollHouse – No Babies for Bonnie
Bonnie can’t have babies because every time Bonnie got pregnant, she had an abortion. And now it’s too late. New York noir songwriting at its best, part savage punk sarcasm, part genuine angst over a catchy minor-key melody punctuated by bassist Frankie Monroe’s soaring low-register lines, the band’s contrapuntal, four-part harmonies absolutely macabre: “No babies, no babies, no babies!” From a rare ep circa 2000. Frontwoman Lisa Lost would go on to become the doyenne of New York vocal coaches; Monroe is still active, most recently backing Jamaican-American reggae/pop songwriter Newsville Washington.
440. Robin Lane & the Chartbusters – Send Me an Angel
The water runs deep
Under the cold concrete
Empties all its waste
Into the harbor
Beyond the music, you know what else is great about punk and new wave and so many bands of the era? The relevance. The fearlessness, the unwillingness to look away, to confront the ugly reality.  This is a Boston band, of course. Chanteuse (and ex-Neil Young pal) Robin Lane was an early 80s star in New England, foreshadowing the janglerock era by a few years. This minor radio hit ’s ominous, hypnotic, repetitive opening riff and Lane’s throaty, passionate vocals are typical of her other work, and with the twin guitar attack of Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe (from the Modern Lovers), the band was killer. Lane and Brebner each continue to perform around the Boston area. From the Imitation Life lp, 1981; mp3s are out there, but you’ll have to dig.
439. Conformorama – A Pocketful of Stones
Here’s a real obscure one that you’re not going to find anywhere online. It’s a ferocious, punkish, minor-key stomp driven by a tightly unwinding contrapuntal melody between the guitar and bass with a lyric that updates a Faulkner theme from Go Down Moses, a bridge jumper taking the plunge in order to avoid dying in a nuclear holocaust. The best available version from this artsy postpunk band is on a virtually impossible-to-find cassette-only live recording from CBGB. Written by the bassist, who would go on to play country, rock, surf music and jazz with innumerable other popular and obscure New York groups.
438. Lloyd Cole – Rich
The wildly catchy opening track on Cole’s lone classic album, 1986’s Easy Pieces gleefully depicts a rich old codger abandoned and alone on the California coast, finally getting what he deserves, “forsaken, grey and giving it away.” The link above is an actually decent live version from British tv, 1985. Mp3s are out there.
437. The Creatures – Venus Sands
When Siouxsie and Budgie aren’t busy with Siouxsie & the Banshees, they do this frequently scary minimalist project. This is that group’s best song, a ghastly, marimba-driven, atmospheric evocation of death from above that actually succeeds at what Hitchcock was trying to do with The Birds. From the Boomerang cd, 1989; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the stream at
436. Arlo Guthrie – Presidential Rag
What did Nixon know? In 1974, everybody wanted to know. This was back when Presidents who broke the law were impeached. How times changed over the next thirty years. Over a beautiful, minor-key shuffle tune that grows from wah-wah blues to a lush, orchestrated ballad, Woody’s kid chronicles everything that went wrong during a decade that’s now fetishized in indie rock:
People still are hungry
People still are poor
An honest day of work these days
Don’t feed the kids no more…
The schools are still like prisons
Where they don’t learn how to live
And everybody still wants to take
They don’t know how to give….
Hell yeah, you’ll be remembered, you’ll be remembered very well!
From his self-titled 1974 lp; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the song at youtube.
435. LJ Murphy – Geneva Conventional
Like Clampdown by the Clash, ultimately this is about selling out. Over a stark E minor blues, the great New York noir rocker reveals what happens when you trade your conscience for whatever it is you think you need more of: “Kiss the ground, cry your tears, see what’s come of your best years.” From the classic Mad Within Reason cd, 2005.
434. The Stranglers – Always the Sun
By the time these growling, keyboard-driven British new wavers released this on their 1986 Dreamtime album, they were pretty much out of gas. But this ominous, hauntingly atmospheric number ranks with their best songs, Hugh Cornwell’s baritone rising just over the nocturnal swell of Dave Greenfield’s string synth.
433. LJ Murphy – St. James Hotel
Set to one of Murphy’s catchiest yet most haunting melodies, this is a characteristically brilliant noir narrative, a WWII vet slowly losing it in a Times Square SRO hotel:
I got down upon my knees
And listened to the voices in my head
Telling me I should never fear
Except whatever’s moving in my bed
Unreleased, and Murphy rarely plays this live anymore, although there are bootlegs kicking around.
432. The Contras – Dead Guy
Snarling Americana-inflected punk from Minneapolis, 1987, one of the most obscure tracks you’ll ever find. Kid’s on his way to school, worried about some physics test. And then a grisly sight suddenly puts everything in perspective. Followed by an offhandedly savage guitar solo by lead player Mike Crabtree. If you ever run across a copy of their lone release, the self-pressed Ciphers in the Snow album, grab it. The one song on it that’s made it to digital (sort of) is their tongue-in-cheek cover of Abba’s SOS.
431. True West Hollywood Holiday
Suspense story set to ferocious Telecaster clang and crash from the leaders of the 80s’ so-called “Paisley Underground,” 1983. The Sacramento band spun off of Steve Wynn’s earliest pre-Dream Syndicate band the Suspects and in their brief lifespan with the original lineup released two classic vinyl albums plus a third posthumously that was excellent as well. Lots of reissued stuff out there, plus the surviving members reunited for some live dates in 2008. Let’s hope they keep it up.
430. Jimi Hendrix – Love or Confusion
Arguably the most straight-up song he ever wrote, as gorgeous for its layers of wild, wind-whipped guitar as for Noel Redding’s soaring bassline. From Are You  Experienced, 1967. Mp3s everywhere.
429. Matt KeatingNight’s Still Young
Revenge anthems don’t get any more satisfying than this big, crescendoing, sinister janglerock song about lying in wait til the time is right. It might be the great literate rocker’s best song, unavailable other than this lusciously leering live acoustic take on youtube in the title above.
428. Catspaw – Southbound Line
The New York rockabilly/surf trio’s signature song is their best, and it’s a classic, frontwoman/guitarist Jasmine Sadrieh’s haunting account of a woman going nowhere slowly on the Jersey Transit train from hell…or to hell. From their playfully titled 2005 debut cd Ancient Bateyed Wallman, still in print and available at shows.
427. The Stooges – Louie Louie
At the end of Joy Division’s cover of Sister Ray, you can hear Ian Curtis saying, “You should hear us do Louie Louie.” No doubt this is what he was referring to, Iggy’s absolutely filthy, completely politically incorrect version from the 1976 live Metallic KO album. You can hear him complain about getting hit by a beer bottle for a second at the end of the song.
426. Penelope Houston – Voices
Slow, haunting, 6/8 ballad from the Avengers’ frontwoman’s excellent 1986 acoustic solo debut album Birdboys (still available on cd and high quality cassette!). It’s an ominous meditation on getting old – which Houston seems incapable of becoming.
425. Buddy Woodward & Nitro Express – Lost in Austin
Before starting the Dixie Bee-Liners, the great Americana songwriter fronted this deliciously twangy New York “country combo” outfit that also featured the superb Danny Weiss (now with Reckon So) on lead guitar. This was their big crowd-pleaser, a characteristically clever but wrenching ballad. Recorded and unreleased but occasionally podcasted. By the way, you can win free VIP tix to Dixie Bee-Liners shows this summer – plus tix to their cd release show in Nashville this fall.
424. Squeeze – Labelled with Love
Chris Difford at his most keenly perceptive with a sad country ballad from West Side Story, 1981. This is an actually commonplace tale, a WWII bride who “learned from a distance that love was a lesson,” who ends up taking up her husband’s bad habit back to the UK, ultimately finding herself completely and absolutely alone with a bottle “labelled with love.”
423. Mary Lee’s Corvette – Herculetta
This is a song about hubris – and about being casually crushed by a world that couldn’t care less. That’s what’s so cool about frontwoman Mary Lee Kortes’ songwriting – as with Elvis Costello, there are so many levels of meaning in everything she writes. Nicely ornate ELO-ish chamber-pop arrangement, too. From the 700 Miles cd, 2004.
422. Industrial Tepee – Lake 48
Long, ominously jangly, slightly Dylanesque southwestern gothic ballad from circa 2000-2001 by this brilliant New York band who never achieved the mass audience they deserved. The roads are all backed up for miles, everybody on their way to…where? The vacation of a lifetime, or something else entirely? Miss your exit and end up at Lake 47 instead, lots of people there too… Frontman Tom Shaner continues as a solo act and remains one of the most casually smart songwriters out there. The link in the title above is a live version from CB’s.
421. Steve Wynn – Invisible
The ultimate wee hours walk home song, bars all closed, sun coming up, and you’re feeling completely bulletproof:
I’m alone but I’m surrounded by predators and prey
They all turn to butter by the light of day
Nobody sees me as I spread their remains
On my toast in the morning
From the 1999 Pick of the Litter cd.
420. Jack Grace – Let Your Mind Do the Talking
The charismatic New York country singer’s finest and darkest hour as a songwriter. This is a haunting, somewhat epic minor-key anthem about a guy out in the sticks somewhere slowly and inexorably losing it. There’s a rough mix on Grace’s Staying Out All Night cd, as well as a live bootleg or two kicking around: in the years when he was a regular in the band, the late Drew Glackin would play lapsteel on this one, bringing the intensity to redline with his fiery solos.
419. Botanica – Good
Our predecessor e-zine’s pick for best song of 2004 was this towering, anguished 6/8 anthem, the centerpiece of the New York noir art-rockers’ classic 9/11-themed album Botanica vs. the Truth Fish, frontman Paul Wallfisch’s organ roaring in tandem with John Andrews’ reverb-drenched guitar. “I need a respite, just a moment of respite, I thought I caught it but now it is gone…”
418. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Playground Twist
Throughout the best years of the punk icon’s career, her persona was that of an outraged witness and this is characteristic and offhandedly savage. As Margaret Atwood put it, to little girls, other little girls aren’t cute. They’re lifesize. From the classic Join Hands lp, 1979; mp3s are everywhere.
417. Tom Waits - Everything Goes to Hell
We argued back and forth over whether to keep this one on the list. Of course Waits is great, everybody loves Waits. Which is why the debate arose – why give space on the top 666 to somebody so well-known when we could give a shout out to a great band that nobody’s ever heard of? In the end, Waits won out: this eerie, vibraphone-laced poison pill is pretty much his definitive song. From Blood Money, 2004; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the stream at grooveshark.
416. Pink Floyd – Pigs
Here’s another band that was extremely well represented on this list when we first dug it out of the drawer and decided to make it a daily feature here.  Then we then decided to repopulate the list with brilliant obscurities in the place of songs from the accepted canon. So you won’t see Atomheart Mother, or Shine on You Crazy Diamond, or even Echoes here. Hubris? Without a doubt. But this one we had to keep, the whole band at the absolute top of their game, towering, majestic, hypnotic and raging, all the way through to one of the most sonically ugly endings in the history of recorded music. From Animals, 1977; mp3s are everywhere.
415. The Dream Syndicate – Now I Ride Alone
Steve Wynn’s haunting, allusive backbeat widower anthem from the surprisingly mediocre Out of the Grey lp, 1986. As good as the studio version is, there are transcendent live versions out there. Here’s one from; the link above is an even better one from a bit later on.
414. Sielun Veljet – Turvaa
One of the most innovative bands of the early 80s, these wild, scorching Finnish rockers imbued overtone-laden PiL-style noise-rock with murky Nordic tonalities. This one screeches along on a darkly distorted, snapping bassline. The title sarcastically means “saved.” Best version out there is on their 1983 double live album, long out of print, although there are mp3s out there. This one’s on our wish list: what’s the Finnish word for “torrent?”
413. Public Image Ltd. – Think Tank
After Keith Levene left the band, John Lydon’s post-Pistols project floundered, the noise-rock pioneers running through a forgettable series of guitarists that included Steve Vai for one album! But toward the end, former Banshee John McGeoch did some time in the band, and it’s his ferocious, distorted chords and completely unhinged solo that make this anti-fascist anthem so brutally potent. Kiss this, Heritage Foundation. From their surprisingly good swan song That What Is Not cd, 1992; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is live in New York, 1992.
412. The Sex Pistols – No Lip
Another iconic band who occupied much more space on this list than they do now, before we cleaned house and replaced all the obvious suspects with some less obvious ones: after all, you don’t need us to tell you how great the Pistols were, do you? But this is a less obvious treat, Steve Jones turning Dave Berry’s old 1964 British R&B song into fiery, fractured pseudo-funk. From the Great Rock N Roll Swindle soundtrack (and a million bootlegs); mp3s are everywhere. Here’s a clip; this is the original  version.
411. The Pogues – Misty Morning, Albert Bridge
Shane MacGowan at his best: this big orchestrated Irish ballad in swaying 6/8 time has as much sadness, longing and authenticity as anything he ever did. From Peace & Love, 1988; mp3s are everywhere.
410. Peter Gabriel – Signal to Noise
A scream for sanity in the midst of idiocy set to a haunting, south Asian-tinged melody from Gabriel’s career-best album, Up, from 2006. The crescendoing roar of the orchestra as they make their way up the scale is viscerally intense. Gabriel used to do this live with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, so there are a bunch of live takes of the two of them on youtube.
409. The Sloe Guns – Guardian Angel
One of the most beautifully savage kiss-off anthems ever written, by these fiery two-guitar New York Americana rockers, from their 2004 cd Last Will & Testament, still a staple of their reliably bracing live show. “You’d never stab me in the back, unless you thought that I deserved it.”
408. Chris Thomas King – Bonnie & Clyde in D Minor
Best known for his deadpan portrayal of the blues singer in O Brother Where Art Thou, Chris Thomas King has also had a prolific career as a songwriter, spanning soul to acoustic blues to hip-hop. He’s also an excellent guitarist, one of the few who claim to be influenced by Albert King who actually play with the same kind of soul and restraint. The murderously intense, layered guitar leads on this track would make Albert (no relation) very proud. From The Legend of Tommy Johnson cd, 2001; mp3s are out there.
407. Supertramp – School
One of the best bands of the 70s, Supertramp alternated between catchy (and occasionally cloying) pop songs and lushly orchestrated art-rock anthems. This is one of the latter, driven by Rick Davies’ incisive, percussively bluesy piano. A majestic epic for nonconformist kids everywhere, it has as much resonance today as it did thirty years ago. The original studio version from the 1974 Crime of the Century lp is decent, but it’s the live version on the 1979 Paris album that’s the classic. Mp3s are everywhere.
406. Neko Case – Guided by Wire
The great Americana chanteuse has been through many different phases; this song dates from the tail end of her Loretta Lynn period from the Furnace Room Lullaby cd, 2000. This backbeat-driven loner anthem reaffirms that the tenderest place in her heart is for strangers, a tribute to great radio songs and the “nameless and other surrogates” who sing your life back to you in them.
405. Simon & Garfunkel – Hazy Shade of Winter
Pretty much every rock guitarist – every real rock guitarist, anyway, not those indie rock dilettantes who only use two or three strings – knows this one, one of the alltime iconic hooks with those beautiful 12-string textures. Nicely aware, apprehensive lyric that things might be tough going after the band’s vogue (or after college). By far the hardest-rocking and most psychedelic number the duo ever did, from the otherwise dismal Bookends album, 1968. A million bands have covered this; the Slickee Boys’ characteristically ferocious version is by far the best. Mp3s are everywhere.
404. Blue Oyster Cult – Wings Wetted Down
Throughout the 1970s, this artsy Long Island band was arguably the best heavy metal act on the planet. Augmenting their richly layered guitar attack with classically inflected piano, they bridged the gap between boorish Led Zep stomp and ornate Pink Floyd artistry with a menace rarely found in bands of the era. This is a quiet, methodical, absolutely bloodcurdling midtempo ballad from the classic Tyranny and Mutation album, 1973. Buck Dharma’s watery guitar solo through a Leslie organ speaker is a classic. Mp3s are everywhere.
403. The Psychedelic Furs – Heaven
One of the iconic 80s band’s closest approximations of a radio hit before that one song was hideously remixed and stuck into that fascist John Hughes movie, this is a ridiculously catchy, offhandedly blithe account of nuclear armageddon punctuated by a ruthlessly efficient, noisy John Ashton guitar solo. From the Mirror Moves lp, 1983; mp3s are everywhere. The Ninth House cover is also worth owning.
402. Blue Oyster Cult – Nosferatu
Gorgeous, majestic, epic grand guignol vampire anthem from the legendary 70s artsy metal band, marvelously lowlit by Allen Lanier’s darkly graceful piano cascades. From the otherwise forgettable 1979 Spectres lp; mp3s abound.
401. Pink Floyd – The Final Cut
The “real” Pink Floyd’s final 1983 studio album remains disavowed by some fans and that’s too bad because it’s arguably Roger Water’s finest hour as a songwriter, a venomous antiwar statement inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous adventures in the Falklands. This is its centerpiece, a characteristically lush, ornate ballad chronicling the narrator’s descent into despair and suicide…or not?
400. Radio Birdman – Descent into the Maelstrom
One of the legendary Australian garage punks’ finest moments, this combines the surfy stomp, eerie chromatically-charged guitar fury and over-the-edge, desperate feel that defined them. The studio version from Radios Appear, 1978, is blissfully good; the link above is a characteristically ferocious live take.

