Provoked and prodded, I am forced to reveal my all-time, bow-down, stick-to-your-ribs Top 10 fave rave songs ever
I am not even going to pretend that I like this task. The thought of it has me rolling my eyes, shaking my head, and working back the bile that jumped up into my throat when the call came to deliver the goods.
As soon as I saw the message I knew that it was dangerous. I should have just deleted it or ignored it. I should have just wished my buddy good luck and then belly-laughed at him from afar while he racked his brains and dry-humped his music collection trying to come up with his own version of the list.
The message that I received from my music loving friend, Derek, was that he had been tempted into revealing his (gasp!) favorite song of all time. The audacity. You know who asks those kind of questions? People who say foolish things like, “oh, put it on any station, I don’t care what’s playing,” or “I used to love Mr. Mister when I was in high school,” or even worse, “Stairway to Heaven is my all time favorite Led Zep song.”
These types of people have no idea the magnitude of the burden that is placed on an all consumed music fan to name his favorite song of all time. It is unfair and unjust … and sadly, it can’t be ignored. Any true music fan will tell you that it is all too hard to pick their fave raves of all time, but deep down that is all they think about.
We are sick. We have the fever. We actually think about situations where we might be asked this question: while waiting to get a beer at our local watering hole; standing in line about to go into the Stones gig; during job interviews (don’t laugh, this worked for me once). Yes, we are gluttons for this type of punishment.
My buddy told me that he was going to take it a (big) step further: “I’m going to compile my (double-gasp!) Top 20 favorite songs of all time,” he said.
CODE RED! We have a Code Red!
It was at this point that I became worried for him. He said he was going to spend the weekend chain smoking expensive cigars and drinking well aged scotch as he worked his list. He called the process a “tough cut” and a “brutal process of elimination.” I called it stone fucking crazy.
As much as I loathed even getting involved, I knew I had to help this poor bastard before he attempted to crack that king hell nut all by himself.
“You’ve lost control of the wheel!” I said. “Get a hold of yourself, man … 20 songs?! … Do you really think this is a good idea,” I asked?
My first bit of advice to him was “to run from this idea in the other direction … as fast as you can.”
“Nothing good can come from this,” I told him. “But, if you are going to do this, you shouldn’t do it alone.”
“It’s not safe,” I warned him. “If I am going to do this with you, I think we should just pick a Top 10,” I suggested.
You see, the thing with picking a Top 20 is that after ten, there is no sense of urgency … no pressure to get it right. There is a HUGE difference between ranking song numbers five and seven, but hardly any between ranking fifteen and seventeen.
His response was immediate: “you’re right,” he said, “I must be sick with gumption.” Indeed.
We settled on a criteria for our absurd mission: pick your Top 10 all-time, bow-down, fave rave songs, write up to 200 words on each, and in case we can’t cut the mustard, we get to list a few “honorable mentions”.
I also suggested that we post our Top 10′s here on The 6149. Three things could come of doing just that: (1) people might actually enjoy reading the what’s and why’s, (2) we might be able to help others infected with the sickness to turn this treacherous Top Ten corner and most likely, (3) we would unwittingly send a signal to the men in white coats that this jig is up … they’re coming to take us away! Ha-haaa.
Before I get into my all-time, bow-down, stick-to-your-ribs Top 10 fave rave songs ever, I have to make mention of a few thoughts before we move on to the music:
- As with all personal list of this nature, this is 100% subjective. From your perspective there will be no logical rhyme or reason as to why I chose these songs.
- These specific songs have been picked for personal reasons. They impacted me early on in my music fan career and have stuck with me all of these years. They are beacons and I always look out at the horizon for them when I am wandering around in the dark.
- How does one decide which is their favorite Neil Young or Rolling Stones song? You don’t. There is no better than when it comes to this type of list. It all comes down to gut-feel.
- I am leaving off so many artists and songs? It is killing me. Maybe I should do a Top 5 soul, Top 5 blues, Top 5 live songs instead. Hot Damn, this is insane.
- In all honesty, this should really only be a Top 3 list. The Top 3 here are the ones that matter most to me (it was very hard to rank these). Maybe this exercise could be a Top 5 list, but trying to split Neil & Bob’s hairs is an impossible task that leaves me feeling a bit suspect of my song choices for them to be the definitive ones.
- I already want to change my list.
- I created a Spotify playlist of my Tops. If you want to play it while you listen, you can subscribe to it here: Judd’s all-time, bow-down, fave rave Top 10 song list
10. The French Inhaler. Oh, those biting, witty, and unflinching lyrics. Warren Zevon can certainly tell a twisted tale. We all know that story of the corn-fed blonde who makes her way to Hollywood to “become an actress”. There is a scrapheap full of those who tried aand failed. I always considered this song to be the sequel to the few and far between success stories. There is that rising action that leads up to, ” … and your face looked like something death brought with it in its suitcase … your pretty face, looked so wasted.” Fuck me. That is talent … it makes “Positively 4th Street” sound like a glowing compliment. Listen to Waddy Wachtel’s brilliant guitar work … one of my fave guitar fills of all time at 3:11. I miss Warren Zevon.
