The 1,001 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century – 160 to 151
160. “Loose,” The Stooges. Songwriters: Iggy Pop, Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton; Did Not Chart. The Michigan based Stooges, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, were too raw and confrontational for mainstream radio, but their influence on the 1970’s punk scene can’t be overstated. “Loose,” from the 1970 album “Fun House,” sounds a bit like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” being played by the world’s angriest garage band. Iggy Pop brags about his dipstick promiscuity over the din. Author Jason Tebbe, “As much as I dig the riff, my favorite part comes at two minutes in, when Iggy drops out and there is one of the most brutal guitar solos of all time. It is stupidly simple, a million miles away from Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix, just a few notes. But the guitar sounds absolutely tortured, its pains and moans echoing the animal lust in Iggy’s voice. It makes all the hard rock male posturing of a song like ‘Hot Blooded’ by Foreigner just sound all the more silly, even if it isn’t musically complex.” Can you imagine if The Stooges had a mainstream platform in 1970s, with a dog collar wearing Iggy smearing his body with peanut butter and cutting his chest with broken glass? Elton John’s eyeglass collection certainly would have seemed much less eccentric.
159. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” The Shirelles: Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King; #1 pop/#2 R&B; 1960. The Shirelles formed in New Jersey in 1957 and shortly thereafter had their first chart hit with “I Met Him on a Sunday,” a song written by the group for a high school talent contest. With six Top Ten singles from 1960 to 1963, they were one of the definitive girl group acts of the pre-British Invasion early 1960s. Journalist Joe Lynch, “For as revolutionary as the ’60s were, few songs gave voice to real life concerns of young women – especially when it came to sex. Thanks to co-writer Carole King, The Shirelles’ ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ was the major exception to that rule. A stunningly gorgeous mix of country chords, R&B shuffle and orchestral pop flourishes, the ballad finds Shirelles leader Shirley Owens forcing her paramour to declare if he’s in love for real, or just until he gets what he wants. The lyrics contain some of the finest couplets in all of pop and the superb languor in Owens’ voice deftly conveys the sense she’s been burned before. While sex isn’t explicitly mentioned, the teens-fumbling-in-the-backseat subtext was clear.” The subject matter was pretty risqué for its era, made more so by many listeners thinking, or perhaps hoping, that the line “Can I believe the magic in your sighs” was actually “Can I believe the magic in your thighs.” Carole King on Gerry Goffin’s lyric, “His words expressed what so many people were feeling, but didn’t know how to say.”
158. “Color of the Blues,” George Jones. Songwriters: George Jones, Lawton Williams; #7 country; 1958. The career trajectory of George Jones was waylaid by the rock ‘n’ roll era to the point that he even released a few rockabilly singles in 1956 using the pseudonym Thumper Jones. By 1958, the Starday label founded by Pappy Daily had been absorbed into Mercury Records, allowing better recording technology. Jones, “When I got to Mercury I got my first halfway decent sounds.” “Color of the Blues,” a co-write by Jones and Tennessee country artist Lawton Williams, is a country heartbreak standard that has been covered by Loretta Lynn, Elvis Costello, John Prine, and Skeeter Davis, among others. A more poetic lyric than generally heard in the genre, this is an early example of Jones perfecting his heart wrenching ballad singing. He had learned how to convey incalculable pain, much like his hero Hank Williams. The Possum liked the song so much that he cut new versions for both United Artists and Musicor during the 1960s. He had his first #1 country single the following year with a completely different type of song – the thunder crashing, Big Bopper penned “White Lightning.”
157. “Standing in the Doorway,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; 1997; Did Not Chart. “Standing in the Doorway” is a slow, solemn look at a relationship that has died and left the narrator astray, looking for the mercy of God. Sample lyric, “Don’t know if I saw you if I would kiss you or kill you/It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow.” Producer Daniel Lanois found that the studio parking lot, away from the band, was often the best place to have discussions with Dylan. Lanois, “I said ‘listen, I love ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ Can we steal that feel for (‘Standing in the Doorway)’? And he’d say ‘you think that’d work?’ Then we’d sit on the fender of a truck, in this parking lot in Miami, and I’d often think, if people see this they won’t believe it!” Author Tony Atwood, “’Standing in the doorway’ is an extraordinary piece of music, brilliantly played. What Dylan song has given us such lyricism, such gentleness, and all played against such a dreadful storyline? Nowhere has lost love been portrayed so exquisitely. An utter masterpiece.”
