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The 1,001 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century – 560 to 551

 

560. “Like A Hurricane,” (“Live Rust version), Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Songwriter: Neil Young; Did Not Chart; 1979. Neil Young, “I wrote the ‘Like a Hurricane’ lyrics on a piece of newspaper in the back of (my friend) Taylor Phelp’s 1950 DeSoto Suburban, a huge care that we used to all go to bars in. As was our habit between bars, we had stopped at Skeggs Point Scenic Lookout on Skyline Boulevard up on the mountain to do a few liens of coke; I wrote ‘Hurricane’ right there. When I got home, I played the chords on this old Univox Stringman mounted in an old ornate pump-organ body set up in the living room. I played that damn thing through the night. I finished the melody in five minutes, but I was so jacked I couldn’t stop playing.” Dave Marsh has described the final product as “an eight-minute tour de force of electric guitar feedback and extended metaphor (Smokey Robinson meets Jimi Hendrix on Bob Dylan’s old block).” “Like a Hurricane,” penned about a brief romantic infatuation, was included on the 1977 studio album “American Stars ‘n Bars.” However, the 1979 “Live Rust” version features Crazy Horse in all of their brilliant, pulverizing, ragged glory.

559. “Dance This Mess Around,” The B-52’s. Songwriters: Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson; Did Not Chart; 1979. With their shrieking vocals, Fred Schneider’s deadpan delivery, and their 1960’s trash sound aesthetic, The B-52’s have inspired uncoordinated white people to dance awkwardly in public for decades. If you didn’t come of age in the late 1970s, it’s hard to describe what a jarring freak show the B-52’s were when they hit the scene. The Athens, Georgia party band included two female singers sporting mountainous retro beehive hairstyles and an offbeat frontman who specialized in sprechgesang. They flavored their music with modified/open tuned guitars, cheesy organ bleats, and maniacal banshee yelling. Still, the band made a cohesive sound out of their varied influences, which included girl groups, garage rock, and punk. The B-52’s transformed everything that they loved into a new form of pop and dance music that was startlingly original and equally as fun. They also gave us new dance steps, like the Aqua-Velva and the Dirty Dog and the Shy Tuna. “Dance This Mess Around” packed a bigger wallop than Barry Bonds on a clean needle weekend.

558. “David Watts,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1967. On one level, “David Watts” is a simple appreciation for a well to do, big man on campus. Below the surface, it’s a story about sexual identity and longing. In the words of Jon Savage, this is one of Davies’ “sharpest homoerotic songs.” David Watts was actually the name of a British concert promoter. Ray Davies once either tried to arrange a marriage between David Watts and Dave Davies as a practical joke or, in Dave’s estimation, his sibling was acting like a pimp. Dave Davies, “What stuck in my mind the most was the fact that my older brother, whose guidance and defense I had counted on, was ready to trade me for a piece of architecture.” Ray Davies in 2016, “My brother, Dave, was in a flamboyant mood and I could see David Watts had a crush on him. So I tried to do a deal and persuade Dave to marry David Watts ‘cause he was connected with Rutland brewery. See, that’s how stupid my brain was. I thought if I can get Dave fixed up with this Watts guy I’ll be set up for life and get all the ale I want. But the song’s about complete envy. It was based on the head boy at my school. He was captain of the team, all those things, but I can’t tell you his real name as I only spoke to him a few months ago.” The Jam covered “David Watts” for a #25 U.K. pop hit in 1978.

557. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,” Creedence Clearwater Revival. Songwriter; John Fogerty; #8 pop; 1970. While some listeners thought that “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” was about social upheaval during the late 1960s or the escalating Vietnam War, the song was much more personal to John Fogerty. The flannel sporting frontman was writing about the inevitable dissolution of his band, viewing himself as a creative genius who was financially and musically carrying several unappreciative dolts, including his brother Tom. John Fogerty, “I was feeling, ‘Man, we achieved all our dreams. And you guys are only talking negative stuff.’ By your own volition, you bring in a huge rain cloud and cause it to rain. On your perfect dream. That’s the way I saw it. I was watching the band disintegrate right in front of my eyes. The other guys didn’t seem to know it all. They had no idea how I wrote the songs.”

556. “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough,” Michael Jackson. Songwriter: Michael Jackson; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1979. Michael Jackson had solo success during the Jackson 5 era, his version of “Rockin’ Robin” went to #16 on the pop charts and he scored a #1 hit in 1972 with “Ben,” a song about a pet rat. However, it was the 1979 “Off the Wall” album that resulted in Jackson’s first solo success as an adult and it was his first collaboration with producer Quincy Jones. “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” was sophisticated dance music with an R&B edge (the percussion was reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”) and resulted in a successful transition out of the limiting realm of being a bubblegum child star. Author Nelson George in 2004, “The argument for Michael Jackson’s greatness in the recording studio begins with his arrangement of ‘Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.’ The layers of percussion and the stacks of backing vocals, both artfully choreographed to create drama and ecstasy on the dance floor, still rock parties in the 21st century.”

