5 perfect rock songs

"The moonlit knight" Genesis, Massey...
“The moonlit knight” Genesis, Massey Hall, Toronto, Oct. 1974 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you lived in some alien universe and happen to crash land your U.F.O in my back yard. I would make you a good cup of tea and play these 5 for you as prime examples of this thing called rock.

5. Yellow-Coldplay

Coldplay is like a quality lager….bright and satisfying. I don’t care if they have taken over the world; they are still producing a quality product that is very drinkable. This is a great song that music fans all over the world will crank up loud when it hits the radio or Pandora or iPod (whether they admit to it or not)

4. Cortez the Killer- Neil Young

My personal favorite is from “Live Rust” and this is a masterpiece. We know the story of Cortez and Montezuma. We know it as history but this track converts that historical angst to emotion. So many rock songs are about “women does man wrong” or “man does women wrong” – but this- Conquistador does a civilization wrong by removing it from the face of the earth is an elegant twist.

3. Go your own way- Fleetwood Mac

 Lindsey Buckingham is kind of underrated as a song writer and guitar player. Most songs about unrequited love are kind of depressing and bring you down. This one has a kick to it. Like soaking those cooked chicken wings of despair in a hot tangy buffalo sauce and taking a big bite.

 2. Smells like Teen Spirit- Nirvana

The timing on this makes it perfect.  In 1991 hip hop was taking over in a big way…Rock was stale- the charts were full of reheated leftovers and half-hearted efforts by big stars. Rock had lost its edge. This song was a kick to the balls that Rock Music needed in a big way. When you heard it…it knocked you over.

Just for fun kids-Let’s look at a couple reheats and stale artists from 1991 –

“Live and Let Die” Guns and Roses- really Axel and Slash? You had to cover this? You guys couldn’t find other ways to pay for all the hotel rooms you trashed…how about working at the hotel instead of this reheat?

Kiss- God gave Rock and Roll to you– Yes, he gave it to us to help us make sense of this world…he did not  mean for us to add water and boil a novelty song by Argent for a movie soundtrack so Gene Simmons could buy more jewelry for his girlfriends.

As far as the half hearted attempts go…Bryan Adams and Genesis (The “hey, let’s try to sound like Motown, only with weaker songs- Phil Collins version of Genesis…instead of the “hey, let’s be like Pink Floyd, only more theatrical and pretentious- Genesis with Peter Gabriel*”) both had multiple hits that year.

My apologies to Metallica as Enter Sandman was released this same year…I won’t call it perfect but I would not argue against it.

1. Hotel California- The Eagles

Is this about heaven or hell or drugs or being seduced by desert women? I don’t know- but book me a room here.  It’s full of references to some kind of unavoidable trap that we all fall for even though we should know better. This took the Eagles from country rock to cool as a fresh breaker from the Pacific Ocean. Joe Walsh added just enough to put this over the top. This is what a title track and an album cover should be. Rock songs should take you somewhere- give your brain a bit of a work over and let you find your own way back.  Perfect.

*Disclaimer- I love Peter Gabriel…The New Blood show of 2011 is the single best concert I ever attended!

27 thoughts on “5 perfect rock songs

  1. Bill Haley and The comets, “Rock around the Clock,” was the beginning. Adults went insane and kids did too, but for different reasons. It was a breakthrough song and things took off from there. I’m not saying it should be on your list, I’m just saying it was the start of something great.

  2. Top five rock songs, eh? Hmmmm, subjectivity, indeed.
    Cortez the Killer? Yes. Forty years (or so) later and Neil still makes me close my eyes and lose the world on that one. (All time fave from Neil? Old Laughing Lady from the Decade double album. HANDS DOWN. No apologies offered.)
    Other comments: “Clocks” from Coldplay instead. Fleetwood Mac: “Sara” or “Tusk”. The Eagles? They were great but I’m a die-hard Todd Rundgren fan. “Hello, It’s Me” certainly blistered the Billboard, but it was his pseudo psychedelic stuff that really made a lot of up and comings stop and take notice: “Black Maria”, anyone? “Caravan” from Utopia?
    Not into Todd? Just say Yes, then. “Close To The Edge”? The Moody Blues? Come on, “I’m Just A Singer (in a rock and roll band)”… Talk about influential…
    OMG, take away my eyes, my nose, my sense of taste (arguably already history according to some…) but PUH-LEASE leave me my ears!!!!!!
    Peter Gabriel? Too many to mention. My all-time favorite? “I Grieve”. Second best: “Mercy Street”.
    This has been fun. Cheers. Thanks a lot. 🙂

    1. Yes, indeed—subjective subjective subjective are the top three things on every single music blog and that it what makes it blogging instead of a more respectable way to write! Tusk???.. I mean,..I love a little abstract association and African drumming as much as the next guy but I always thought this was a bit clever clever.
      Wow- Todd Rundgren…you are the second TR fanatic I have encountered…there cannot possibly be a third so I think I am good. 🙂
      And most importantly…I thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I hope that you will feel feel to just fire away on any other post of mine because that is what makes doing this fun. I will be checking out your blog and adding myself as one of your followers on the strength of this comment alone. Thanks again and happy you crossed my path.

