Christian Adams

100 Greatest Rock Songs of All-Time, More or Less

From an informational perspective, opinion-based “Best Of” lists, especially related to music, are generally worthless.

For instance, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs [Of All-Time], contains neither surprise nor revelation, yet abounds in cringe and grimace. Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums is another story altogether, and I’ll get to that some time in the future.

While the online version of 500 Greatest Songs features a nifty introduction from Jay-Z, there isn’t a jam on the list we all haven’t heard 50 times over, and the lesser caveat, of course, is that their selection for Number One (“Like a Rolling Stone”) wouldn’t make my Top 100. How about you? Either way, we’re still consuming the infographic version of junk food.

CheapMore importantly, the question is: How much stock should anyone be willing to put in a list of greatest songs that includes “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (#492)? And if that wasn’t a kick to the balls, Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” is ranked just slightly higher at #471? The answer is none. You shouldn’t put any stock in this list.

Speaking in the most respectful manner possible, Rolling Stone is an institutional purveyor of music, personality, and culture, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say their editorial instincts tend toward the double-yellow lines of the two-lane highway. Once an avid reader of the print version, a small percentage of my record purchases may have been swayed by a positive (or negative) review. I read many issues cover-to-over. Their photography was often outstanding.

At the same time, the RS lists offer something in the way of amusement. For the list-maker(s), it’s a genuine opportunity to play God. For the reader, it’s a compulsion to see how your ideas match up with (an)other subjective mind(s). Either way, the static “Best Of” list is far less utilitarian than a recipe for a peanut butter sandwich, neither of which you should need.

celine-dion-facial-expressions-websiteOn the other hand, lists generated by some type of metric, particularly in terms of the marketplace, carry sociological implications so clear and obvious that it’s almost easy to miss them. A list of the top-selling recording artists of the 20th century can tell you almost everything you need to know about humanity. The name “Garth Brooks” says more about lower-middle class sub-urban America than any reality show about life in a trailer park ever could. In short, “Celine Dion” is what’s currently playing in the average elevator of the First World adult brain.

Extra-generally speaking, criteria for Best of All-Time list is based on laissez-faire considerations of initial and lasting popularity, influence, and acclaim. Most emphasize the song’s overall impact on the history of the chosen genre, rather than its “bestness.” A concerted effort usually is made to cover all styles from the various eras of the genre, from its inception to the present, including as many different important artists as possible without compromising the so-called integrity of the rankings.

SteveMillerVennHere at Black Sunshine Media, we’re keen on many types of music, but we prefer rock music over any other, and most sub-genres and/or variations therein are embraced whole-heartedly (click here for an exhaustive list of rock genres (with links to Wikipages for definitions and examples)). Of course, some genres (Italian occult psychedelic rock) are favored above others (techno, house, etc), but if it falls within any sphere of the Rock Venn Diagram, we’ll give it at least a spin. You wouldn’t believe how excited I get about animatronic rock bands. Did you know there was something called Nintendocore? You do now.

Anyway, if you’re not intimately familiar with the rock stylings of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, you’re missing out on some of the best entertainment available on this planet.

Anyway, according to my count, the difference between the Greatest Songs of All-Time vs. Greatest Rock Songs of All-Time is approximately 250 songs, e.g. half of the songs on the RS list are not truly Rock Songs. For instance, “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s (#147) is clearly a rock song. Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” (#118) is not a rock song. At any rate, 250 is far too many songs to slog through, let alone 500. Meanwhile, one thing that really pisses me off is when lists are inverted, c.g. from 500 to 1, as opposed to 1 through 500, especially online, where you have to scroll through five pages of nonsense to get the Top 100 or so, which is really all I’m interested in anyway.