399. John Cougar Mellencamp – Rain on the Scarecrow
Too bad the heartland rocker’s fallen on hard times, sinking to doing tv commercials instead of music because back in the 80s and 90s he was sort of a poor man’s Springsteen, putting out several albums of smartly crafted highway rock. Driven by one of the juiciest bass hooks in history, this is one of his best songs, a snarling Reagan-era broadside about a farmer losing his land to foreclosure. Title track from an otherwise forgettable 1985 lp frequently found in the dollar bins. Mp3s are everywhere.
398. The Dickies – Nights in White Satin
The comedic California band first saw light as a punk parody (their logo was the silhouette of a flaccid penis), but quickly became one of the late 70s/early 80s’ most ferocious live acts. This one, from the 1980 lp Dawn of the Dickies is one of the alltime classic punk covers, ripping the old Moody Blues hit to shreds. A regrouped version of the band fronted by original singer/keyboardist Leonard Graves Phillips still tours occasionally.
397. Manfred Mann – Living Without You
Randy Newman cover by the 1970 version of the British band responsible for three of the most ridiculous hits in rock history: Doo Wah Diddy, The Mighty Quinn and, as “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band,” Blinded by the Light (you know, “wrapped up like a DOUCHE!!!”). But this sad midtempo ballad is nothing like that. The contrast of the gently skeletal texture of the acoustic guitar against some of the most booming bass ever recorded is exquisite; nice Badfinger-esque slide guitar too.
396. The Vapors – Letter from Hiro
Best known for the inscrutable new wave hit Turning Japanese (a song you won’t find on this list), the British band actually put out two brilliant albums of fiery, artsy, Clash-style punk rock. This majestic, epic antiwar anthem from 1979’s New Clear Days is told from the point of view of a WWII-era Japanese kid saved from kamikaze duty by freak chance.
395. Auntie Christ – Bad Trip
This punk trio fronted by X’s Exene Cervenka (who also played guitar) and Matt Freeman from 90s faux punks Rancid released one classic cd, 1997’s Life Could Be a Dream. This is its best track, a typically metaphorical road trip through hell.
394. Mary Lee’s Corvette – Redemption Day
The dark, sparse, haunting version released on the NYC Americana rockers’ 2004 cd 700 Miles is excellent, but it’s the ferocious riff-rock version that the band – then featuring Mellencamp lead guitar god Andy York – was doing circa 2000-01 that’s the best, blasting out of the gates with a massing Ziggy Stardust-style hook and frontwoman Mary Lee Kortes’ literally redemptive lyrics. Look around – bootlegs exist.
393. The Electric Light Orchestra - Dreaming of 4000
As with A Day in the Life, the drummer owns this one. In this case it’s Bev Bevan (who later played with a version of Black Sabbath!) who’s taking this raw, starkly haunting epic to the next level, his matter-of-factly evil cymbal work driving the outro. From the strangely beautiful On the Third Day lp, 1973, surprisingly often found in the cheapo bins. Mp3s are all over too, but the vinyl – as it always does – sounds best. The link above is an outtake that differs very slightly from the album version; there are also some cool live tracks floating around.
392. Telephone – Cendrillon
The title is French for “Cinderella.” This uncharacteristically quiet ballad from the 1982 Dure Limite lp was a huge hit for the French rockers, electric piano glimmering evilly behind Louis Bertignac’s elegaic lead guitar as frontman Jean-Louis Aubert matter-of-factly narrates her descent into drug abuse and death in the back of an ambulance. The link in the title above is the album version; here’s a tasty live take.
391. The Cure – M
Spookiest thing they ever did, and it’s the sheer nonchalance that makes it that way. “Ready, for the next attack,” Robert Smith says, evoking Peter Lorre’s character in the unforgettable Fritz Lang film. Swooping, ominous organ, gunshot drum machine and killer Laurence Tolhurst bassline with all those chords. From the band’s best album, Seventeen Seconds, 1983; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is an intriguing live clip from Mexico City, 2005.
390. Jenifer JacksonDown So Low
This is just about the best breakup song ever written. Not maudlin at all, just haunting and resigned and absolutely heartbroken, Jackson’s gentle, wounded vocals nebulous and somewhat shellshocked over a swaying Ticket to Ride beat and pulsing layers of guitar and keys. From her So High cd, 2005. The link in the title above is the stream at
389. The Jam – Smithers-Jones
Bruce Foxton’s sarcastic, quintessentially British chronicle of downsizing has taken on new relevance in these depression days. Several versions out there, all readily downloaded: for rockers, there’s the single with characteristic melodic Foxton bassline, also some even fiercer live takes. But the one we love best is the version from Setting Sons, 1979, with the string quartet in place of the band. Which we couldn’t find a stream of: the link here is the rock version.
388. Ellen FoleyIndestructible
Singer/actress Foley rode her famous cameo on the Meatloaf monstrosity Paradise by the Dashboard Light to considerable European top 40 popularity before hooking up with Mick Jones. He and Joe Strummer produced, wrote and played on her 1981 lp Spirit of St. Louis (she’s from there) – it’s the great lost Clash album. This is one of its most riveting moments, a slow, wrenchingly haunting ballad written by frequent Strummer collaborator and violinist Tymon Dogg. Foley continues to record and play the occasional New York show. The link in the title above is a video from Hungarian tv; mp3s are kicking around if you do some digging.
387. Patty Ocfemia - Misspent Youth
Fearless, majestic, absolutely unrepentant anthem that serves as the centerpiece to this vastly underrated New York songwriter’s excellent 2008 album Heaven’s Best Guest, her voice indomitable and resolute over a lush bed of acoustic guitars that fade out gracefully at the end:
Not like old lovers
No permanent scars
No fixed agenda
No calendars
No heavy hand
Or privileged truth
No guilt or shame
For my misspent youth
386. The Reducers – Fistfight
New London, Connecticut’s finest export is this fiery, long-running quartet whose 80s heyday saw them as a sort of a cross between the Jam and 70s British pub rock bands like Ducks Deluxe, putting out several generally excellent albums. Fueled by the twin guitars of Hugh Birdsall and Peter Detmold and Steve Kaika’s busy, melodic, Bruce Foxton-esque bass, this is their greatest shining moment, a blisteringly catchy look at smalltown anomie and its consequences. From Cruise to Nowhere, 1985. The band still performs frequently in southern New England.
385. Al Stewart – Roads to Moscow
Sympathy for the devil? Well, this is sympathy for the Nazis, at least for one clueless draftee who finds himself deep in Russian territory, about to be taken prisoner by the Soviets and probably scapegoated for everything Hitler did, General Guderian standing at the front of the road staring down the end. The massive art-rock anthem ends on a single ominous note by future Elvis Costello bassist Bruce Thomas. From the Past, Present, Future lp, 1974; mp3s are everywhere.
384. The Replacements – The Ledge
Paul Westerberg bragged that when the band was first getting started, he’d drag out old Stooges songs and teach them to his bandmates, claiming that they were his. Here’s one that actually succeeds at evoking a Stooges vibe, Naked Bob’s searing, metalish guitar swirling over a pounding rhythm section as the jumper on the roof ponders whether or not to end it all. We’re not going to spoil the ending. The only good song on the otherwise cloying Pleased to Meet Me album, 1987; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the original video that MTV refused to play because – OMG – it addresses a serious topic like suicide.
383. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Bring Me the Head of the Preacher Man
Strong case for the argument that this band’s best period was around 1983-86 with Robert Smith from the Cure moonlighting on guitar. This is a marriage made in heaven, Siouxsie at the absolute top of her game as outraged witness, Smith tossing off one eerie Arabesque after another in this absolutely hypnotic, macabre, epic masterpiece from the Hyaena lp, 1983.
382. Jenifer JacksonAfter the Fall
A slowly swaying, actually pretty mesmerizing, artsy country ballad, with that warm, gentle voice singing your pain away:
Love is an ocean
Love is a stone
Love is a wish that you make on your own
If all of these ghosts would just leave me alone
I know that I could be free
From Birds, 2002; the link in the title above is the stream at
381. Black Flag – TV Party
With the litany of all those long-forgotten network tv shows from the early 80s, it’s a little dated, but the hardcore anthem still packs a punch, Henry Rollins showing off a sense of humor that very rarely made it into any of his songs. “I couldn’t live without my tv for a day, or even a minute/Don’t even bother to use my brain anymore, there’s nothing left in it!” From Damaged, 1981; mp3s are everywhere. The acoustic version by the Asylum Street Spankers has more current references and is just as savagely funny as the original.
380. Steve WynnShades of Blue
Poignant careening intensity: leave it to Steve Wynn to invent that style. He says this song is about nostalgia, but it’s deeper than that. This is a requiem for lost time, particularly memorable for anyone lucky enough to have heard his old band the Dream Syndicate as they were coming up: the song nicks the opening hook from Tell Me When It’s Over, the first cut on the legendary 1981 Days of Wine and Roses album. From Here Come the Miracles, 2001. The link in the title above is a choice stripped-down duo version version from Philly, 2003.
379. Graham Parker – Chloroform
Parker has maybe more animosity toward the major labels than any other artist, dating from his Mercury Poisoning days of the late 70s. This song gleefully and vengefully documents the decline, fall, and ugly dying days of an unnamed label exec from the point of view of an artist he screwed. From the excellent, sarcastically titled Songs of No Consequence, 2005.
378. Al Stewart – The News from Spain
This haunting organ-fueled epic, set in a nebulous Spanish Civil War milieu, is as goth as it gets, complete with symphonic strings and the lovelorn narrator rushing off at the end to be killed in battle. Sisters of Mercy and the Dresden Dolls have nothing on this! From the import-only Orange lp, 1971, as well as a couple of anthologies; you may have to download the whole album to get the track, but it’s worth the time.
377. The Larval Organs – Mansion of Your Skull
Let’s face it – most love songs suck. Here’s a rare one that doesn’t, with murderously good double entendres and a tiny bit more of a glimmer of hope than is usually the case from the band’s frontman Daniel Bernstein, backing away only slightly from his usual themes of death, anguish and madness. “My heaven is a hall in the mansion of your skull that I wander through.” Nice snarling post-REM backbeat melody too. From the NYC punk/metal band’s classic Posthumous cd, 2004, now out of print; good luck finding it.
376. Lucky Dube – Victims
The great roots reggae songwriter and keyboardist triumphantly lived through the dismantling of apartheid in his native South Africa, only to be murdered in 2007 in an attempted carjacking. Little would he know how eerily prophetic this heartbreaking tale of the aftereffects of violence – a mother grieving for her dead son and all the others like him – would be. Title track from the 1989 album.
375. Bruce Springsteen – Independence Day
In this brilliantly elliptical, organ-fueled anthem, a son leaves home defiant but bitter, brutalized and only a step away from the violence he grew up with. Anyone who might confuse Springsteen’s art with the yahoos who make up so much of his fan base needs to hear this. From the River, 1980; mp3s abound, and the studio version is the best. Although the link above, an early live take from 1978, isn’t bad.
374. The Lyres – The Only Thing
Uncharacteristically complex, anguished, completely noir 60s pop anthem with remarkably eerie Vox organ by the otherwise hellraising Boston second-wave garage revivalists. From Lyres Lyres, 1987; the link above is a torrent of the album.
373. Public Image Ltd. – The Flowers of Romance
The Flowers of Romance were Sid Vicious’ first, short-lived band (he was the drummer – they never recorded anything). This macabre, sketchily chromatic masterpiece, a sort of tribute from his best (and apparently only) friend in the Sex Pistols is the 1980 title track to PiL’s best album. The best version out there is actually the screechy live take on the 45 RPM Live in Tokyo lp from 1985 (click the link above), journeyman Louis Bernardi fighting to replicate Keith Levene’s corruscating, overtone-laden guitar part.
372. Bob Dylan – Sooner or Later
Big, lush organ-and-guitar ballad from Blonde on Blonde, a vivid reminder how Mr. Zimmerman’s talents as a hookmeister have always been every bit as formidable as his lyrical abilities. The way the Hammond hits that crescendo at the end of the verse…wow. The link above is a torrent of the whole album.
371. Steve WynnSomething to Remember Me By
So many versions of the iconic noir rocker’s killer kiss-off anthem floating around out there. The best of the acoustic cuts was released on the vinyl-only, now rare Straight to the Swapmeet ep, 1989. Tons of stuff up at, like this one from around the same time; the studio version on Kerosene Man is surprisingly stiff. Wynn still pulls this gem out of the woodwork at live shows.
370. Public Image Ltd. – Acid Drops
From the surprisingly good and final PiL cd That What Is Not, 1992. Listening to the sample of John Lydon intoning “No future, no future, no future” from God Save the Queen at the end of the song around the time the album came out – during Bush One’s gulf war – was nothing short of scary. Somehow we survived and we have this blistering, multitracked guitar firestorm as a memento. And in the intervening years the Sex Pistols actually got back together. Who would have predicted it. Mp3s are everywhere.
369. The Move – What
From the two menacing piano chords that open it, this is as darkly beautiful as a 70s art-rock epic could possibly be, future ELO frontman Jeff Lynne eerily musing about “how the overture is burning all the faces of the people in the churches of the land.” From the Looking On lp, 1971.
368. Public Image Ltd. – The Order of Death
Brooding Italian movie theme from 1983 with layers of synth over a drum loop, John Lydon intoning the mantra “This is what you want, this is what you get,’ which ended up serving as the album title after guitarist Keith Levene either quit the band or was fired depending who you believe. Some fans prefer the more poignant but less ominous acoustic guitar version from the Commercial Zone lp released by Levene as retaliation in 1985.
367. Ninth House – Long Stray Whim
Opening with a massive blast of distorted guitar (an update on an old Stone Roses riff), the NYC art-rock/Nashville gothic band’s escape anthem takes anguish and makes exhilaration out of it. What if you questioned your banal everyday existence and discovered you couldn’t live with it anymore? “It’s like all those times you don’t ask why…turn it on to something new!” The best version the band released is an early live take with Dave Cavaliere on guitar, from the sadly out-of-print Aerosol cd; there’s a far slicker version on the 2007 Realize And It’s Gone cd. A fan favorite, the band still frequently opens their shows with it. You decide what’s best, the album version in the title above or this scorching live take.
366. The Velvet Underground – Run Run Run
A NYC classic, best song on the Velvets’ first album. This careening, hypnotic sprint through a junkie 1965 East Village of the mind harkens back to when there was no telling what a person could find at Union Square, no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe’s and no undercover cops either.
365. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Deep One Perfect Morning
Appropriate that this one would follow the Velvets on the list, considering that’s who they wanted to be. This one nails the doomed ambience, a bracing, semi-acoustic early autumn reflection chilly with existential angst. From Darklands, 1986, at all the file-trading sites.
364. Fairport Convention – Sloth
Richard Thompson once dismissed this as “an instrumental written by the bass player,” and whether it was Tyger Hutchings or Dave Pegg playing on it, the bassline is to die for. Yet ultimately it was Thompson who would always set this psychedelic antiwar epic ablaze. The 1969 studio version is excellent, but of the zillions of live versions out there, possibly the best is on the Live Convention reissue from 1974.
363. The Rolling Stones – The Lantern
Finally, three hundred and twenty-three songs into this list, a Stones tune. Why so few? Because you don’t need Lucid Culture to tell you how great the Stones were. When we first dug the list out of the drawer and decided to put it up online one song at a time, there were a ton of Stones tunes on it. But we figured it would be karmically smarter and vastly more useful to feature more obscure artists rather than just listing  Stones song after Stones song, ad nauseum. This one happens to be delta blues reinvented as macabre psychedelia from Their Satanic Majesties Request, 1967, Brian Jones’ greatest moment in the band. Mp3s are everywhere and since this was a major label release, don’t feel guilty downloading it.
362. Radio Birdman – Murder City Nights
Ferocious garage punk from the Aussie legends’ second and best album, Radios Appear, 1979, bandleader/lead guitarist Deniz Tek contributing a characteristically intense, lightning-fast solo.
361. The Sex Pistols – My Way
Probably the greatest cover song ever: “To think, I killed a cat, and may I say not in a gay way.” The Great Rock n Roll Swindle soundtrack credits this to the Pistols; others credit it to Sid, backed by Cook and Jones, mocking Sinatra so hilariously that this version would eventually supplant the original in the public consciousness. Talk about appropriating the language of the oppressor.
360. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
OK, this is supposed to be Obscure Music Central, and here we go with a classic rock standard. But every year, a new generation of kids discovers it – that hypnotic, slowly crescendoing David Gilmour intro, that visionary lyric:
When I was a child I had a feeling
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child has grown, the dream has gone
Download The Wall somewhere – the band isn’t getting any royalties from it.
359. The Byrds – The Times They Are a-Changing
Just imagine for a second how much more amazing Dylan would have been if instead of the Band, he’d had the Byrds playing behind him. “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” No, they weren’t, actually – many of them would grow up to vote for people like Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney. Still, you gotta love the sentiment. The best album you’ll find this on is The Byrds Play Dylan reissue compilation from 1999.
358. The Choir – It’s Cold Outside
Maybe the quintessential noir 60s pop song, set to a beautifully clanging 12-string guitar melody. The Stiv Bators cover of his fellow Clevelanders’  lone hit is good too. First issued on album on the original Nuggets anthology, mp3s are everywhere.
357. The Clash – Garageland
This could be the Lucid Culture theme song:
I don’t wanna hear about
What the rich are doing
I don’t wanna go to
Where the rich are going
They think they’re so clever
They think they’re so right
But the truth is only known
By guttersnipes
They were a garage band, they came from garageland and so do some of us. Only one of the reasons why we love them.
356. Aimee Mann – Humpty Dumpty
The haunting George Harrisonesque opening track on Lost In Space, 2001, the pantheonic songwriter’s meticulously inflected voice both soothing and absolutely heartwrenching:
So let us take the keys
And drive forever
Staying won’t put these
Pieces back together
All the perfect drugs
And superheroes
Wouldn’t be enough
To pull me up to zero
355. The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket
As we get closer to #1, you’ll recognize more and more of these. Like this one, Joe Strummer’s pretty, watery rail against mindless materialism. From London Calling, 1979 (or 1980 if you believe Rolling Stone).
354. C.W. McCall – There Won’t Be No Country Music
If this bizarrely spot-on, apocalyptic banjo tune had been released this year instead of in 1976, the right wing would be calling this guy an eco-terrorist. Believe it or not, this followup single to Convoy, his monstrously popular CB radio novelty hit, actually got some airplay on both country and rock radio. Imagine that happening now! Only one of the reasons why nobody listens to corporate radio anymore…
353. LJ Murphy – Sleeping Mind
Equal parts cautionary tale about the perils of complacency and haunting examination of the psychology of clinical depression, set to a catchy midtempo soul tune. Unreleased, but there are bootlegs out there, and the great New York noir rocker often plays it live.
352. The Act – Zero Unidentified
Fiery, gorgeously melodic new wave rock anthem from the British band’s lone and absolutely classic 1982 album Too Late at 20. In mathematics, zero is defined as unidentified, and frontman Nick Laird-Clowes (later of the Dream Academy) wants to keep it that way – he won’t take no for an answer. “Let’s get together tonight!” The link here is a homemade digitized version of the whole album.
351. Ice Cube – Ghetto Vet
Over one of the eeriest piano samples in the history of rap, Cube bitterly narrates one smalltime thug’s descent from menace in the hood to wheelchair-bound crack addict. Mp3s all over the place. From the War cd in the 1998 two-cd War & Peace album.
350. The BoDeans – Idaho
Kurt Neumann’s savagely sardonic lyric about a rocker’s random encounter with redneck hell, set to a beautifully anthemic blue-sky melody. The best version out there is, believe it or not, a soundcheck that turned out so good it became the opening cut on the Americana rockers’ blissfully good 1995 double live cd Joe Dirt Car; the version on the live Homebrewed cd from 2006 is also pretty damn good. As is this 2008 live take in the link in the title above.
349. The Avengers – Second to None
Classic San Francisco punk rock from 1979. Considered by many to be the American Sex Pistols (an apt comparison, considering that this song was produced by the Pistols’ Steve Jones), frontwoman Penelope Houston fortuituously resurrected the band in 2005 and has done frequent transcendentally good shows with them since. This is one of their most ferocious, defiant numbers, and Houston sings it even better now than she did thirty years ago.
348. Linton Kwesi Johnson – Story
This is a song about facades, the great Jamaican/British dub poet matter-of-factly chronicling their usefulness and how problematic they can be while his great band, and his violinist in particular, provide a haunting roots reggae backdrop. From the Tings and Times cd, 1991.
347. The Avengers – The End of the World
When Penelope Houston first revived her legendary punk band, it was as the Scavengers (hopes of reuniting all four original members were still high at the time). This classic apocalypse anthem was first released – some 20 years after Houston wrote it – on the Avengers Died for Your Sins compilation, 1999. The link above is a live take from a recent reunion tour; here’s another.
346. Love – The Daily Planet
Arguably the best song on the classic psychedelic orchestrated rock album Forever Changes, 1967. Gorgeous janglerock melody and one of the most savagely dismissive, anti-conformist lyrics ever written. As much acid as Arthur Lee was doing at the time, he still managed to find a rare kind of lucidity. The link here is to a live version from late in Lee’s career.
345. Andy White – The Walking Wounded
On his 1986 album Rave On Andy White, the Irish songwriter went for a Dylan ripoff right down to the cover photo. But this track’s completely original, a beautifully orchestrated, organ-fueled, ferociously unsparing attack at both sides of the Troubles. “Maggie and the terrorists sign the death warrant, you can watch the execution for free.” We’ve got the vinyl but nothing digital on this one: can somebody please youtube this?
344. The AuteursEarly Years
Before starting Black Box Recorder, Luke Haines fronted these fiery noir 90s British art-rockers. Driven by a simple, mean tremolo guitar hook, this relentless, offhandedly brutal look back in anger might be the band’s best song. From their debut cd New Wave, 1993. The link in the title above is a youtube clip.
343. The Rolling Stones – Waiting on a Friend
In the process of editing the list, this one fell off for awhile…and then fell back on because it’s so good. Talk about perfectly capturing a mood – Pharaoh Sanders’ pensive yet contented sax and Keith’s guitar, wow. And it’s a New York song: the link above is the video made at the now-defunct St. Mark’s Bar in 1981.
342. Ruefrex – Mr. Renfield Reflects
With its lush layers of interlocking guitar, this is one of the greatest janglerock songs ever. Mr. Renfield is a character in Dracula, cruelly musing on who gets to stay and who gets to go. From the Flowers for All Occasions lp, 1986 which the British music press went nuts over but then pretty much sank without a trace in the months that followed. Hard to find online other than the myspace stream above.
341. Angie Pepper – Last Chance
Frontwoman of Australian new wave legends the Passengers - still active as an acoustic trio – Angie Pepper remains one of the world’s most potently captivating voices, perhaps even more compelling than she was during her band’s brief late 70s/early 80s heyday. This song was written by her husband, Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek, originally released on Tek’s Orphan Tracks lp, 1988. When she finally drops her tightlipped composure and cuts loose at the end of the song, she will give you chills: “This might be your last chance!”
340. The Walkabouts – Up in the Graveyard
Pacific Northwest gothic from the genre’s finest practitioners. Gulf War vet comes home to avenge his dead father in a perverse but beautifully logical way. One of frontman Chris Eckman’s finest lyrical moments: “You can change the darkness into something proud.” From Setting the Woods on Fire, 1994, arguably one of the ten best albums ever made.
339. Squeeze – I Think I’m Go Go
A Samuel Beckett reference? Wouldn’t put it past Chris Difford. Darkly swooping, deliciously ominous synthy new wave from Argybargy, 1981. Mp3s are everywhere.
338. The Clash – The Sound of the Sinners
Joe Strummer wrote lots of funny songs and this is one of the best, a spot-on parody of gospel music from Sandinista, 1981, Bill Price’s pricelessly echoey, churchy production a perfect fit for Strummer’s scathing satire: “The message on the tablets was valium.”
337. Oasis – Rock n Roll Star
Many of you will want to smack us for including this one, but here it is anyway. It’s the first track the band ever released, from 1994’s Definitely Maybe, and it’s the best – you could say it was all downhill from there, although they did have a decent run until late in the decade as a boisterous, less amusing version of the Rutles. The link above is the studio version; here’s a drunken, coked-out trainwreck of a live take which in its way is absolutely brilliant.
336. The Doctors of Madness – Noises of the Evening
Scorching, angsted, guitar-and-violin-fueled druggy art-rock epic from these glam-ish mid 70s art-rockers, a UK sensation but virtually unknown here. The long crescendo at the end is amazing. From the band’s second album, a self-titled double lp, part rehab concept album – pretty ahead of its time for 1978, huh? Frontman/lyricist Richard Strange would subsequently pursue a solo career as a cult artist in the 80s.
335. LJ Murphy – Bovine Brothers
Like a lot of the NYC noir rock legend’s other songs, this scathing anti-fascist broadside’s been through a lot of incarnations. The latest is a slow, 6/8 blues ballad. But the fiery, Costelloesque version he was playing circa 2002 or so is the best, a nightmare urban tableau where “a sermon blares from the roof of a radio car.” Unreleased, but there are bootlegs out there.
334. Boris Grebenshikov – Real Slow Today
The legendary frontman of Aquarium – the courageous, pre-glasnost Russian Jethro Tull – released one English-language album, Radio Silence, in 1989, which pretty much disappeared without a trace after it came out. This lush janglefest is its centerpiece, a thoughtful reflection on how revolutions begin, from someone who knows a little something about that firsthand. We’ve got the vinyl – who’s got the digital version? Does one exist?
333. Supertramp – The Logical Song
One of the great anticonformist anthems, Roger Hodgson’s corrosive lyrics over Rick Davies’ eerie Arp electric piano, a top ten hit in 1979 and surprisingly still a staple of classic rock radio. From the Breakfast in America lp; mp3s are everywhere.
332. Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining
Janglerock heaven. This is a snarling tale about an Australian asbestos mine abandoned by its greedy corporate owners after they’d poisoned their employees along with the surrounding land and its inhabitants. Martin Rotsey’s all-too-brief, offhandedly vicious guitar solo after the bridge is exhilarating. “Nothing’s as precious as a hole in the ground.” Title track to the 1992 album, mp3s are everywhere.
331. Jello Biafra & NomeansnoChew
Nightmare wee-hours NYC subway platform scenario with one of the most guitarishly delicious, reverb-drenched intros ever. The rats are everywhere, and they’re on the attack. Finally the train comes, but in typical MTA fashion, it doesn’t stop! From The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy, the Dead Kennedys’ frontman’s otherwise so-so 1989 collaboration with the dadaesque Canadian punk band. The link in the title above is a youtube clip of the full track.
330. The Dead Boys – All the Way Down
The last song the iconic punk band released – on a 12″ single in 1986 – is one of their best (even if it was totally misproduced), a bitter midtempo cautionary anthem about a “poison lady.” If only the guy who sang it had actually taken the lyrics to heart, he might be alive today.
329. The Dream Syndicate – Boston
Of all the great anthems Steve Wynn has written, this is one of the best, still a concert favorite over 20 years since the studio version was released on Out of the Grey. From those two crashing chords that open it, it’s intense all the way through to the la-la-la outro that the band often uses as an excuse to go crazy. A million versions out there: here’s a good one with too much bass; here’s another (contrary to what the page tells you, it’s not the take from the excellent 1989 Live at Raji’s cd).
328. Procol Harum – As Strong As Samson
An unusually caustic world-is-going-to-hell commentary by lyricist Keith Reid (who didn’t play in the legendary British art-rock band but went to all their shows) set to a wrenchingly beautiful organ melody. The studio track from the 1974 Exotic Birds and Fruit album (above) is fine, but the best version is on their Live on the BBC cd, a 1974 recording finally issued in 1999. Frontman Gary Brooker continues to lead a considerably more heavy metal version of the band.
327. Radio Birdman – Hit Them Again
Characteristic pyrotechnics from the Australian garage-punk legends’ Radios Appear album, 1979, a co-write with Ron Asheton. Deniz Tek’s excoriating noise solo as the song burns its way out is pure adrenaline. Mp3s are everywhere – and here’s the Visitors doing the song in 2008 live!
326. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
You don’t need us to tell you this is a great song any more than you need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows – back when Dylan wrote that, it had an even more contemporary resonance. No attempt at an alltime best songs list could be complete without it. The link above is a random torrent.
325. Amy RigbyCynically Yours
This is the unpredictable, compelling multistylistic songwriter at her best, an uproariously funny but savagely insightful faux Brill Building pop song about selling out, relationship-wise. “You don’t suck, so I’m cynically yours.” From the Sugar Tree cd, 2000. The link in the title above is the full track at
324. The Walkabouts – Life the Movie
A gorgeously brooding art-rock dirge that happens to be the most succinct, intelligent indictment of the entertainment-industrial complex ever written. “Why do we advertise that we have lost this race?” the great Pacific Northwest/Slovenian art-rockers’ frontman Chris Eckman wants to know. From the Ended up a Stranger cd, 2001.
323. The Room – Bated Breath
These psychedelically-inclined Liverpool new wavers hit their peak around 1984-85. This one’s the high point of their promising but uneven 1981 debut lp, a calmly menacing account of a killer on the prowl that builds to a deliciously nasty ending. The band’s nucleus, singer Dave Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer would continue in the similarly dark, lyrical Benny Profane and currently the Nashville gothic band the Dead Cowboys. The link in the title above is a torrent for a compilation of 1980-86 tracks.
322. The Hangdogs - Anacostia
In July of 1932, with the depression in full swing, thousands of World War I veterans marched on Washington to protest the Hoover administration’s refusal to let them cash in their service bonus bonds ahead of schedule. Because Washington, DC is not a state, the Posse Comitatus Act did not apply, and on July 28, a battalion commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur attacked them with poison gas. The vets fled to the Hooverville they’d built across the Anacostia River; dozens were massacred and the encampment was burned to the ground. This rousing, furious anthem commemorates the atrocity. From the Beware of Dog cd, 2000, still in print.
321. The Jam – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight
Evocative account of an encounter with a gang of neo-Nazis from All Mod Cons, 1978, back in the day when the London tube was a lot more dangerous. Bruce Foxton’s bass scurries along like a tube train…or a bunch of thugs who’ve just left their prey – a guy on the way home to his wife with his takeaway curry – lying in a pool of blood.
320. Lenny Molotov – Freedom Tower
Inspired by plans to replace the World Trade Center, the version imagined by the great New York blues guitarist and steampunk songwriter here is actually a giant prison. From his exceptionally good 2010 album Illuminated Blues.
319. Bob Dylan – Not Dark Yet
Hypnotic existentialist masterpiece from his big comeback album Time Out of Mind, 1997, curmudgeonly yet poignant:
I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
The link above is a random torrent of the whole album.
318. The Rolling Stones – Memo from Turner
Originally credited to Jagger solo, this first appeared on the soundtrack to the cult film Performance with the Stones’ frontman playing a supporting role. Recorded during the sessions for Beggars Banquet, it’s one of their funniest songs: is he gay or isn’t he? Also incidentally one of Brian Jones’ most stinging moments in the band.The link above has the song playing over an amusing pastiche of clips from the movie. Mp3s are everywhere, but you’ll have to sift through a lot of dodgy outtakes. If you want something better sonically, it’s on a million European vinyl Stones anthologies.
317. Katie Elevitch - Kindling For the Fire
If she keeps doing what she’s doing right now, someday the powerhouse New York rock siren will rank up there with Nina Simone and Patti Smith. The version on Elevitch’s live-in-the-studio 2008 cd is excellent as it is – and as its bassline menacingly rolls out, she and the band jam this out live into a witches’ sabbath. “Slaves stillborn gather round the hearse – kindling for the fire!”
316. Big Star – September Gurls
This one fell off this list and then fell back on because it’s so damn pretty and poignant. Don’t dismiss the song because it’s revered in the indie world, or because the band is overrated. This might be the greatest powerpop song ever written – and it wasn’t even a radio hit. Mp3s are everywhere: apparently it was on the soundtrack to a Fox tv show from the 90s.
315. Changing Modes - Moles
We 86′d Transient by the Church to make room for this one. Our pick for best song of 2010, it’s a brisk, ridiculously catchy punk rock classic. Frontwoman/keyboardist Wendy Griffiths breathlessly relates the grim daily life of “mole people” living beneath the New York City subway over snarling guitar and chirpy organ, and adds one of the alltime great screams in the history of rock and roll. From their most recent album Here.
314. Elvis Costello – Worthless Thing
This came out in 1985 on the vastly underrated Goodbye Cruel World album, the same year the Dead Kennedys did their anti-corporate music rant MTV Get off the Air. Both reach the same conclusion, Costello a little more elegantly. The Rhino reissue from the 90s has a whole bunch of interesting outakes (including a transcendent solo version of Richard Thompson’s Withered and Died); otherwise, there are mp3s at all the usual places.
313. Michael Caine – It’s Over
The Roy Orbison original may be a classic, but it’s the version by Michael Caine in the 1998 film Little Voice that’s the best. Caine’s character is a villain, a drunken clubowner singing this song onstage with his house band in a moment of particular unease, and his acting is amazing. Caine is actually a decent singer impersonating someone who can’t hit a note to save his life, imbuing a pretty despicable character with some actual humanity. Here’s a torrent of the whole movie.
312. Chicha Libre – Sonido Amazonico
The greatest one-chord jam of alltime, a melody that will someday be as well-known as, say, Fur Elise or Satisfaction. Although the band is American, Chicha Libre have almost singlehandedly resurrected chicha, the intoxicating Peruvian hybrid of Colombian cumbia, American surf music and psychedelia that was wildly popular in the Amazon oil boom towns of the late 60s and early 70s. The original by Los Mirlos (available on the amazing Roots of Chicha compilation) is a lot of fun but it’s this version, the title track to Chicha Libre’s 2008 debut cd, which is the best, keyboardist Josh Camp’s vintage Hohner Electrovox adding a hypnotic swirl.
311. Elvis Costello – No Dancing
Here the preeminent musical psychopathologist of our time dissects what being a killjoy is all about over wickedly catchy, slightly doo-wop inflected janglerock. From My Aim Is True, 1977. The link above is the album version; here’s a fascinating live video with the Attractions from what looks like the following year.
310. Elliott Smith – Bled White
The best song ever written about scoring heroin, maybe, over gorgeously watery, crescendoing George Harrisonesque guitar played through a Leslie organ speaker. From the XO cd, 1999, mp3s abound.
309. The Rolling Stones – Citadel
Where Sgt. Pepper was a quintessentially British, somewhat satirical slap at conformity, the Stones’ rejoinder, Their Satanic Majesties Request was unabashedly savage. In this frequently covered riff-rock masterpiece, Jagger has been taken prisoner by the enemy. Candy and Cathy, wherever you are, if you ever existed at all, this one’s for you. The link above is an intriguing alternate take in a slightly more folk-rock vein.
308. Pink Floyd – Dogs
Not only one of the great stoner songs of alltime but a characteristically magnificent, towering, practically sidelong antiwar epic. “Dragged down by the stone, stone, stone…” ad infinitum. Go ahead and download the 1977 Animals album somewhere if you haven’t already; if you want to hear it first, it’s on youtube in two sections here and then here.
307. The Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles
Savage new wave/punk sarcasm from The Fine Art of Surfacing, 1979, the sarcastically glossy tale of a girl who had everything but did herself in. Sadly, the late Jay Bennett quoted a lyric from the song in the title of his final, unfinished album, Kicking at the Perfumed Air. The link above is the original video; here’s a live take.
306. American Ambulance – Ain’t Life Good
Hungover and unexpectedly transcendent Sunday morning tableau in the wake of a week of drudgery at some deadend dayjob unforgettably portrayed in these New York Americana rockers’ towering anthem. Nice soulful Erica Smith vocal cameo too. From the Streets of NYC cd, 2005.
305. Squeeze – This Summer
Love songs suck, don’t they? They’re supposed to be so evocative but 99% of the time they’re schlocky and maudlin and just put you in a hateful mood. Here’s a rare one that doesn’t, Glenn Tilbrook’s soaring melody vividly capturing the thrill of it all, the rush of finally getting with someone you’ve wanted to get with for a long time. It never lasts, of course. From the Ridiculous cd, 1995.
304. Joy Division – Walked in Line
“All dressed in uniforms so fine/They drank and killed to pass the time/Wearing the shame of all their crimes/With measured steps they walked in line.” Nazis as metaphor for conformity as a whole, stepping to a ridiculously simple, potent descending punk riff. An early, 1977-era song released on the posthumous 1981 Still lp, available in a ridiculous number of live and studio versions: peek around.
303. Dick Dale – Misirlou
The lefty guitar genius and surf music pioneer is Lebanese-American and probably heard this iconic Greek melody as a kid in the 50s. Nice to see him healthy again and back on the road. New York Greek party rockers Magges also do a tremendously fun version.
302. The Dog Show – If I Laugh Anymore I’ll Break
Blistering and catchy, sort of a cross between the Dead Boys and 50s R&B. One of the more obscure tracks here, this is on a rare ep by the NYC mod punks from 2003 or so and well worth seeking out, whether on a live bootleg (they exist) or otherwise.
301. Elvis Costello – Riot Act
One of Steve Nieve’s finest, most poignant moments in the band with all those hauntingly restrained piano arpeggios. From Get Happy, 1980; mp3s are everywhere.
300. The Grateful Dead – Days Between
Every now and then, Jerry and co. would pull out the gravitas and this is a prime, extremely poignant example from right before the end, an elegiac epic that in its dark, determined way might just be their best song. Not that it really mattered, but the Dead never released it during their lifetime as either a studio or live recording. So you need to go to or, where this 12-minute gem resides in several places.

