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10:57 a.m. - May 03, 2007
40 Songs That Changed The World
Hey, it’s a music topic today! Wow. Actually, it will be for a few days, but you know, that’s how I roll. Step off!

In the latest Rolling Stone, in an insert, no doubt just for the advertiser that paid for it, which to me speaks volumes that Rolling Stone is not going for the young rock-and-roll fan, but instead the people my age and older who desperately want to be hip and edgy and can also afford $60 or more for a bottle of tequila, oh, this was a sentence somewhere…

…let me start that again…

In the latest Rolling Stone, in an insert, they listed “40 Songs That Changed The World.”

Now, of course, me being the curmudgeon, I looked at this list with a jaundiced eye, and have decided that it’s time for someone (me) to critique this list and perhaps offer alternatives. So, without further ado…

1. That’s All Right – Elvis Presley. Yeah, he’s Elvis and this was his first single. But to me, “changing the world” meant more than a regional hit. I’d contend that “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Hound Dog” probably changed the world more, since those were national hits and really catapulted him to stardom. If they want an early rock and roll song, they should have made room for “Rock Around The Clock”, you know, as that started riots and all in England. Defining the first ‘rock-and-roll’ record is a nebulous exercise as it was an evolution more than anything.

2. I Got A Woman – Ray Charles. Yeah, I can see that. It was a fresh approach to R & B and inspirational, but what about “What’d I Say”? “I Got A Woman” was an R & B hit while “What’d I Say” was a national hit. That’s a quibble, though.

3. Maybelline – Chuck Berry. I really can’t argue with this one. You need a Chuck Berry song on there and this was the first and one of his most popular, and has all of the Chuck Berry elements.

4. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – Bob Dylan. Wow, they just zoomed past a lot of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Well, you know, there’s a reason for that, though “Rumble” by Link Wray should be mentioned somewhere, ya know. (When Richard Thompson quotes it verbatim in a song, you know it’s good.) Back to Dylan, I can see this as mind-blowing for the time. This gave a snarl to protest songs and really started a movement.

5. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen. Foul. Big time. It’s fun, yes, but it’s not world-changing. There were plenty of garage bands that had hits before this, and after this. This is the most famous one, but c’mon…

6. Be My Baby – The Ronettes. While Phil Spector had some chart action before, this really got the “Wall of Sound” thing going, and made stars of producers as well as artists, for good and for bad.

7. I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles. Perhaps in the US yes, but “Please Please Me” was huge everywhere BUT here. This was their fifth UK single, and I’d say “She Loves You” made more of a wave with the ‘yeah-yeah-yeah’. So that’s two songs I think more world-changing than this.

8. Dancing In The Street – Martha & The Vandellas. I’m not a Motown scholar, but I can see this one, yeah.

9. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones. It wasn’t their first single, but really, you can sense that this was the first real “Stones” single. That guitar riff still gives me chills.

10. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan. Yes, this one counts, especially for breaking the time barrier on AM radio in the day. A six minute long single was revolutionary.

11. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles. I’m split about this one. If they want to give the Beatles credit for changing their paradigm from simple rock songs to studio creations AND creating psychedelia, then “Tomorrow Never Knows” has to be on there. Yet, this WAS a single, though by then who DIDN’T buy Beatles albums. I can live with this choice, though.

12. Heroin – The Velvet Underground. OK, I like this song and I like them. About 89 people bought this record, though, and yes they all started bands. At the time, it changed nothing – it was only after rock critics starting gushing about them later in the 70s did the perception change. I would contend that “Help, I’m A Rock”, or “Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet” by the Mothers Of Invention changed the world just as much, especially at the time. As did some of the early work of Pink Floyd, like “Astronomy Domine” or “Interstellar Overdrive”.

13. Respect – Aretha Franklin. An important song, sure, but there’s a whole body of work from those 1967 sessions to consider that were all top 10 hits. This wasn’t the first single, either. That was “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)”. However, you can make a case for it.

14. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix. Yep, I can’t complain here. This was his second UK single (“Hey Joe” was the first) and really, it’s pretty darn revolutionary. Still to this day it sounds out of this world.

15. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin. No, sorry, can’t go there. If you want to talk about blues rock, you have to go with “Sunshine Of Your Love”, “White Room”, or even “Over Under Sideways Down”. If you want metal, then “Black Sabbath” by Sabbath. If you want Zep, then why not “Communication Breakdown” or “I Can’t Quit You Baby” or even “You Shook Me” from their first album. Ah, sorry. Zep did change the world, but people forget their first album also sold a bazillion, too.

16. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine – James Brown. This is when he moves from being James Brown to JAMES BROWN, though a lot of his 60’s stuff was revolutionary as well. Why not props for “I Got You” or “Cold Sweat” or most notably “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. He deserves two mentions here, for sure.

17. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye. I can see this, but I can also see “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations as well. A good choice, though, especially in the context of moving Motown into the political realm.