Here without further ado:

Black Sunshine Media’s 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All-Time, More or Less

SS_Mayhem_011. Whatever You Think is the Best Rock Jam – Your Favorite Artist

2. Just As Good as the Best (Coulda Been #1) – Another Favorite Artist Possibly Featuring a Guest Star

3. This Track Reminds Me of Losing My Virginity – Myriad Good-Time Rock n’ Roll Bands

4. We Used to Listen to This On Acid All the Time – One of Many Artists from the Mid-to-late 20th century

5. It’s Just Such a Great Song – Artist You Really Don’t Care About but Everyone Else Thinks is Something Special

6. Nothing Says Rock n’ Roll Like This Jam – One of the Greatest of the Greats

7. Almost Nothing Else Says Rock n’ Roll Like This Jam – One of the Lesser-Known Greats

8. The Middle Fingers of Both Hands Extended at Arms Length in the Face of Authority – Band With Significant Cultural Impact Despite Being a Complete Sham

9. We Used to Stomp This Beat on the Bleachers During High School Basketball Games – One of the Greats Who Has Since Passed on to the Afterlife

10. You’ll Get Asked to Leave for Playing This Riff in a Guitar Shop – Artist Whose Entire Catalog Should Be Retired

11. Oh This Song Makes Me Cry – Most Sensitive Artist You’ll Admit to Liking

12. Basically, My Theme Song – Any One-Hit Wonder from 1960-present

13. Hot Jam From One of the Most Iconic Scenes in American Film History – Artist Who Didn’t Need the Exposure

14. Everybody Loved This Cut the First 34,000 Times They Heard It – Most Unfortunate Artist Who Didn’t Really Make True Rock Music on the List

15. Epic and Cinematic Rock Anthem with a Meaningful and Memorable Chorus – Any Band Who Wasn’t Shot Before They Made Their Combat Rock

16. The Drumbeat That Changed the World – Same Band in #8

17. One of the More Poignant Moments in Rock Music – One of Your Favorite Artists But Clearly Not the Favorite

18. Protest Song About Some Shit I Don’t Care About – Legendary Fraudster Who Clearly Doesn’t Know When Enough is Enough

19. This Song Changed My Life (For Better and For Worse) – Band Who Headlined Your First Live Concert

20. Quite Literally Five Minutes of Chainsaw – Artist Who Was the Best at What He or She Did

21. Gotta Have Some Junk in the Trunk if You’re Gonna Funk – One of Several Legendary Artists With a Major Physical Disability

22. My Go-to Karaoke Jam – One of the Few Openly Gay Artists on This List

23. Semi-Obscure Track, Here For the Indie Cred and Free Pastries – Your Favorite Artist Who Nobody Else Cares About

24. Willfully Obscure Track, Here For a Legitimate Reason – Band You Loved Light Years Before Anybody Else Had Heard of Them

25. No List Would Be Complete Without This Cut – Easily the Most Over-rated Artist in the History of Rock

26. Remember When We Used to Drink Beers Down at the Quarry? – Band Whose Cassette Was Stuck in the Tape Player of Your Buddy’s 1980 Toyota Corolla

27. Eponymous Noun Clause Intended to Imply What This Jam is About – Eponymous Rock Band

28. This Shit Was Well Before My Time, But I Recognize Its Place in the Annals of Rock – One of the Forefathers

29. Crazy Good Guitar Work with Pleasantly Abstract and Yet Brooding Vocals – Probably the Coolest Kids on This List

30. Poorly Veiled Sexual Entendre with a Slamming Beat – Any Number of Bands That Inspired Spinal Tap

31. Song That Defined an Entire Sub-Genre of Rock – Artist With Questionable Taste in Fashion

32. Positively Gorgeous and Harrowing Result of an Interaction Between Musicians and Pharmaceutical Grade Narcotics – Band That Everyone Claims to Love But Couldn’t Name a Song Without Google

33. Another Jam That Defined Another Sub-Genre of Rock – Artist With Impeccable Taste in Album Artwork

34. I Can’t Believe They Let Nike Use This in a Commercial – Immortal Whose Legacy is Controlled By a Corporation

35. Majestic Guitar Jam About a Geographical Location That May or May Not Exist in Real Life – Band Whose Name is Something Equally Ambiguous

36. Any Wedding Band Worth Its Salt Can Play This in Three Different Keys – Grammatically Challenged Artist

37. Song About a Girl Who Was Out of My League – Bunch of Cats Who Could Tell You a Thing or Two About How to Wear an Ascot

38. Another Jam That’s Been Co-Opted for Major American Sporting Events – Band That Has Played Half-Time at the Super Bowl

