My 100 Favorite Songs of All Time

When I started making this list, I had almost 200 songs written down on a piece of paper. I crossed them off one by one as I put them on a playlist and then spent a few hours organizing them. By the time I had my top 100, it took me minutes upon minutes to decide whether or not a song around the 110 region really deserved to cut. Finding songs to remove was difficult. It’s even more difficult because so many of the artists I love aren’t represented.

Honestly, this list would probably be slightly different depending on the day you asked me to make it, but I think it fairly and evenly represents the songs that I enjoy the most. I chose songs that can stand on their own. While I would have liked to include Radiohead songs or a track off of a Desiderii Marginis record, I chose pieces that I can listen to alone – not as part of an album.

So, without much further ado, here’s the list. I hope you enjoy it. Please note that my reasoning for including the year of the song release and the album release is that some songs are singles that were released the previous year. That being said I still think the release of the record itself is important enough to include. Also be aware that the Beatles copyright strikes prevent their songs from being on YouTube, and as such Beatles songs do not have a hyperlink like every other song.

100: Eleanor Rigby

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: August, ’66
Length: 2:06

From the Beatles album that allowed them to venture into the realm of psychedelia, “Eleanor Rigby” confronts death and the fate of elderly in a way that was unique for the pop group. Uncharacteristically abandoning their rock-and-roll instruments, the Beatles allowed producer George Martin to arrange a double string quartet. While it is not the most unique or groundbreaking track on the record, “Eleanor Rigby” manages to communicate feelings that I don’t feel the Beatles conveyed beforehand.

Appears on: Revolver (The Beatles) (1966)

99: God Only Knows

Writer(s): Brian Wilson, Tony Asher
Producer(s): Brian Wilson
Released: July, ’66
Length: 2:53

From the record that created art pop, Brian Wilson confronts the worries of life after death and how romance can possibly transcend it. It’s a love song that broke through cultural barriers by naming God in an absurdly casual way (at least for 1966). It’s probably the saddest song on the record, and makes a hilarious appearance in a particularly good episode of Mad Men.

Appears on: Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys) (1966)

98: Story of My Life

Writer(s): Mike Ness
Producer(s): Dave Jerden
Released: 1990
Length: 5:46

I first heard this song while playing Guitar Hero 3 and didn’t think much of it. I’ve since come to the conclusion that it is one of the best tracks in that game (and not the only to appear on this list). Its poignancy lies in the chilling message that when life is allowed to leave someone behind it is impossible to recapture what was lost.

Appears on: Social Distortion (Social Distortion) (1990)

97: Welcome to the Jungle

Writer(s): Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan
Producer(s): Mike Clink
Released: September, ‘87
Length: 4:33

I said “Story of My Life” wouldn’t be the last song from Guitar Hero 3 on this list. “Welcome to the Jungle” may just be the most popular track on one of the most popular heavy metal albums ever. It’s fun. It’s hard. It’ll bring you to your sha na na na na knees knees.

Appears on: Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses) (1987)

96: This Year

Writer(s): John Darnielle
Producer(s): John Vanderslice
Released: April, ‘05
Length: 3:52

When I first made this list this song was cut out from the top 100 by a slim margin, but it’s just too good to leave off. Though it focuses on an abusive childhood – and I know nothing about that – it remains a good song for someone who feels the need for encouragement when it hasn’t been their year.

Appears on: The Sunset Tree (The Mountain Goats) (2005)

95: Hotel California

Writer(s): Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey
Producer(s): Bill Szymczyk
Released: February, ‘77
Length: 6:31

This summer I was driving around with a friend of mine when he decided to explain what exactly “Hotel California” is about. The lyrics speak of the residents as people who are all prisoners in the hotel, but of their own device. They can check out any time they like but can never leave. Turns out the song was written about a San Francisco hotel that was converted into the Church of Satan by Anton LaVey, and the residents are those who have been brainwashed to the point of dependence on the Hotel California.

Appears on: Hotel California (Eagles) (1976)

94: Helter Skelter

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: November, ‘68
Length: 4:29

What to say about this song? It inspired Charles Manson to lead his cult to brutally murder innocent people under the belief that the Beatles were speaking to him about an upcoming apocalyptic race war known as “Helter Skelter”. There is a version of this song out there that is upwards of 27 minutes long. It has been covered by so many bands that if it wasn’t for “Yesterday” it may have taken up this description. Most importantly, the raw sound is one of the most influential song to the development of hard rock.