18. Imagine – John Lennon. After all of Lennon’s angry songs, all of his primal scream songs, all of his ‘art’ experiments that were unlistenable, he trots this one out. Good show, John.

19. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie. What? Glam was brewing in England, and Bowie, being the chameleon, latched onto it. It’s a great song, sure, but it’s just one piece of the movement. Why not “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” by T-Rex?

20. I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley. This was made quite famous in the US by Eric Clapton, but one could see this as earth-shattering because Clapton had the good taste to cover it. Yet, Marley and the Wailers did some great work earlier like “Stir It Up” and “Get Up Stand Up”.

21. Help Me – Joni Mitchell. Um, no. Great song, but there were plenty of singer songwriters going on. Mitchell was just one of the best.

22. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen. I think they got this right, though now it sounds a bit over the top and bombastic. But that’s in a good way. It did make the world safe for people like Bob Seger, though.

23. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen. Brilliant and innovative, yes. However, why not “Killer Queen”, which had a lot of the elements without the opera, and a better guitar solo. They also gave it props for the video, which, I can’t see as that revolutionary, really.

24. Blitzkreig Bop – The Ramones. I bet you that of everyone who knows this song, only about a third know the title (or less). It’s overplayed now (thanks, sporting events) but the first time I heard it I was “What the HELL was THAT!” and that qualifies it to be world changing in my eyes. Gabba gabba we accept you we accept you one of us!

25. Anarchy In The UK – The Sex Pistols. “White Riot” by the Clash made a great impact, and the Damned’s “New Rose” was the first punk single. Those two and this could make a great case. Sure, why don’t we add those two to this one? It’s punk rock, so they’re short songs. We can handle it.

26. I Feel Love – Donna Summer. No. No. No. A thousand times no. “Love To Love You Baby” was the first electro-disco hit in the US, but disco was moving that way, anyway. You know, they should have put “Trans Europe Express” here, since that was used by a lot of early rappers as base material.

27. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang. Oh, I can see that. If this song doesn’t hit it big, rap becomes like go-go music in DC, a regional phenomenon that’s short lived.

28. TV Party – Black Flag. Oh, please no. “Jealous Again”? “Police Story”? “Rise Above”? “Depression”? “Nervous Breakdown”? Need I go on??? They picked the lightest novelty song by a band that was all about aggression. Wussies.

29. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson. Yes, it was huge and he moonwalked, but “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” off of his earlier solo record was the one that I think broke down a lot of walls between pop and R & B.

30. When Doves Cry – Prince. Let’s gloss over his early stuff, and even “Controversy”. You don’t think “1999” or “Little Red Corvette” belongs before this one? (Not that this one’s bad, but I think that 1999 record MADE Prince a star).

31. Pride (In The Name Of Love) – U2. You know, it’s a great song, but the world changed when MTV played the hell out of “Sunday Blood Sunday”, where Bono was all over the place at Red Rocks in Colorado. THAT changed the world. Without that clip, U2 doesn’t become iconic.

32. Like A Virgin – Madonna. Yeah, I suppose. Her first record didn’t shake up the world. But “Material Girl” is a better tune, and really set an image down.

33. Walk This Way – Run / DMC and Aerosmith. Sure, as it paved the way for great stuff in the future. But this is also the blame for Limp Bizkit and other rap-rock garbage. So, yeah.

34. Just Like Heaven – The Cure. A little late in the game for the Cure, who had been really gothy and gloomy from the early 80s. No, if you want something like this, pick “This Charming Man” or “What Difference Does It Make” by the Smiths.

35. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses. Moose, my man, said to me once. “This, my friend, is a perfect single.” Yeah, I agree with him.

36. Bring The Noise – Public Enemy. Oh, yeah. And for you rap-haters, it rocks more than you think it does. Why the heck else did Anthrax did it? And why the heck do you think they name-checked Anthrax to begin with?

37. Nuthin’ But A “G” Thing – Now, this is a bit out of my element, really. It did introduce the world to Snoop. But I think for gangster rap you have to go with “*** Tha Police” by NWA as world changing.

38. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana. Though many of the lessons grunge taught us have gone to seed, and Nirvana followed in the footsteps of bands like the Pixies, I would have to say that, yes, this DID change the world, for the better.

39. …Baby One More Time – Britney Spears. This changed the world about as much as “Da Doo Ron Ron” by Shaun Cassidy or “Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman changed the world.

40. Fell In Love With A Girl – The White Stripes. I think it’s a bit too early to say that the White Stripes changed the world. Again, music does move in cycles, but you know, I didn’t think this was mind blowing when I first heard it. Good, yes, but not a “I want to sell everything I have just to go on tour with them” kind of good.

Well, there you have it. As I type this I can think of many other songs that merit consideration, but I can see that you have better things to do. So until we meet again, rock on!

(Note: “Rock On” by David Essex changed MY world back when I was in elementary school.)


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