299. The Go-Betweens – You Can’t Say No Forever
Haunting, percussive, janglerock cautionary tale about the dangers of succumbing to the lure of marriage. An apt companion piece to the Fun Boy Three’s Tunnel of Love…and a million blues and country songs. It doesn’t sound much like anything the artsy Aussie pop band ever did before or after. From 16 Lovers’ Lane, 1989; mp3s are everywhere.
298. The Rolling Stones – Black Limousine
A poignant requiem for a good time, Ron Wood’s warmly fluid blues solo one of his finest moments in the band over a neat hesitation-step series of basic blues changes. From Tattoo You, 1981; mp3s are everywhere, and don’t be shy about downloading it because like all major label releases, this one will never make the band any more money. Not that they need it anyway. The link above is a spirited live version from the tour of the same year.
297. Telephone – Au Coeur de la Nuit
The title translates as “heart of the night,” which to songwriter Jean-Louis Aubert’s credit transcends cliche here. One of the most iconic songs in French rock, it’s a blistering requiem, title track from the Parisian rockers’ 1981 lp. Which you can download all over the place; the link above is a careening live version from German tv.
296. Zager & Evans – In the Year 2525
OK, some of you may find this cheesy and over-the-top. But we think the 1969 one-hit wonder is spooky in a psychedelic California Dreaming kind of way. Whatever you think, the video above is hilarious – and it screams out for someone with a little more depth to cover the song and bring out all its apocalyptic angst. By the way, the song was a last-minute addition to the band’s first album (if you find it, pick it up, it’s rare). Available for taping off your favorite oldies radio station as well as all over the web.
295. Randi RussoWonderland
Arguably the iconic indie rock siren’s signature song, this is a bruised, towering anthem about being left behind. And the injustice and cruel irony of it. From her classic Solar Bipolar cd, 2000; the link in the title above is the considerably faster but still dangerous version from the Live at Sin-e album, 2005.
294. Amy Rigby – Rode Hard
Culture shock has seldom been more amusingly, or more poignantly portrayed: fearless big city girl goes south and she doesn’t understand the natives any better than they understand her. She might be jealous of their brightly lit homes and seemingly secure lives, but she’s not sure. And are there any eligible guys within a hundred mile radius? Is there one? From the Sugar Tree cd, 2000, which you could download, or you could get at her site, she’s an independent artist so none of your money will go to any sleazy record label exec.
293. Erika Simonian – Bitter & Brittle
Best song on the classic 2003 All the Plastic Animals cd by the NYC underground songwriter/chanteuse and Sprinkle Genies guitarist, grimly yet wittily contemplating a fullscale breakdown with one of her characteristically gemlike lyrics.
292. Elvis Costello – Love Went Mad
“Do you know how I feel? Do you have a heart, do you have a heart of iron and steel?” the King inquires with a savage amphetamine insistence. A fast, anthemic smash from Punch the Clock, 1983, driven by Steve Nieve’s incisively bright piano. The link above is a torrent of the whole album.
291. Curtis Eller – After the Soil Fails
Apocalyptic opening track on the fiery NYC banjo rocker’s 2008 cd Wirewalkers & Assassins:
This time the dream is a Russian oil tanker
Fidel Castro and Cuban sugarcane
Richard Nixon’s having the same old nightmare
Jack Ruby’s black secret crawling up through the drain…
When the hurricanes finally take out New Orleans
And scarlet fever has finally left Philadelphia bare…
There’s a ghost that we remember hanging in the air
290. Ninth House – Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me
Catchy, swaying Nashville gothic existentialist cautionary tale: “I know all your secrets,” frontman Mark Sinnis intones ominously. From Swim in the Silence, 2000; a new version is due out on the band’s forthcoming spring 2010 release.
289. Elena Zazanis – Stingray
The highly regarded indie film actress is also a terrific singer and songwriter, with a powerful alto wail and a haunting chromatic edge that reflect her Greek heritage. For a few years during the early part of the decade, she led a first-rate, dark New York powerpop band and this is their finest moment, a towering anthem vividly depicting a surreal nightmare scenario that doesn’t end well. Never recorded, although live bootlegs exist.
288. REM – Find the River
Arguably their best song, about as far from their indie roots as they ever got, lush and anthemic with a string section. It’s about getting old, and failure, and death. “All of this is coming your way.” From Automatic for the People, 1992. Click on the video in the link above.
287. Latin QuarterTruth About John
For about a year the British rock press were all gaga over this lyrically brilliant, Costelloesque band who were one of the first to bring Afropop flourishes into rock. This is probably their most straight-up rock song, a bruising anthem about Albert Goldman’s hatchet-job John Lennon bio. From the Modern Times lp, 1985. The Pip Hoyle style organ solo out is luscious. Frontman Steve Skaith now fronts his own band, continuing to play and record intriguingly polystylistic, lyrical songs. The links in the title above are to Skaith’s band and then a torrent of the whole album.
286. Flash & the Pan – Restless
A few years after their legendary 60s garage-pop band the Easybeats had run its course, Australians Harry Vanda and George Young led this pioneering, truly extraordinary dark new wave studio project best known for their big 1979 hit Hey St. Peter. This apocalyptic number sets a haunting Middle Eastern melody to a fast, hypnotic dance beat, the lyrics as offhandedly disconcertingly as ever. From the classic Lights in the Night lp, 1980, more easily downloaded than you would think – the link above is a torrent.
285. The Room – Naïve
Best song on probably the best ep ever made, the Liverpool new wave legends’ 1985 release Jackpot Jack. This updates noir 60s pop with a jazzy tinge and haunting Hammond organ, Dave Jackson’s ominously breathy voice and characteristically biting lyrics. It’s also a great drinking song – who knew beer goggles could be so lyrical. Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer would carry on in the equally captivating Benny Profane and currently the Nashville gothic act the Dead Cowboys. The link above is a torrent for the 1985 In Evil Hour album.
284. Procol Harum – Homburg
Very British, very stately, very subtle slap at authority from 1967, ominous organ and piano beneath Gary Brooker’s deadpan voice and one of lyricist Keith Reid’s best early ones. The single had to wait til 1974 to be released on album on Procol’s Best; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the unintentionally hilarious original promo video.
283. Stiv Bators – A Million Miles Away
Haunting, majestic epic, the best song and sort of title track to Bators’ solo debut Disconnected, recorded as the Dead Boys were self-destructing around 1980 but not released til a few years later. RIP.
282. The Vapors – News at Ten
Furious, exasperated punk rock from the classic New Clear Days lp from 1979 (the same one that spawned their lone American hit, Turning Japanese), a generational battle taken up close and personal: “Still I can’t hear you!!!”
281. Al Stewart – Man for All Seasons
One of the popular 70s British art-rock songwriter’s most epic moments – and he had a bunch of them. This is a classic of existentialist rock, one of his darkest lyrics, slide guitar in the background providing lusciously ominous atmospherics. From the Time Passages lp, 1978, frequently found in the dollar bins at your favorite used vinyl purveyor. Mp3s are everywhere.
280. The Dead Boys – Detention Home
Never recorded in the studio, this careening, menacing number was a live showstopper and one of the punk legends’ best songs. The best version is on the classic Night of the Living Dead Boys album from 1981, Jimmy Zero and Cheetah Chrome’s guitars screaming with feedback as the late Stiv Bators snarls his murderous lyrics.
279. Roxy Music – Out of the Blue
Haunting, swaying minor-key art-rock anthem, one of Bryan Ferry’s darkest numbers despite the upbeat lyrics. The studio version on the Country Life lp isn’t bad, but in concert the band went nuts with it. The link above is a tasty live clip from 1976. There are also delicious versions on the Roxy Music Live lp from the same year as well as the 2002 live reunion double cd, but the best is from the first live reunion cd featuring one of Phil Manzanera’s most exhilarating solos ever.
278. The Doors – The End
Listen closely: this is a pop song that morphs into a raga. Sure, it’s a “classic rock” standard, but deservedly so. Ray Manzarek’s swirling, funereal Balkan organ in tandem with Robbie Krieger’s evil guitar runs over John Densmore’s equally evil, crashing drums make the vocals almost an afterthought. “Mother, I want to fuck you!!!” Whatever.
277. The Church – Life Speeds Up
This macabre Syd Barrett-inflected epic was a mid-80s concert staple for the extraordinary, still vital Australian art-rockers. As Steve Kilbey has noted, the studio version on the 1988 double lp retrospective Hindsight is a bit stiff, but it’s still great. And there are bootlegs out there: Church fans are obsessive and generous with their files.
276. The Damned – Plan 9 Channel 7
The punk legends’ best song is this ornate, darkly anthemic masterpiece. The lyrics don’t make much sense – they seem to be about falling asleep with the tv on – but the raging guitar against a haunting organ backdrop are one of the high points in goth music. There are a million live tracks kicking around, many of them excellent, but it’s the 1979 studio version from the impressively diverse Machine Gun Etiquette lp that’s the classic.
275. The Church – The Maven
The Australian art-rock legends long ago proved that they didn’t need a major label behind them to succeed – in fact, the opposite is true, and this scorching, crescendoing broadside wastes no words in making that apparent. The clanging, crushing roar of what sounds like a thousand guitar tracks as the song reaches a peak at the end is one of the most majestic, sonically exquisite passages ever recorded, in any style of music. “Just turn the light off when you go, just tell the jury all you know,” Steve Kilbey snarls. From Sometime Anywhere, 1994.
274. Radio Birdman – Hand of Law
If you’ve been following this list from the beginning, you may have noticed that Australian garage-punks Radio Birdman’s classic 1979 album Radios Appear is very well represented here – and here we go again, with another cauldron of guitar fury, almost five minutes of paint-peeling, macabre, screaming intensity from Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak.
273.  The Saints -Follow the Leader
The studio version (see the link above) on the Out in the Jungle album is decent, but when the band were at their peak – as a janglerock unit, for about ten years starting in the early 80s – they transformed this catchy, swaying number into one of their most beautiful songs. The version that opens the 1985 Live in a Mud Hut lp is transcendent, a feast of jangly guitar textures and lushly metallic overtones.
272. The New Race – Love Kills
The New Race were a Detroit supergroup of sorts, Ron Asheton and Deniz Tek on guitars, Warwick Gilbert of Radio Birdman on bass and Dennis Thompson from the MC5 on drums. They did a couple of Australian tours and then ruined what should have been a phenomenal live album with studio overdubs. But their two other subsequent live cds both effectively capture the band’s transcendent, unearthly power. This is one of Tek’s most vividly lyrical songs, a deathly winter road trip from Chicago to the Murder City. The stark, semi-acoustic studio recording by Radio Birdman is unforgettable, but the New Race version from The First To Pay, driven by Gilbert’s roaring, distorted bass chords, is even better. And very hard to find in a digital format other than the grooveshark stream in the title above. Here’s a live Radio Birdman  take; here’s another.
271. Radio Birdman – Monday Morning Gunk
The original, released as a single by Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek’s first Australian Band TV Jones in 1972 (and included on the 1988 Tek retrospective Orphan Tracks) is a blazing, somewhat woozily psychedelic masterpiece. Others prefer Radio Birdman’s even more scorching, professionally recorded version, released on the European version of the classic 1979 Radios Appear album some nine years later.The multitracked guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak on the solo are hit a literally unreal crescendo.
270. Howlin Wolf – Sitting on Top of the World
The iconic bluesman’s 1954 studio single hews much closer to the Mississippi Sheiks’ rustic version from the 20s that he probably learned it from. But believe it or not, his best version was on the 1969 London Sessions album with none other than Eric Clapton on guitar – given sufficient inspiration, even a hack can sometimes rise to the occasion. The link above is a rivetingly laid-back 1974 live version in a Chicago club.
269. Bob DylanPositively 4th St.
The prototypical anti-trendoid anthem. Hypocritical as it may have been, Dylan had nothing but contempt for class tourism and most of the hippies who shared his comfortable upper middleclass background. And it’s obvious that a lot of them didn’t like him either since being one of them, he sussed them out. “You’d rather see me paralyzed” – how true. The link above is a random torrent of Dylan’s Greatest Hits, the first album on which it appeared.
268. The Velvet Underground – After Hours
Listen closely: this is a twisted Broadway song. A very subtle parody, maybe? Just imagine if Maureen Tucker’s unforgettably stoic, off-key vocals had been replaced by, say, Streisand. Of course, then song’s wrenching, understated angst would have been lost. “People look well in the dark.” Don’t we.
267. REM – South Central Rain
Wherein Peter Buck strapped on his Vox Teardrop and played one of his most hauntingly beautiful hooks while Mike Mills’ bass soared over the poignancy of the jangle and clang. The link above is the original video – for some reason, Buck is playing what looks like a hollowbody Gretsch. From Reckoning, 1984; mp3s are everywhere.
266. The Moody Blues – I Know You’re Out There Somewhere
This song is about losing your muse, or your voice, and then rediscovering it. The original 1988 single is a shitshow of glossy studio electronics, but onstage the band ripped this big, jangly, crescendoing anthem to shreds, Justin Hayward slamming out those big guitar chords for all they’re worth. The version on the 1992 Live at Red Rocks cd (see the link above) isn’t bad, and there are even better bootleg takes floating around. The Moody Blues continue to tour and with all of the original band members well into their sixties, are reputedly still vital.
265. Son Volt – Tear Stained Eye
This plaintive, twangy escape anthem is one of the great moments in alt-country: “Saints don’t bother with a tear stained eye.” The studio version on Wide Swing Tremolo is probably the best; the link above is from the 1998 live album recorded at Irving Plaza in New York.
264. Radio Birdman – Aloha Steve & Danno
This riff-rock smash interpolates the Hawaii 5-0 theme within the chorus, a fan favorite and one of the surfiest things the legendary Australian garage punks ever did. From the 1979 classic Radios Appear; there are also a million live takes out there and virtually all of them are pretty amazing as well. The link above is a vintage 1978 live take; here’s one from a recent reunion tour.
263. Queen – 39
From the last band you’d ever expect to be capable of poignancy, here’s a stunningly sad, evocative, country-flavored time travel ballad, once a staple of classic rock radio: spaceman returns home only to find the place is completely different and everyone he knew is dead. The layers of Brian May’s acoustic guitar against John Deacon’s upright bass are exquisite. From A Night at the Opera, 1976 (yup – the one with Bohemian Rhapsody on it). 
262. The Move – Blackberry Way
One of the most haunting pop songs ever written, Roy Wood’s 1968 orchestrated rock lament was the band’s only #1 UK hit – strangely, the band never reached anything more than cult status stateside. After going even deeper into loungey pop, frontman Carl Wayne would leave the band to pursue its darker, louder side on the excellent albums Looking On and Message from the Country. But this foreshadows what lay even further ahead in ELO.
261. The Boomtown Rats – Living in an Island
Gleefully morbid existentialist new wave hit, fiery reggae-rock lit up by Garry Roberts’ guitar over Pete Briquette’s ominous descending bassline. From the classic 1978 lp A Tonic for the Troops.
260. Jethro Tull – Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day
With their tricky time signatures, artsy flourishes, electrified Scottish jigs and often impenetrably weird or pretentious lyrics, Jethro Tull were the last band you’d ever expect to have a radio hit. Yet back in the 70s they had several. This was once a big FM radio standard, a bitingly surreal, lushly jangly, bracingly existentialist lament. From the otherwise disappointing 1974 Warchild lp; mp3s are everywhere.
259. Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna
This song is one big ellipse: who is Johanna, and why is she missing? And what’s up with Louise? It also happens to be one of the most evocative songs ever written: in the deathly stillness of the organ and the mesh of the acoustic guitar, the wintertime ambience where “the heat pipes just cough” could not be more vivid. From Blonde on Blonde, 1966; the link above is a random torrent.
258. Richard Thompson – Yankee Go Home
The iconic guitarist/songwriter defiantly resisted the vogue of Americanizing his music back when British artists were doing that in order to court an American audience, and he’s never held back from criticizing the US, particularly during the Bush regime. This gorgeously catchy broadside dates from his 1987 Amnesia lp, telling Reagan to get his troops the hell out of the UK. 
257. The Clash – London’s Burning
Best song on the band’s first album, a volcanic bedlam of guitars half-drowning Joe Strummer’s snarling lyrics: “London’s burning with boredom now.” Killer ending, too. Download away – nobody’s getting any royalties from this.
256. The Rolling Stones – Just My Imagination
Alongside the Sex Pistols’ version of My Way, this ranks as one of the great cover songs ever, adding hypnotically ringing guitar fury to the Temptations’ pretty but tame top 40 hit. As great as the 1977 version from Some Girls is, there are plenty of intriguing live takes from the era which are just as good: peek around.
255. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town
The vivid chronicle of a compulsive gambler slowly and inexorably losing it – when it comes to verisimilitude, Tom Waits has nothing on this. Title track from the 1977 album, which isn’t bad, but the Byrdsy janglefest on the 1985 live box set is completely different, somewhat more understated and therefore in its own strange way even more menacing. There are a million versions out there, most of them live, some good, some less so. Have fun digging around.
254. Pink Floyd – Us & Them
Arguably the band’s best and most definitive song, Roger Waters’ visionary antiwar lyric set to Rick Wright’s hypnotic, fluidly symphonic, Beatlesque melody: “Forward he cried from the rear, and the front rank died.” Interestingly, it remained a staple of classic rock radio throughout the Bush years – apparently, even a fascist in office can’t stop corporate radio from giving audiences the Floyd they know and love so well.
253. Bruce Springsteen – Point Blank
When Springsteen wasn’t mythmaking, there are few other songwriters who’ve had such a handle on life on the impoverished fringes, or such compassion for the people who live there. This is an anguished gutter ballad from the River, 1980: guy watches his druggie ghetto girlfriend slip away despite his best efforts. The late Danny Federici’s organ swirling like a cauldron behind Roy Bittan’s poignantly incisive, minimalist piano is one of the band’s alltime high points. A million versions of this out there, good luck: the studio track is unbeatable.
252. Erica Smith – The World Is Full of Pretty Girls
This could be the great lost track from American Beauty, the NYC Americana chanteuse at the absolute top of her game as understatedly charismatic siren and haunting lyricist. Behind her, Jon Graboff’s pedal steel tones mingle with Dann Baker’s understatedly resolute Jazzmaster lines as the bass rises with a melody all its own. From her classic 2008 cd Snowblind.
251. Bruce Springsteen – Stolen Car
The tension on this song is so tight you could cut it with a knife, Max Weinberg’s kettle drum reverberating hauntingly in the background as the Boss calmly, fatalistically narrates his protagonist’s descent into what would justifiably be called madness. Arguably the best cut on the River, 1980, the studio version remains unbeatable.
250. Big Lazy – Theme from Headtrader
This haunting, noir Mingus-meets-Morricone reverb guitar instrumental takes its title from the episode of the network tv detective drama where it first aired. Released on the band’s classic 1996 debut, back when they were called Lazy Boy (the furniture manufacturer threatened to sue, causing them to adopt the sarcastic new name), this has guitarist/composer Steve Ulrich, bassist Paul Dugan and then-drummer Willie Martinez at the absolute peak of their macabre powers.
249. Roxy Music – The Thrill of It All
The title says it all, pure exhilaration perfectly captured in a little more than five careening minutes in one of the legendary British art-rockers’ loudest numbers. From Country Life, 1974; mp3s are everywhere.
 248. Richard Thompson – Meet on the Ledge
One of Thompson’s signature songs, this white-knuckle-intense, death-obsessed ballad for absent friends was originally recorded by Fairport Convention in 1969. But it’s arguably the solo acoustic version on the live 1984 Small Town Romance album (reissued on cd in the late 90s) that’s the best. “
247. The Act – Long Island Sound
Future Dream Academy frontman Nick Laird-Clowes fronted this ferociously good one-album punk/powerpop band in the early 80s featuring David Gilmour’s brother Mark on lead guitar. This is the best song on their 1981 gem Too Late at 20, an escape anthem that ranks with the best of them. “I belong to the ones that got away.” You’ll really relate if you grew up in the area.
246. King Crimson – Epitaph
Best song from In the Court of the Crimson King, their 1969 debut as a symphonic rock band. With the mellotron going full blast and Michael Giles’ transcendent drum work, it’s a chilling apocalypse anthem.
245. Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – Hey, Hitler
As the leader of New York-based Americana rockers the Hangdogs, Matthew Grimm carved himself out a niche as sort of a funnier Steve Earle or a more country Jello Biafra, skewering the right wing at every turn with equal amounts obscenity-laden wit and wisdom. This is the standout track from Grimm’s post-Hangdogs solo debut, the ferocious Dawn’s Early Apocalypse, 2005:
If there’s a Hell you’re burning, in anguish for eternity
But your spirit lives in every chanting, trust-fund baby, Brown-Shirt-esque fraternity
244. Israel Vibration – Pay Day
Reggae fans know the story, and it’s a heartwarming one: three polio-stricken Jamaican teens discover Jah Rastafari, leave the orphanage for the bush and quickly become one of the greatest roots reggae harmony groups of all time. This defiant number bounces along on one of the most gorgeously jangly guitar tune ever to come out of the island.  The essential version is on the band’s first live album, Vibes Alive, from 1992 – the link above is the studio version.
243. The Kinks – Cliches of the World (B Movie)
Savage, artsy, proto-metal minor-key riff rock, Ray Davies in characteristically populist mode from State of Confusion, 1981.
242. The The – This Is the Day
You know this one, the iconic, haunting concertina-driven new wave hit from 1983, sun blasting through the windows, the song’s hapless narrator knowing that nothing’s really going to change after all. Mp3s are everywhere.
 241. Penelope Houston – Everybody Knows
Yeah, Leonard Cohen wrote it, and his 1988 synth-goth version’s awfully cool, but it’s the tightlipped, furious acoustic cover that the once-and-future Avengers frontwoman was doing in the early 90s that’s the best. Of everyone who’s tackled this song, she’s one of the few with the depth to really get it and make it her own. Unreleased, but Houston’s widely bootlegged – if you see this out there, tell us!
 240. Al Stewart – Mermansk Run/Ellis Island
Best track on the British art-rock songwriter’s otherwise pretty forgettable 24 Carrots lp, 1981, a two-part WWII epic welded together by a transcendentally good, crescendoing Peter White guitar solo. “Save our souls, river of darkness over me!” The link above is the stream at deezer.
 239. Willie Nile – The Black Parade
One of the most vengeful songs ever written, this slowly burning anthem is the New York underground legend’s greatest number and the centerpiece of his triumphant 1999 comeback album Beautiful Wreck of the World.
 238. Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone
Yeah, this is a classic rock standard. But if you’ve ever heard this on a vinyl record playing through a good system, ask yourself, is there any sound any warmer than that offhandedly rich way Dylan’s electric guitar kicks it off – and then Al Kooper’s organ comes in! And it’s also an anti-trendoid anthem. No wonder they hate Dylan in Williamsburg!
237. Randi Russo – So It Must Be True
Careening, otherworldly, somewhat flamenco-inflected epic from the greatest writer of outsider anthems of this era. The studio version on the classic 2001 Solar Bipolar cd is great, but it can’t quite match the out-of-control intensity of the live version from Russo’s Live at CB’s Gallery cd from the previous year.
236. Erica Smith – Pine Box
The multistylistic New York rock goddess has been off on a sultry jazz tangent lately, but five years ago she was writing lusciously jangly Americana rock and this is a prime example, ecstatically crescedoing yet dark and brooding as the title would imply. Recorded and leaked on a few bootlegs, but officially unreleased as of now.
235. The Electric Light Orchestra – From the Sun to the World
You can hear echoes of this clattering, frenetic suite in a lot of obscure art-rock and indie rock from the last thirty years. Jeff Lynne’s scary, out-of-focus apocalypse anthem kicks off with a Grieg-like morning suite, followed by a warped boogie and then an unhinged noise-rock outro that falls apart once it’s clear that it’s unsalvageable. From ELO II, 1972; mp3s are everywhere.
234. X – Nausea
The combination of Ray Manzarek’s organ swirling dizzyingly under Billy Zoom’s growling guitar and Exene’s thisclose-to-passing-out vocals is nothing if not evocative. From Los Angeles, 1980; mp3s are everywhere.
233. Stiff Little Fingers – Piccadilly Circus
Big punk rock epic about an Irish guy who gets the stuffing knocked out of him by a bunch of knuckleheads on his first night in London. From Go For It, 1981; there are also a million live versions out there, official releases and bootlegs and most of them are pretty awesome too.
232. The Wallflowers – Sixth Avenue Heartache
Elegiac slide guitar and organ carry this surprise 1996 top 40 hit’s magnificent eight-bar hook, the best song the band ever did and the only standout track on their disappointing sophomore effort Bringing Down the Horse. Mp3s are everywhere.
231. Bruce Springsteen – The Promised Land
This backbeat anthem makes a killer (literally) opening track on the Boss’ 1977 Darkness on the Edge of Town lp, perfectly capturing the anomie and despair of smalltown American life. In the end, the song’s protagonist speeds away into the path of a tornado. A million versions out there, most of them live, but it’s actually the album track that’s the best.
230. The Moody Blues – Driftwood
Towering powerpop anthem from the band’s 1977 “comeback” lp Octave, opening with a big whooosh of cymbals and lush layers of acoustic guitar. And Justin Hayward’s long electric guitar solo out, over the atmospheric wash of the strings, is a delicious study in contrasts. Many different versions out there, some of them live, and they’re all good (the link above is the studio track).
229. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
Surreal, Stonesy apocalyptic anthem from the Thin White Duke’s vastly underrated 1974 lp. Did you know that’s Bowie on all the guitars – and the saxes too?
228. Mary Lee’s Corvette – 1000 Promises Later
Centerpiece of the NYC Americana rockers’ classic True Lovers of Adventure album, 1999-ish, this was a live showstopper for frontwoman Mary Lee Kortes and her steely, soaring, multiple-octave voice for several years afterward. It’s a rueful breakup anthem sung with typical counterintuitive verve from the villain’s point of view.
227. New Model Army – Luhrstaap
Written right as the Berlin Wall came down, this ominous, bass-driven, Middle Eastern-inflected art-rock anthem accurately foretold what would happen once East Germany tasted western capitalism: “You can buy a crown, it doesn’t make you king/Beware the trinkets that we bring.” From Impurity, 1989; the live version on 1992’s double live Raw Melody Men cd is even better (the link above is the studio version).
226. David Bowie – Life on Mars
Soaring epic grandeur for anyone who’s ever felt like an alien, from Hunky Dory, 1971. Ward  White’s live Losers Lounge version (click on the link and scroll down) is equally intense.
225. Telephone – Ce Soir Est Ce Soir
Absolutely creepy, methodical epic nocturne that wraps up the legendary French rockers’ 1982 Dure Limite lp on a particularly angst-ridden note. ”Ce soir est ce soir/J’ai besoin d’espoir [Tonight's the night/I need hope].”
224. Al Stewart – Bedsitter Images
The live acoustic track in the link above only hints at the lush, orchestrated original, a big radio hit for the British songwriter in 1969, Rick Wakeman doing his best Scarlatti impression on piano. It’s a masterpiece of angsted existentialist songwriting, the song’s narrator slowly and surreally losing it, all by himself in his little flat.
223. LJ Murphy – Pretty for the Parlor
Our precedessor e-zine’s pick for best song of 2005, this blithely jangly yet absolutely sinister murder anthem perfectly captures the twistedness lurking beneath suburban complacency. Unreleased, but still a staple of the New York noir rock legend’s live show.
222. Wall of Voodoo – Lost Weekend
Creepy, hauntingly ambient new wave string synthesizer ballad from the band’s best album, 1982’s Call of the West, a couple gone completely off the wheels yet still on the road to somewhere. Frontman Stan Ridgway soldiers on as an occasionally compelling if sometimes annoyingly dorky LA noir songwriter.
221. Randi Russo – House on the Hill
One of the New York noir rocker’s most hauntingly opaque lyrics – is she alive or dead? In the house or homeless? – set to an absolutely gorgeous, uncharacteristically bright janglerock melody. Frequently bootlegged, but the version on her 2005 Live at Sin-e cd remains the best out there.
220. The Wirebirds – This Green Hell
Our predecessor e-zine’s pick for best song of 2003 is this towering janglerock anthem, sort of a global warming nightmare epic as the Church might have done it but with amazing harmonies by songwriter Will Dial and the band’s frontwoman, Amanda Thorpe.
219. The Psychedelic Furs – House
“This day is not my life,” Richard Butler insists on this pounding, insistent, anguished anthem from the band’s best album, 2000’s Book of Days, the only post-Joy Division album to effectively replicate that band’s unleashed, horrified existentialist angst. Mp3s are out there, as are copies of the vinyl album; check the bargain bins for a cheap treat.
218. X – See How We Are
The link above is the mediocre original album track; the best version of this offhandedly savage anti-yuppie, anti-complacency diatribe is the semi-acoustic take on the live Unclogged cd from 1995.
217. The Sex Pistols – EMI
Gleefully defiant anti-record label diatribe from back in the day when all the majors lined up at Malcolm McLaren’s knee. How times have changed. “Unlimited supply,” ha!
216. Amy Allison – No Frills Friend
As chilling as this casually swaying midtempo country ballad might seem, it’s actually not about a woman who’s so alienated that she’s willing to put up with someone who won’t even talk to her. It just seems that way – Allison is actually being optimistic here. Which is just part of the beauty of her songwriting – you never know exactly where she’s coming from. Title track from the excellent 2002 cd.
215. X – Johny Hit & Run Paulene
One of the greatest punkabilly songs ever, nightmare sex criminal out on a drug-fueled, Burroughs-esque bender that won’t stop. From Los Angeles, 1980; mp3s, both live and studio, are out there.
214. The Sex Pistols – Belsen Was a Gas
Arguably the most tasteless song ever written – it’s absolutely fearless. The lp version from the 1978 Great Rock N Roll Swindle soundtrack lp features its writer, Sid Vicious along with British train robber Ronnie Biggs. There are also numerous live versions out there and most of them are choice. Here’s one  from Texas and one from San Francisco.
213. Randi Russo – Battle on the Periphery
Russo is the absolute master of the outsider anthem, and this might be her best, defiant and ominous over a slinky minor-key funk melody anchored by Lenny Molotov’s macabre, Middle Eastern guitar. From Shout Like a Lady, 2006.
212. The Dead Kennedys – Holiday in Cambodia
True story: Pepsi wanted to license this song for a commercial despite its savage anti-imperialist message. Jello Biafra said no way – which might have planted the seed that spawned his bandmates’ ultimately successful if dubiously lawful suit against him. So sad – when these guys were on top of their game they were the best American band ever. From Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, 1980.
211. X – Los Angeles
One of the great punk rock hooks of all time, title track to the 1980 album, a perfect backdrop for Exene’s snide anti-El Lay diatribe. Ice-T and Body Count would sneak it into their notorious Cop Killer twelve years later.
210. The Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
Yeah, you know this one, but our list wouldn’t be complete without it. As lame as the rhyme in the song’s first two lines is (Johnny Rotten has pretty much disowned them), this might be the most influential song of all time. If not, it definitely had the most beneficial effect. Go download Never Mind the Bollocks if you haven’t already: the band isn’t getting any royalties.
209. The Clash – London Calling
OK, an obvious choice, but what a great bassline…and that majestic production. “I live by the river!” A lot of us will be in our forties or older by the time the waters start rising as the polar icecaps melt, and by then whoever‘s left in the coastal cities probably deserves to die anyway – at least if Michael Bloomberg and others like him get their way. But Joe Strummer predicted all this first.
208. Roxy Music – More Than This
“More than this, there is nothing.” In a sense, Bryan Ferry’s quintessential song. Uninhibited, fearless, yet knowing there will be a comedown. Lush atmospheric beauty from the Avalon lp, 1982.
207. David Bowie – Because You’re Young
“Because you’re young, you’ll meet a stranger some night.” The Thin White Duke in wise old rake mode, consoling the “psychodelicate girl” and the guy who might or might not be the right stranger. A gorgeous, bittersweet anthem from Bowie’s best album, Scary Monsters, 1981.
206. The Grateful Dead – Bertha
The prototypical janglerock anthem, the Dead at their best and tersest – what a killer riff. Bertha (probably not her real name) was a groupie; this is an understated message to her to stay the fuck away. Look for a bootleg (and avoid the debacle on the Steal Your Face album) – may we suggest Sept 1991 at Madison Square Garden? Or else check
205. Kelli Rae Powell – Don’t Look Back Zachary
The road trip that for a minute looked like an escape from hell turns quickly to hell. But she can’t go back. The oldtimey siren’s minutely jewelled, gracefully haunted memoir with ukelele. From her 2009 album New Words for Old Lullabies.
204. LJ Murphy – Saturday’s Down
The New York noir legend’s biggest hit is this uncharacteristically quiet, haunted narrative of what’s left of a weekend watching Brooklyn’s parade of lost souls circle around Williamsburg’s McCarren Park circa 2005, before the trendoids and the yuppies took over. From his 2006 cd Mad Within Reason; there are also a million bootlegs out there and many of them are very good.
203. Elvis Costello – Black Sails in the Sunset
Graceful, haunting, understatedly vengeful, with some of pianist Steve Nieve’s finest work. “Do you make me sick, or was I just forcefed?” Originally released on the Tokyo Storm Warning ep in 1986, since then anthologized several times.
202. Midnight Oil – Stars of Warburton
Some claim this song has healing properties (and when thousands of other compositions have been proven to have healing properties, the proposition becomes less farfetched). Is it the layers of lushly jangly Rickenbacker guitar? The chords as they rise to breaking point? From Blue Sky Mining, 1990.
201. Bobby Vacant & the Weary – Never Looking Back
Our pick for best song of 2009, it’s tersely metaphorical, bitter yet defiant to the end, the high point of the expat American songwriter’s darkly intense album Tear Back the Night. And the lyric at the end sounds unmistakably like, “Went from my home, went from my friends, went from the land where the polygraph spins.” The link above is the stream at Radio Luxotone.
200. The Move – Message from the Country
Jeff Lynne’s magnificent 12-string guitar anthem, title track from the 1972 album, is a call for preserving the environment. And would get him labeled an eco-terrorist by the right wing if it was released today. Rick Price’s rumbling, gritty bassline underneath it all is tasty beyond words. “Gotta stop your burning, now!”

