Top 100 of the past 50 years

I love Popdose, and this list of the top 100 singles of the past 50 years shows why. Neither the smug Rolling Stone critics nor the snarky 21st century bloggers would come up with a list that incorporates a host of undisputed classics along with some terrific off-the-wall choices — XTC, Dave Brubeck, Scritti Politti.

– Most of the top 20 is dead-on
– The shoutout to Colin Moulding’s bass playing (#11)
– The shoutout to a classic WKRP moment (#5)
– Stevie being in the top 2 with a classic blast of funk and philosophy
– The recognition for George Michael finally doing a song that showed off his actual talent (#32)
– Recognition for songs that didn’t top the charts, like Veronica
– Picking Goodbye Yellow Brick Road out of the Elton John catalog

Don’t love:
– Just not feeling the Beach Boys at #1
– The Peter Gabriel overload, particularly Sledgehammer. I liked that song better when Stevie Wonder recorded the version at #2 on this list with much more meaningful lyrics. Videos do not make songs
– Two Tears for Fears song that aren’t Shout and Woman in Chains. (Though I did like the Real Genius reference)

– I remember reading that Steve Winwood sang Gimme Some Lovin’ in F-sharp when he was on Letterman’s show years ago. The original was in G. Still sounded great.

And now for the obligatory “songs for which I would’ve voted”:

You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette: Heck of an introduction.

Whipping Post, Allman Brothers: Some anguished blues with killer bass and organ lines trading with the usual Allman guitars, all flipping between 4/4 and 11/8? 11/12?

Rock Lobster, B-52s: I can’t dance worth a flip, but I still hail this one as a classic party song.

The Old Apartment, Barenaked Ladies: Comic geniuses in their live shows, the Ladies can also put together a good dose of pissed-off sentimentality.

Across the Universe, Beatles: One of the best dreamscapes ever imagined. Pardon the pun.

The Metro, Berlin: Can’t really remember any better story-telling in a synth-pop song. Great vocals, too.

In a Big Country, Big Country: Live versions are even better — a thunderous wall of sound underneath Stuart Adamson’s yearning vocals.

Allentown, Billy Joel: Best tale of working-class despair told by someone not named Bruce.

Just What I Needed, The Cars: Best use of their ironic semi-detachment, complete with a razor-sharp guitar solo.

Surrender, Cheap Trick: Best attempt to bridge the generation gap.

Who’ll Stop the Rain, Creedence Clearwater Revival: A protest song built on a simple, effective metaphor.

Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure: Ball up that sensitivity and let it go with a good 2:35 collection of hooks.

Shining Star, Earth Wind & Fire: You can do anything you want. Except dance, if you happen to be Elaine.

Mirror in the Bathroom, English Beat: Just because you’re paranoid …

Your Hand in Mine, Explosions in the Sky: My one relative obscurity — a gorgeous mosaic of simple guitar lines that capture every aspect of young love.

The Chain, Fleetwood Mac: Dysfunction never sounded so good.

Don’t Change, INXS: Is it legal to form an ’80s covers band without adding this to the set list?

Cult of Personality, Living Colour: A great band’s most accessible effort.

Our House, Madness: A simple ode to a simple life.

Overkill, Men at Work: They had a reputation as a bunch of goofballs after their first couple of videos, so this one may have been misunderstood. It reassures the listener that we all have paranoid days, and the chord changes in the chorus (think “Ghosts appear then fade away”) are stunningly beautiful.

Mental Hopscotch, Missing Persons: Dale Bozzio’s yelping voice actually works on this one. Helps that the rest of the band could really play.

Synchronicity II, The Police: Unique storytelling told with a bit of panache.

Middle of the Road, The Pretenders: Chrissie Hynde nails this coming-of-age tale.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead, and Shout, Tears for Fears: Lumped together here because they’re perfectly orchestrated, putting together all the drama one can wring out of a rock band.

Angel, Sarah McLachlan: A classic with some subtleties, like the bowed bass you hardly notice.

Pride, U2: Left out the parentheses for Jason’s sake.

Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who: Perfect rock song.


Best bass riffs OR Weirdest pop hits, No. 3

I had a lot of time to listen to the radio today (thank YOU very much, idiot drivers of Tysons Corner and Gaithersburg), and one of our local radio classic-ish rock-ish stations cranked up Green-Eyed Lady. Hadn’t heard that one in so long that I’d forgotten who recorded it. (The answer is: Sugarloaf, which also recorded another candidate for this series — Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You.)

I’d forgotten much of this song. I remembered the verse “Green-eyed lady, passion baby …” I didn’t realize that verse and the second (very similar to it) are roughly one minute out of 6:49.

And now I’ve forgotten most of it again, just a couple of hours later. What lingers is that bass line. Stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, stuttered arpeggio, three-note riff, then walk it on back. It punches its way into your brain.

Little wonder it popped up on a Blogcritics list of rock’s greatest bass riffs.

I’m glad someone started the discussion, and I love the Barney Miller and Spinal Tap shout-outs. But like all these lists, it’s a conversation starter.

