As I bounce about my life thoughts rattle around in my skull and I do my best to organize them. Some things are important and need to be organized; other things are just BS that I can, and should, forget. One of the later is a list of my favorite songs, and even though it’s all BS that doesn’t matter I feel compelled to commit the time and energy to list them, and share them with a world that doesn’t give a crap.
I pondered a Top 10 list, but there were way too many, so the list kept growing. As the list grew to over 20 I started to feel like I should just blow it off, but then I visited Rolling Stone and saw that they have a top 500 list of albums, songs, and top 100 guitarists. If they are allowed to be longwinded and conciliatory to every song ever written and every deushe to strap on a guitar I figured I should give myself the leeway to do as long a list as I please — besides, nobody is gonna read it anyway.
There are some parameters I set for myself here for the sake of brevity. First, I am only including one song from each artist, with the caveat that almost all these bands (or albums) have multiple fantastic tunes that I wish I could include, but can’t because I want to get on with my life. I included a brief comment on each song, and although there are numerous “honorable mention” songs I have tried to keep them to a minimum. Note that the songs have a common thread — they are meaningful to me as a music fan and artist/guitarist/songwriter…these are the ones I always go back to and never ever forget. Finally I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks cuz this is my freakin’ list.
So here we go, in no particular order:
Good Times Bad Times, Led Zeppelin: It all begins and ends here…the hook-line for an entire musical genre. Skull crushing drums, off the hook guitar playing and tone, other worldly vocals — no single song set the tone for my musical fandom and guitar player’s life more than this one.
Midnight Rambler, Rolling Stones: Violence expressed though music. I remember hearing the last line of this song on my Mom’s radio when I was like 5 years old and wondering if I was going to get a knife shoved down my throat the next time I went out to play.
Wheels of Confusion, Black Sabbath: I remember first listening to this beast of a song as a kid and I have the same reaction to this day. It makes me stop what I’m doing, and get lost in the wheels of Tony Iomi and Geezer Butler. NIB could make this list too…along with the rest of Vol. 4 and Master of…never mind.
Minstrel in the Gallery, Jethro Tull: Some songs are just too freakin’ big for a record, or for a young mind to comprehend. This heavy guitar epic inched out My God, which to me is quite a feat.
Machine Gun, Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsies: Literally spent entire days, guitar in hand, listening to this song over and over in absolute awe. Aside from the amazing guitar…dark images of war over a cataclysmic soundscape…WOW.
Memory Pain, Johnny Winter: The opening notes of this song left a welt on the side of my temple that still has not gone away and a lot of additional welts about my chest, neck, face and head from all the flat-out belligerent guitar on this song…the definition of heavy blues crossing over to hard rock/metal.
December’s Spawn, Crowbar: This is maybe the heaviest song from the heaviest band…so heavy that the “Sonic Excess” truly moves the air out of your lungs and makes mountains rise up from the sea. Truly “Repulsive in Its Splendid Beauty.”
I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth, Clutch: The self-titled Clutch album was one that made me a lifetime Clutch fan, and this song was the first tune on side II of the cassette. I rewound & re-listened to it so many times that the poor thing exploded. THAT’S RIGHT! I…HAVE MR. BOOTH!!!
Brothers in the Wind, High on Fire: A masterpiece that I wish I wrote, and a cornerstone song on the amazing Blessed Black Wings album – a compilation of guitar songs so heavy and freakin’ beautiful that it brought tears (of joy) to my eyes the first time I listened to it.
They’re Red Hot, Robert Johnson: I made a pact with myself to not use the word quintessential in this list, but there is a lot of quintessential shit on the Robert Johnson collection. In fact, it is the guidebook for the blues and the forms and structures have been recycled and raped ad-nausea since then. They’re Red Hot is the one song of the entire collection that still seems unique, original, cool and funny as hell after all these years.
Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden: As a God fearin’ Catholic kid I was terrified that I would be struck by lightning and sent to hell just for listening to this song, so it’s possible that a riff sent me to Hell. But then I reasoned that if God is a guitar player he might forgive me, and even if he’s not I’d approach the pearly gates saying, “Dude! Check out this riff!”
Sky Pilot, Eric Burdon & The Animals: Great storytelling that puts you in a war zone for 9 minutes. You can actually see the faces and arms blown off and the machinery burning…and the weeping of parents on the home front.
Green Grass and High Tides, Outlaws: Freebird is the flagship song for extended southern rock jams, but this tune is way better in my opinion, more emotion, great lyrics…and, oh yea, guitar, GUITAR and more GUITAR.
Dixie Whiskey, EYEHATEGOD: Sometimes written words are not enough to explain the impact and power a song can have…and sometimes a band can capture a moment where rage, and frustration, and angst, and chemicals intersect and create 3 minutes that blow you away.
Regal, Godflesh: Such beautiful simplicity, such mind bending heaviness, unreal guitar tones. This is an example of a song transmitting extreme negative (almost forbidden) emotionally honest content through beautiful, uncompromising heaviness played against subtlety, restraint, and finesse.
The Horned Goddess, The Sword: This song represented something vital, that a current artist could do something with a vintage feel, with an old school sensibility yet was still new, and modern, and freakin’ kicks ass.
Number Thirteen, Red Fang: Another relatively modern band, and great song that will light-up the old timers and gray beards.
Embodiment, Carcass: Sometimes a great band has the ability to control your life for 4 or so minutes. This masterpiece in the center of a masterpiece starts off plodding and dangles you somewhere between doom and all out speed metal. You expect it to explode, you feel the tension, you know it’s coming, but it never quite gets where you expect it to go…instead, it leads to something amazing.