199. The Church – Myrrh
The Australian art-rock legends’ classic 1986 Heyday album was inspired by the band’s disastrous US tour the previous year, and this is the opening track, pulsing hypnotically as frontman Steve Kilbey deplores what he found. “Privilege on privilege, an unwanted discovery.”
198. Gil Scott-Heron – B Movie
The great soul/jazz poet at the peak of his powers, a savage dismissal of lightweight Hollywood candidate Ronald Reagan released just after the disastrous 1980 election. From the Secrets album, 1981; the link above is the complete eight-minute diatribe on youtube. There’s also a killer version on the Live Somewhere in Europe album from the early 90s.
197. Radio Birdman – All Alone in the Endzone
This has nothing to do with football, Australian or otherwise – it’s just under two minutes of vicious, chromatic 1979 garage punk driven by one of the catchiest hooks ever written. That’s bassist Warwick Gilbert playing it on the studio version on the Radios Appear lp; the link above, a lightning-fast live take from a recent tour, features Jim Dickson from the New Christs.
196. The Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash
Trivia question: you know Jagger wrote the words, but who wrote the music? That would be Bill Wyman. And it makes sense, if you listen to how the bass looms out of the chorus, all those haunting, magnificently echoey chords. Pure low-register transcendence.
195. Bob Dylan – Memphis Blues Again
The best epic on Blonde on Blonde. “And me I sit here patiently, hoping to find out what price/You gotta pay to get out of going through these things twice.” The link above is a torrent of the whole album.
194. The Electric Light Orchestra – Look At Me Now
Eleanor Rigby done more lucidly and far more macabrely, from the ELO debut lp No Answer, 1972. That’s Roy Wood on all the cello overdubs – a one-man Rasputina.
193. The Kinks – Rock n Roll Fantasy
Gorgeously catchy backbeat anthem, and a vivid reminder why sometimes musicians deserve to take themselves seriously. Their fans need them! “Don’t want to spend my life living on the edge of reality!” From the Misfits album, 1976, not to be confused with the Bad Company atrocity of the same title.
192. REM – Cuyahoga
A darkly Wire-inspired tribute to the river that caught fire, arguably bassist Mike Mills’ most beautifully inspired moment in the band with all those chords. Will some good band please cover this and give it the wild intense treatment it screams out for? From the otherwise mediocre Life’s Rich Pageant album, 1987.
191. The Electric Light Orchestra – Whisper in the Night
Roy Wood’s greatest moment in the band is this towering, haunting anthem, a rustic mix of plaintive acoustic guitar and a million cello and other string overdubs. Also from No Answer, 1972.
190. Elvis Costello – Red Shoes
Trivia question – in 1977, on My Aim Is True, Costello was backed by what future million-selling, cringeworthy 80s hitmakers? Answer: Huey Lewis & the News! To the King’s infinite credit, he gets them to do a credible Byrds imitation here.
189. Erica Smith – Jesus’ Clown
Sean Dolan’s lyric is a clever fly-on-the-wall take on the Stations of the Cross from a nonbeliever’s perspective. Behind Smith’s understatedly haunting vocals, Love Camp 7 guitarist Dann Baker adds a forest of searing overdubs that do Neil Young one better. Unreleased but ostensibly due to see the light of day sometime early in this decade.
188. The Sex Pistols – Did You No Wrong
Musically, with all those searing layers of Steve Jones guitar, it’s arguably the Pistols’ most interesting song, an outtake from Never Mind the Bollocks first issued on Flogging a Dead Horse in 1978. Which begs the question, why was it left off Never Mind the Bollocks? Maybe because it’s a Glenn Matlock tune?
187. Angelo Badalamenti – Moving Through Time
The haunting centerpiece of the 1992 Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me film soundtrack, Bill Mays’ macabre piano cascading around an eerie two-chord chromatic vamp.
186. The Dead Kennedys – Too Drunk to Fuck
Not only is this one of the funniest songs ever written, it’s also one of the alltime great garage rock hits. And also the #1 song of the year in Finland, 1981 – must be all that vodka. “Take out your fucking retainer, put it in your purse!”
185. The Rolling Stones – Fool to Cry
Slow, haunting, Curtis Mayfield-inspired ballad from the underrated 1975 Black & Blue album, all those layers of electric piano, organ and synth absolutely gorgeous.
184. Bloodrock – DOA
The web abounds with dumb sites which cite this bloodcurdling nine-minute dirge about a plane crash as one of the worst songs ever written. The studio version was a surprise 1972 radio hit for this otherwise forgettable Texas “hard rock” band, but it’s the version on their live album from the same year that’s the classic, ambulance siren sample woven into organist Stevie Hill’s lines as he steals a melody straight out of French organ composer Jehan Alain’s notoriously macabre Trois Danses.
183. The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
Yeah, the studio version is great, but the best was the one the band played at Altamont (Bill Wyman on bass rather than Keith), growling with a menace that even by these guys’ standards was intense. Look for an Italian bootleg from the 90s, incorrectly titled the Gimme Shelter soundtrack (it isn’t – all it has is the Stones songs on the movie soundtrack, but those alone are transcendent).
182. Dan Bryk – City Of…
In a Toronto of the mind, Canadian-American rocker Bryk sets the stage for the most amusing and heartbreakingly accurate state-of-the-music-world address ever recorded. It rocks, too. From his superb 2009 album Pop Psychology.
181. Pink Floyd – Mother
This might have supplanted Hotel California as the national anthem of busking if it wasn’t so depressing. It appears in the movie conveniently just in time to wrap up side one of The Wall.
180. Elvis Costello – Accidents Will Happen
Costello at the peak of his powers as psychopathologist, here dissecting the poisonous union that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. Lush, anthemic new wave at its best from Armed Forces, 1979.
179. The Boomtown Rats – Rain
Fearing that American audiences might misconstrue the Rats’ big 1985 Roxy Music-inspired UK hit Dave as a love song from one man to another (it’s not – it’s a sympathetic cautionary tale directed at a friend whose drinking has gotten the best of him), the band’s label had them redo the song with a new title, Rain. One has to wonder why, because as with the rest of the band’s UK hits, it didn’t go anywhere stateside. From their last dismal gasp of an lp, In the Long Grass.
178. Scott Morgan’s Powertrane – Rock n Roll, Rest in Peace
Morgan is a legend in Detroit, a pioneer dating back to the 70s whose inimitable style blends gritty soul vocals with raw, uncompromising Murder City rock. This bruising anthem, with its endlessly, ominously circling series of chords on the way out, is a highlight from Morgan’s all-star crew Powertrane, a band that once featured both Ron Asheton and Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek.
177. Elvis Costello – Party Girl
The world’s greatest lyrical psychopathologist at his most dismissive, fiery janglerock band behind him. “I could give you anything but time.” From Armed Forces, 1979.
176. Ninth House – Death Song
This one is one of the great macabre anthems: a slowly unwinding dirge that picks up with relentless, manic angst, frontman Mark Sinnis’ ominous baritone and guitarist Bernard SanJuan’s reverb-drenched guitar joining in a funeral choir. Play this one on the plane as you’re taking off – or landing. From The Eye That Refuses To Blink, 2006.
175. String Driven Thing – Starving in the Tropics
Labelmates of Van Der Graaf Generator, British folk/blues rockers String Driven Thing are best remembered for their 1972 cult album The Machine That Cried. This one’s a searing, bluesy eco-disaster anthem from the Keep Yer ‘And On It lp, 1975. Frontman/guitarist Chris Adams still maintains a myspace page for the band.
174. Gil Scott-Heron – We Almost Lost Detroit
Based on the John G. Fuller expose, this is an understated, haunting look at a narrowly averted nuclear disaster that almost took out a major American city. Now there are actually global warming activists who support the use of nuclear power. How quickly we forget – can anybody say “Chernobyl?” From the South Africa to South Carolina album, 1975; there’s also an even tastier live version on the No Nukes concert anthology.
173. Bowdoin Rocks – Waiting for the Breakdown
While students at Bowdoin College, bassist/singer Wendi Mitchell and keyboardist Alan Walker (later of the Brilliant Mistakes) recorded a lo-fi demo of this haunting, artsy pop gem. Years later, Walker’s ex-bandmate George Reisch of Luxotone Records would add some badly needed guitar and suddenly an underground classic was born. The link in the title above is the stream at Radio Luxotone.
172. The Clash – Gates of the West
English punk apprehensively sets out for America, knowing that it’s a long way, literally and figuratively, “from Camden Town Station to 44th and 8th…stealing cross the shadows, will I see you again?” Joe Strummer wants to know. The searing layers of Strummer and Jones’ guitars are exquisite. Originally issued as a bonus single packaged with the first American release of the Clash’s first album, it’s on a bunch of digital compilations as well.
171. Young Marble Giants – Salad Days
Just so you know, we deleted Romans by the Church to make room for this one. It’s the catchiest cut on the influential postpunk band’s 1980 debut Colossal Youth, a spiky lo-fi gem with eerie deadpan vocals from frontwoman Alison Statton. The link above is a considerably ironic, dodgy live clip from a 2008 reunion show in Barcelona.
170. The Jam – Mr. Clean
“And if I get the chance I’ll fuck up your life, Mr. Clean,” Paul Weller snarls. One of the great anti-yuppie diatribes ever; sweet Bruce Foxton bass groove too. From All Mod Cons, 1978; Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler continue to play this one live in their From the Jam project.
169. Elvis Costello – The Other Side of Summer
The one standout track on the otherwise forgettable Mighty Like a Rose album, 1991, this gorgeous janglerock gem is a richly sarcastic swipe at sunniness in all its forms. Believe it or not, it was once used in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210.
168. The Church – I Am a Rock
The iconic outsider anthem, Paul Simon’s best song, gets a deliciously watery, chorus-box guitar treatment by the Australian art-rock legends on the 1983 Sing Songs ep, finally reissued digitally eighteen years later.
167. Elvis Costello – Peace in Our Time
Written at the height of the Falklands War, this 6/8 broadside namechecks Neville Chamberlain while condemning both Maggie and Ronnie for bringing the world one step closer to Armageddon. The lyric is one of Costello’s best; the production on the album version from 1985’s vastly underrated Goodbye Cruel World is ridiculously, completely wrong, so look for a live version like the solo one in the title above (Paris, November 1983 is transcendent if you can find it).
166. The Church – Authority
As usual with these guys, many levels of meaning at work here in this somewhat woozy, hypnotic janglerock anthem from Sometime Anywhere, 1994: it’s about being unable to resist a muse, even as the world collapses around you. And could that muse be up to no good as well?
165. Elvis Costello – Charm School
You and I as lovers
Were nothing but a farce
Trying to make a silk purse
Out of a sow’s arse…
Didn’t they teach you anything
Except how to be cruel
In that Charm School?
One of the best cuts on Punch the Clock, 1983.
164. Radio Birdman – Smith & Wesson Blues
Deniz Tek’s surreal wee-hours scenario unfolds with offhandedly savage chromatic guitar and one of the great bass hooks of alltime, courtesy of Warwick Gilbert. Yet another classic track from the iconic 1979 Radios Appear album. To hear the song click the link above, then click on the top “opening” link on the page.
163. The Dead Boys – Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth
This furious, filthy, barely two-minute Chuck Berry-inflected punk classic is actually a remake of lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome’s Never Gonna Kill Myself Again, by Chrome’s old (and current) band Rocket from the Tombs, who continue to reunite and tour every couple of years. The best of the Dead Boys versions is probably the one on Night of the Living Dead Boys; the studio track on Young Loud & Snotty features mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain playing bass, uncredited, and doing a creditable job.
162. Telephone – Ordinaire
The title is French for “cheap wine;” this is an unhinged, Middle Eastern flavored tribute to the joys of drinking and driving by the iconic French rockers. From the 1981 Au Coeur de la Nuit album; the link above is a live version that segues into one of their big early hits, la Bombe Humaine.
161. String Driven Thing - Suicide
Just so you know, we deleted Decades by Joy Division to make room for this somewhat more direct, fiery blues-rock song by the cult band responsible for the 1972 The Machine That Cried album. This one’s from the band’s 1992 Live in Manchester reunion tour cd, a bitter rocker’s graveside tableau:
The T in contract
The I in impasse
The M in muzak
The E in Ex-lax
The S in suicide
The long, Dave Swarbrick style violin solo winds this up ferociously.
160. The Church – Mistress
“All my songs are coming true,” Steve Kilbey laments on this death-obsessed, apocalyptic, surreal art-rock number from the iconic Aussie rockers’ classic Priest = Aura album, 1992.
159. Rachelle Garniez – People Like You
Arguably the greatest anti-trendoid broadside ever written: the New York underground chanteuse sarcastically goes after the suburban tourists and trust fund babies who poisoned her old, working-class latino Lower East Side stomping ground in the early zeros. Very subtle – if you don’t listen closely you might think this is just a blithe, finger-poppin’ Rickie Lee Jones jazz-lite hit. From the classic 2007 cd Melusine Years.
158. Richard Buckner – Lil Wallet Picture
She backs up the U-Haul and within minutes he’s gone out on Route 99:
That takes so many lives
One of them was mine
Hand me that little wallet picture from 1985
One more time

