A few days ago Jon Wertheim (my ol’ SI chum) and I compiled our lists of the 10 worst songs of all time. Which leads to the inevitable question—What are the best songs of all time? I asked Jon to compile his list. He gave my five tunes, only two of which I actually like. I was going to limit my list to five, but I’m going 10 deep, because I’m greedy and it’s my blog and, hey, ain’t that America.
Before sending his list, Jon wrote the following: This is a little like naming the five best pieces of art, no? Depends on what genre your partial to, what mood you’re in, whether or not hearing Hotel California— which I’ve heard described as “the perfect song” — makes you want to put hot forks in your eyes. Associations matter too: if you conceived your first born child with Matthew Wilder’s Nothing’s Gonna Break My Stride playing in the background, you probably like that song more than other carbon-based organisms.”
Anyhow, here we go …
JON WERTHEIM’S FIVE FAVORITE SONGS
• Dire Straits, Sultans of Swing—Not a big fan of Dire Straits but a big fan of this song, especially the guitar playing of Mark Knopfler.
• The Beatles, In My Life—Have to get one Beatles reference. This might be the only song that everyone in the family car likes. Which has to count for something.
• The Cure, Just Like Heaven—For a band that has a reputation for being subversive—classified in the “punk” section of music stores, at least in the Midwest—it’s remarkable how many Cure songs are just good pop songs.
• The Smiths, This Charming Man—It sounds like college.
• Pearl Jam, Better Man—It’s slow, it’s fast, the lyrics are good, the riffs are good. Plus—at the risk of sounding like the music tool in High Fidelity—there’s a live version that tacks on a remake of English’s Beat “Save it for Later.”
JEFF PEARLMAN’S 10 FAVORITE SONGS
• Ice Cube, Today Was a Good Day—The perfect West Coast groove, the perfect West Coast rapper, plus great lyrics. Just timeless.
• Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces—I first heard this song on a commercial. They played about four seconds and I was hooked. Have been a huge fan ever since.
• The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony—Were I a boxer, I’d enter the ring to the opening 40 seconds of this song. Just love it—and a cool video to match.
• Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come—Perfection. Perhaps the best all-around song I’ve ever heard. Cooke’s voice is chocolate milk. The lyrics are gripping; the passion obvious. Perfect.
• Public Enemy, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos—I’m a sheltered 14-year-old white kid in Mahopac, N.Y., and a friend of mine slips me this tape. BAM! Never the same. Never, ever the same. Cold sweat as I dwell in my cell …
• Blind Melon, Soup—True story: This was supposed to be the title track off of Melon’s second album, Soup. But they left the song off the CD—so Soup never appeared on Soup. After Shannon Hoon died, the band put it on their final CD, Nico. The song is about Kurt Cobain’s death, by the way.
• Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil—Overplayed, overplayed, overplayed—and genius. I don’t actually like the Stones, but this song is fantastic.
• The Verve Pipe, The Freshman—The song just does something extra for me. Not sure why—except the lyrics are terrific, and the singer rises to the challenge.
• Marvin Gaye, Sexual Healing–Obviously Marvin Gaye had bigger songs than this one. But while the lyrics are extra-cheesy, his voice and inflection are amazing—especially when he starts riffing. On a side note, when I was a kid I remember my mother telling us we shouldn’t be listening to such a thing.
• Jay-Z, 99 Problems—I’ve worked out to this song 1,000 times. It’s brilliant; Jay-Z at his best. The better version is from the Gray Album, when Danger Mouse mixed the Beatles and Jay-Z. But the linked version here is awfully strong, too.