The great Joe Posnanski is doing a poll on his blog to determine the ten most iconic songs of the rock and roll era. It's quite a task and quite a list of nominees, given that the trick is to pick the most 'iconic' songs, not necessarily the best songs. As Joe put it, these would be the songs you would play to an alien if you wanted to describe the last 55 years in popular music.
Here's my take on the nominees, with each of my picks bolded.
Alive, Pearl Jam — I love PJ, but this doesn't cut it
American Pie, Don McLean — An epic song, yes, but unless you wanted a quick way to describe Buddy Holly, the Bopper and Ritchie Valens all in one fell swoop, it probably doesn't make it.
Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd — Tough cut.
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen — If Joe had put We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions on the list, I would've probably voted for it.
Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf — Nope
Born to Run — I guess you could call this Bruce's most iconic song, but it's a tough call over 'Born in the USA,' 'Thunder Road,' or even 'Rosalita.' Okay, well, maybe not Rosalita, but it would've ranked high in a Bruce-fans-only voting bloc
Bridge Over Troubled Water — I would've picked Mrs. Robinson over this if I absolutely needed a Simon & Garfunkel song
Crazy, Gnarls Barkley — Maybe the oddest inclusion on Joe's list. Don't get me wrong, it's a great song, but I'm not sure if it belongs on a short list for the iconic songs of the century
Crazy, Patsy Cline — Nope
Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles — Nope
God Save the Queen, Sex Pistols — You could make a decent case of this under the 'iconic' argument, but there are worthier choices.
Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys — Could've been a lot of Beach Boys songs on this list.
Fight the Power, Public Enemy — Nope
Fortunate Son, Credence Clearwater Revival — Obama should pass a federal law declaring that this song be played whenever George W. Bush enters a room
Freebird, Lynyrd Skynyrd — Tough, tough omission. Then again, how much of its lasting impact is due to drunks yelling requests for it at concerts?
Friends in Low Places, Garth Brooks — Speaking of songs performed by drunks, I'm pretty sure this has been sung at every karaoke night ever. People underrate Garth Brooks' impact. Do you realize he sold more records than anyone in the 90's? Add that to two very solid SNL hosting gigs, and
Hey Ya, Outkast — It'll be a few years before we can fully attest its 'iconic' status, but rest assured it'll make any Best Of Whatever We Call The Decade Between 2000-2010 list.
Hotel California, The Eagles — Nope.
Hound Dog, Elvis Presley — My first pick! Though it comes with an asterisk. I would've picked 'Heartbreak Hotel' as the definitive Elvis song, but really, any list of the rock era's most iconic songs absolutely needs an Elvis track, and this one is as good as any.
I Feel Good, James Brown — Nah.
I Love Rock and Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts — Seriously? Weak entry on the ballot.
I Walk The Line, Johnny Cash — Another artist for whom it's hard to pick just one song. I love Cash, but I'm afraid I'll have to give this one a slight thumbs down.
I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles — I'm picking this one too, solely on the 'there must be a Beatles song' logic. But while this might be their most important song due to it being their American breakthrough, you could easily come up with 20-25 more Beatles songs that could be judged to be more iconic overall.
Imagine, John Lennon — Tough no, but a no nonetheless.
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry — It makes it as the 10th of my ten entries. So, when I say something like We Will Rock You would've made it had it been nominated, Johnny B. Goode is the song that would've been omitted to make room. That said, obviously, fuckin' Johnny B. Goode! One of the best songs ever.
Layla, Derek and the Dominos — I almost feel like this should be in just so Clapton could get a mention, but not quite. It would be in a hypothetical top 20.
Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan — No-brainer selection, and a great pick by Joe as Dylan's signature song.
Like a Virgin, Madonna — Closer to making the list than you would think. If you distill Madonna down to her 20 best songs, that's a greatest hits disc that can stand up to almost anyone.
London Calling, The Clash — Geez Kyle, how'd you forget about this one to pick an album that you didn't even really like? If I had to pick a Clash tune, it would've been Train In Vain since it's one of my favourite songs ever.
Louie Louie, The Kingsmen — Nope
Mack the Knife, Bobby Darin — I'm resisting the temptation to reprint my third-year essay about Bertolt Brecht and epic theatre.