Appears on: The Beatles (The White Album) (The Beatles) (1968)

93: Through the Fire and Flames

Writer(s): Sam Totman, ZP Theart
Producer(s): Sam Totman, Herman Li, Vadim Pruzhanov
Released: August, ’06
Length: 7:22

The most popular song by DragonForce features twin guitars that begin in a competition and end in a war. The song’s tempo has more than three beats a second and interestingly enough the recording on the album is a version in which guitarist Herman Li broke his guitar strings while playing.

Appears on: Inhuman Rampage (DragonForce) (2006)

92: Rocket Man

Writer(s): Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s): Gus Dudgeon
Released: April, ‘72
Length: 4:41

Performing artist Kate Bush once performed a cover of this song about heroes no longer being seen as such. When asked about it later on she said that it was as if she were being asked “would you like to fulfill a dream? Would you like to be Rocket Man?”

Appears on: Honky Château (Elton John) (1972)

91: Sweet Child O’ Mine

Writer(s): Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin
Producer(s): Mike Clint
Released: August, ‘88
Length: 5:55

With the exception of perhaps only Europe’s “The Final Countdown” (which unfortunately does not feature on this list), this song may just feature the best opening instrumentals that I can identify. Interestingly enough when the track was first aired over the radio after the summer of ’88 the Slash’s guitar solo was cut to allow for more advertising time. Dumb, considering everything about “Sweet Child O’ Mine” screams out for attention to be paid to the lead guitar.

Appears on: Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses) (1988)

90: Whistle for the Choir

Writer(s): John Fratelli, Barry Fratelli, Mince Fratelli
Producer(s): Tony Hoffer
Released: November, ‘06
Length: 3:35

I associate this song with an admittedly bad song (Akeboshi’s “Wind”); they’re always played in tandem, back-to-back. Admittedly, “Whistle for the Choir” is nothing more than a rather generic love song sung by a cocky boy. It has verses and a chorus that is repeated at least three times, with a chord progression that doesn’t do much to grab the attention of the listener. And you better believe it does it better than almost anything else.

Appears on: Costello Music (The Fratellis) (2006)

89: Supernatural Superserious

Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
Producer(s): Jacknife Lee, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
Released: February, ‘08
Length: 3:25

Accelerate isn’t R.E.M.’s most popular album. It isn’t even in the era in which they were most popular. Accelerate was an amazing album made by a band that was just about to close up shop. I could’ve chosen songs off Murmur or Automatic for the People, but “Supernatural Superserious” is just by far my favorite song by R.E.M.

Appears on: Accelerate (R.E.M.) (2008)

88: First Breath After Coma

Writer(s): Chris Hrasky, Michael James, Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith
Producer(s): John Congleton
Released: November, ‘03
Length: 9:33

This is the opening track from my ninth favorite album. The entire album is instrumental, yet widely considered to be a concept album about ideas of importance and an individual’s place in the universe. It’s a beautiful song to start off my favorite post-rock album in existence, with happy patterns and uplifting crescendos to precede the following ominous moods across the rest of the record.

Appears on: The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (Explosions in the Sky) (2003)

87: I Will Follow You into the Dark

Writer(s): Ben Gibbard
Producer(s): Chris Walla
Released: June, ‘06
Length: 3:09

I first heard this song when a friend of mine introduced it to me (for the purpose of suggesting it for inclusion in a mixtape for my girlfriend). I quickly fell in love with it, possibly more so than the girlfriend that it was intended for. It was only in many subsequent listens that I would come to appreciate it as a piece that manages to speak about death in such a unique way that the very concept of death appears almost trivial.

Appears on: Plans (Death Cab for Cutie) (2005)

86: A Thousand Paper Cranes

Writer(s): Takaakira Goto, Hideki Suematsu, Tamaki Kunishi, Yasunori Takada
Producer(s): Steve Albini
Released: April, ‘04
Length: 5:11

“A Thousand Paper Cranes” is quite possibly the most beautiful singular song that I have ever heard. It is simple. It consists of only piano and very faint instrumentals to accompany. It is so simple that Mono included origami paper with the physical release so that listeners can make paper cranes while they experience the record. Don’t worry. Instructions are included.

Appears on: Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined (Mono) (2004)

85: All Too Well

Writer(s): Taylor Swift, Liz Rose
Producer(s): Nathan Chapman, Taylor Swift
Released: October, ‘12
Length: 5:29

I love Taylor Swift. I would call her my guilty pleasure but I don’t feel like I have to. “All Too Well” is an incredible song. The song talks about the dangers of relationships and forgetting what made them dangerous in the first place. Swift said that it took her “a really long time to filter through everything I wanted to put in the song without it being a 10-minute song”. Sure enough, the original piece was between ten to fifteen minutes long. It was inevitably cut down to just over five minutes (still the longest track on Red). It doesn’t drag at all, Taylor.

