Like a fool I forgot to vote in Triple J’s All-time Hottest 100 Countdown. And so in lieu of having a real vote, here are my Top 10 songs that I would have voted for had I got around to voting. I have no idea what would actually be my Number 1, and in fact this list would probably be different if you ask me next week. I mean, no Bruce Springsteen, The Who, U2, Midnight Oil, Powderfinger, Elvis, Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Kinks, Clapton, Neil Young? What kind of list is that?
A poor one obviously – as all top 10 lists are; the impossibility of containment of the best in such a small quantum. But here we go (remember no order – oh and I have decided on one rule – no band or artist gets 2 mentions - also this is not a "favourite songs list" - favourite is a temporary thing, these are the "best")
Bob Dylan – "Like a Rolling Stone"
I mean how can you have such a list and not have this song? It has everything you need, and more. Dylan called it “a piece of vomit” and yep, that it is, and truly it is fantastic. I heard Dylan sing this live in Cairns in 2001; being able to scream out "how does it feeeeeeel" with Dylan was one of those “I can die happy moments”.
The Beach Boys – "God Only Knows"
Perhaps the most perfect melody and harmony ever recorded. No scratch that “perhaps”, it is.
The Beatles – "A Day in the Life"
How can you choose only one Beatles song? What about “In my Life”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Come Together”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”... oh geez, I could keep going all day. You know it, I know, we all know it. They were the best, they will never be bettered. Just accept it. I think this is the pinnacle Lennon and McCartney fused together in a mass of sound.
David Bowie – "Life on Mars?"
Maybe I love this because of the fantastic TV Series that used it for its title and theme. Maybe I could have chosen other Bowie greats such as “heroes”, or perhaps the Lou Reed songs that he was a producer on such as “Walk on the Wild Side” or “Perfect Day”. But the lyrics of this are just fantastic:
“It’s a good awful small affair/ to the girl with the mousy hair”...
“It’s on America’s tortured brow/ That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow”
What do they mean? God knows – but they are absolutely made for mondegreens, and the chorus is fantastic. (excuse the YouTube clip - it's the best I could find)
The Clash – "London Calling"
When I was at university I discovered The Clash purely because so many bands I liked kept citing them as their influence – The Oils, U2 are two bands that wouldn’t be what they were without The Clash. And this is their greatest. Great lyrics:
London calling, now don't look to us/
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust/
London calling, see we ain't got no swing/
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing.
Makes you want to rise up and defeat Margaret Thatcher and all over again.
I can't post a clip so you'll have to go here to listen.
Radiohead – "Paranoid Android"
I am not actually a Radiohead fan. I have OK Computer, but I don’t think I’ve actually listened to the whole thing. I probably should. I bought the album because one year it came first in Q Magazine’s greatest albums of all-time poll (I think it pretty much always ranks in the top 5 now). One of the comments in the mag referred to this song. So I downloaded the song and it blew me away.
It is a collection of fragments which they have shored against their ruins. It abruptly stops and changes directions at least three times. It shouldn’t work, and yet it does. It should be far too pretentious and yet it’s not. It also has some great lyrics, including my favourite couplet:
"When I am king, you will be first against the wall/
with your opinion which is of no consequence at all."
Joy Division – "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Just a brilliant track; all mood. The lyrics are almost impossible to understand through Ian Curtis’ Mancunian mumbling – another one just made for mondegreens. But the song just perfectly captures the desolateness and lonliness of modern city life. It’s no surprise that Curtis committed suicide within a year of writing this.
It’s as cold as music can get, and yet you want to dance to it – little wonder the Wombats could sing last year:
“Let’s dance to Joy Division/
And celebrate the irony."
Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
At the time I preferred Beck’s “Loser”, or Pearl Jam. But if I am honest, I know that when my daughters ask me in 10 years or so what it was like being part of “Generation X” and going to uni in the early 1990s, I will play them this song. Some fantastic lyrics:
“And I forget just why I taste/
Oh yeah I guess it makes me smile/
I found it hard it's hard to find/
Oh well whatever nevermind”
All that restlessness of the Generation living the shadow of the baby boomers – wanting to rebel, but knowing it’s all been done before – trapped as it were in a postmodern cycle of culture and knowledge – captured in 5 minutes. Brilliant.
It's another one that YouTube won't let you post so go here and crank it up.
The Rolling Stones - “Gimme Shelter”
The Stones have a lot of songs to choose from, but this one I think gets them at their most angry and most vicious. How many other bands can get away with singing “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away”? It’s a song that sounds like it’ll be the soundtrack to the apocalypse; and that is just what you should be looking for in a Rolling Stones song.
The Velvet Underground - "Heroin"
At times it's almost impossible to listen to - when John Cage's viola sounding like it's being played with a chainsaw takes over - so why is it on this list? Because the lyrics are great, the mood is incomparable, and because when I first heard this at the age of 18 it was unlike anything I had ever heard before (and perhaps since). "Gimme Shelter" may be the soundtrack to the apocalypse; this is the music of those who have lived through the apocalypse.
So what did I leave out? Would've loved to have Sprignsteen's "Born to Run", or The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again". I also love Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and have an odd soft spot for Hole's "Doll Parts". For sheer perfect joy on a record I also love U2's "Beautiful Day". Of the Aussie's "Throw Your Arms Around Me" is great, ditto The Oil's "Hercules" or "The Dead Heart' or "Short Memory". At least 4 or 5 songs by Crowded House could be here as well. Oh well, that's how it goes, ask me next week.