The indie songwriter’s best song, from the Devotion and Doubt album, 1997.
157. The Rolling Stones – 2000 Light Years From Home
Acid-warped gothic blues masterpiece from the cult classic Their Majesties Satanic Request, 1968, the Stones’ attempt to outdo Sgt. Pepper with black humor – and succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. That’s Keith on bass – and keys too!
156. The Slickee Boys – Marble Orchard
The Slickee Boys are sort of the American Radio Birdman, a ferocious garage-punk outfit with a fondness for eerie chromatics. This sepulchrally matter-of-fact epic from the classic 1983 Cybernetic Dreams of Pi lp (still available as a download from TwinTone) features lead guitarist Marshall Keith playing swirling funereal tones on a Casio above a river of guitars.
155. Richard Thompson – Mascara Tears
Big vicious rock anthem from the iconic British guitar god’s 1992 Mirror Blue cd, one of his best:
Mascara tears, bitter and black
Spent bullet through a hole in my back
Salt for the memories, black for the years
Black as forever, mascara tears
The link above is a torrent of the whole album.
154. The Dixie Bee-Liners – Roses Are Grey
Just so you know, we deleted The Elephants’ Graveyard by the Boomtown Rats to make room for this one. The Dixie Bee-Liners, purveyors of a uniquely rustic yet cutting-edge style of Bible Belt noir, have been burning up the bluegrass charts for the last couple of years. This is a particularly haunting, nocturnal one, frontwoman/guitarist Brandi Hart absolutely nailing the lyric’s deadpan despondency…so when redemption comes, it hits you like a tsunami. From their debut cd, 2006.
153. Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction
Written surprisingly by born-again El Lay scenester songwriter P.F. Sloan, this snarling Summer of Love single embodies yet transcends every folk-rock cliche of the era. You gotta love that kettledrum. The Dickies’ hardcore punk version is also a lot of fun; if janglerock is your thing, check out the Red Rockers’ 1984 cover.
152. The Dead Kennedys – This Could Be Anywhere
Not only is Frankenchrist a great album, it’s also an irreplaceable historical document, a vivid look at what it was like being a kid during the Reagan years – the division between rich and poor growing ever wider, the dispossessed underclass distracted by media-generated fear of immigrants, punks and smart people in general. This song captures that era better than any prosaic description ever could. It also has a ferociously good bassline.
151. John Lennon – Scared
“Hatred and jealousy gonna be the death of me.” This was 1973, the Walls & Bridges album, could Lennon have seen it coming? Probably.
150. McGinty & White – Rewrite
When he’s at the top of his game – and he usually is – there’s no better songwriter than Ward White. This is one of his more lyrically pyrotechnic efforts – breaking the fourth wall, loading on as many savage double entendres and puns as he can summon – from his excellent 2009 retro-60s psychedelic pop collaboration with keyboard genius Joe McGinty. The whole album is streaming at the link above.
149. The Church – Dome
From the band’s iconic 1992 Priest = Aura album, this is a deceptively simple, tersely hypnotic psychedelic gem. It’s frontman Steve Kilbey at his most apocalyptically visionary: no matter how high you build the wall, eventually the marauders outside will find a way over it.
148. Elisa FlynnTimber
Bleak, metaphorically loaded yet wry lyric set to a big, towering 6/8 minor-key anthem with wrenchingly beautiful vocals from the New York indie rock siren. From her breakout 2009 album Songs About Birds and Ghosts. The link in the title above is the video, an amusing Blair Witch parody.
147. The Room – Jackpot Jack
The somewhat epic title track from arguably the greatest ep ever made, from these psychedelic Liverpool new wavers, 1985. Over Becky Stringer’s ridiculously catchy, hypnotic bass groove, frontman Dave Jackson snarlingly recounts the last hours and ugly death of a hack corporate musician. It’s sweet revenge for purists and good songwriters everywhere. The link in the title above is a Peel Session take that is decent but isn’t quite as venomous as the ep version.
146. Elvis Costello – You Bowed Down
The Byrdsiest thing Costello ever did, a savage slam at an unnamed music business type, from All This Useless Beauty, 1998. That’s Roger McGuinn on twelve-string. The link above is live with McGuinn.
145. The Fabulous Poodles – Suicide Bridge
Absolutely haunting, scurrying, morbid violin-driven new wave from the surreal British band’s Think Pink album, 1979. The way the violin solo trades off to the guitar is transcendent. No streaming audio that we can find; the album was finally re-released digitally as a two-pack with the band’s first US release, Mirror Star,in 2008. We’ll post a torrent when we can find one.
144. REM – It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine
Like Subterranean Homesick Blues and other songs before it, the lyrics to this one became part of the public consciousness (something that used to happen a lot before corporate music completely took over commercial radio and everybody stopped listening). Not bad for a rapidfire apocalyptic indie rock song released at the nadir of the Reagan years, Mike Mills wailing plaintively in the background, “Can I get some time alone?” High point of the essentially one-sided Document album, 1986. The Suicide Machines’ snotty 1998 punk-pop cover isn’t bad either.
143. The Coup – Underdogs
No other song as succinctly and accurately captures the raw desperation of inner city poverty as well as this Clinton-era classic from the Oakland hip-hop crew’s 1999 cd Steal This Album. “I’d tear this shit up if I really loved you – and so would you.”
142. Nektar – It’s All Over
Art-rock at its most epic and majestic from the remarkably forward-looking Recycled album, 1976 – when guest keyboardist Larry Fast’s layers of string synth rise up swirling against the stately clang of frontman Roye Albrighton’s guitar, it’s beautiful – and haunting – beyond words.
141. Midnight Oil – Put Down That Weapon
The great Australian art-rockers at their most concisely epic, from Diesel and Dust, 1988, Jim Moginie’s ominous organ anchoring the anthem. “And it happens to be an emergency.”
140. The Strawbs – New World
Future Beegee Derek Weaver’s mellotron roaring into the verse and then out of the chorus of this titanic anthem by the otherwise usually much mellower Britfolk/rock band might be the single most intense crescendo in any rock song. “May you rot, in your grave new world!”  The centerpiece of the Britfolk rockers’ loudest, artsiest and most psychedelic album, Grave New World, 1972.
139. Barclay James Harvest – Suicide
The poor man’s Moody Blues’ best song. The big epic is a mystery with a trick ending – when the guy gets out of the elevator on the top floor, does he or doesn’t he? We won’t give it away. Decide for yourself. From the Octoberon album, 1976.
138. Procol Harum – Fires That Burnt Brightly
With the organ and the piano and all those murky gypsyish melodies, these guys could get completely macabre and this is one of their most ominous numbers, especially with the Swingle Singers’ phantasmic vocalese in the background. The last truly great song the band ever wrote, from the Grand Hotel album, 1973.
137. The Thought – Rapture
This goth-ish Dutch new wave outfit did two excellent New Order-inflected albums back in the 80s and this is from their second, 1985 self-titled one. It’s a towering, sweeping anthem written from the point of view of a deity who finds himself completely alone, isolated and in the grip of madness. “I live in a penthouse high above creation/See little creatures squirm, out of boredom or sheer frustration.“ The link above is a download of the whole album.
136. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Nightshift
The version on the 1982 Juju album isn’t bad, but it’s the towering, macabre epic on the 1985 double live Nocturne album that’s the most horrific, Siouxsie at the peak of her powers as outraged witness, in this case a hooker who kills her prey. Steve Severin’s watery chorus-box bass chords underneath only enhance the ambience.
135. The Dead Kennedys – Cesspools in Eden
The most musically interesting song the band ever did closes side one of their final, haphazardly assembled studio album Bedtime for Democracy, 1986. It’s a big, towering ecocide epic driven by Klaus Flouride’s savage, roaring, distorted bass chords.
134. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Icons
The centerpiece of the band’s 1979 WWI-themed Join Hands album kicks off with the rumble of cannon fire behind a fiery wall of guitar. And then the bass comes in and they’re off. “Icons feed the fires, icons falling from the spires!”
133. The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
“And we don’t care!!!!” With all those layers of guitar, Chris Thomas’ production turned the band into a punk orchestra. The link above is a live clip from their 1996 reunion tour.
132. The Grateful Dead – Loser
Some would remark how ironic it is that Jerry Garcia’s simple, incisively bluesy break in this swaying, ominous backbeat minor-key country song might be the best guitar solo of all time. The version that has it is the cut from the vastly underrated 1981 Dead Set album, live in New York; the link above is a somewhat inferior but still good live clip from 1976. You can basically point at your computer blindfolded and no matter where your finger goes, there’s Grateful Dead – have fun sleuthing!
131. The Wild Swans – Bible Dreams
Haunting anthem from the British band’s 1988 goth-inflected album Bringing Home the Ashes, chorus crashing in as the bass takes it down the scale:
Soldier boy, soldier on
Your eyes are cold, the spark has gone
They’ve chosen you to bear the stain
Though God has left this world bereft, the scars remain