555. “I Will Follow,” U2. Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.; Did Not Chart; 1980. U2 debuted with the huge sound of “I Will Follow,” with ringing guitar chords from The Edge and Bono’s vocals booming out like the flag waving, arena rock master he was born to be. Bono was writing from the point of view of his mother, who passed away when he was only fourteen. Bono, “It’s coming from a very dark place. ‘I Will Follow’ came out of a screaming argument in the rehearsal room. I remember trying to make a sound I heard in my head, and taking Edge’s guitar from him and hammering away. It was literally coming out of a kind of rage, the sound of a nail being hammered into your frontal lobe. The percussion in the drop was a bicycle spinning, wheels upside down and played like a harp with a kitchen fork.” Journalist Caryn Rose, “The opening thrum of guitar notes, a literal siren, mystical bells in the distance, a rhythm section playing almost off-rhythm, and those opening lines, sung by a voice full of urgency and emotion: ‘I was on the outside/When you said you needed me …’ It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. The otherworldly noises acting as percussion – bicycle spokes, broken bottles – and the guitar moving back into angelic notes, before picking up the SOS pace into full speed, coming out of the bridge and back into the last chorus. There is so much going on that it leaves you breathless. It is one of the best opening songs on a debut album, ever. Live, it turned into a maelstrom, and never really stopped.”

554. “Pretty in Pink,” The Psychedelic Furs. Songwriters: John Ashton, Tim Butler, Richard Butler, Vince Ely, Duncan Kilburn, Roger Morris; Did Not Chart; 1981. The Psychedelic Furs formed in London in 1977 and found immediate critical success in the early 1980s with their Velvet Underground influenced sound and Richard Butler’s nicotine tinged raspy vocals. The dramatic “Sweet Jane” inspired “Pretty in Pink” was originally released on the 1981 Psychedelic Furs album “Talk Talk Talk.” It was resurrected as a title of a John Hughes/Molly Ringwald film in 1986, leading to an inferior version of the song that peaked at #41 on the pop charts. Songwriter Richard Butler, “The song was about a girl who kinda sleeps around, and thinks it’s really cool and thinks everybody really likes her, but they really don’t. She’s just being used. It’s quite scathing.” Music journalist Alex Ogg, described the original recording as “a swirling, exhilarating tale of peer pressure, backbiting and sexual vulnerability.” Richard Butler on the production, “Steve (Lillywhite) brought out the massive wall of sound. It was a fairly large band, after all. He was well known for his huge drum sound. That worked perfectly with five other guys making an absolute racket over the top.”

553. “O-o-h Child,” The Five Stairsteps. Songwriter; Stan Vincent; #8 pop/#14 R&B; 1970. Like the Jackson 5, The Five Stairsteps were a family act – they got their name from the height differences of the growing siblings. Based in Chicago, they started performing in 1958 and were signed to Curtis Mayfield’s Windy City label in 1966. “O-o-h Child,” a lovely soft soul hit of comfort and perseverance, was released as a B-side (the A-side was a cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”), but broke nationally after receiving airplay in Detroit and Philadelphia. Author Dave Hoekstra, “The cresting horns hit all the hopeful notes of Chicago soul music and the chorus honors a universal possibility.” Clarence Burke, Sr., the patriarch of the family, “The time was right for that song. ‘Things are going to get easier. Right now.’ It made sense. The tunes that make it are the tunes that have a message. When a prayer can be answered because of a message, you have a hit.” Bassist Keni Burke, explaining the lasting appeal of the song, “When my dear sister (Alohe Burke) sings the first verse, her voice is so soothing it puts everybody in this mood. It’s like a warm blanket to the soul.”

552. “Accidents Will Happen,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Songwriter: Elvis Costello; Did Not Chart; 1979. Elvis Costello just didn’t know where to begin on “Accidents Will Happen,” another one of his romance as mortal combat numbers. While he was known for his tendency to get too cute/verbose as a lyricist, “It’s the damage that we do and never know/It’s the words that we don’t say that scare me so” is a remarkably fine and direct couplet. Rock critic Matt LeMay, “’Accidents Will Happen,’ one of the finest songs in his, or any, repertoire, matches a signature smirking double-entendre with an almost Baroque pop sensibility. Melodically and lyrically, the song is above reproach, as Costello sings of infidelity with what could either be construed as regret or smug satisfaction.” The hummability factor of this U.K. Top Forty hit was reinforced by its inclusion in the 1982 box office smash “E.T. the Extra-Terrestial.”

551. “Train in Vain,” The Clash. Songwriter: Mick Jones; #23 pop; 1980. If you had only read about what filthy, nasty punks The Clash were, the radio friendly pop of “Train in Vain,” a song inspired by Slits guitarist Viv Albertine – a former girlfriend of Mick Jones – was a cognitive dissonance shock. Tracy and Elizabeth Bracy of Stereogum, “Mick Jones’ gorgeous, lovelorn plea ‘Train In Vain’ was initially considered too obvious a target for top 40 radio and was thus unmarked as a secret track on the running order of (the) ‘London Calling’ (album). The gambit never really worked. The impossibly catchy ‘Train in Vain’ moved its way into the public consciousness and became one of The Clash’s best-loved songs. It comes as no surprise, given the inescapable anguish and perfect melody that Jones renders while relaying the case of a trusted paramour who ultimately surprised him with her infidelity. The simple yet devastating refrain ‘Did you stand by me?/No, not at all’ are worthy of the most desperate laments of Sam Cooke or Otis Redding.”

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