Melt With You, Modern English — THIS was Posnanski's pick from the New Wave era? Have mercy.
My Generation, The Who — The "I hope I die before I get old" lyric is what probably gave this one the edge over (better Who songs) Baba O'Riley, Won't Get Fooled Again, even Pinball Wizard. Then again, My Generation has yet to be absorbed into the crappy opening of a CSI show, so it's got that going for it.
My Way, Frank Sinatra — Sinatra probably 'should' be represented here, but c'est la vie.
Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang, Dr. Dre — Nope
Oh Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison — Nope. You could actually make a case for a Traveling Wilburys song just so you could get so many iconic figures onto the list as possible, but then again, "End Of The Line" isn't exactly one's idea of a rock staple.
Peggy Sue, Buddy Holly — I want to nominate 'Everyday' just because it's on the LOST mix tape. Someday.
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix — Good one, but not quite.
Purple Rain, Prince — Nope.
Rapper’s Delight, Sugar Hill Gang — Am I being a typical honky by picking this as the iconic rap song? It was the big major rap hit, I don't think I'm too far off.
Redemption Song, Bob Marley — Very tough cut. Maybe #11 on the list.
Respect, Aretha Franklin — Gotta be there. There are a lot of great Motown classics, but put it this way: approximately a third of all Motown compilation records include the word 'Respect' in the title. Nuff said.
Rock Around The Clock, Bill Haley and the Comets — I remember singing this in choir in second grade. We did a whole concert of 50's standards, including Blue Suede Shoes, Johnny B. Goode, and Heartbreak Hotel. I presume it was cute as hell, but my main memory of our concert was almost passing out in the sweltering Oakridge auditorium.
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones — Gotta be there.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana — The purest test of the 'iconic' test. I HATE this song and hate Nirvana in general. They're the most overrated band of all time. I find the Foo Fighters horribly average, and yet I would happily listen to every Foo Fighters record for a year straight rather than listen to any Nirvana. But I can't deny that it was iconic.
Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin — No-brainer. I guess you could make a case for a couple other Led Zep tunes, but let's be honest, this is the signature song.
Staying Alive, Bee Gees — Best bass riff ever? Maybe so. Inarguably the best disco song ever. Wow, four songs in a row. We're rolling now!
Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2 — It kills me that I had to pick a Nirvana song and couldn't pick a U2 song. Fuck. I'm not sure if this is U2's absolute 'most' iconic track (With or Without You, One, Pride, Where The Streets Have No Name...even Beautiful Day might get a few votes when it's all said and done), but it's right up there.
Thriller, Michael Jackson — I literally can't believe Joe didn't pick Billie Jean. That is a jaw-dropping omission. Billie Jean makes it without a second thought.
Welcome to the Jungle, Guns N’ Roses — This or the other two of the GNR Big Three are all good contenders.
The Weight, The Band — Nope
Y.M.C.A., The Village People — Closer than you'd think, but no.
So here's the final list:
* Satisfaction, by The Rolling Stones
* Like A Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan
* Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana
* Rapper's Delight, by Sugar Hill Gang
* Stayin' Alive, by the Bee Gees
* Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin
* Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry
* Respect, by Aretha Franklin
* I Want To Hold Your Hand, by the Beatles
* Hound Dog, by Elvis Presley
Posnanski's notable omissions....
* NOTHING by Elton John? You could make a case for 'Your Song,' but 'Candle In The Wind' probably has to be Sir Elton's most iconic piece due to the Diana memorial.
* Piano Man deserved at least a mention.
* Brown-Eyed Girl
* Keep On Rockin' In The Free World
* Wonderwall's omission is inexplicable to me, but it may be due to the fact that Posnanski is American, and Wonderwall didn't have the same long-lasting impact in the USA that it did in Canada and in Europe.
* I feel like something by the Velvet Underground should be on the list, but I don't think they had one truly iconic song
* Same goes for David Bowie
* Same goes for AC/DC
* Blitzkrieg Bop
* Enter Sandman
* Lose Yourself or Stan
* Every Breath You Take
* Any number of country, rap or adult contemporary-ish pop/rock songs I'm forgetting since I don't know the genres as well.