The link above is a dodgy live clip from what seems to be a fairly recent reunion show. You’re going to have to look around for this if you want the studio version, digital versions are hard to find.
130. Joy Division – Interzone
Fast, scurrying, manic-depressive punk rock with a sweet minor-key hook from Unknown Pleasures, 1979. “And I was looking for a friend of mine.”
129. The Church – Antenna
Gorgeous, majestic 6/8 Rickenbacker guitar art-rock anthem from the band’s best-known album, Starfish, 1988, with a particularly excoriating lyric by frontman Steve Kilbey.
128. The Wild Swans – Now & Forever
Nonchalantly chilling new wave pop semi-hit from 1988 from the Bringing Home the Ashes album, an overcast British wintertime tableau that doesn’t exactly exude optimism:
You want the life you can’t afford, after all that you’ve been through
Soon it will be over
Boy has this town crippled you
127. The Electric Light Orchestra – Bluebird
Genius in the studio: Jeff Lynne processes the word “work” as it repeats over and over again to replicate the sound of a dog barking. In the context of the song (a big, uncannilly pretty janglerock anthem) and the lyric (all this backbreaking work for nothing, essentially), it packs a punch. From the last good ELO album, Secret Messages, 1983.
126. The Clash – Cheat
Joe Strummer at his most savagely punk, 1977 – the track appears on the British and Canadian versions of the band’s first album, but not the American one (it’s on the first Black Market Clash ep from 1981) . Hmmm… By the way, this song is about cheating the system, not cheating your neighbor.
125. Elvis Costello – Pills and Soap
Savagely astute commentary on the distinctions that the haves make between themselves and the have-nots, and the logically deadly consequences, over Steve Nieve’s minimalist faux-martial piano. From Punch the Clock, 1983.
124. Ninth House – The Company You Keep
Bitter, brooding, careening art-rock dirge that at first comes across as a revenge anthem – or just an attempt by the New York rockers to get as uber-goth as they can. Bernard SanJuan’s sepulchral reverb guitar arpeggios, as it slowly winds up, are intense. From The Eye That Refuses to Blink, 2006.
123. Elvis Costello – Crawling to the USA
Gleefully recorded in Australia a la Back in the USSR, this is one of his hardest-rocking songs, pretty much what you’d expect from the title. Originally issued on Taking Liberties in 1981. The rare live version in the link above has an even more ominous lyric.
122. Procol Harum – The Dead Man’s Dream
It’s hard to imagine a much more macabre song than this: Chris Copping’s swirling funeral organ and Gary Brooker’s eerily incisive piano set the stage for a truly nightmare scenario. And a trick ending. “The lights went dark in the deathroom…” From the Home lp, 1970.
121. The Geto Boys – City Under Siege
Over a haunting James Brown electric piano sample, Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D insightfully and brutally analyze why the “war on drugs” is such a dismal failure – when you have one government agency fighting to keep them out while the other is not-so-secretly bringing them in, it’s a zero-sum equation. From their controversial Rick Rubin-produced self-titled 1990 album, a smart, funny companion piece to Jello Biafra’s Full Metal Jackoff.
120. The Stooges – Gimme Danger
The studio take on Raw Power (click the link above) is great, but the best is the live version from the 1978 posthumous (at the time) Metallic KO album, Ron Asheton’s mournful, classically tinged bassline foreshadowing Joy Division, Iggy dropping his guard for once and delivering his most anguished vocal ever. Wonder where Ian Curtis got most of his ideas?
119. Pink Floyd – Paranoid Eyes
Quiet, understated, picture-perfect alienation ballad from the vastly underrated Final Cut album, 1983. That’s Michael Kamen on subtle, tasteful gospel-infused piano.
118. Elvis Costello – Ghost Train
The Nathanael West-tinged tale of Maureen and Stan, two showbiz wannabes destined to fail, maybe spectacularly, right from the song’s first watery, swaying guitar chords, Bruce Thomas’ bass filtered to make it sound like a tuba. Another classic track from Taking Liberties, 1981.
117. Elvis Costello – Tiny Steps
The psychology of child abuse has never been so succinctly or hauntingly portrayed as in this Farfisa-fueled new wave classic from Taking Liberties, 1981.
116. Bob Marley – Burning & Looting
We could easily have included a couple dozen Bob Marley songs on this list, in fact, maybe twice that many if we really wanted. Why didn’t we? Well, isn’t his Legend anthology one of the bestselling albums of alltime? Do you really need us to remind you how great Jah Bob is? Of course you don’t. But this is his best one, a spot-on reminder of how revolutions fail. Imagine: Bob Marley singing “All of those drugs are gonna make you slow!” He did here. Best version we know of is on the self-titled 1975 live album.
115. Supertramp – A Soapbox Opera
The lyric to this one is at best inscrutable and at worst doesn’t make much sense at all. It’s the melody – Rick Davies’ hushed, upper-register piano against lush string synth orchestration – that makes this swaying backbeat ballad so wrenchingly beautiful. Originally released on Crisis? What Crisis? in 1975, the best version is on the 1979 live Paris album. The link in the title above is a torrent of the whole thing.
114. Bob Dylan – Mississippi
Essentially, this is his self-penned obituary, a cynical, anguished requiem for the promise of an era gone forever:
The emptiness is endless
Cold as the clay
You can always come back
But you can’t come back all the way
From Love & Theft, released 9/11/01, arguably his best album; the link above is a random torrent.
113. The Saints – Grain of Sand
One of the great janglerock hits of alltime, and also the most evocative cocaine anthem ever written. It doesn’t exactly romanticize the drug. From All Fools’ Day, 1989, the band’s high point as a jangle band.
112. Bob Dylan – When the Ship Comes In
Revenge has seldom sounded more sweet than it does here: “And they’ll piss themselves and squeal, when they know that it’s for real, the hour that the ship comes in.” From The Times They Are A-Changing, 1964 – why haven’t more bands covered this one?
111. Phil Ochs – The Scorpion Departs but Never Returns
Like the Thresher, the Scorpion was a US nuclear submarine that went down off the coast of New Hampshire. Ochs uses the story as a springboard for his own tale of departing and never returning: “I’m not screaming, I’m not screaming, TELL ME I’M NOT SCREAMING!!!” The piano-based art-rock version on the classic Rehearsals for Retirement album, 1968 is pretty intense, but others prefer the janglerock guitar version on the live Edmonton album, recorded the same year but not released until the 90s.
110. Ninth House – Put a Stake Right Through It
In our predecessor e-zine’s first year of publication, 2000, this was their pick for best song of the year, a despairing, exhausted, Rachmaninoff-esque guitar-and-string-synth-fueled portrait of complete emotional depletion. From the Swim in the Silence cd.
109. The Dead Kennedys – Dead End
Written by guitarist East Bay Ray, this is a rare non-political song for these guys, but still a great one, all trebly reverb-drenched guitar with characteristically melodic bassline and morbid lyrics. From Plastic Surgery Disasters, 1983.
108. Midnight Oil – Mountains of Burma
The haunting, apocalyptic centerpiece to the Australian art-rockers’ possibly career-best 1990 Blue Sky Mining album is an epic touching on topics as diverse yet interconnected as genocide, womens’ rights and global deforestation, all in six-plus crescendoing, funereal minutes.
107. The Dead Kennedys – Saturday Night Holocaust
Grisly, sludgy noise-rock intro giving way to one of the most ferociously powerful, reverb-drenched punk choruses the greatest punk band of them all ever wrote, with characteristically relevant lyrics (and some that aren’t so relevant: “Up and down your spandex ass….). First released on album on the 1989 Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death anthology.
106. Otis Rush – Double Trouble
The original 1956 Willie Dixon-produced single with a big horn band might be the eeriest noir blues song ever. Yet in the decades that followed, the lefty guitar legend has outdone himself at every turn – a ten-minute live version from Chicago Blues in New York as recently as 2000 (which we had the good fortune to get our hands on) is transcendent, as are probably hundreds of other bootlegs. Look ‘em up.
105. The Boomtown Rats – Watch Out for the Normal People
The artsy Irish punk rockers open the song with one of the most savagely beautiful guitar hooks ever recorded, then tease the listener til they finally bring it back at the end. In between there’s some tasty, stomping riff-rock. “Watch out for the normal people, there’s more of us than there’s of you.” From the British version (and also the late-90s cd reissue) of their classic 1978 lp A Tonic for the Troops.
104. The Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen
This is the one that got them booted from the BBC. “No future!!!!”
103. Elvis Costello – Goon Squad
Listen to this on headphones – the whispery doubletracked vocals on the chorus are absolutely homicidal. Costello’s worn a lot of stylistic hats over the decades, but he’s always been as reliable an anti-fascist as you could ever want on your side. From what may be his best album, 1979′s Armed Forces.
102. Graham Parker – Temporary Beauty
The British rocker’s best song remains this casual, midtempo piano pop tune, a sympathetic yet brutally cynical examination of the psychology of shallowness and and narcissism and the society that breeds it. From Another Grey Area, 1982.
101.Richard Thompson – Can’t Win
Arguably Thompson’s most ferocious song, among many, is this scathing, nine-minute anti-conformity, anti-fascist epic. “The nerve of some people!” The studio version on the 1987 Amnesia album is fine (see the link above), but it’s a live showstopper. Look for a bootleg, the longer the better because the guitar solo will be especially intense.
100. The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
Where in the span of about two minutes they simultaneously invented art-rock, chamber pop and goth music. Name another band who could do all that.