9. Blue Sky. Like I said at the outset, these song choices are personal thing. The Allmans were very important to me early on. They were my summer romance in the high school and college years. The Allmans always gave me that summertime care-to-the-wind, get in an open sun-drechend field with friends, kegs, music and a horsehoe pit and just be young feel. Nothing to do but have fun until the day turned into a campfire, acoustic guitar sing-a-long. Damn Straight. This song epitomises that feel for me. If you can’t recreate that scene when listening to this song, try getting out on the open road on a sunny day with sun shining, the window with your elbow sticking out it and then just drive to the horizon.
8. Boogie Chillen. John Lee Hooker was a motherfucker and this song proves it. He was primal; a master of the less-is-more style. He could mesmerize with one of his slow meandering blues grooves and he could boil blood with his one note, hard foot-tappin’, hard charging boogie riffs. Circadian rhythms be damned. He was my first blues-man love. Be sure to check out one of the greatest guitar solos ever at 1:57.
7. Bo Diddley. The Bo Diddley Beat. Need we say more? Just a little bit. Bo called himself The Originator. You know what, he may have been right. The Bo Diddley Beat, the riff in “I’m a Man” … they are eternal. He never really varried from his sound, but when you create something that is as timeless and omni-present as that, why cut it loose? I will never grow tired of hearing opening blast.
6. As Long as the Grass Shall Grow. One of my true heroes: Johnny Cash. One of those people whose sum was so much more powerful than his parts. He was, in my opinion, one of greatest examples of a warts and all, compassionate human being in my time. Johnny. My wife and I love listening to Johnny together and more so we enjoy listening to one of the greatest loves of all time sing together: Johnny and June. “We know the mystery of life. It’s love hard and long” … indeed.
5. Maggie’s Farm. Okay then … you try and pick one! ONE Bob song? Shit, what are you going to do? I picked this one because I always go to it when I feel like I am getting stale … when I feel like I’m getting bored while they make me sing. Of all of Bob’s “protest” songs I think this was his greatest.
4. Cowgirl in the Sand. Neil Young is my fave rave songwriter and all time individual. I have such a deep connection with his entire catalog that picking one song felt dumb. I picked this one for the sheer non-sense of it all. How does one set out to write and record a beast like this? It seems unnatural. The complexity of the solos is what does it for me. He hits you all of his light and shade in one 10 minute spell. It always stops me in my tracks, sucks me in and let’s me float along with it.
As the story goes, one time in between songs at a Neil gig, a fan shouted at Neil that, “They [the songs] all sound the same.” Neil’s immediate response: “It’s all one song.” That says it all. To pick one Neil song is to pick them all. Damn straight.
3. Green Onions. You cannot deny this song. It has it all … even without any lyrics. It just might be the only perfect song. It all comes down to Al Jackson’s drumming. That shit is TIGHT. Talk about a backbone … everything hangs off of Al Jackson’s timing and Duck Dunn’s pulsling bass line. Now about those organ riffs … Booker T. shapes this song with a full on church chord, soulful swing. He was and still is the master of the Hammond B3. My favorite part? At 1:10 into the song, Steve Cropper’s guitar srufaces like a shark’s dorsal fin cutting through the ocean’s surface. Look out, cause that shit has bite!
If it wasn’t for the emotional connections to songs #1 and #2, this would top my list. Perfect in every way … best song ever? It has my vote.
2. The Weight. I have written about my first encounter with The Weight before in my three part story, “The Ballad of the Music Fan and the Stolen Mixed Tape” and in my first “Levon Helm Midnight Ramble” post. If you want to full back story, read those posts in that order. The long story short: a chance encounter with a strange sound changed the way I listened to music … forever. That encounter was the day I got the sickness with no cure: terminal music fan.
1. Gimme Shelter. For me, this wasn’t a hard choice as a top Stones song, but to name it my all time fave rave song was a near death experience. Here is why it came out on top:
When I became a Stones fan (not a listner, but a rabid fan), I had no idea what I was in for. They came into focus for me in the mid ’80′s when I was in high school. I entered in through Hot Rocks which at that point was the most popular of their (now many) best-of collections. From there I got current (Tattoo You) and went way back to when to they were England’s Newest Hit Makers. Along that trip back, I started to learn about the Stones’ influences. They were eye-openers for their own music qualities and for the music education they gave me through their songs.
It has to start with the Stones for me. They taught me how it all came to be and how connected this music thing was. I dug deep into their catalog and in the catalogs of their heroes. That digging led to a web of tunnels to a who’s who and who did what. That path was what lead me to numbers 2, 3, and 4 on this list … and beyond.