156. “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” Parliament. Songwriters: George Clinton; Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell; #33 R&B; 1975. This isn’t Parliament’s best known song, but it might be the best example of their mission statement. Broadcasting from radio station W-E-F-U-N-K, also known as the Mothership, chocolate coated, habit forming disc jockey Lollypop Man delivers heavy uncut funk. P. Funk. The Bomb. Heavy on the first beat (“the one”), this is funk not only as music but as a lifestyle. Over seven and half minutes long, “Wants to Get Funked Up” erupts, flows with horn solos, builds tensions, then ends with another sledgehammer explosion. It also includes one of the funniest stoner/hipster rap monologues in popular music. Author Rickey Vincent on the spiritual payoff, “Parliament pioneered the idea that The Funk was something one cannot get enough of. ‘The funk is its own reward’ was the chant, as the Mothership concept played on the black church themes of worship to claim that the more you feel The Funk, the closer you get to a transcendent level.” As for me, I’m a believer.
155. “Wooly Bully,” Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. Songwriter: Domingo Samudio; #2 pop; 1964. Domingo “Sam” Samudio formed his first band of Pharaohs in Dallas during the early 1960s, but was based out of Memphis when he released the Tex Mex, bewildering garage rocker “Wooly Bully.” Author Sally O’Rourke on this anti-L7 rocker, “The Kingsmen’s version of ‘Louie Louie’ may have sparked the garage rock revolution, but ‘Wooly Bully’ managed to be both more commercially successful and much, much weirder. Beneath the primitive arrangement and muffled vocals, ‘Louie Louie’ is a straightforward R&B song about a girl. ‘Wooly Bully,’ on the other hand, is about…? A hirsute bovine? Sam the Sham’s cat? An attempt at a new dance craze, but without any instructions for how to do it? Something risqué? ‘Wooly Bully’ is somehow ever rawer than ‘Louie Louie,’ with a one-chord verse, a two-word chorus, and 15-bar structure that sets the song on an odd, wobbling groove. Sam the Sham – real name Domingo Samudio – supposedly took voice classes in college, but there’s no sign of any classical training in his bellowing bleat that struggles to stay on key. Sax player Butch Gibson toots out a decent solo in the middle of the song, but all of the other musicians sound as though they discovered their instruments for the first time at the song’s recording session. Yet it’s this boneheaded simplicity that makes ‘Wooly Bully’ such a classic, standing out both from the diluted faux-rock of the early ’60s, and from the increasingly artistic ambitions that rockers like the Beatles were beginning to explore.” The Pharaohs also inspired the best title ever for a tribute album – “Turban Renewal.”
154. “Left of the Dial,” The Replacements. Songwriter: Paul Westerberg; Did Not Chart; 1985. Replacements biographer Bob Mehr on this playing make-up/wearing guitar rock ‘n’ roll love song, “Westerberg’s finest and most heartfelt anthem, ‘Left of the Dial,’ celebrated the esprit de corps of the eighties American indie rock scene and was a tribute to the tiny-watt college stations populating the far end of the FM radio band— many of whose number let the Replacements crash after shows at campuses. “That’s where all our airplay came from,” said Westerberg. “We ended up going to college in an odd kind of way.” “Left of the Dial” was a “hidden love song” as well— a chronicle of Westerberg’s infatuation with Lynn Blakey, singer-guitarist for North Carolina’s Let’s Active. They’d met when the bands shared a bill at San Francisco’s I-Beam in the fall of 1983. “He followed me around and bummed cigarettes off me,” recalled Blakey. The following night, after a show in Berkeley, the two spent hours walking in the rain. They exchanged calls and letters as Blakey moved to Athens, Georgia, where she joined Michael Stipe’s sister Lynda in the band Oh-OK. “I figured the only way I’d hear her voice was with her band on the radio . . . on a college station,” said Westerberg. “And one night we were passing through a town somewhere, and she was doing an interview on the radio. I heard her voice for the first time in six months for about a minute. Then the station faded out.” The moment provided the song’s denouement: “If I don’t see ya, in a long, long while/I’ll try to find you/Left of the dial.”