99. Douce Gimlet – Destitute
From the frenetic chord-chopping on the intro, into a sad, swinging backbeat, this hauntingly beautiful janglerock song was arguably the New York rockers’ finest moment. During the life of the band, they only released one vinyl single (this wasn’t it), but you can download it for free (click the link above) along with this and the rest of a never-released 2001 studio album at the memorial site for frontman Joe Ben Plummer, tragically killed only three years later.
98. LJ Murphy – Happy Hour
Down in the wicked industries
That are so celebrated now
There’s a forever-smiling face
To which you must scrape and bow
Because you’re just one of many
In a parade of useless warts
With one eye on the secretary
And the other on the quarterly report
His best, most scathing song, and he has many. The New York noir rocker’s done this one a million different ways: as straight-up janglerock, as pulsing post-Velvets stomp, as a blues. We liked it best the first way. To date, it’s never been released, but frequently bootlegged especially circa 1999-2000.
97. The Boomtown Rats – Someone’s Looking At You
Walk on the Wild Side-inflected new wave anthem, a nasty summertime police state scenario from The Fine Art of Surfacing, 1979 that only gets more prophetic and apropos as the years go by:
There’s a spy in the sky
There’s noise on the wire
There’s a tap on the line for every paranoid’s desire
96. The Clash – Something About England
Like the Beatles before them, the Clash did just about every style you could want: punk, reggae, soca, mento, dub, blues, art-rock, rockabilly, janglerock, hip-hop, powerpop, Motown, noisy instrumental soundscapes, you name it. This is the haunting, towering art-rock anthem that closes side one of Sandinista, producer Bill Price constructing an orchestra out of all those guitars – and an otherworldly laugh at the end to drive its message home.
95. The Church – Kings
Grimly hypnotic, apocalyptic anthem from the legendary psychedelic janglerockers’ visionary Priest=Aura album, 1992.
Software hums and hardware hears
We’re destined, babe, to live these years
94. Elvis Costello – Mouth Almighty
Bitter and unusually candid breakup song set to a sweet pop tune from Punch the Clock, 1983. Honesty gets the guy nothing but the boot, leaving him “without a soul to talk to or a hair out of place.”
93. John Lennon – Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out
“Everybody loves you when you’re six feet under the ground.” From Walls and Bridges, 1973.
92. The Church – Lost My Touch
Frontman Steve Kilbey’s first and only attempt at rap was successful beyond anyone’s dreams. In this case, it’s a snide anti-record label rant. It’s on the vastly underrated 1994 double album Sometime Anywhere.
91. Pulp – I Spy
Every workingman’s fantasy – to screw the rich guy’s piece of ass. Even better – spirit her away to a better place, away from the evil boss, and turn her against him. All this and more set to a deliciously sweeping, epic synth-noir spy theme. From Different Class, 1996. The link above is a live cut from Jools Holland’ s show.
90. The Church – My Little Problem
Junkie equivocation disguised as vengeful anti-record label diatribe, over some of the most gorgeous layers of jangly Rickenbacker guitar ever recorded. “Remember this day, remember this room, remember this scene and I’ll remember you!” From Sometime Anywhere, 1994.
89. Rachelle Garniez - After the Afterparty
Elegantly vengeful kiss-off balad set to one of the multistylistic steampunk goddess’ catchiest, most gracefully anthemic piano melodies. From her classic 2007 cd Melusine Years, our pick for best album that year.
88. The Church – Tristesse
I was standing in an orchard
That grew the strangest fruit
It wasn’t Mother Nature
That made those trees take root
Your children cannot hear you

They only want your loot
You hold on to their essence
Like a parachute
They never noticed you were in distress…

Classic, apocalyptic janglerock anthem from the Heyday album, 1986.
87. Radio Birdman – I-94
Regrettably common American experience set to a savage, chromatic garage-punk tune –  kid discovers that college has ruined his old friend:
I bought you a case of Stroh’s
You never drank ‘em down
You keep drinking Rolling Rock
You know I can’t hang round

This was 1979. Stroh’s wasn’t owned by Coors then, or available much further east of Michigan, and this being before the age of microbrews, beer lovers couldn’t get enough of it. Rolling Rock, on the other hand, had already become a staple of fratboy bars from Massachusetts down to the Carolinas. The song is on the classic Radios Appear album – as you might have noticed by now, most of the songs on that record are on this list.
86. The Sex Pistols – Holidays in the Sun
The original Holiday in Cambodia – “I never asked for sunshine, and I got World War III!”
85. The Walkabouts – Night Drive
Bloodcurdling organ-fueled Pacific Northwest noir anthem from the classic 1994 Setting the Woods on Fire album by the legendary Seattle band that took their show on the road, discovered that they liked Europe a lot more, that Europe liked them a lot more too, so they made their home there. Frontman Chris Eckman and his longtime collaborator Carla Torgerson (check out those amazing creepy vocals) continue as the similarly dark duo Chris and Carla.
84. The Church – The Disillusionist
Centerpiece of the iconic 1992 Priest = Aura album, it’s a macabrely metaphorical examination of the charismatic appeal of fascism, surreal Kinks-style vaudeville rock through the misty, reverb-spotted prism of dreampop. “They say that he’s famous from the waist down, but the top half of his body is a corpse.”
83. The Slickee Boys – Your Autumn Eyes
A one-of-a-kind artsy masterpiece by the legendary DC-area psychedelic punks, a towering, haunting 6/8 anthem that rolls out with graceful anguish, aloft on a bed of beautifully watery guitars. From the Fashionably Late album, 1989.
82. Genesis – Heathaze
Don’t let the presence of Phil Collins scare you off – this beautiful Tony Banks keyboard ballad vividly yet offhandedly captures the reluctant triumph of realizing how completely alone you are in the world – and also how surrounded by idiots you are. From the Duke album, 1977.
81. Robin Lane & the Chartbusters – Solid Rock
Best remembered for their surprise 1979 janglerock hit When Things Go Wrong, this Boston band were several years ahead of their time. With a lush, often intense two-guitar attack and Lane’s throaty vocals, they put out four good-to-excellent albums and then regrouped for another in 2005. This towering, crescendoing, lusciously produced anthem is the centerpiece of their best one, 1981′s Imitation Life. Lane would go on to found A Woman’s Voice, a nonprofit providing music therapy for women with post-traumatic stress disorder.
80. The Dead Boys – Son of Sam
Listen closely – the hook is a total ripoff of Crazy on You by Heart. But no matter – the taunting, macabre punk anthem is as eerie today as when David Berkowitz was stalking yuppie puppies on lovers lanes in the outer boroughs of New York back in 1977. The album version on We Have Come for Your Children is stiff and misproduced; the various live versions (notably on Night of the Living Dead Boys) are the real deal.
79. The Slickee Boys – Nagasaki Neuter
Meant to evoke the terrible seconds of A-bomb heat that turned “gorgeous babes into Etch-a-Sketch people,” this searing garage-punk song pretty much does the job, guitarists Marshall Keith and Kim Kane matching each others’ ferocious riffs. From the legendary DC-area psychedelic punks’ classic 1983 album Cybernetic Dreams of Pi; the link in the title above is a random torrent.
78. Gruppo Sportivo – I Would Dance
Uncharacteristically dark jangly anthem from the mostly acoustic double live 1998 Second Life cd by these legendary Dutch rock satirists. “If life is a game, why am I so bloody serious? Why don’t I hang my own paintings on my empty walls?”
77. The Doors – Hyacinth House
Conventional wisdom is that this gorgeous, midtempo guitar-and-organ pop song is about a favorite LA spot of Jim Morrison’s. It could just as easily be about a tomb. Anybody ever been to Pere Lachaise? “And I’ll say it again, I need a brand new friend.” Didn’t he ever. From LA Woman, 1972.
76. The Clash – Spanish Bombs
Their best song, equal parts poignant janglerock requiem and cautionary tale about the deadly effects of fascism. From London Calling.
75. The Dead Boys – I Won’t Look Back
Gleeful punk rock revenge doesn’t get any better than this:
I remember all their social games
Gossip spreading talk among the lames
Friday night’s lonely romance, empty heads with no reactions now

From We Have Come for Your Children, 1978; the version on Night of the Living Dead Boys is even more satisfying.
74. Joy Division – Transmission
Manic depression half-masked beneath the layers of mellotron and Peter Hook’s hypnotic bass. Originally the band’s first big UK hit, the studio version (the best one) is on the Substance anthology that came out in the late 80s.
73. True West – Shot You Down
Best song on the iconic “paisley underground” psychedelic rockers’ best album, Drifters, 1983, a pounding post-Television style revenge anthem. “And it feels so good to be alive.”
72. Joy Division – Isolation
The goth song that launched a million others, none of which come close to the haunting anguish of this one. Peter Hook’s bassline is classic. From Closer, 1980.
71. The Alan Parsons Project – Don’t Answer Me
With the boomy kettle drum lurking in the background, Alan Parsons’ wall-of-sound production beats Phil Spector at his own game. It’s a great song, too, an anguished, artsy, backbeat-driven alienation anthem from the 1984 Ammonia Avenue album. To stream it clink the link above and scroll down to the video.
70. Joy Division – Shadowplay
In the shadowplay acting out your own death, knowing no more
See assassins all grouped in four lines dancing on the floor

In 1979 Britain, the spectre of fascism was never faraway, and as personal as Ian Curtis’ lyrics are, he never lost sight of the outside world. The price of liberty is eternal what? This one’s on Unknown Pleasures. To stream the song, click the link and scroll down to a cool early video.
69. Alpha Blondy – Wish You Were Here
The Ivory Coast roots reggae superstar has written such incendiary songs as Les Salauds, Les Chiens, Les Imbeciles, Sales Racistes, and Ne Tirez Pas Sur l’Ambulance. But his best one might be his wrenching cover of the Pink Floyd classic, the refrain of “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year” returning again and again to maximum effect. From the Jah Victory album, 2008.
68. Phil Ochs – My Life
The blitheness of the song’s ragtime-pop melody contrasts savagely with Ochs’ lyric about being harrassed by the Nixon gestapo: “Take your tap from my phone, and leave my life alone.” That’s Lincoln Mayorga on piano – his 2010 album of Gershwin would raise the bar for anyone wishing to play An American in Paris. From Rehearsals for Retirement, 1968.
67. The Church – Grind
Lushly jangly, clanging art-rock masterpiece, the concluding cut on the underrated 1990 Gold Afternoon Fix album, an exhausted, embittered view of a band disintegrating. Fortunately, twenty years later, the psychedelic Australian crew remain as vital as ever. The link above is a live cut from 1992.
66. Bruce Springsteen – Backstreets
Timeless epic from the viewpoint of a down-and-out kid trying to stay sane, and to maybe even find some fun, in the inescapable slums. It could be Asbury Park, it could be Port-au-Prince, it could be St.-Denis, either way you’re eventually “stranded in the park, and forced to confess to hiding on the backstreets.” And it’s the great shining moment of pianist Roy Bittan’s career. From Born to Run.
65. The Boomtown Rats – Close As You’ll Ever Be
As punk as they ever got, a savage, macabre blast of machine-shop guitar fury from the band’s first album, 1977.
64. Joy Division – No Love Lost
The transition from bouncy synth-and-bass dance tune to scorching punk rock literally takes your breath away. And it’s got one of Ian Curtis’ best vocals. It’s on one of the Substance anthologies, and if you can find a live version (the band rarely played it), it’s likely to be amazing. Turn it on.
63. The Rolling Stones – Dead Flowers
The only serious one of their many faux-country ballads is the best. Ostensibly it marked the dissolution of the Jagger-Faithfull romance, but it’s a lot more vicious than it seemingly would need to be. Never mind the zillions of covers out there, they can’t compare with the original. From Sticky Fingers, 1972.
62. Joy Division – Ice Age
Punk rock meets noise-rock with Bernard Albrecht (that was his name then) scorching his way down the fretboard on this fast, frenetic smash released on Still in 1981.
61. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Everybody involved swears that Ian Curtis took a Sinatra album or two home and listened to them all night before recording this – and playing guitar on it (it’s in the video!). And as sad as this is, what a fun song to play – check out the covers by all-female accordion ensemble the Main Squeeze Orchestra - or Dresden Dolls spinoff Evelyn Evelyn.
60. The Jam – Private Hell
The vapidness of idle upperclass life illuminated with surprisingly sympathetic savagery in this punk rock classic from Setting Sons, 1979. Bruce Foxton’s incendiary, crackling bassline is one of the best ever.
59. The Electric Light Orchestra – Big Wheels
Towering, watery alienation anthem and centerpiece of the sidelong “Concerto for a Rainy Day” on Out of the Blue, 1977, electric piano on the intro and outro absolutely dripping with angst.
58. The Jam – That’s Entertainment
Paul Weller famously said that he wrote this in twenty minutes after coming home from the pub, pissed and pissed off. Too bad he hasn’t done that in the last twenty-five years. The best version of this one is the one with the organ and the horns on the 1983 Dig the New Breed album (although the studio recording with the acoustic guitar and all the backward masking isn’t bad either). The link above is a live acoustic British tv appearance from that era.
57. The Sex Pistols – Schools Are Prisons
Although credited to the Pistols (on the Pirates of Destiny outtakes compilation), this isn’t them – and since it’s such a good song, why the real culprits never identified themselves remains a mystery. At this point in time, they’d be forgiven. Classic punk rock circa 1988, a song that needed to be written.
56. Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army
Arguably the smartest, and most indelibly catchy, anti-imperialism song ever written: “And I would rather be anywhere else than here today.” Rumor has it that Steve Nieve wrote the melody. Best song on Armed Forces, 1979.
55. The Electric Light Orchestra – Mission
Another one of Jeff Lynne’s brilliant, towering apocalypse anthems, this one from A New World Record, 1976, an alien guard “watching all the days roll by” on a barren, desolate, depopulated earth.
54. Joy Division – Heart & Soul
By the time this hypnotic, swirling dirge opens side two of Closer, it’s obvious how badly everything is going to end: without a doubt, it’s the suicide album to end all suicide albums. “Heart and soul, one will burn.”
53. Leonard Cohen – The Future
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
Stuff it up the hole in your culture…
I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder

The legendary prophet of doom’s most specific, and most accurate predictions, set to a swoopy goth-disco backing track. Title cut from the 1992 cd.
52. The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
Widely banned at the time it was released, this gorgeous piano-and-orchestra art-rock anthem memorialized the first schoolyard sniper attack (and unwittingly foretold many more to come – this was back in the days before the antidepressants that Kip Kinkel, Dylan Klebold and all of the other school shooters were taking when they pulled the trigger). From The Fine Art of Surfacing, 1979; there’s also a killer live version with just Bob Geldof backed by Johnnie Fingers on piano on the first Secret Policeman’s Ball soundtrack from two years later. Who would have thought that Geldof originally wrote this as a reggae song.
51. David Bowie – Five Years
The best track on Ziggy Stardust is a little uptight compared to the lush, almost symphonic grandeur of the even more angst-ridden version on Bowie’s live 1979 album.
50. The Room – New Dreams for Old
Optimism in the midst of despair in this gorgeous, lyrically dazzling 1984 UK psychedelic pop hit from the band’s In Evil Hour album. The Tom Verlaine-produced single is the best version.
49. The Boomtown Rats – I Can Make It If You Can
Fiery, towering, anguished anthem that serves as the centerpiece of the band’s classic 1977 debut album, Garry Roberts and Gerry Cott trading searing riffage:
Don’t talk about the future, please don’t talk about the past
Let’s forget about the present, it’s hard enough to laugh

