November 27, 2015
Deniece Williams – Let’s Hear It For The Boy – 1984
I just realized that the guy on the Footloose album cover is Kevin Bacon. I know that might seem obvious, but I just always assumed it was Kenny Loggins. This song was far and away Deniece Williams’ biggest solo hit, reaching #1 from the Footloose soundtrack (she had another #1, a duet with Johnny Mathis). It’s very “mid-80s.”
November 25, 2015
Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money – 1983
I think this is my favorite song by Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco. Maybe that’s because it’s really not as disco-heavy as the rest of her major hits. This was also her last major hit, coming in 1983. It has a cool new wave beat that makes the whole song feel like it’s supposed to only be used in montages. It hit #3 on the Hot 100.
November 23, 2015
Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out – 1980
This song, famously sampled (and perhaps, in this case, the sample is more famous than the original song) in “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G. It was a top five hit for Diana Ross from what would be her final major hit-producing album in 1980 – quite the run for someone who got her start singing Motown back in the early 1960s. A complete transformation.
November 20, 2015
Staind – Epiphany – 2001
Much like Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory from last week, Staind’s Break The Cycle seemingly had every track released as a single. “Epiphany” actually was a single, the fifth (and final), having been released in August 2002 – nearly a full year and a half after the album came out. It’s more of a ballad than a hard rock song with a fairly slow tempo and general acoustic-ness. Also, I just has an epiphany: that’s a tree on the album cover. I always thought it was a tornado.
November 18, 2015
Dave Matthews Band – So Much To Say – 1996
This Grammy Award-winning song from Dave Matthews is him bragging about having central heating. Well, not really, but that’s the lyric I always remember. This wasn’t really a Top 40 song – more of the alternative rock side of Dave, peaking in the top 20 on that chart. It was the second single off the album, released prior to “Crash Into Me,” which turned out to be one of this biggest hits.
November 16, 2015
Steely Dan – Peg – 1977
Steely Dan songs are, for some reason, really hard to find on YouTube. The version below is live, so it’s not quite as good. Recently, I was told that Steely Dan sounds completely different live as compared to their studio work, which I believe. This song almost made it to the top ten (#11) on the Hot 100 and is the fairly normal Steely Dan blend of jazz, R&B, and rock.
November 13, 2015
Linkin Park – Runaway – 2000
Linkin Park was the hottest thing in rock music in 2000 and 2001. Hybrid Theory officially only had four singles but I swear I heard 90% of this album on the radio. “Runaway” was not an official single but it did chart – peaking at #37 on the Mainstream Rock chart. I still know almost every word of this song somehow…
November 11, 2015
Blues Traveler – The Mountains Win Again – 1994
This was the third and final single from Four and it was the least successful but it’s still really good. I’m pretty sure Coors used to use it for their advertising. It sounds almost countryish or at least country rockish. Almost like a Bob Seger song from the 1980s (think “Like a Rock”).
November 9, 2015
Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away – 1982
How is it possible that this is the first Chicago song that’s been featured here? Crazy. This one was a Billboard Hot 100 #1 for two weeks. It was the first big hit for Chicago since 1977 and would be the first of a string of hits for the band in the 1980s. It’s their “Walk This Way.”
November 6, 2015
#1 – Billy Joel – “Piano Man” – (1973)
Man, could Billy Joel ever write some music. This is Joel’s signature song and he has become the Piano Man. It only reached #25 on the Hot 100, but it was his breakthrough hit and has become a legendary song that almost everyone knows some lyrics to. And the lyrics are brilliant, telling a complete story and setting a scene like few other songs can. It’s amazing. And yes, that album cover is kind of creepy.
November 4, 2015
#2 – Elton John – “Candle in the Wind” – (1973)
This is one of Elton John’s finest songs. A wonderful tribute to Marilyn Monroe, “Candle in the Wind” came from one of Elton’s finest albums, as well. In 1997, he would re-lyric the song to honor Princess Diana after her death. That version would hit #1 and become the second-biggest selling single of all time. This one is no slouch, either.
November 2, 2015
#3 – Paul Simon – “Kodachrome” – (1973)
Paul Simon is responsible for some catchy songs – this among the finest (nothing beats “You Can Call Me Al”). Sadly, many people who are being introduced to this song for the first time don’t even know what Kodachrome is or that Kodak required it to be trademarked on the album’s song list. This song hit #2 on the Hot 100.