39. This Generation’s Anthem – Ridiculously Over-Rated Band Who Put Out Two Albums Before the Main Guy Whacked Himself

40. A Rallying Cry for Disenfranchised Youth – One of the Richest, Most Successful Artists in the History of Rock, Who’s Literally Sitting On Top of a Snowdrift of Money as We Speak

41. I Normally Despise Anything With a Drum Machine, But This Jam is Undeniable – One of Two Artists on This List Who Can Do the Splits

42. Honey Sweetheart Baby Darling Sugar – One of Two Artists Who Flew the Flannel

43. Something About Blowing Shit Up (Who Cares, Let’s Rock) – Power Trio With a Collective IQ of 42

44. Dance Made Popular By the Song Named in Its Honor – Artists With Nickname Based on Their Body Mass

45. A Popular Dessert Item Used as a Euphemism for Pussy – One-Syllable and Highly Flammable Band Popular In the Era of Stone-Washed Denim

46. Fonky Theme From a Movie I’ve Actually Never Seen – Artist Who Went on to Greater Fame as the Voice of a Cartoon Character

47. Political Yabba-Dabba-Doo – Nebbish Folk Artist With a Noticeable Lisp

48. Animal Metaphor – Mediocre Rock Band with a Chick Singer

49. This Is What They Mean By Hippie Music – Your Dad’s Roommate at Amherst College

50. Who Knew It Was About a Brothel in the American South? – White Artist Who Fronted an All-Black Band and Used the N-word Like I Call Everybody ‘Chief’

51. First, I’m Going to Tell You What I’m Going to Do to Your Genitals, Then I’m Going to Do It, Baby – One-Third of All Bands With Hair

52. The Song That Keeps Bic Lighters in High Demand – Group With Three Too Many Guitar Players

53. So Simple, Yet So Deep – Artist Who Used to Be in an Even More Popular Group

54. I Love Jogging to This Jam – Band Whose Entire Catalog is Comprised of Concept Albums

55. Woman’s Name – Pick One, Any One

56. People Are Still Arguing About What This Cat is Actually Singing About – Band Modeled After Showbiz Pizza’s Rockafire Explosion!

57. It Comes On the Radio and I Just Can’t Bring Myself to Change the Station – Quirky Singer-Songwriter With a Cult Following, Which is Codespeak For the Record Still Hasn’t Been Certified Gold in the U.S.

58. Surprisingly Punky Little Number – Aging Prog Rockers on the Cusp of a Resurgence

59. If It Were Released Today, This Would Be Considered Mildly Racist, Sexist and/or Misanthropic – Several Bands Between 1960-1975

60. It’s Got a Good Beat and I Can Dance to It – Droll Electronic Band More Famous for Their T-Shirts Than Anything Else

61. Epic Jam Buried on Side Three of a Concept Album – Most Proggy Band on This List

62. The Ultimate Fuck You Song – Female One-Hit Wonder Who Now Frequently Appears in ads for PETA

63. There’s a Very Thin Line Between Straight-Up Country and Country-Rock, and This Cut is Dangerously Close to Crossing It – Band With Only One Guy Who Had the Balls to Sport a Cowboy Hat

64. I’ve Never Once Masturbated Into a Sock, But If I Did, This is the Jam I Would Be Listening To – Just About Every Modern Rock Radio Band from 1991 to the Present Day

65. Mopey Power Ballad and I Know All The Lyrics – Band That Existed Primarily in the Compact Disc Era

66. Hot-Ass Heavy Metal Cut Nowadays Covered By Ukelele Players on YouTube, Like That’s Something to Be Proud Of, Idiots – Band With Metal in Its Name, Just So You Don’t Get Confused, and Winner of BSM’s Truth in Advertising Award for 1985

67. Some Kind of Forced Penetration With a Blunt Object – Faux Metal Band With the Gayest Frontman of All-Time and an Homophobic Adolescent Fan Base in Abject Denial of Their True Sexuality

68. Put This On After You Get Dumped and You’ll Feel a Little Better – Group Who Would Headline Your Next Birthday Party If You Had a Billion Dollars