  3. Wayne,

    Get outta here! Fleetwood Mac…you betcha. Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks…she’s still rockin today. The Eagles…Hotel California was Awesome!!! You nailed them right. Did I see Chicago? Jazz rock…I think.

  4. Thanks for throwing Nirvana in there. Aliens should know Kurt Cobain… after all, he may have been one of them. It just seems people don’t give Nirvana enough credit. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I should just talking to so many idiots.

    1. I always think of most of my friends as idiots as well, but they do seem to respect Nirvana so I don’t think it is an intelligence thing 🙂

  5. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but Hotel California the number 1 perfect rock song? Ha!

    The problem with all these lists is that they reflect the authors personal favorites, and have nothing to do with how influential any of the songs or people recording them were on the rock movement as a whole.

    My list

    1 Hey Bo Didley, Bo Didley ~ Rock began as “black” music, therefore one should start with a black artist

    2 Hound dog, Elvis Presley ~ to show where white kids took black rock

    3 Twist and Shout, Beatles version ~ To show where English kids took rock from there

    4 You Shook Me, Led Zeppelin ~ To show how English White kids were still ripping off the old black bluesmen

    5 Smells like Teen Spirit,Nirvana could fit here, or anything by Pearl Jam, to show the rebirth of rock after it was nearly killed off in the eighties.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, that is what is blog stuff is all about! I agree that these lists get subjective, I was picking songs to showcase for someone with no knowledge or reference of rock music at all. I know that my list will be different from someone else and I respect that.
      https://caveoffame.com/2013/02/20/the-devils-music/ is a post I wrote about the beginging of rock music so I get where you are coming from.
      I never could get past the square guitar with Bo Diddley but there is no question about his influence-I just saw Eric Burden on Jools Holland and he was just going nuts over what this man meant to him personally and rock n’ roll itself—and I know he is not alone. I have yet to enjoy his music but I get the impact.
      I am not googling this but I think the Elvis version of “That’s alright Mama” was on the charts the same time as the original version which puts him in line for the first white guy to walk in the blue suede shoes of rock music and I love that song. I am with you about Elvis.
      I guess I have been to too many weddings and have grown to hate that Beatles song—But again…no one can question the influence of the fab four.
      Zeppelin are icons- there is such a fine line between influence and theft.
      And I am glad we agree on Teen Spirit, just happy you did not throw in Eddie Vedder and the boys instead or I would be 0 and 5 🙂

      1. There are others that I could have used other than Bo Diddley, like Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, the Drifters, Etc.

        It’s funny, Elvis was past his prime, and I hated his hits in the 60’s, but he put rock and roll on the map.

        If it hadn’t been for the Beatles, we may have never heard of Eric Burden and the Animals, who were better rockers than the Beatles in my opinion. John Lennon’s screaming vocals on Twist and Shout still amaze me to this day.

      2. I was thinking Chuck Berry who like Jerry Lee is still playing shows which just amazes me since they were there are the start. Again, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave any comments-I do not want to have everyone agree with me, I just want visitors that love good music.

    1. Coldplay are a victim of their own success-they continue to make quality music and put on good shows…I have to admit that I was shocked when Chris Martin “came out’ as a fan of Nickelback, but he is such a nice guy , I will look past that one transgression ;).

  6. Wayne, I’ve been meaning to reply to this article for two weeks now. I originally saw it when you first wrote it, but had to really take some time to think about it. Prior to reading this article, the only song I would have had in common with you would have been “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as I completely agree that this song saved rock music.

    After much thought, I agree with the decision to add “Yellow,” as this is one of my favorite songs of all time – fun fact: Chris Martin named the song after the Yellow Pages, even though the song obviously has nothing to do with this – and is the definition of a rock love song.

    As for “Hotel California,” I can understand this song making the top 5 list, but personally would not have placed it there, and honestly can’t give a better reason than the fact that I have not spent as much time as I should have listening to the Eagles.

    Although I love Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, I would not have placed “Go Your Own Way” and “Cortez the Killer” on the list.

    My list (in no particular order) would probably consist of the following:
    -“Yellow” by Coldplay
    -“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
    -“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
    -“The Happiest Days of Our Lives + Another Brick on the Wall, pt. 2” by Pink Floyd
    -“Good Riddance” by Green Day

    with honorable mentions to “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and “Santeria” by Sublime

    1. Santeria is great- “I got something for his punk ass” is one of my favorite lines in a rock song…
      I find it amazing that anyone would agree on as many as two from my list as these are personal to me as songs that still keep all their juice no matter how much they get squeezed. I have played these over and over and they stay fresh.
      As much as I like Stairway- it has been overplayed to the point of saturation and has a little of that “Lord of the Rings” vibe about it that I can’t get past to call it perfect.
      You are right around me with Pink Floyd as I was leaning towards “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” for this list. Comfortably Numb also a solid classic.
      And thanks for reading and leaving a comment- exchange of ideas is what makes this blog stuff so cool.

    1. That is the one and only Peter Gabriel …who I believe should be Sir Peter Gabriel by now, should have happened before Sir Elton John. One of the best to see live.

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