153. “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Songwriter: Neil Young; Did Not Chart; 1989. “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Neil Young’s last great guitar anthem, is so powerful that the first time I heard the intro on the radio, I wondered why the station was playing the Ramones. Crazy Horse guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, “There was supposed to have been a cultural exchange between Russia and United States. Russia was getting Neil Young and Crazy Horse and we were getting the Russian ballet! All of a sudden, whoever was promoting the deal, a guy in Russia, took the money and split. We were all bummed, and I looked at him and said, ‘Man I guess we’re just gonna have to keep on rockin in the free world. (Neil) said, ‘Well, Poncho, that’s a good line. I’m gonna use that, if you don’t mind.” Matt Springer of Ultimate Classic Rock, “Whatever your political leanings, there’s plenty to love about ‘Rockin,’ not least of which is the simple gutpunch guitar riff that churns throughout the tune. Young shreds away at his guitar with the ferocity of a pissed-off teenager in his garage, spitting out words that were a scathing indictment of America under George Bush the First, but seem timeless twenty-plus years later, especially when his attention turns to a baby in the arms of a poor drug addict living on the streets. It feels like decades of rage over every betrayal of the American promise, spitting out line by line and lick by lick over three and a half minutes.”
152. “Cut Your Hair,” Pavement. Songwriter: Stephen Malkmus; Did Not Chart; 1994. “Cut Your Hair” combines the sardonic humor of Camper Van Beethoven with Pavement’s lo fi, but always combustible indie rock sound for a withering look at how fashion can impact personal and professional relationships. Laugh out loud moments abound with my favorite being the lyics, “I don’t care/I care/I really don’t care/Did you see the drummer’s hair?” Arnold Pan of Pop Matters, “Piling on one absurdly catchy element on top of another, from the earworming ooo-ooo-ooo’s to the mock fist-pumping chorus to the riffy guitars, ‘Cut Your Hair’ was proof positive that Pavement knew what the game was all about and how to win it, if only the band had decided to play along.” The always quotable Jim Connelly, “Given how utterly pure pop for now people ‘Cut Your Hair’ was, had they just gone for anything resembling a conventional guitar solo after the second chorus — like maybe doing the melody a la ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – it could have even broken the pop charts, but instead they fuck it all up by dropping into a rave-up. Well, not really a rave-up, more like a rave-around: Steve West breaking into rolls; Scott Kanneberg bouncing notes back and fourth while Malkmus ends up shredding his guitar into a thousand pieces.” Like all the best satire, “Cut Your Hair” knocks you out by simultaneously hitting you with jokes and jabs.
151. “Maybellene,” Chuck Berry. Songwriter: Chuck Berry (with credits also given//taken by Alan Freed and Russ Fratto); #5 pop/#1 R&B; 1955. Former reform school student, factory worker, janitor, and trained beautician Chuck Berry travelled to Chess Records in 1955 to pitch his wares, To his surprise, Leonard Chess wasn’t interested in his blues matieral. Chuck Berry’s first hit came from the unlikely influence of Western swing. Berry used the 1938 recording of “Ida Red” by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys as a template this motorvatin’ number about an unfaithful girlfriend. Pianist Johnnie Johnson on the song’s title, “Nobody could think of a name. We looked up on the windowsill, and there was a mascara box up there with Maybellene written on it. And Leonard Chess said, ‘Why don’t we name the damn thing ‘Maybellene’?” (Note – the cosmetics company uses the spelling “Maybelline,” a change made to avoid potential legal problems). “Rolling Stone” has described the influence of “Maybellene,” Berry’s first single and a #5 pop hit, by proclaiming “Rock and roll guitar starts here.” Chuck also got a lesson on how the music industry works when he discovered that disc jockey Alan Freed and Chess financer Russ Fratto were listed as co-writers. Although “Maybellene” came his first recording session (after 36 takes), his skills as a lyricist/story teller were fully formed.