List your ten favorite songs?
I am much more of an album guy than a song guy, and so-- in the spirit of the requisite hedging-- I will start by listing a bunch of albums I really love. So to all the ladies out there, this is how I do it-- forty-five minutes at a time-- so choosing a bunch of three minute songs is really difficult.
I'll start with an overly-long borderline crazy-person obsessive list of albums I love, because I don't offend anyone (I'm sure Roger Waters and Bob Mould read G:TB).
Apologies, as I will definitely make "sly declarations of new classic-status" on this list:
Raw Power (Iggy Pop)
Nothing Shocking (Jane's Addiction)
Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
Paul's Boutique (The Beastie Boys)
Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery)
Love (The Cult)
The Pod (Ween)
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Of Montreal)
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Weird Tales (Golden Smog)
Tim (The Replacements)
Rage Against the Machine (Rage Against the Machine)
Trainspotting: Music from the Motion Picture
Lifes Rich Pageant (R.E.M.)
Vegas (The Crystal Method)
11 (Random Idiots)
Consciousness (Pat Martino)
Exile on Main Street (The Rolling Stones)
Girl Talk (Night Ripper)
Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin)
Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Pavement)
OK Computer (Radiohead)
Milo Goes to College (Descendents)
Demon Days (Gorillaz)
Neutral Milk Hotel (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea)
Merriweather Post Pavilion (Animal Collective)
Zen Arcade (Husker Du)
Ok, enough of that. I started with ten albums and couldn't stop adding to it. I'm not great at making decisions. Which brings me to my next point: these days, I am more of a streaming guy than an album guy. I pay $4.99 a month to Rdio because I love it so much (and I will admit that it is album based, instead of song based like Spotify or artist/genre based like Pandora). I type in an artist and let the algorithm make the decisions for me. I'm usually happy, occasionally annoyed (thumbs down!) and often pleasantly surprised.
I rarely know the names of songs I am listening to when streaming music. I like jazz guitar: Wes Montgomery and Grant Green and Pat Martino. I like jazz organ: Jimmy Smith and Richard "Groove" Holmes. I like latin jazz: Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars. I type the name into the artist box and the funky sounds never stop.
I also like '90's techno (much to my wife's chagrin). No one knows the names of these songs, but I like Aphex Twin and Underground and Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method. These artists are perfect for when you are cooking (and drinking while cooking, which is the only way I cook) and I listen to them a lot. When I am reading I listen to ambient techno: Stars of the Lid and OK Ikumi. Again, I don't know the names of the songs. King Tubby is good for this as well.
If I am going to plug an artist into Pandora for a party, I like to do The Clash or Flaming Lips or INXS. Good stuff pops out.
I occasionally go through hip-hop phases, and ask Mark and Zman for picks. I'll listen to Brother Ali and Clipse and Public Enemy and Ghostface and Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" and The Beastie Boys, but I don't go for particular songs, I put the whole album on (especially "Fishscale"!) and live in that world for a bit.
But ten songs? Impossible. There are too many. It's like naming your ten favorite grains of sand. I prefer the beach. But what can you do? When the Tiny Dictator gives you an assignment, you have to do it, or he'll punch you in the shins (shins? . . . oh no! . . . I forgot about The Shins!)
Enough hedging-- here are some songs I love, in no particular order.
I pared my list down to a dozen because I'm not going to be constrained by an anthropomorphic base-10 evolutionary quirk . . . plus, plenty of people are born with six fingers and/or six toes.
1. Don't Come Around Here No More (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
I'm pretty sure this is the best song/video combination ever. I can still get lost in the world that Dave Stewart and Tom Petty created, even if I'm listening to this thing while I'm in line for coffee at Wawa. I love the sitar intro, the guitar outro, the weird arrangement and the super-reverb drums, and I love Petty's voice combined with the backing singers. I even love the cheesy '80's keyboard.
It's even better if you know the story behind the song. According to Wikipedia:
The original inspiration was a romantic encounter that Stewart had with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. Dave Stewart explained that the title's phrase was actually uttered by Nicks. She had broken up with Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh the night before, and invited Stewart to her place for a party after an early Eurythmics show in Los Angeles. Stewart did not know who she was at the time, but went anyway. When the partygoers all disappeared to a bathroom for a couple of hours to snort cocaine, he decided to go upstairs to bed. He woke up at 5am to find Nicks in his room trying on Victorian clothing and described the entire scenario as very much reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Later that morning, she told Walsh, "Don't come around here no more."
2. Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones)
Or "Rocks Off" or "Gimme Shelter" or "Some Girls." Whatever. How do you pick the best Stones song?
I love to play this one on the guitar, and I love the bits of narrative and the heroin references. The Stones invented alt-country. I especially like the Townes Van Zandt version from The Big Lebowski.
3. Since You're Gone (The Cars)
Epic and weird, plus look at those outfits. What's not to love?
4. Push th' Little Daisies (Ween)
Really hard for me to choose only one Ween song. Also love "Dr. Rock" and "Pollo Asado" and "Voodoo Lady" and a hundred others . . .
5. Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Brevity is the soul of wit, and Bowie narrates an epic in a couple minutes.
6. Life During Wartime (Talking Heads)
Best two chord song ever (as opposed to the worst: "Horse with No Name")
7. Lodi (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Everybody loves Creedence.
8. Mountain Song
A no brainer. This album came out my senior year in high school and was a big FU to the whole eighties Human League/Flock of Seagulls crap. Never forget first hearing it, and it still has the same effect (Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" works like this for me as well, but that came just after I graduated from college, so for me, it was more of a snowboarding anthem than an indictment of all music that came previous).
9. Paranoid Android (Radiohead)
The best song ever by the best band ever?
Only for smart people.
10. Listen Like Thieves (INXS)
Reminds me of high school and the '80's music I actually liked.
11. Punk Rock Girl (The Dead Milkmen)
Reminds me of high school and the '80's music I actually liked.
12. Cheesecake Truck (King Missile)
The best song ever by the best band ever. No question.
Plenty of honorable mentions, of course: "Song 2" by Blur, "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits, "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden, "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks, "Peace Dog" by The Cult, "Handshake Drugs" by Wilco and loads of others, but I'm going to stop now and shut my brain off and go back to listening to streaming music, which is far less taxing on my neurons.
I've already made a definitive list of the worst songs ever and I don't need to tread that ground again.
Why bother, when there are so many good songs?