Powder Finger, Neil Young: Sometimes heaviness comes from the story being told rather than the output of amps and the drums. This song combines a tragic story and heavy band to form a mini-graphic novel involving a casualty of war.
God Machine: Acid Bath: This is a slasher movie and a gothic horror story wrapped up in one grizzly 4 minute gore fest. Aside from that, it is a mind bending piece of music, a masterwork that confuses, disorients, frightens and causes a sort of musical vertigo as the song ties together and ends just as it seems to be getting going.
The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down, The Band: All about mourning and destruction and the aftermath of war. Great storytelling paints a historic canvas, nice riffs, tons of emotion…fun to sing when you’re drunk.
Soundgarden, Loud Love: So many great riffs in one song, so much drama, so much cool Zepplinyness but still totally original. This was by far the high water mark of that whole grunge Seattle thing, although I didn’t really consider Soundgarden grunge.
Theme From an Imaginary Western, Mountain: After I finished this list I realized I would have to come back and add this obvious gem that I forgot. Emotional melodic guitar, doesn’t get better.
Biscuits for Smut, Helmet: Helmet put out a lot of my favorite heavy music through the decade of the 90’s (if that’s what you want to call it), and it almost seems unfair to only pick one song out of what is actually an amazing body of work…great riffs great drumming, the whole package…and “Biscuits” is a crazy weird masterpiece.
Walk Don’t Run, The Ventures: Pure guitar in the days when it was all about front men and personalities. There is a lot of great music from this time period from guitar oriented singers such as Chuck Berry, but I latched on to the Ventures because they were always all about melodic guitar.
Weeds, Life of Agony: A weird selection in that this tune does not appear on my favorite LOA album (Ugly). Weeds appears on the Soul Searching Sun album, which is good but not as great as UGLY or River Runs Red, that being said, great song.
Bridge of Sighs, Robin Trower: The title of this song says it all, but the sorrow in the guitar playing and the vocals are so genuine, unforgettable, totally involving, and addicting
Couldn’t Know, Paw: an unknown and underground gem that velcroed itself to me in the mid-nineties when I first heard it on Pirate Radio that I still appreciate to this day.
Bullet in the Head, Rage Against the Machine: This is about the closest I ever got to rap or hip hop, but probably only because it features a lot of heavy guitar artistry. Whatever this was gernre wise, it is freakin’ amazing.
Whose Fist is This Anyway, Prong: A classic nestled within a classic metal album (Cleansing). This is what guitar playing is all about for me, the loud angry rhythmic, chunking, chugging, pummeling and percussive riffs…what’s ignored sometimes is the importance of great tone on the rhythm side of the spectrum for guitar players. Nowhere is it done better than on this song (for me at least).
Tornado of Souls, Megadeath: A mind bending display of fret acrobatics packaged in a thrilling song that actually makes the vocals tolerable.
Air that I Breath, The Hollies: Some songs have power no matter what genre they appear in. Even though I almost consider it to be easy listening it moved me the first time I heard it and still does, and proves that great songwriting transcends all the classifications and BS.
Fade to Black, Metallica: This is the one Metallica song I can’t do without. If you burned all of my Metallica stuff I would fight just to keep this one tune…and the Master of Puppets album, and…never mind!
Dig Up Her Bones, Misfits: I’m not a big punk fan…in order for me to listen to punk I need to be drawn into it by a great metal crossover tune (which I think puts this song at odd with a lot of punk purists…whatever that means). When I heard this song on Pirate Radio I was an instant fan because it’s more metal than true punk, so I picked up the album and now I’m a fan of the rest of the album too.
Trainwreck, Mastodon: Actually feels like a train wreck, not actually the wreck itself but the chaos before and during impact…captured in music, which is an incredible feat. This is one of the great drum performances in metal history, and must be heard to be believed.
Bertha, Grateful Dead: Acid rock seemed so cool (to me) and dangerous (to my parents) when I was a young teenager…until we discovered it was just country music…WTF. Bertha always stands out to me as the ultimate dance song…in Giants Stadium, amongst 80,000 stoners, during a torrential downpour.
It Ain’t Like That, Alice in Chains: Partial credit for my tinnitus goes to this song and the classic Facelift album.
Tupelo, John Lee Hooker: At one point in my life I tried to learn about the influences of my biggest influences…only to discover that it was the same song over and over. Tupelo stands out as a haunting and unique masterpiece.
SWLABR, Cream: This weirdish riff and song is by far my favorite Cream song, and by far my favorite Clapton song. Love the phrasing of the riffage and the tone of the guitars. She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow (in case you’re wondering).
Highway Star, Deep Purple: White knuckles behind the wheel of a hot-rodded riff battle between Blackmore and Lord.
Green Machine, Kyuss: Lotta cool stuff off a lotta cool albums…another band that helped make the 90s tolerable…the stoner’s Highway Star.
Warp Asylum, White Zombie: I consider Devil Music to be more of an art piece than an album. With the exception of the iconic hit song off this album (Thunder Kiss 65) this is one of my favorite moments from the album, or any 90’s classic…SSSSSLLLLOOOOWWW spooky doom.
Seasons in the Abyss, Slayer: One of the great metal songs and riffs that punctuates a true monster of an album. I’m not a huge fan of Slayer but this is one that singed my eyebrows off, and continues to singe my eyebrows off every time I listen to it…and I appreciate it.
I know I probably missed something, but who cares…apparently, I blog to myself.
Thanks and Happy Holidays!