Could “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” be one of Tyranny and Rotation’s Greatest Hard Rock Songs of All Time? Hell, yes. But where do you stop? Then you need “Street Fightin’ Man” and “All Down the Line” and, frankly, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by the Beatles. Then there’s no room for the true purveyors, those who dedicated themselves to the form.
Here are the next 20 …
70. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us,” Sparks
I know three people who like Sparks: my dad, my pal Pete and RandballStu. For the rest, Sparks is quite literally a punch line. Me: “I don’t get Radiohead.” Friends: “Well, they’re no Sparks!” Ask the 88 and Scissor Sisters. Sparks has never made a bad album, but they made two and a half great ones for Island from 1972-74 and this is the opener of the first, “Kimono My House.” It also was a relatively big hit in England.
69. “Only You Can Rock Me,” UFO
Clinically proven to kill more brain cells in one listen than an entire bottle of Night Train.
68. “Celebration Day,” Led Zeppelin
Not the watered-down version on Zeppelin III but the full-throated live take that opens the infamous soundtrack to the “The Song Remains the Same.” This is superior in every way. I don’t think I truly appreciated John Paul Jones until I downloaded this out of nostalgia and it assaulted my ear buds afresh.
67. “Sunshine of Your Love,” Cream
The riff every nascent guitarist butchered when I was a kid, inevitably starting with its halfwit cousin from “Cocaine.” But no one – no one – can replicate the touch with which Clapton effortlessly sustains that penultimate note. Plus, Cream kind of invented Hard Rock, and this isn’t even their best song.
66. “One of the Boys,” Mott the Hoople
Everyone knows David Bowie gave Mott “All the Young Dudes” and revived their career, but his role as this album’s producer is underappreciated, if not entirely overlooked. It’s not just the best-sounding Mott record, by a mile, it’s one of the best-sounding records ever made – up there with “No. 1 Record” and “Back in Black.” But Bowie also had a keen understanding of what Mott needed to break the glass ceiling. Listen to “Jerkin’ Crocus” and take note of the second guitar (texture) and keyboard flourish on the bridge (hook). This was not previously in the band’s vocabulary.
65. “Mandrake Root,” Deep Purple
I will buy the replica jersey of the first major leaguer to use this as his walkup song.
64. “Killer Without a Cause,” Thin Lizzy
It’s tempting to call this filler because it’s the second track on what used to be the second side of the glorious “Bad Reputation.” Something of a re-write of “Angel From the Coast,” it holds no place of distinction in the Thin Lizzy canon. But a thousand lesser bands would kill for this riff. One of the few “Bad Reputation” tracks featuring exiled guitarist Brian Robertson.
(Editor’s note: Molly Hatchet’s “Dreams I’ll Never See” was excised from the list when the author recently heard the album version and was astonished by how awful and long solo is.)
63. “Easy Money,” Foghat
The world is full of “World’s Most Underrated Guitarists,” but you don’t often hear the name Rod Price, whose reputation, such as it is, rests mostly on his slide playing. But his sense melody and attack are unreal. He also was an incredible rhythm player, and his back-and-forth with Lonesome Dave was never better than here. Practice, kids – it makes you a better band. I promise.
62. “Hocus Pocus,” Focus
A humanoid mountain demon is drinking mead and howling to the lower gods while precariously, yet comfortably, perched in the crevasse of an Alpine escarpment.
61. “Hot Rails to Hell,” Blue Oyster Cult
I threw the first side of “Tyranny and Mutation” into a hat.
60. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Vanilla Fudge
The art of the cover isn’t dead, but it’s been critically injured by the Age of Irony. Dude, seriously; not everyone who likes music has something to say. Why not try to inject what bit of originality you do have into something that already has been written? Something good. It works. All these little boxes of macaroni & cheese out there, just waiting for you to add your special combination of butter, water and salt.
59. “Here in Heaven,” Sparks
You may have noticed I’m not writing much about lyrics, never the strength of hard rock. But this song is about a guy whose beloved reneges on a suicide pact. “Here you cannot buy souvenirs/ We’re never going back.” It’s also prime Sparks – a classical melody driven by pure rock that clocks in under 3 minutes, as if it were pop single (!). It’s no coincidence that the Mael Brothers’ best records “Kimino My House” (whence this comes) and “Propaganda” (more later) feature the same band – guitarist Adrian Fisher and Dinky Diamond have much to do with their singular greatness.
58. “Movin’ On,” Bad Co.
Since the Replacements died in 1987, Paul Westerberg has been trying to re-write two songs: Rod Stewart’s “You Wear it Well,” and this classic slice of Mick Ralphs rock deconstruction, which lives in a world too dumb for Westerberg to comfortably inhabit, which is too bad for our erstwhile local hero (hey, I’m writing about something else entirely), and those of us still waiting on somebody.
57. “Feelin’ Satisfied,” Boston
So I’m listening to these as I write about them and just noticed there are only 12 Boston songs on my iPod. Further, I contend that’s really all there is, most of the first two records, the titular debut and “Don’t Look Back.” That’s how briefly and brightly Boston burned from 1976-78.
56. “All Right Now,” Free
This is what happens when you sic a professional band on a killer lick. Add a great singer and a little bit of dynamic arrangement (it was once called production) and – bam! – hit single.
55. “Paranoid,” Black Sabbath
I try almost daily to chart the Death of Rock, which anyone can do, really, by listening to The Current. An exact date is probably impossible to graph, but evidence suggests it’s related to two phenomena: 1) Being more interested in being in a band than in making music, and 2) the modern concept equating cynicism with intelligence. If songs could manifest into something physical, like, say, Pokemon or those stupid robots in “Pacific Rim,” it would be awfully fun to watch “Paranoid” kick the shit out of, say, “Stacy’s Mom.”
54. “When You Dance, I Can Really Love,” Neil Young
I wish Dave Grohl understood the value of a second (or third) vocalist. Is it ego, a misguided belief that in hard rock, less can be more, or simply that the other guys in the band don’t sing? Well, they should. Add harmonies to something visceral and you’re in rare air, defiantly taunting the sun with your wax wings, singing the language of the universe. Your senses tingle and you take a chance.
53. “Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf
What are you gonna do?
52. “Crosstown Traffic,” Jimi Hendrix Experience
One of the things a working (or simply interested) guitarist learns is that rhythm isn’t just strumming chords. Listen to, say, Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” or “I’ll Cry Instead” by the Beatles. Hendrix’s greatest gift to rock may have been his ability to make the difference between lead and rhythm nearly disappear, and it’s never more pronounced than here. Listening to the debut Experience album is a real treat because the guitars are multitracked and he plays all of them.
51. “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots,” Black Sabbath
After Mick Abrahams left Jethro Tull to (ultimately) form Blodwyn Pig, Ian Anderson’s pal Tony Iommi helped mime “A Song for Jeffrey” on the ill-fated “Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus.” Anderson says Iommi was asked to join the band but declined, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of noise Tull would have made for the one or two records before Iommi inevitably left. It would have been amazing. Somewhere on that Goldilocks planet, perhaps …
NEXT UP: 50-31