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Top 10 Tunes of All Time

I’m tired of writing (and worrying about) fraternal solvency, relevance, and governance – and you’re probably tired of reading about those topics. So I thought I’d take a shot at a “Letterman-like” Top 10 list of my favorite recordings of all time – you know, the tunes you listen to at ear-splitting volume…that you remember where you were the first time you heard them…that make you FEEL. So here’s my list of singles and artists – we can argue about best overall albums in a later post. I forced myself to limit songwriters to only one song on the list.

10)  30 Days in the Hole (Humble Pie) – One of the great party songs of all time performed by a band that was so much better live than they were on vinyl. Writing credits go to the entire band, but Steve Marriott, the poor man’s Rod Stewart, was the heart and soul of the group and this tune.  Rod got a poofy haircut and sings “standards” in Vegas. Steve kept rockin’ until his death in 1991.  If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll know why.

9)  Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young) – Neil Young pounding out the chords on “Old Black” backed by Crazy Horse.  Can a rock-and-roll song get much better than this?

8)  In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Allman Brothers Band) – The live version from the “Fillmore East” album. If there is a better guitar solo than Duane Allman’s searing roller coaster ride on this tune, then I haven’t heard it.

7)  Intro/Sweet Jane (Lou Reed) – Anyone can sing along with Lou; and I do every time I set the needle down on this tune.  If your windows don’t rattle during the transition from Intro to those first chords of Sweet Jane, then it’s not loud enough.

6)  Funky Pretty (Beach Boys) – A little known tune from the “Holland” album, this song has always moved me for some reason.

5)  The Weight (The Band) – I was moving into a dorm room in the mid-70s when I heard this song for the first time, and I’ve never missed a Band concert since.  Yes, that includes “The Last Waltz.”  There are several terrific live versions of this tune out there, but the studio version recorded with The Staples Singers is my favorite.

4)  Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones) – There are probably 15 Jagger/Richards songs that could have made this list (all of them from 1968-72 when the band was at its pinnacle), but this one has the perfect combination of riff and lyrics that make me wish I could have seen the Stones on a small stage at the Double Door in Chicago before one of their mega tours.  Who needs pyrotechnics with songs like this?

3)  Me and Bobbie McGee (Kris Kristofferson) – Kristofferson wrote it, Janis Joplin made it a hit, but the Grateful Dead’s cover of this tune on their self-titled live album from 1970 breaks my heart every time I hear it.

2)  Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) – This one is all about hope – about taking a chance, breaking out, seeking something better. I’ve heard several early versions of the song with a variety of different lyrics and am amazed by how it evolved before becoming track one on Springsteen’s groundbreaking album, “Born to Run.”  My favorite version is from the E Street Band’s 1974 shows at the Roxy in Los Angeles.  The song was still so new the band didn’t really play it well, so Springsteen sings it backed by just a piano and glockenspiel.  It’s timeless…

1)  It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (Bob Dylan) – Here’s the scene: Oakland Coliseum, 1974, in the depths of the Watergate scandal; “Before the Flood” Tour featuring Bob Dylan and The Band.  During the acoustic set, Dylan plays this song and when he snarls out the lyric “But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked,” the crowd erupts in a primal roar. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

Let me know if any of these strike a chord with you, or feel free to post your own list…

13 Responses

  1. This list cannot be accurate since I don’t see anyone from Woodstock!!

    • The Band played Woodstock; the Grateful Dead were there, too. And while none of their original songs made my list, their cover of “Me and Bobbie McGee” is referenced. Neil Young was both at Woodstock and on my list. Who needs Crosby, Stills and Nash? Jackie, I’m surprised at you! Were you busy doing other things while the music was playing? Was that you in the famous pond scene in the movie???

  2. Hey Joe
    What’s vinyl???

  3. Those are some great songs on your list, but I couldn’t help but think of the list as a metaphor for a problem that maybe plaques some Fraternals. The list is a top 10 tunes of “All Times”, but it only includes songs from a very narrow time frame long ago. Similarly, many Fraternals want to be the greatest of all time, but they might be stuck in a decade that is long gone. And here you thought your blog was off topic. See you at the Actuaries Section mid-year meeting.

    • So, Blake, are you saying that musically I’m stuck in the past; trapped in a rock n’ roll time warp; unable to get beyond 1979? I have to plead guilty on all counts and throw myself on the mercy of the court!

  4. Amen, Blake!

  5. Thanks, Joe, for striking a chord!

    13) Moondance (Van Morrison) – Okay, so much for Top Ten, but at least I pared it down from the forty-one I started with.

    12) Black Water (Doobie Brothers) – heard it a thousand times, and it always takes me way back.

    11) Find the Cost of Freedom (CSNY) – token Woodstock band, for Jackie! I’m told CSN/Y ended nearly every concert with this acoustic tune, sitting 4-across on 3-legged stools. It’s a toss-up for best 4-part harmony—CSNY or Eagles (see #9 below).

    10) Landslide (Fleetwood Mac) – okay, I admit, I once had a crush on Stevie Nicks (along with a million other guys my age).

    9) Hotel California (Eagles) – the intro (on Hell Freezes Over), the song (classic Eagles), the lyrics (“you can check out if you like, but you can never leave”…I’ve got to believe Stephen King was listening to this song when he wrote The Shining…now I’ve got that Jack Nicholson “grin” stuck in my head), the 4-part harmony – this one’s got it all!

