220px-heart_in_motionAmy Grant – “Baby Baby” – (1991)

Amy Grant’s career has mostly been spent in the Christian music realm but in the early 1990s she released a pop-tinged album, and this (the first single) went to #1 on the Hot 100. And because it was 1991, it naturally knocked Wilson Phillips out of the top spot. Oh, and this song is catchy as hell.

brandy_norwood_-_brandy_albumBrandy – “Baby” – (1994)

Brandy released her first album when she was only 15 and this Grammy-nominated song is probably the highlight of the album, and definitely the one that still gets the most radio airplay. It was a top five hit.

220px-rhythmnation1814Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation” – (1989)

This is sort of the title track from Janet’s 1989 album Rhythm Nation 1814. As the second single, it went to #2 on the Hot 100 and its video is one of the most recognizable of the first 10 years of MTV. It’s one of the best songs from an album loaded with “best” songs.

pink_floyd_wish_you_were_here_1975Pink Floyd – “Have a Cigar” – (1975)

I love the beginning of this song because it’s kinda bluesy and kind of funky, really. This is one of many Pink Floyd songs written about the world around them that they existed in, namely because it’s about the music business. But it doesn’t really matter what it’s about because it’s the best track from this album.

220px-theoffspringamericanaalbumcoverThe Offspring – “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” – (1998)

The second biggest single from Americana, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” is one of The Offspring’s better offerings. The video is interesting because it was shot on Universal’s backlot in California and features a lot of famous places from film and TV, like the square from Back to the Future

220px-the_phantom_menace_ostJohn Williams & the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices – “Duel of the Fates” – (1999)

“Duel of the Fates” is a seriously epic piece of orchestral music. With the choir, it has a very “O Fortuna”-feel to it. Originally featured in Star Wars:Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, the piece has been a recurring piece of music throughout every successive piece of Star Wars film. It’s great – and, it actually appeared on TRL for 11 days. 

weird_al_yankovic_-_dare_to_be_stupidWeird Al Yankovic – “Yoda” – (1985)

Weird Al is the master of parody songs and he’s also great at writing songs about very specific things, like Star Wars. “Yoda” is a parody of The Kinks’ brilliant “Lola.” And, while Weird Al didn’t write the original music for this song, his lyrics are every bit as brilliant as the original. This song is weird because he had to get permission both from The Kinks and George Lucas. 

Mark Jonathan Davis – “Star Wars Cantina” – (1996)

Mark Jonathan Davis is known by the stage name of Richard Cheese, and he recorded this pretty good spoof of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” but all about Star Wars. It was originally aired on Dr. Demento’s radio show but it has never officially been released, thus the lack of an album cover above.

220px-americanivJohnny Cash – “When The Man Comes Around” – (2002)

We’ll stick with the “country songs from 2002” theme for this week, but we’ll ditch the link to terrorism and go with something awesome instead. You don’t have to like country to appreciate Johnny Cash, because he kind of symbolizes the rebel rock and roll attitude better than most rockers. This was one of the final songs Johnny wrote before he died – it’s simple, musically, and really dark, lyrically. It’s really, really good.

220px-drivealanjacksonAlan Jackson – “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” – (2002)

Consider this the much subtler cousin to Toby Keith’s patriotic anthem. Country fan or not, it should be noted that Alan Jackson is a much classier singer than Toby Keith. Regardless, we still have the issue of a really long title… but while this might be standard fare as far as country songs go, there’s a big problem lyrically that makes this song seem incredibly dated “I’m just a simple songs, I’m not a real political man… I watch CNN but I’m not sure I could tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran.” Maybe in 2002. But nowadays if you can’t differentiate between Iraq and Iran, there’s a problem. But maybe this is just horrible foreshadowing of what would come a year after this album came out.

220px-keithunleashedToby Keith – “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” – (2002)

This song is a victim of all of that patriotism that exploded after 9/11 and faded away in the years after. There was a weird phenomenon shortly after 9/11 where country singers recorded tacky songs about ‘Murica… and this is the prime example (side note, the song is partly about Keith’s dad’s death, which is fine and I have no problem memorializing him in song). But come on, the title is horrendous… and talking about putting a “boot in any country’s ass” just seems kind of… well, country. Which I guess is the point.

220px-thebeatles68lp#1 – The Beatles – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – (1968)

Yes, this is the inclusion from The White Album on this list. Why this one? Because it is beautiful – which should be obvious because George Harrison wrote it. The version below is not the normal version. Looking at the track list for this album, it’s pretty clear that this is the best, sorry “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

simon_and_garfunkel_bookends_1968#2 – Simon & Garfunkel – “Mrs. Robinson” – (1968)

This was Simon & Garfunkel’s second #1 hit and its success owes a lot to its inclusion in The Graduate – though the version you actually hear in the film is quite different than the studio version that topped the charts and continues to receive regular radio airplay. Also, Paul Simon ever figure out where Joe DiMaggio went?

mi0000488311#3 – Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” – (1968)

Not sure I really need to say much about this song. It’s one of the prettiest songs ever recorded. Although originally released as a single in October of 1967, it didn’t appear on an album until 1970. Don’t ask why we’re included it in 1968. Armstrong rose to fame in the 1920s and to release this sort of landmark song in your late 60s is unbelievable. It doesn’t matter what genres you prefer, it’s hard to dislike this song.