69. Foreign Phrase Now Considered Part of the American Lexicon – Arrogant Simp in a Sport Coat

70. Primitive Three Chord R&B Number Considered by Most to Be the First Real Rock n’ Roll Song – Bland Middle Stone Age American Artists Who Most Likely Hated Rock n’ Roll

71. Sophomore Year of College – Band Who Folded Before Anyone Could Legitimately Call Them Sell-Outs

72. A.S.N.O.T (Acronym for Something Naughty or Taboo) – One of Several Bands Named After a Comic Book or Vice Versa, I Dunno, The Lead Singer is Drunk and Has a Python Around His Neck

73. Cover Song That Blows the Original Out of the Water – All-Female Group Who Never Had a Bigger Hit

74. One Chord, One Word in the Chorus – Awkward and Somewhat Fruity Duo From a Scottish Moor

75. Sick Guitar Opus That Wouldn’t Dream of Having a Chorus – Band Least Likely to Inspire a Mosh Pit

76. More Songs About Fucking Things Up, Part 2 – Artist Most Likely to Lose an Eye in the Most Pit

77. Dude is Playing a Flute on This Jam! – First But By No Means the Last Renaissance Cosplay Outfit to Go Platinum

78. Song About a Person Who Does Bad Shit and Doesn’t Seem to Have a Conscience – One of the Fingerpickin’ Folk Dudes Who Fell Out of the Airplane, Or Maybe That Was an Episode of Happy Days

79. Anomalous Out of Genre Cut That Isn’t a Rock Song By Any Stretch of the Imagination, but I’m Obligated to Put It Here – The Queen of Said Other Genre

80. The First Rock-Rap Hybrid I Was Able to Stomach – Washed-Up Dungeons & Dragons Halflings and Two Chubby Ethnic Dudes in Puma Track Suits

81. Modern Rock Cotton Candy – Cookie Cutter Southern California Rock Four-Piece

82. Inarguably the Most Egregious Willie Dixon and/or John Lee Hooker Rip-Off in the Pantheon – Same Band as #8

83. Speaking of Band in #67, This is Their attempt at a Reggae Jam – Said Band

84. Boy Wants to Mount His Buddy’s Girl Like a Show Pony – Ice Cold 80s Pop Band with a Freakishly Tall Lead Singer, Plus Mullets

85. Silky Smooth Soul Number That Everybody Has Boned to At Least Once – Guy Who Made at Least a Dozen Nearly Identical Records

86. Twelve Minute Journey Through the Elffin Forest On the Back of a Pot-Bellied Mule – Everybody’s Definition of Art Rock

87. Apparently, She’s a Very Sassy Broad – Super-Solid Rock Band With By Far the Best Front Woman Not Named Wendy O. Williams

88. Another Track That Nobody Heard Until It Was Featured in a Wes Anderson Movie – Your New Favorite British Invasion Outfit

89. Signature Jam – Iconic Indie Band Selling More Records Now Than They Did While They Were Actually a ‘Band’

90. If Ed Hardy Made Music – Band Most Likely to Ride Choppers

91. Seasonal Lament – Band Most Likely to Have at Least One Guy With Dreadlocks

92. Seasonal Celebration – Band Most Likely to Kick Your Ass in Beach Volleyball

93. General Anthem of Joyful Exuberance – Band Most Likely to Feature Horoscope Sun Signs on Album Covers

94. Noun or Adjective Plus Personal Pronoun i.e. ________ Man, ________ Lady, _________Boy and _________ Girl – Every Band Ever

95. I Wouldn’t Dare to Offer a Definition of Rock Music, But I Know It When I Hear It – Same Artist in #6

96. Song Involving Water Sports (Not the Fetish) – Everybody’s Favorite Aloha Shirts

97. Real-Life Place or Locality With Tremendous Gravity in the Life of Songwriter – Wistful Pop Genius With a Persecution Complex

98. Mechanized Transportation Metaphor – Band Named After a Type of 19th-Century Lawnmower

99. Being a Rock Star is Pretty Damn Cool But It Does Have a Few Drawbacks – Band Who Barely Flirted With Rock Stardom, But Played the Part Just as Well

100. Heartfelt Expression of Gratitude For Act of Kindness From a Stranger – Dude Least Likely to Say Sorry If He Stepped on Your Foot


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