Greatest Rock Songs

Ask any historian or average guy-on-the-street, about what the most important historical events of the 20th century were, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who won’t mention the two so-called “World Wars.” They were the two bloodiest, most violent, most traumatizing wars in world history. Huge numbers of warriors and civilians were killed in these two wars. The survivors who came back from these wars were rightly disillusioned by everyone involved in sending them off to fight in the first place.

But one thing people kind of overlook about these wars is the fact that the two of them, collectively, spanned approximately a decade (1914 – 1918 and then 1939 – 1945).

Just as fascinating about the wars themselves is their respective aftermaths. Politically, the wars saw the effective end of monarchies and empires, replaced with an increasingly secular society. Just as fascinating, though, is the impact of the wars on culture.

Two of the three major musical revolutions occurred, not surprisingly, in the aftermath of the two world wars. In the 1920’s, it was jazz music; in the 50’s, it was rock and roll.

Both of these musical styles built dramatically on existing styles, but they definitely made things new and different. (And, not coincidentally, both of these musical styles come from urban slang for sex. The third musical revolution of the 20th century — hip hop music — also is slang for sex…)

Jazz probably would have progressed to rock music sooner, had it not been interrupted by the Great Depression and the second World War.

My local radio station, WXPN, has had a running countdown for the past nine years, where they solicit their listeners for their input into the topic at hand (usually single songs but there’ve been a few that were more than just single songs) and compile the results into the 885 top examples of that topic.

I last wrote about this process two years ago, after their Road Trip Songs. (Last year’s topic was the 885 greatest World Cafe guests. I vaguely remember voting for Fisher but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the results.)

So this year, they’re asking for votes for the greatest rock songs of all time. While I was trying to decide on the ten songs I’d be using, I thought of the origins of rock. If jazz got stifled by the events of the 1930’s, rock was allowed to flourish thanks to the events of the 1960’s.

Rock music essentially says, “We’re here and you can’t ignore us. We’ll do what we want to do, fuck who we want to fuck, and be what we want to be.” It’s with those thoughts in mind, I present to you the ten songs I voted for:

1. “Love Reign O’er Me,” by The Who

2. “Filthy Mind,” by Amanda Ghost

3. “Holiday,” by Green Day

4. “Coma White,” by Marilyn Manson

5. “Change (In the House of Flies)” by the Deftones

6. “Breathing,” by Kate Bush

7. “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company

8. “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon

9. “Crazy on You,” by Heart

10. “No One Like You,” by the Scorpions


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