Now this list cannot claim to have any originality in its concept. Several organisations have produced their own lists. Of Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs as chosen by their staff, 132 of them are on my list. British newspaper the Guardian ran a list of 1000 songs, chosen by music critics and 98 are on my list. UK radio station XFM also made a list of 1000 songs chosen by fans, DJ’s and “experts” (that makes me nervous from the start). 138 of their songs are on my list. What does this say about me (or them)? And why would there be a minority of songs on my list on theirs? Well, Rolling Stone has, not surprisingly, a preponderance of American music, so that might offer some explanation. XFM is the radio station for what I have previously derided as “Mainstream Indie” and any list which has “Mr Brightside” by the Killers as its number one is of dubious taste anyway. As for the Guardian, well it is often too hip for its own good and, frankly, I am less interested in the atonal musical output of some Kazakhstani Anarcho-Syndicalist collective of vegan transvestites than that terminally politically-correct newspaper would be.
Anyway, enough criticism of my competitors. On with the list, the definitive list
Charles Martel’s 180-161
180. The Crimea – “Baby Boom” (Tragedy Rocks)
An apology for getting too frisky, any song which references Fred Flintstone, Tarzan, Captain Caveman and the Krypton Crew and calls his lover ‘pumpkin’ is worthy of a considerable degree of respect in my book.
179. Green Day – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (American Idiot)
Green Day’s concept album may have proven to be a tad overblown, but the musical structure of this song is well worth the effort, making use, as it does, of a quiet-loud-quiet format to great effect. The drumming is a particular highlight.
178. Blue Oyster Cult – “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” (Agents of Fortune)
Dominated by a wonderful opening guitar riff, this song is about the power of love and its ability to cross the divide of death. In the UK this got banned because idiots at the BBC thought it was promoting suicide.
177. Isaak, Chris – “Wicked Game” (Heart Shaped World)
I don’t know whether it is that wonderful looping, reverberating guitar sound or Isaak’s dark, smoky vocals which make this track, but it is probably a combination of the two together giving this a characterful sound.
176. The Monkees – “I’m a Believer” (More of the Monkees)
The Monkees may be proof that boy bands are nothing new, but I doubt One Direction will ever come up with something so gloriously cheerful and happy as this. Without doubt, this is one of the finest bubblegum pop songs of the late sixties.
175. Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker” (How the West Was Won)
This version off Led Zeppelin’s archival live album brings to life the components of the studio version which seem almost muted by comparison. Page’s guitar solo leads into some thunderous drumming by John Bonham.
174. The Waterboys – “Don’t Bang the Drum” (This Is the Sea)
The Waterboys were at the height of their powers when they released this album. This is a storming number, full of sound and vitality and passion and shows just how the Big Music production sound created a masterpiece of an album.
173. Magazine – “The Light Pours out of Me” (Real Life)
Magazine were one of the earliest exponents of post-punk along with Joy Division and Wire. This track builds slowly into a grim sounding piece as the lyrics describe the feelings of loneliness and depression.
172. The Mighty Wah – “Come Back (The Return of the Randy Scouse Git)” (EP)
Pete Wylie of the Mighty Wah always had his tongue in his cheek in terms of music. This full-bodied track is all about stars of the past being invited to make a return to stardom by citing others who have managed to do so.
171. Altered Images – “Dead Pop Stars” (7” Single)
Altered Images take a swipe at the transient nature of pop music idols and how their time in the sun is brief and inconsequential. I always imagined the music video for this having Clare Grogan singing while a band of slowly-decaying zombies played the track in the background.
170. Smith, Patti – “Because the Night” (Easter)
One of the most influential of all the proto-punk artists who emerged from the New York scene in the early seventies, Patti Smith’s signature song is a masterpiece which combines delicate piano intro with a thumping melody.
169. Fischer-Z – “Berlin” (Red Skies over Paradise)
The decadence of between the wars era Berlin is compared with the modern era with this pre-apocalyptic song which opens Fischer-Z’s magnificent album of the consequences of an unresolved Cold War. Après moi, le déluge.
168. The Archies – “Sugar Sugar” (Everything Archie)
Now this is a real guilty pleasure and I don’t mind admitting it. The Archies were faceless session musicians brought together to represent the characters of the new “Archie” comics and never existed outside of a few albums and singles. The song is pure bubblegum pop and is so cheerful and bright that I defy anyone not to smile when it comes on.
167. Failure – “Daylight” (Fantastic Planet)
A grim song in many ways, “Daylight” is the last song on this album about heroin addiction. It is in some ways an affirming song, but not because the daylight is the way out of addiction, but the daylight is the relief brought about by finally getting a fix.
166. Beethoven, Ludwig van – “Ode to Joy” (Symphony No. 9)
Drawn from the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth “Choral” symphony, and based on a poem by Schiller, this is probably more well-known than the rest of the entire work. It has now become the official anthem of the European Union.
165. Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti)
Jimmy Page regards this as Led Zeppelin’s best track. The riff is a grumbling effort but what truly makes this song stand out are a series of superb fast-paced drum flourishes by John Bonham towards the end.
164. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Electricity” (7” Single)
The band’s first single – before they became a commercial success story – “Electricity” is an early environment-inspired song with a catchy beat. This was one of the earliest songs in the synth pop revolution.
163. Slowdive – “40 days” (Souvlaki)
Dreamy shoegazers Slowdive put in their best performance with this wonderful track which soothes and grows as the guitars shimmer and ripple across the track. This one of those tracks that I always wish would go on for longer.
162. Built to Spill – “Conventional Wisdom” (You in Reverse)
The best track off Built to Spill’s best album in my view. Doug Martsch puts in a wonderful tumbling, rolling guitar solo at the end to make this track what it is and display Martsch’s skills to their fullest extent.
161. East River Pipe – “Make a Deal with the City” (Shining Hours in a Can)
Fred Cornog was literally raised from the gutter into a recording artist, having been first spotted as a homeless drunk busking outside a New Jersey train station. This great song is made by that guitar sound which chimes across the track.