Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs. #55-51
55. Wilco “Ashes of American Flags“
Walking to my friend Adam’s house when I was little, I had to pass that one light blue house that had burned up and no one lived there. The windows were broken and you could see, through wildly flickering white curtains, the charred interiors. And they left those goddamned spooky chimes on the front porch, like the music box of some long-dead little girl. I’d walk a little faster, and not look back – it always felt like something was watching from inside. This song sounds like the shards of glass, the torn and singed curtains, and the wind that filtered through them, that seeped into and still circulate in my head. From Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002).
54. Bruce Springsteen “I’m on Fire“
While early Bruce was eager to blow the lid off the pot, this simmers under the surface for 2 1/2 minutes, as intensely as the messiest parts of “Rosalita.” Like watching a cartoonish comedic actor play a restrained straight role, much of the tension plays off Bruce’s earlier persona. It’s all build up, no release, and a rare FM radio song where every note seems to matter. From Born in the U.S.A. (1984).
53. Genesis “Firth of Fifth“
In what has become my monthly defense of prog rock, I will add that there are seven other Genesis songs (“The Musical Box,” “The Cinema Show,” “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” “The Lamia,” “Mad Man Moon,” and Phil Collins’ best bout of nastiness, “Mama“) that are equally brilliant. The piano intro here is the frame, and over the course of 9 1/2 minutes, layers and layers are added, to where it seems like a completely different song; then layers and layers are subtracted, until we are back where we started.
Prog rock is just rock influenced by classical music structure and sound more than blues or country. Sadly, their much-delayed entry into the Rock Hall of Fame may not have even happened without the later “hits,” i.e. the irritating nursery rhyme “That’s All” and the Rush Limbaugh-penned “Illegal Alien.” After all, there is plenty of pretense in selling out – as arbiters of pretentiousness, we should know – so all things equal, I liked when they tried to be Mozart. From Selling England by the Pound (1973).
52. Oasis “Don’t Look Back in Anger“
Music snobs will dismiss them; apparently they were the first band to ever rip off The Beatles. Bigger music snobs will tell you they are great, mostly because the smaller music snobs dismissed them. And the biggest music snobs will tell you some of their songs are great, particularly the ones that offer the most achingly bombastic, beautifully unwieldy choruses this side of 1989. Feel free to one-up me in the comments section. From (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995).
51. Ben E. King “Stand By Me“
It’s amazing to think that when my dad graduated high school, he lived in a world where this song did not exist. Or that the three guys who co-wrote this song are still alive somewhere in this world. It’s not right to call it my favorite song ever, but the populist part of me thinks it may be the best song ever. As an epitaph for the first half of my list, nothing is allowed to follow it. From the 1961 single, as well as numerous collections sagging with lesser material.
HM. Mercury Rev “I Collect Coins” (Album only)
Alright, I’ll let one more epitaph follow. I put this cute, nostalgic little ditty as a way to dot the i’s on mixes for other people. Then I got a review: “Matt, I liked your mix, but you can’t put anymore stuff that scares me.” She went on to describe this minute+ piano piece as the soundtrack to a 1930s silent snuff film. I never heard it the same way again.
Actually, I pictured it more like this: you are walking along a lonely country road, and it’s getting dark, and you wander into an abandoned house. You walk up the steps and begin to hear this song coming from one of the rooms… From Deserter’s Songs (1998).
List so far ~
100. Elton John ~ Funeral for a Friend
99. Dave Schramm ~ Hammer and Nails
98. The Bob Seger System ~ 2 + 2 = ?
97. The Young Generation ~ The Hideaway
96. Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie ~ Belle and Sebastian
95. The Cars ~ Drive
94. Moose ~ The Only Man in Town
93. Wire ~ French Film Blurred
92. King Crimson ~ Starless
91. The Only Ones ~ The Whole of the Law
90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances
89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off
88. Wipers ~ Youth of America
87. Heart ~ Alone
86. The Stone Roses ~ Sugar Spun Sister
85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg
84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When
83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding
82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get it Out of my Head
81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail
80. Rush ~ 2112
79. Pere Ubu ~ Final Solution
78. Gary Wright ~ Dream Weaver
77. John Hiatt ~ Cry Love
76. The Go-Betweens ~ Clouds
75. Asia ~ Only Time Will Tell
74. The House of Love ~ Man to Child
73. Talk Talk ~ After the Flood
72. Seal ~ Prayer for the Dying
71. Brian Eno ~ Spider and I
70. Red House Painters ~ Mistress
69. Boy Meets Girl ~ Waiting for a Star to Fall
68. Metallica ~ Fade to Black
67. Chris Bell ~ Speed of Sound
66. The Soft Boys ~ Queen of Eyes
65. Head East ~ Never Been Any Reason
64. The Chameleons UK ~ Second Skin
63. Big Star ~ The Ballad of El Goodo
62. Guns ‘n’ Roses ~ November Rain
61. Queensryche ~ Silent Lucidity
60. The Delgados ~ Get Action!
59. Dr. Dre ~ Let Me Ride
58. Led Zeppelin ~ In my Time of Dying
57. Elliott Smith ~ Angeles
56. The Treasures ~ Hold Me Tight
55. Wilco ~ Ashes of American Flags
54. Bruce Springsteen ~ I’m on Fire
53. Genesis ~ Firth of Fifth
52. Oasis ~ Don’t Look Back in Anger
51. Ben E. King ~ Stand By Me
Laura Cantrell ~ Hammer and Nails
King Missile ~ Sensitive Artist
Eric Carmen ~ Make Me Lose Control
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ~ Tha Crossroads
Coldplay ~ Speed of Sound
Big Star ~ Kangaroo
Darlene Love ~ Strange Love
Mercury Rev ~ I Collect Coins