    8) Waiting On a Friend (Rolling Stones) – this one’s for you, Joe.

    7) Load Out / Stay (Jackson Browne) – always wanted to be a rock star, but since I never acquired the prerequisite knack for reading music, a load-out roadie is all I’m qualified for.

    6) The Only One (Roy Orbison) – after our first date, my current wife went out and bought a Roy CD to find out who he was (yes, she and her generation had never heard of him).

    5) Red White & Blue (Lynyrd Skynyrd) – “my hair’s turning white, my neck’s always been red, my collar’s still blue…we’ve always been Red White & Blue.” Every Top Ten needs something patriotic!

    4) Chicken Fried (Zac Brown Band) – who doesn’t like their chicken fried, beer cold, jeans fittin’ just right, and radio UP?

    3) All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan) – Bob wrote it, Jimi perfected it, Dave covers it (fully played 665 times on tour and counting, see #1 below).

    2) Human Touch (Bruce Springsteen) – in spite of the lack of the E Street Band, this one’s my absolute favorite Boss song. If that crescendo at precisely 4:34 into the studio version doesn’t do anything for you, well… queue up the extended celebratory jam on the next one (#1).

    1) Two Step (Dave Matthews Band) – My all time #1 song (fully played 866 times on tour and counting). My all time #1 band (don’t get me started)!

    • Relly good additions to the list, Eric. I see that you are (almost) stuck in the same time warp as me, although the DMB tune gets you few brownie points with the younger generation. Speaking of time warps, what about adding that title and the immortal “Sweet Transvestite from Transylvania” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the list???

  6. Joe, I see that by going off-track from the usual topics you have started to receive lots of comments. I have found that this happens in a lot of social media vehicles, especially my personal accounts. (It’s never the serious stuff that people want to comment on, it’s the silly things, like admitting you have a big mouth, lol.)

    While I am a big fan of many of the bands you mentioned; (I love the Dead and the Stones), as well as some in the comments (Dave Matthews & Fleetwood Mac), I wanted to add my Top 10 as a Fraternalist and a Gen-Xer:

    Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)-this song epitomized the angst of my generation when it was released. We got all up in arms about the fact that a lot of us lived in one-parent households, or had 2 parents working, so we had to take care of ourselves. Personally, I think it made us very resilient and independent. This band helped to reshape rock music in the 90’s, and if we believe in ourselves, we can reshape the idea of Fraternalism to be exactly what new generations are looking for!

    Renegades (Rage Against the Machine)-A song that reminds us that only renegades, those who have “their own philosophy [can] change the course of history” and that the people who make the big changes started out as “everyday people like you and me.”

    Set Fire to the Rain (Adele)-All of her newer songs are VERY good, but I didn’t much like her first album, ’19.’ This makes me think about the creative process and how the most positive changes come out of the pain caused by negative situations. It took Adele’s former fiancee’ leaving her and marrying someone else for her to truly dig into her own feelings and write an entire album of songs that really touched a big audience. And from that pain and that album came hit after hit and many awards by the music industry!

    Tears Dry on their Own & Valerie (Amy Winehouse)-An amazing voice, a tragic life and a death too soon. I’m not as interested in her crazy life story, but her music brought back the soulful sounds of 60’s female R&B singers into the light of the 2000’s…to which I say HOORAY! Sometimes what is old is new again, possibly even better than before.

    Dig (Incubus)-I love this song because sometimes we all can get too full of ourselves, and when that happens you need a friend who loves you to bring you back down to earth.

    Don’t Rain on my Parade (Barbara Streisand)-As a former theater person, I love show tunes. And this one is important because it reminds you that while there may be naysayers and people who will try to stop you from trying to get ahead that you can’t listen to them. You just have to look them in the eye and tell them that yes, you may not make it, but if you don’t try, then you will never succeed.

    Walking After Midnight (Patsy Cline)-In my opinion, old country is the best country and Patsy’s voice creeped into your heart and pulled at your own joy and fear. And this song is so much more upbeat that ‘Crazy.’

    Some Nights (fun.)-this song is very new, by a very new alternative band, but I like the message. Sometimes, you lay awake and wonder what it is that you want, REALLY want, and you can’t figure it out. It asks “what do I stand for?” and the current teens and twenty-somethings that most of our societies are trying to capture as new members, or reinvigorate to become more active members, are more than likely trying to answer this same question about themselves. Is the fraternal life the answer for them? I think so, for many of them at least. How do we show them that WE as fraternals offer them something to believe in and to stand for?

    Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)-having been reinvented by Glee, this song has become an anthem for not giving up for another generation of music lovers. And really, we fraternal societies have to keep believing in what we do, and for who we are doing it!

    • Very cool, very esoteric, and very personal. A few other folks have emailed me their Top 10 list rather than post them here. Some of the tunes include “As Time Goes By,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” — all timeless, all beautiful, and all songs that mean something to people. We all carry our Top 10 list around with us — on vinyl, CD, downloads, or just in our heads. Don’t be afraid to sing along when you hear one of yours.

  7. Joe and other ‘commentors’, These are great lists! I’m planning a play list for the DJ at my wedding and this is very helpful, although most are a bit too recent for my taste! But we have lots of talented listeners (and probably performers!) in this roster of fraternalists! Thanks for getting the discussion — and the memories — going, Joe. Kathleen

  8. Joseph! What fun it was listening to your top 10. It’s amazing that so many of your artists are also my favorites….and Mom had you 9 years after me!
    Your sister,

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