October 30, 2015
#4 – Pink Floyd – “Money” – (1973)
While I may have gotten seemingly every other year incorrect on this “1973” countdown, at least I know when Dark Side of the Moon came out. It’s one of the greatest, most important albums ever released, regardless of genre. It stayed on Billboard’s Top 200 album charts for 15 years and has sold over 50 million copies. It’s full of amazing songs and I think this may be the best of them. Though written by Roger Waters, the song always makes me think of Nick Mason and his ridiculous car collection and other rich British people and their rich British possessions.
October 28, 2015
#5 – America – “Ventura Highway” – (1972)
Speaking of beautiful songs… I consider this song quintessentially American… which is a shame, because the band that recorded it happens to be British. So it goes. This is a one of the definitive songs of this small, short-lived genre from the late 1960s/early 1970s of soft folk rock… with a country twang. Wonderful stuff… and it was a top 10 hit.
October 26, 2015
#6 – The Faces – “Ooh La La” – (1973)
This song was co-written by Ronnie Wood, who was in The Faces, before he joined The Rolling Stones. Unlike most other songs from The Faces that featured Rod Stewart on vocals, Wood is actually the one singing here. The lyrics are brilliant in a wise-beyond-their-years sort of way. It’s a beautiful song.
October 23, 2015
#7 – Paul McCartney & Wings – “Band on the Run” – (1973)
The 70s were a weird time for Paul McCartney – or at least, his fans. I never remember what albums were with Wings and which ones were solo. This is the title track for one of the greatest albums ever. At least five songs on this album are absolute killers. This is one of the only songs that reminds me of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the way that it changes sounds multiple times throughout the course of the song. It’s brilliant. And it was a #1 hit, too.
October 21, 2015
#8 – King Harvest – “Dancing in the Moonlight” – (1972)
Though technically released at the end of 1972 (man do I keep screwing up my years), this song charted in early ’73. It’s a beautiful pop rock song from a band that most people get wrong: King Harvest. I think it’s safe to call them a one hit wonder… which is too bad because this song has a great sound.
October 19, 2015
#9 – Albert Hammond – “It Never Rains in Southern California” – (1972)
This song, which was actually released in 1972, sounds like it should’ve come out in the late 1960s. Maybe that’s because it’s about California, a state strongly associated (musically) with the 1960s. It was a top five single on the Hot 100. Interesting note: Hammond’s son, Albert Hammond, Jr., is a member of The Strokes.
October 16, 2015
#10 – Aerosmith – “Dream On” – (1973)
Here’s the song that put Aerosmith on the map. It only peaked at #59 on the Hot 100 but it’s still a mainstay of classic rock radio. The re-release of the song in 1976 was actually a bigger hit – vaulting the track into the top ten nationally. From there, the band’s career was off and running… It remains one of their best songs.
October 14, 2015
#11 – Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get It On” – (1973)
Those first few notes of this song tell you exactly what it is – and what it is is smoooth. This Hot 100 #1 is one of the sexiest songs ever and is soul defined. A lot of songs can lay claim to being Marvin Gaye’s signature song but I think this one might have the strongest argument.
October 12, 2015
#12 – B.W. Stevenson – “My Maria” – (1973)
This song is beautiful. B.W. Stevenson’s lyrically delivery is superb. A top ten hit in the U.S., it would later be covered successfully by Brooks and Dunn (which again appeared on the Hot 100 in 1996). This was Stevenson’s biggest hit.
October 9, 2015
#13 – Golden Earring – “Radar Love” – (1973)
I love Golden Earring because they had two massive hits – each more than a decade apart. So we’re overdue for another. This is one of the best driving songs ever recorded. These Dutchmen can rock. It hit #13 in the U.S. and has appeared in countless TV episodes and films.
October 7, 2015
#14 – The Stampeders – “Sweet City Woman” – (1971)
Well, hell. I wasn’t even close on this one. Like way off. Oh well. Lead banjo is a beautiful thing and this group of Canadians use it to perfection. It was a top ten hit in the U.S. and features the lovely lyric: “She feeds me love and tenderness and macaroons.”
October 5, 2015
#15 – The Allman Brothers Band – “Jessica” – (1973)
This is one of the greatest rock instrumentals of all time. Written by guitarist Dickey Betts, this is a classic rock staple. It peaked at #65 on the Hot 100. It’s a good driving song – and as such, it was the theme for Top Gear.
October 2, 2015
#16 – Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the Middle With You” – (1972)
Stealers Wheel, from Scotland, actually released their debut album at the tail end of 1972. This song peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 in 1973. This was a surprise hit for the band (which included song co-writer and lead singer, the late Gerry Rafferty) as it was written to sort of mock Bob Dylan’s style. Perhaps most famously, the song was used in Reservoir Dogs where Michael Madsen cuts off another man’s ear.