So let’s start adding:

Rush, Tom Sawyer. I agree with the distinction between soloing and riffing, and most of Geddy Lee’s best work is the former. But even people who think Lee’s voice puts the “grrr” in “grating” can get into this bass line. (One of many worthwhile bits in The Knights of Prosperity — the gang adopting this as their theme song.)

Our Lady Peace, Naveed. Yeah, I know. No one’s heard it. Yet if you heard it, you’d swear it was a classic of FM radio. It’s a concise distillation of foreboding and uneasiness that sets the tone for the song.

Allman Brothers, Whipping Post. Blues-based songs need a sturdy bass line to let you know that the lead singer’s laying down some serious shit. Most blues bands can’t deliver because the bass player is too shit-faced. But these guys were serious about their music, even shifting this one through 11/8 time for that added dose of urgency.

U2, New Year’s Day. The Wikipedia entry on Adam Clayton makes a big deal of Clayton’s long-delayed formal training on the bass (circa 1996). BFD. Clayton is the perfect example of a guy who knows his place in … hey, I’ve covered this before. He should appear in this list several times — Bullet the Blue Sky, Two Hearts Beat as One … even the four-note drone of With or Without You.

Belly, Feed the Tree. Yeah, it’s doubled by the guitar, but so is the riff on Sunshine of Your Love in the original list.

The Breeders, Cannonball. Hear that? Pretty cool, huh? And again? And then we go … WHOA! Bet you thought it was in that first key, didn’t you? Ha ha ha ha. And Kim Deal didn’t even play this one. She’s busy singing something that sounds like “Pinochet.”

Carbon Leaf, Paloma. Active, with an air of mystery. Another one that sets the tone — it’s the first instrument heard and the most important.

Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting. Ominous, but with a little swing to it. Perfect for a tale of vampires and New Orleans.

The Cure, Let’s Go to Bed. Just plain fun.

The Dazz Band, Let It Whip. Fun and funky.

Deep Purple, Hush. Yes, I know it’s a Joe South song, but I have no idea if the original bass line was as emphatic as this one.

The Doors, Riders on the Storm. Technically a keyboard part, given Ray Manzarek’s ability — rare for a rock keyboardist — to use two hands. (That’s my subtle Spinal Tap reference du jour.)

Edgar Winter Group … Do I even have to name the song?

Fleetwood Mac, The Chain. Second half of the song, obviously.

Foo Fighters, Everlong. Sounds like a distant radio station keeping you company on a lonely drive through the night.

Go-Gos, We Got the Beat. Everyone do the Belinda Carlisle shimmy to this Kathy Valentine bass riff.

Husker Du, Powerline. A rare moment in the spotlight for Greg Norton. He’s now a chef and restaurateur.

Kasabian, Club Foot. Wow. Might be the best of the millennium so far.

Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song. Jonesy doubles the guitar through the verse than shifts into overdrive on the chorus. I guess that’s technically two riffs.

Living Colour, Wall. The most righteous smackdown of barriers — racial, political, religious, whatever — leads with a punch to the gut from Doug Wimbush, who had filled the large shoes of Muzz Skillings. (Interesting trivia according to Wikipedia: One bassist who was considered for the vacated spot was Meshell Ndegeunspellable, and King’s X bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick filled in on vocals during a recent tour while Corey Glover was busy playing Judas in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning. And the bass line is churning.

Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion. In case you’re wondering why I mention it here — yes, I’m going alphabetically through my iPod. And you’ve heard the Mighty Mighty Bosstones double-speed version of this song, right?

Motorhead, Ace of Spades. Weirdest bass style ever — Lemmy strums like he’s a freaking rhythm guitarist. Not sure how often it works, but it does here.

Primus, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver. Tough to pick just one Claypool line, but I’ll go with this one.

R.E.M., South Central Rain. Again, could go with several Mike Mills riffs. Like John Entwistle, he was essentially the lead instrument at times, with the guitarist playing rhythm.

Rare Earth, I Just Want to Celebrate. Doubled by the guitar at times but a classic bottom-end riff nonetheless.

Temptations, Get Ready. I’m surely forgetting many great riffs from this era because (A) I haven’t covered it at iTunes and (B) many of them weren’t recorded quite as well as this one.

Young MC, Bust a Move. I believe this was Flea. (Quick check at Yahoo.) Yep, it was.

Smashing Pumpkins, I Am One. Have I ever mentioned that Gish is essential listening and should be in the classic-rock and alt-rock canons?

Smithereens, Blood and Roses. Stuck it in your head just by mentioning it, didn’t I?

Pretenders, My City Was Gone. Trivia quiz — name the bassist and the band for which he’s more famous … AND name the solo artist with whom that bassist and his longtime rhythm section partner rose to prominence.

Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping. It’s basically a rap song, right? And what’s a rap song without a good bass line?

XTC, Mayor of Simpleton. One of many great Colin Moulding efforts.

Yes, Roundabout. And Tempus Fugit. Chris Squire falls into the “soloist” category most of the time, but these two qualify as great riffs.

So that’s … yikes. That’s 34.

OK, folks — it’s up to you. Let’s push it to 50.