Appears on: Red (Taylor Swift) (2012)

84: Hey You

Writer(s): Roger Waters
Producer(s): Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie, Roger Waters
Released: November, ‘79
Length: 4:40

The first Pink Floyd to appear on my list. Pink Floyd is one of my three favorite bands. I can’t pick a favorite outright, but I would probably lean towards Pink Floyd if I were forced to choose. Interestly enough, I wasn’t entirely impressed by the larger-than-life concept album that I had heard so much about when I first heard it. Luckily I changed my mind.

Appears on: The Wall (Pink Floyd) (1979)

83: Time and a Word

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, David Foster
Producer(s): Tony Colton
Released: July, ‘70
Length: 4:31

“Time and a Word” is the first great Yes song. A live orchestra was utilized much to the dismay of many critics and people involved in the project. Stunts like this would later epitomize what Yes was, but for now the relatively toned-down instrumentals and length of this track would have to suffice.

Appears on: Time and a Word (Yes) (1970)

82: The Good Life

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo
Producer(s): Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp
Released: October, ‘96
Length: 4:17

Whenever people talk about summer songs this comes track comes to mind (as to be expected by the chorus that screams warm weather and fun). It provides a break from an album that is so riddled with self-deprecating lyrics and themes, so it shouldn’t be s surprise that at the same time it contains wistful lyrics such as this: “I want to go back. I want to go back and I don’t even know how I got off the track.” It’s like a prelude to Weezer’s most recent 2016 release (a concept album about summer).

Appears on: Pinkerton (Weezer) (1996)

81: At The Other End Of The Leash

Writer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Producer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Released: June, ‘06
Length: 4:02

Few would put a song about domestic violence on a favorite songs list. Fewer would include yet another song about domestic violence on the same list, making sure that it also includes promised violent retribution, romanization of the idea, and sounds of copulation in the background. At least it ends with a statement that implies that the monotony of life can be boiled down to a simple phrase in the last segment of age.

Appears on: Now You Are One of Us (Paper Chase) (2006)

80: it.

Writer(s): Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Grabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s): John Burns, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Grabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Released: November, ‘74
Length: 4:58

A conceptual, incoherent track was the perfect choice to end a surrealist double-album that served as the sequel to what is generally seen as one of the best progressive rock records to ever be made. Serving as a message from Genesis straight to the listener, it abandons the story of delinquent protagonist Rael to speak in riddles.

Appears on: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis) (1974)

79: Haruka Kanata

Writer(s): Masafumi Goto
Producer(s): Katsuhisa Ogawa
Released: November, ‘02
Length: 4:02

The opening track on the major label debut of AKG went on to enjoy huge domestic and international success as the introduction to the critically-acclaimed EP. The chanting nature at the end of track, along with the rough, hard guitar, provides a solid start to the record. This album became the catalyst of growth for the Japanese rock band – and probably is still their best record to date.

Appears on: Hōkai Amplifier (Asian Kung-Fu Generation) (2002)

78: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Writer(s): Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, Mike Love
Producer(s): Brian Wilson
Released: July, ’66
Length: 2:33

When the Beach Boys returned from touring, they came back to find founder Brian Wilson had already completed nearly an album’s worth of new material. More than that, the music was unlike anything any of them had ever heard before. Brian Wilson wanted to create an album that satiate his desire to create music that meant something and was more than it appeared to be. The opening track on the album that would go on to become their most popular, and important, record is “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – and what an opening.

Appears on: Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys) (1966)

77: You’re One of Them Aren’t You?

Writer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Producer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Released: June, ‘06
Length: 3:06

So soon after the inclusion of the first song from this album, there is already another one. Now You Are One of Us has the honor of acting as the album with the most tracks to appear on this list, if I’ve counted correctly. The lyrics are tortured. The music is raw and whining. This track exemplifies that more than any other possibly could.

Appears on: Now You Are One of Us (Paper Chase) (2006)

76: Foolish Father

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Stickles
Producer(s): Ric Ocasek
Released: October, ‘14
Length: 4:31

“Foolish Father” is a song about forgiving your parent, despite what he may have done to you. It comes from an album wrought with apologies and efforts to display them. After some-odd four straight-up bad releases, Weezer finally brought back the power-pop ballads their fans wanted to create their best album in nearly twenty years. The song closes with children chanting the phrase: “everything will be alright in the end”. I believe it.