Gimme Shelter had shades of most everything: coutry blues picking, Appalacian washboard quacks, rumbling jungle rhythms, what-the-fuck-is-he-talking-about lyrics, wailing women gospel vocals, full bluesy harp, and the less-is-more soulful gutiar solo (Keef’s best ever solo commited to wax).
I think it is the most pure Stones track of their entire catalog. It didn’t have obvious undertones of Muddy or the riff-luence of Chuck Berry (I just made that up … welcome to my vernacular riffluence!). It didn’t have overt nods to country honking or Stax-ian Soul. It didn’t try too hard to be punk, disco, pop or any other sorry genre.
It was the Stones making a new noise all their own. It was different then anything they had done before or since. Plus, I think it was Keef’s finest moment … Jack Flash and Satisfaction riffs be damned.
Double-plus, it is on my all time fave rave album, Let it Bleed. What an album. It starts off with a warning and demands that someone give me shelter and then just eight songs later, it has resolved that, hey, you can’t always get what you want. Ain’t it the truth.
Okay, ready now … exhale. Wow … its over. There you have it, my Top 10. Fifteen rounds with Ali in his prime would have been easier. I am a better man for the effort … new hairs on my chest and a few less arrows in my quiver to show for it.
Check out where all of my Top 10 live … my music collection: Judd’s Juke Joint.
Here’s that Spotify playlist again. Subscribe at will: Judd’s all-time, bow-down, fave rave Top 10 song list
p.s. my buddy Derek posted his Top 10 list here on The 6149. Check out this post to see what makes his clock tick.
These songs are not necessarily all-timers, but they are songs that I play A LOT. Arguably this short-list is more interesting than my Best Of it is what it is. Here are a few of the keepers … in no particular order:
Still A Fool. Remember when I said the Stones gave me that history lesson? Muddy seemed to me to be the source. He didn’t start it, but he was central to the blues past and then future. He learned from Son House and he taught thousands of slingers play those twelve bars. He was the crossroads. Muddy once sang that, “the blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll.” Absolutely.
Tumbling Dice. So Stones. So Keef. So raunchy. A slow-motion riff-chugger, sing-a-long for all times.
Try a Little Tenderness. We’re talking the live version from the Monterey Pop Festival here. Otis is one of my all-timers. He contributed so much is such a short time. Oh, what he could done if he stayed on. This moment was a big one for him. He was bringing soul music to the massess at this festival. Everyone remembers this festival as the place where Jimi set his guitar on fire … but it was Otis who fired up the entire crowd.
Saint Dominic’s Preview. I am not a devout Van Morrison fan, but there are sweet spots in his catalog that will always be in my rotation. No explanation … this song just makes me feel full.
Every Picture Tells a Story. This song tittered on the far edge of the Top 10. It almost made it. Everytime I hear it I can’t shut it off and it makes me feel alive. There is so much movement in this song. It propells me forward … makes me feel like travelling and exploring and grabbing life by the balls. It has a big rock sound only using acoustic guitars, a sprinkling of boogie-woogie piano, in-just-the-right-spot sing-a-longs, and it has a killer breakdown and rising action passage that feels like a full on gallop when it hits its stride. Pure fun.
Hickory Wind. Again, thanks to the Stones via Keef … I found Gram. This song is as fragile as was Gram. It is his best statement as a song and maybe his most revealing as a person.
Stranger in Strange Land. I started to get into Leon Russell in 2008. I knew the hits, but didn’t have any connection with the back catalog. Once I started to dig, I found the gems. I can’t get enough of this song. Having moved around the US and the globe in the past ten years, this song rings true for me. Gospel is the secret ingredient of rock and roll … ol’ Leon gives a heaping helping of it here in this southern-flovored ditty.
Pressure Drop. I always have this song handy … for when the ridiculousness of the day-to-day starts to creep up on me.
Baba O’riley. I always loved this song, but one particular experience with it put it in my pantheon. I was with my wife and a very good friend and we were driving from Denver to this small Colorado town. It was about a 5 hour drive. We made the most of it, stopping along the way in all of the roadside bars and small town souvenir shops. At one stop we each bought a straw cowboy hat and then set out back on the highway. We were cruising a long a fas pace when this song came on. We were the only ones on the highway that stretched out for miles out in front of us. The sun was blazing, the mountain ranges were flanking us, the windows were down and the volume was up. It was exhilarating.
Amoreena. Tumbleweed Connection is a great album. Full stop. I have it on vinyl and it gets a lot of spins. I always find myself picking up the needle and putting it back on this song over and over again. The vocal performance is the shit and those first few guitar fills are perfect.
Ok, if you are still with me … what is your fave rave Top 10 of all time?