The link in the title above is a ferocious high quality live take.
48. The Go Go’s – Forget That Day
Ostensibly this uncharacteristically epic, ornate art-pop masterpiece of a breakup ballad also broke up the band: guitarist Jane Weidlin, who wrote it, wanted to sing and Belinda Carlisle wouldn’t let her. From their gorgeous first-time-around swan song, Talk Show, 1984. Here’s a bootleg from a reputedly legendary show, Portland, Maine, summer 1984; here’s the band twenty-five years later, more propulsive and more poignant.
47. The Walkabouts – Firetrap
Pacific Northwest gothic at its finest: the narrator returns to avenge a dead family member. Centerpiece of the band’s best album, 1994′s Setting the Woods on Fire, one of the ten best albums ever made: “Not only you can burn!” The link in the title above is a random torrent.
46. The Electric Light Orchestra – Loser Gone Wild
This song is about losing it, completely and badly, and then equivocating about it. “I don’t care if violins don’t play/I wouldn’t listen to them anyway,” Jeff Lynne insists over the cheesiest faux jazz ever played on a synthesizer. Sure, Jeff, anything you say. Clinical depression has never been so vividly portrayed. From Secret Messages, 1983.
45. Radio Birdman – Death by the Gun
The original 1978 studio version of this punked-out country murder ballad with one of the greatest guitar solos of all time doesn’t appear to exist in digital form anywhere – although there are live versions, most of them very dodgy, floating around the web (like this one by RB guitarist Chris Masuak’s band the Hitmen). The Horehounds also had the good sense to cover it.
44. The Electric Light Orchestra – Laredo Tornado
Raw, wounded, careening anthem mourning the loss of a better time and place. The tradeoff from Jeff Lynne’s lead guitar over to Mik Kaminsky’s electric violin midway through the solo out is one of the high points in rock history. From the Eldorado album, 1975.
43. The Church – Already Yesterday
As his bass carries the melody soaring over Peter Koppes’ airy guitar, frontman Steve Kilbey casually narrates a chilling post-apocalyptic scenario. Live, he’s been known to change the lyrics: “Please don’t feel those locks and chains, please don’t listen to the lizard part of your brain…” From the Heyday album, 1986.
42. Elvis Costello – Withered & Died
This Richard Thompson song was originally sung by Linda Thompson on I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight in 1974. Solo acoustic, Costello is even more haunting: his version is the “secret” bonus track on the 1990s Rhino reissue of the underrated 1985 Goodbye Cruel World album.
41. Pink Floyd – Your Possible Pasts
As poignant a requiem for lost time, and various tortured pasts, as has ever been written, Michael Kamen’s piano stark and plaintive against all the railroad siding sound effects:
They flutter behind you, the banners and flags
Of your possible pasts lie in tatters and rags

From the brilliant and vastly underrated Final Cut album, 1983.
40. Albert King – As the Years Go Passing By
The studio version of Don Robey’s dark, stately, minor-key 6/8 blues ballad on the 1965 Born Under a Bad Sign album is ok, but it’s the live versions that really haunt. The best we know of is a ten-minute version on a 1979 double live album on the French Tomato label. The link above is a nice extended version from that same period.
39. Elvis Costello – Big Tears
One of the greatest intros of all time: Costello kicks it off with a bass note and then a big majestic broken chord, Bruce Thomas’ bass soars in, way up the scale and then Steve Nieve’s Farfisa swoops down and anchors it – and then the Clash’s Mick Jones guests with a surprisingly apt, understatedly sympathetic guitar solo. One of Costello’s best lyrics, too, a shot of adrenaline for any embattled nonconformist. Originally released on Taking Liberties, 1981.
38. Procol Harum – Conquistador
Sympathy for the devil: dead imperialist lies half-buried at the water’s edge, rusty scabbard in what’s left of his hand. And at this point, all he can command is pity: “You came to conquer, but only died.” The best version is the 1972 hit single from the Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra lp, string section kicking off the song’s majestic flamencoesque hook, David Ball’s guitar solo one of the greatest moments of noise-rock ever recorded. The link above includes some audience noise – start it and then mute it until about :20.
37. Pulp – Common People
The most savage, most spot-on anti-trendoid anthem ever written, a big wet loogie for every smug, cluelessly obtuse trust fund kid from here to Bushwick:
When you’re lying in bed watching roaches climb the walls
If you called your daddy he could stop it all
You’ll never live like common people…

From Different Class, 1996.
36. Bob Dylan – Lily, Rosemary & the Jack of Hearts
Symbolically charged nine-minute epic, a murder mystery that ends on a bitter, cynical note like much of the rest of Blood on the Tracks. Reputedly Dylan played it live once and then gave up on it; New York rockers Mary Lee’s Corvette (whose live version of the complete Blood on the Tracks album is better than the original) managed to pull this one off several times: who knows when they might again. The link in the title above is a random torrent.
35. The Room – Shirt of Fire
The title is a TS Eliot quote from the Four Quartets. And the mid-80s Liverpool psychedelic rockers play the song as if they’re wearing one in the video above (click the link and then scroll down). Lead guitarist Paul Cavanaugh’s insanely fast, crescendoing solo on the Tom Verlaine-produced studio version is considerably more focused, one of the best ever, frontman/songwriter Dave Jackson at the absolute top of his game as angst-ridden, literate new wave crooner.
34. The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses
As we get closer to #1, you’ve probably noticed that some of the songs are getting kind of obvious. But they’re obvious because they’re so good. This might be the best love song ever written – and one of the saddest ones, since all the good ones are sad anyway. It’s the little touches, like Jim Dickinson’s plaintive piano fills, that make it that way. From Sticky Fingers, 1972.
33. The Church – Bel Air
Eerie, surreal vacation scenario set to what might be the band’s most unaffectedly beautiful melody: Jimmy Buffett through a Weegee lens. From the band’s classic 1981 debut album Of Skins and Heart (simply titled The Church here in the US).
32. Jim Croce – Operator
The third-highest-ranked US pop chart hit on this list will give you chills – the narrator has lost it so badly, and is so desperate for some kind of human contact that he doesn’t want the 411 operator to go after he’s clearly exhausted her patience. And what an amazing bassline. One can only wonder if Croce might have written another one like this, had he lived.
31. Bob Dylan – Desolation Row
Righteously wrathful, snidely sarcastic, lyrically luscious anti-trendoid rant that does double duty as a passionate defense of true art battling with the other kind. So many killer phrases in this that it’s impossible to list them all. From Highway 61 Revisited, 1967; the link above is a random torrent.
30. The Church – For a Moment We’re Strangers
Opening with a blast of guitar fury uncommonly intense even for this band, it’s the most disquietingly accurate portrait of a one-night stand ever set to music:
In the empty place the souls strip bare
Of skins and heart
And they come apart
In your icy hands
I forget my role
As I stare into your soul

A title track of sorts from the iconic Australian art-rock band’s 1981 debut album.
29. Bob Dylan – Tangled Up in Blue
Requiem for the hopes and dreams of the 60s disguised as a requiem for a relationship? Or vice versa?
All the people we used to know, they’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
I don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they do with their lives

From Blood on the Tracks, 1974; the link above is a random torrent.
28. The Pretenders – Back on the Chain Gang
One of the greatest janglerock songs, a requiem for not one but two of Chrissie Hynde’s bandmates, guitarist James Honeyman Scott and bassist Pete Farndon:
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part
In the wretched life of a lonely heart

A hit single at the end of 1982, it’s on the Learning to Crawl album.
27. The Rolling Stones – Sister Morphine
As gruesomely as Jagger recounts this deathbed scenario, it’s Keith Richards’ and Ry Cooder’s guitars that make it so macabre. “And in the morning you can wash all those clean white sheets stained red.” From Sticky Fingers, 1972.
26. Joy Division – New Dawn Fades
Prelude to a suicide note: “A loaded gun won’t set you free, so they say.” Bernard Albrecht’s jangly, watery guitar carries the understatedly plaintive intensity. From Unknown Pleasures, 1979.
25. Joy Division – Passover
“This is the crisis I knew had to come,” Ian Curtis intones. Bernard Albrecht’s mournful, minimalist guitar is equally searing and poignant. From Closer, 1981.
24. Joy Division – Day of the Lords
Three JD cuts in a row – and there are more to come. This is just about their loudest, most scorching anthem. “Where will it end, WHERE WILL IT END????” From Unknown Pleasures, 1979.
23. The Church – Disenchanted
Janglerock guitar doesn’t get any more exquisitely beautiful than this, Marty Willson-Piper’s twelve-string Rickenbacker meshing with Peter Koppes’ Strat. And Steve Kilbey’s excoriating, cynical lyric about the pitfalls of celebrity is one of his best. From the Heyday album, 1986.
22. The Boomtown Rats – When the Night Comes
Savage, sarcastic and more than somewhat desperate afterwork scenario. How little the corporate world has changed since 1979:
You get hooked so quick to everything, even your chains
You’re crouching in your corner til they open up your cage

Garry Roberts’ amphetamine, flamenco-spiked guitar solo is one of the most exhilarating moments in the history of rock. From the Fine Art of Surfacing.
21. Jello Biafra & DOA – Full Metal Jackoff
Dating from the Bush I presidency but as accurate now as it was almost twenty years ago, Biafra caustically and painstakingly documents the failure of the war on drugs – and its use by the right wing to keep the working classes divided and conquered - over practically twenty minutes of reverb-drenched sonic sludge by the Canadian punk rockers. One of the most important political documents of our time, and a great song too. From The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy, 1992. For an even more bleakly funny take on the situation, see #121 on this list, the Geto Boys’ City Under Siege.
20. Flash & the Pan – Lights in the Night
One of the most haunting songs ever recorded, it takes the theme Bowie introduced on Life on Mars to the next level. The narrator of this creepily atmospheric noir synthesizer dirge is so alienated that he’s willing to take a chance with the aliens if they’d ever bring their lights down out of the sky. Title track from the 1980 album by the studio-only Australian group formed by Harry Vanda and George Young after the Easybeats broke up.
19. The Dead Boys – Not Anymore
Zillions of songs have been written about the plight of the homeless. Guitarist Jimmy Zero’s scorching, titanic two-guitar anthem tells it like it is. “Afraid of sleeping and I’m freezing to death, I gotta keep me awake.” Cheetah Chrome’s watery chorus-box solo is his finest moment in the band. From Young, Loud and Snotty, 1977. There are also numerous live versions, like the scorching one from CBGB that year in the link above, kicking around: do some exploring.
18. The Electric Light Orchestra – Kuiama
This majestic, practically twelve-minute antiwar epic is the centerpiece of the vastly underrated 1972 ELO II album. The solo on the bridge, Jeff Lynne’s poignant slide guitar giving way to Mik Kaminsky’s wildly swooping violin, might be the most blissfully exhilarating moment ever recorded by a rock band.
17. The Psychedelic Furs – Book of Days
Innumerable bands have imitated Joy Division over the years; the Furs’ 1989 album Book of Days is the only one that ever succeeded in capturing that band’s towering anguish. This brooding dirge is the album’s centerpiece, a requiem for lost time and lost hopes. If you’re going to listen to it, click the link above and don’t try to multitask – you’ll miss the full impact.
16. Joy Division – The Eternal
Complete emotional depletion has never been so accurately depicted as in this Mellotron dirge from Closer, 1981. “With children my time is so wastefully spent.” Which raises the obvious question – if Ian Curtis’ doctor hadn’t prescribed him barbituates for his epilepsy, would he still be alive?
15. Phil Ochs – Doesn’t Lenny Live Here Anymore
While the Lenny of the title was inspired by the great Lenny Bruce, this isn’t exactly a funny song. As Lincoln Mayorga’s organ weaves around, Ochs paints an unforgettably seedy tableau where a “haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser” searches for him in vain. At the end, in an evocation of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention riots, “the shoulders charge, the boards of the barricade are splintered,” but it’s too late. From Rehearsals for Retirement, 1969.
14. Elvis Costello – New Amsterdam
The personal as political: a savage dismissal of shallow American consumerism, and one of the most caustic kiss-off songs ever written: “Everything you say now sounds like it was ghostwritten.” And a triumph for Costello, who played all the instruments himself. From Get Happy, 1980.
13. Phil Ochs – Another Age
“We were born in a revolution, and we died in a wasted war…if that was an election, I’m a Viet Cong,” Ochs rails in the hardest-rocking song he ever recorded. Bob Rafkin’s ferocious, melodic bassline is the centerpiece of the studio version on the death-obsessed Rehearsals for Retirement, 1969; the version on Live in Vancouver, released posthumously in the 90s, has a gentler janglerock feel.
12. Joy Division – 24 Hours
As good a candidate as any for best bassline ever – Peter Hook’s octaves and chords perfectly channel the song’s breathless, manic angst. From Closer, 1981.
11. Elvis Costello – Brilliant Mistake
Ironically, this lyrical masterpiece – a continuation of the scathing anti-conformist kiss-off theme he first honed to perfection on New Amsterdam – is the only remotely interesting track on the otherwise forgettable King of America album from 1986. The link above is a live take from Milwaukee’s Summerfest some 23 years later.
10. Elvis Costello – Man out of Time
Sympathy for the devil – one of Costello’s greatest achievements is how he can both demonize and humanize at the same time, as he does with the utterly evil character in question here. The best version we know of is on the long out-of-print three-cd live box set Costello & Nieve, from 1996; here’s one from before the original album version (on Imperial Bedroom) came out, 1982.
9. Randi Russo – Prey
A bitter, majestically epic anthem for any nonconformist surrounded by a hostile mob, literally or figuratively, the twin guitars of Russo and lead player Lenny Molotov swirling with eerie, Middle Eastern-inflected overtones. The version on the 2005 Live at Sin-E album is a tad fast; there are also bootlegs kicking around the web, look around.
8. Richard & Linda Thompson – The Wall of Death
A bitter yet unapologetic, metaphorically charged tribute to living with intensity and passion no matter what the consequences. Which as the title indicates could be severe, to the extreme. But would you want it any other way? The link above is a characteristically amped-up version done by Richard without Linda (youtube didn’t exist when those two were playing). It’s the closing track on the awesome Shoot out the Lights album from 1982 – torrents for that one are everywhere.
7. The Boomtown Rats – Rat Trap
In his autobiography, Bob Geldof explained that this song was inspired by his brief tenure working at a slaughterhouse, particularly the line “pus and grime ooze from its scab-crusted sores.” An apt metaphor for the dead-end blue-collar life he chronicles here, a Springsteenish epic filtered through the cruel prism of punk rock. With a killer bassline by Pete Briquette, and the most exhilarating outro in the history of rock, Garry Roberts’ and Gerry Cott’s guitars melting into a firestorm, Johnnie Fingers sharpshooting through it on the electric piano. It’s on the classic Tonic for the Troops album from 1978.
6. The Dead Kennedys – A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch
Hang in there: the DKs open the song by running a whole verse without lyrics, East Bay Ray’s macabre surf guitar sounding like a guitar army. The song is on Frankenchrist, the greatest punk band’s greatest album. It’s a random series of observations that any relatively perceptive kid could have made in 1985: the idiocy of Elvis worship; how multinational corporations take their poison to the third world when the FDA bans it here (they don’t anymore); the sick and twisted world of CIA black operations. And how does the average person respond: “Turn on, tune in, drop out? Drop kick, turn in, tune out.” Bassist Klaus Flouride practically breaks his low string in disgust at the end.
5. Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams – All the King’s Horses
“Until one among you burns to tell this tale, I’ll hear a lie in every word you utter,” the New York Americana chanteuse sings stoically and hauntingly over a lush, jangly bed of guitars in this nine-minute epic. Sean Dolan’s lyric casts a medieval travelogue as Orwellian nightmare:
Way down here the high sheriff
Keeps a list of names
And next to every one
Is the reason for their shame
Some were unwed mothers
Some were partners in crime
Some sold transport papers from paradise
Others just stayed high all the time
Some people get more than they need
Some people ain’t got enough
Some call it good fortune, some call it greed
Some call the sheriff when things get rough
Goddamn the hangman…

The procession marches on, through the shadows, as the atrocities mount. And how little has changed over the centuries:
Thirty pieces of silver is a paltry sum
For those who live inside the gates
Who still make their fortunes in slaves and rum
Precious metals and interest rates

And it ends in a refugee camp:
When the battles are over the father weeps
For children and mothers all alone
Do you have enough hours left to bury your dead
Or enough days in which to atone?

It’s the centerpiece of an unreleased ep. There are also a few live bootlegs kicking around – it was a showstopper during the days of the 99 Cent Dreams, the late Dave Campbell steering the juggernaut with characteristic agility behind the drum kit.
4. Bob Dylan – Idiot Wind
Probably the most vengeful kiss-off song ever written. And as a good a candidate as any for best rock lyric ever:
You hurt the ones that I love best, and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle

Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

That’s Dylan on the organ by the way. It’s on Blood on the Tracks, from 1975. The link above is a random torrent.
3. Mary Lee’s Corvette – Idiot Wind
Great lyrics don’t always get the benefit of a great voice to deliver them (and vice versa). Happily, Mary Lee Kortes and her band Mary Lee’s Corvette made a live recording of the entire Blood on the Tracks album at New York’s Arlene Grocery in 2002 – and one of us was there. The show was transcendent. This is the high point: when Kortes, always at her best onstage, sings “You’ll never know the hurt I suffered, nor the pain I rise above,” she’ll give you chills. It’s even better than the original.
2. The Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado
A titanic, majestic anthem for alienated individualists, Jeff Lynne’s greatest moment as a songwriter, and also as a singer. Title track from the classic 1975 album.
1. The Church – Destination
Why did we pick this one? Because it so tersely and succinctly captures our era. Great art is timeless: this macabre rock epic hasn’t aged a bit since 1988, when released as the first track on the classic, platinum Starfish album. It starts suspensefully, Peter Koppes’ and Marty Willson-Piper’s guitars playing a fifth interval, neither major nor minor. Then Marty bends a string, an eerie minor third and the procession is underway:
Our instruments have no way of measuring this feeling
Can never cut below the floor, or penetrate the ceiling

All we can ever know is what we perceive: trapped within our senses, there is no exit:
In the space between our houses, some bones have been discovered
The whole procession lurches on, as if we have recovered…

All is not well: an understatement. Yet we pay no mind:
Draconian winter unforetold
One solar day, suddenly you’re old
That little envelope just leaves me cold
Makes destination start to unfold

The “Draconian winter” is the one line that dates this song: global warming hadn’t yet rendered that phrase obsolete. Yet it still works on a metaphorical leve. “One solar day,” a phrase from Indian mysticism, meaning an eon. And the drugs don’t work anymore – in fact they might kill you instead.
Our documents are useless, all forged beyond believing
Page 47 isn’t signed, I need it by this evening
In the space between our cities, a storm is slowly forming
Something eating up our days, I feel it every morning…

A reference to a recording contract? Probably – Steve Kilbey’s written some of the best diatribes about the music business. But maybe also a passport, a visa? Which means nothing to the corrupt officials or the Halliburton subcontractors at the border.
It’s not a religion, it’s just a technique
It’s just a way of making you speak
And distance and speed have left us too weak
And Destination looks kind of bleak

That’s a reference to the band themselves. But it could also be a lot of other things – including torture.
Our elements are burnt out, our beasts have been mistreated
I tell you it’s the only way we’ll get this road completed
In the space between our bodies, the air has grown small fingers
Just one caress, you’re powerless…Destination…

And we’re left incapable of changing course. Of course, we aren’t really: apocalyptic art is cautionary, it reminds us that this will happen if we don’t heed the warning. It’s in our hands now.

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