220px-odessey_and_oracle#4 – The Zombies – “Time of the Season” – (1968)

This is one of the best examples of 1960s flower power psychedelic rock. I mean, just look at that album cover. This song almost never become a hit – the record company only released it after other singles from Odyssey and Oracle flopped and it went to #3 in the U.S. It’s simply one of the most “1960s” songs you can listen to.

220px-odessey_and_oracle#4 – The Zombies – “Time of the Season” – (1968)

This is one of the best examples of 1960s flower power psychedelic rock. I mean, just look at that album cover. This song almost never become a hit – the record company only released it after other singles from Odyssey and Oracle flopped and it went to #3 in the U.S. It’s simply one of the most “1960s” songs you can listen to.

otisdockofthebay#5 – Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – (1968)

Here’s one of the greatest soul recordings of all time. Unlike a lot of R&B records in the 1960s, Redding actually co-wrote his biggest hit. Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash before it could be released (of the two recordings he did of this song, one occurred just days before he died). It was the first posthumous #1 hit on the American charts. 


james_taylor_james_taylor_1968#6 – James Taylor – “Carolina In My Mind” – (1968)

James Taylor recorded his first album on Apple Records. That means he had to audition to the Beatles to get his first record contract. No pressure. This was his first single about his homesickness (even though he is from Boston) and it has sort of become an anthem for North Carolina.

220px-Jimi_Hendrix_-_Electric_Ladyland#7 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “All Along the Watchtower” – (1968)

Here is my favorite Bob Dylan song. Yes, this is a cover of a ’67 song by Dylan and while Dylan is a great songwriter, his performances and singing abilities… well, let’s just say this version rocks (and it’s the most famous take on it). Plus, when Dylan performs it, he performs it more like this version than his original. And the opening of this track just screams “Vietnam War movie,” doesn’t it?

220px-Crimson_&_Clover_(album)#8 – Tommy James & The Shondells – “Crystal Blue Persuasion” – (1969)

This single came out in 1968 and the album it was released on was released in January of 1969. So there. This is one of those “classic oldies” hits that is definitely 1960s. It has a soulful, psychedelic feel – and it has been stated that the song might be about James’ meth habit in the 60s. This was a #2 hit on the Hot 100 – the second highest-charting single off of this album.

BeggarsBanquetLP#9 – The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy For the Devil” – (1968)

Here is one of the Stones’ greatest songs. Lyrically, it’s brilliant, as it tells the story of the devil and his interactions with human history from his point of view. Listen carefully to the percussion here – it’s awesome and completely un-rock-and-roll. As far as great Stones songs go, this might be the best composition.

build-me-up-buttercup-single-foundations#10 – The Foundations – “Build Me Up Buttercup” – (1968)

Here’s another classic you’ll likely only find on oldies radio stations today. The Foundations were a soul band that was actually from the U.K. and they were not a one-hit wonder, because they had two smash hits, with this one getting all the way to #3 in the U.S.

220px-Bigpink#11 – The Band – “The Weight” – (1968)

The Band was obviously from a time where self-promotion on the internet was not a thing, because you’d be crazy to call yourself that now as no one would ever be able to find you online. The Band was actually a band that backed other musicians (namely: Bob Dylan) before venturing out on their own. “The Weight” is one of those songs that just brings the 1960s to mind and I’m not quite sure how they pull that off, but it’s brilliant.

Creamwheelsoffire.jpeg#12 – Cream – “Crossroads” – (1968)

As I often tell people: no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you will never be as good at anything as Eric Clapton is at guitar. And it is on display here for sure. Originally recorded by Robert Johnson as “Cross Road Blues” in 1936, Cream’s take of “Crossroads” is a thing of beauty. 

220px-Cheapthrills#13 – Big Brother & The Holding Company – “Piece of My Heart” – (1968)

While Janis Joplin might get all of the credit here oftentimes, this song was actually recorded by Big Brother and the Holding Company and it is a cover of a song originally recorded by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister). This version absolutely rocks and might be Janis’ best work. Big Brother is one of the most important bands of the late 60s psychedelic rock scene that came out of San Francisco – the epicenter of 1960s counterculture. Side note: if you’re familiar with “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas, listen to this song at the 3:30 mark and then go listen to “Smooth.” See if you can spot the striking similarity.

Turtlesbattlebands#14 – The Turtles – “Elenore” – (1968)

It always seems like when bands record a song as a send-up or parody, that it goes on to become a big hit. That’s the case here as they were satirizing themselves (and “Happy Together”). They sound similar, but the beautiful lyric “You’re my pride and joy et cetera” really sets it apart.