Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Top 5 Greatest Songs Of All Time

(in my opinion)

Really, the point of this list is not to say that these are the 5 best songs ever recorded, without question - because, as we all know, musical taste is extremely subjective. The point is, rather, to demonstrate MY taste in music, just in case you're curious about "who I am" as a music fan - to show you what I like about music, and what sort of music moves me. That's why I'm limiting it to just 5 tracks, because I could go on and on for days about songs I like (and have - I used to host my own radio show in college, where they give you 100% creative control over the programming), but chances are your tastes don't match mine, and the more buffer room I allow, the easier it is for songs to slip in that really aren't the best of the best of the best (even in my opinion). Furthermore, this list is going to be about songs - songs that stand out, and represent what I like in music - at the expense of great albums and even some great artists.

The most obvious trend in the music I like is my appreciation for lead electric guitar, and extended "solo" guitar passages. I don't know what it is that draws me to the instrument, but more than anything else, that's what speaks to me. That partly explains my concentration in classic rock and blues music - two music styles that have a history of featuring not just guitar, and not even just electric guitar, but lead electric guitar. Two common things that I don't look for in music are a beat that I can dance to, and lyrics that mean something to me (which pretty much rules out pop music). Not that I don't appreciate songs with lyrics that have personal meaning, but that's really an afterthought. When I listen to music, I listen to the music and practically tune the lyrics out. I evaluate the vocals as an instrument, but I pretty much ignore the words the first five or ten times I listen to a song.

Pink Floyd - Careful With That Axe, Eugene
[Live at Pompeii, 1972]

Before Pink Floyd made record charting history with Dark Side of the Moon (one of my top favorite albums of all time), they were engaged in a period of experimentation. This track demonstrates the band's ability to create a captivating soundscape - in the ambient tradition - with a strongly spooky flavor. The way the song explodes into a crashing crescendo somewhere in the middle is indicative of my favorite aspect of post-rock music, which this song predates by decades.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Cowgirl in the Sand
[Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, 1969]

Even for an inspiring artist with a long discography, this song stands out. I have a long history with it, including the many times I've performed it myself on guitar (though not half as well as Neil and the Horse). Neil has said that he wrote this song while in a fever, and with the long, tortured instrumental passages, it's not hard to imagine. It's an excellent demonstration of Crazy Horse's ability to jam out on a hard rocking song, but more than any other in their discography, it's filled with a fevered intensity that seems to mirror the feelings of frustration and anxiety that plague my mind.

Robin Trower - Daydream
[Live, 1976]

Robin Trower is fabled for his thick and vibrant guitar tone, but among many unique and original interpretations of the blues and rock formats, this song stands out as an example of how pretty music can be - without sacrificing passion. It is a standing testament to the guitar as an instrument, and how it can be manipulated to create both beautiful melodies, and heart-wrenching solos. George Harrison sang about guitars weeping, but this is the real deal.

Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You
[Led Zeppelin III, 1970]

It's hard to pick out just one song from a band that has meant so much to me, but this one has always been one of my favorites, and it represents what I appreciate most from the blues. The lyrics are fairly unspectacular - just your typical woman troubles (as is the case with so many blues songs) - but what matters is the intensity of the emotion that goes into the music. Maybe that's why I love the guitar so much - it speaks with intensity and emotion, without being bogged down by interpretation and meaning, the way words are. This song is the song that made me pick up the guitar.

Roy Buchanan - The Messiah Will Come Again
[American Axe, 1974]

I am not a religious person. I don't even believe in God. But it's a captivating fantasy, and it can inspire some very genuine emotions in people. My appreciation for this song is no less sincere on account of my disbelief in superstition. Roy Buchanan was a guitar virtuoso who truly had masterful control of the guitar. And this is his magnum opus, a piece both haunting and beautiful, in which he manages to coax otherworldly sounds out of his guitar. In addition to everything else one can say about this song, it demonstrates the power that music can have to move people - not just to get people moving.


  1. Interesting. I could never make a list like this. Maybe favorite albums at the most. SIBLY has become my fave Zep song and you know how I feel about Cowgirl. Biggest surprise here is Daydream. But I'm listening to it right now and it's great. And pretty.

  2. My fave part is toward the end where he wrings those notes absolutely dry. I was disappointed that neither Peter Green nor Alvin Lee made it onto this list, but it was almost cosmic the way each of the five tracks came together in my mind. I take it as a sign that my selections were all perfectly correct.