Appears on: Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Weezer) (2014)

75: In Too Deep

Writer(s): Deryck Whibley, Greig Nori
Producer(s): Jerry Finn
Released: June, ‘06
Length: 3:06

I found this song after hearing it on an episode of Malcolm in the Middle as a child. To be honest, I’m not even sure that this is the song that was actually featured in the program. I don’t even care anymore. What I am sure of is that “In Too Deep” has just about the funniest music video I’ve ever in my entire life.

Appears on: All Killer, No Filler (Sum 41) (2001)

74: When You Were Young

Writer(s): Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer, Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.
Producer(s): Flood, Alan Moulder, Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer, Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.
Released: September, ‘06
Length: 3:40

The Killer’s most popular song behind “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me”: “When You Were Young” is a frame story about a woman who finds that her expectations for romance are not met. It’s sad too, because it appears as though she settles. “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus but he talks like a gentleman like you imagined when you were young.” Good enough.

Appears on: Sam’s Town (The Killers) (2006)

73: Only the Good Die Young

Writer(s): Billy Joel
Producer(s): Phil Ramone
Released: May, ‘78
Length: 3:55

This was the first song that my mother ever blatantly told me was about sex. She even corrected my father when he said that it was about dating (probably a good thing to correct, lest dating be given an image that boys are supposed to pressure women who have chosen to remain chaste into unwanted sexual content). Nonetheless, it remains incredibly famous to this day. The irony lies in the fact that it was made famous by attempts to ban it by religious conservatives who wanted to suppress it.

Appears on: The Stranger (Billy Joel) (1978)

72: Love Love Love

Writer(s): John Darnielle
Producer(s): John Vanderslice
Released: April, ‘05
Length: 2:48

Darnielle said that this song is about “the virtue and folly of doing things for reasons of love”. It echoes themes of powerlessness and a rather nihilistic view of life, and death. It is one of the most somber pieces of music that I’ve ever heard. Whatever message the write says it contains, I believe that it has something different for everybody.

Appears on: The Sunset Tree (The Mountain Goats) (2005)

71: Valley of the Damned

Writer(s): Herman Li, Sam Totman, ZP Theart
Producer(s): Herman Li, Sam Totman
Released: February, ‘03
Length: 7:12

The first excursion on the debut album of DragonForce opens with apocalyptic riffs that garner images of utter destruction and flies alongside lyrics that harken back to the type of metal fantasy music that reached its peak in the ‘80s. Critics and fans have lovingly called DragonForce “nintendo-metal”, in reference to their use of quick tonal instrumentals that make the listener feel as though they are the hero in an advantage to defeat the monster and save the princess.

Appears on: Valley of the Damned (DragonForce) (2003)

70: God

Writer(s): John Lennon
Producer(s): John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector
Released: December, ‘70
Length: 4:09

The Beatles broke up soon after the release of Abbey Road, when John Lennon privately announced his departure to the group. Paul McCartney left soon after and months after the release of their ultimate album the band was dissolution suit was filed on the last day of 1970. It was the only Beatles album to receive hostile reviews. Within the same year, Lennon released a solo album with the help of his wife, Yoko Ono. The conclusion was met with controversy due to the blatant anti-religious nature of the track, “God”; the song is largely Lennon listed things that he does not believe in and support. The last thing on the list is the Beatles.

Appears on: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon) (1970)

69: El Scorcho

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo
Producer(s): Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp
Released: September, ‘96
Length: 4:03

The sophomore album of power pop band Weezer was reviled upon release. The single, “El Scorcho”, was a commercial failure that signalled the death knell of the product as a whole. It was too personal and the lyrics detracted from music that probably wouldn’t be so unbearable if it wasn’t for skips to double time and changing musical styles mid-way through the song. Pinkerton was an embarrassment for frontman Rivers Cuomo, whose success with the essential ‘90s tracklist from The Blue Album (Weezer).

Nowadays, Pinkerton probably has more respect than The Blue Album ever did. It’s one of the boldest and most raw expression of human emotion, and blatant, consistent hypocrisy ever made. In retrospective reviews Rolling Stone magazine has awarded it a perfect score and readers have voted it the 16th greatest album ever released. “It’s super-deep, brave, and authentic.”

Appears on: Pinkerton (Weezer) (1996)

68: Damn These Vampires

Writer(s): Josh Darnielle
Producer(s): Brandon Eggleston, John Congleton, Scott Solter, Erik Rutan
Released: March, ‘11
Length: 3:24

This record isn’t that stellar. It doesn’t do anything to differentiate itself among the homogeneous Mountain Goats catalog. This song seems different though. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems brave. The venom in Darnielle’s voices as he curses his demons conjures up an image of confrontation that is talked about a lot in music, but I feel like rarely met with such fortitude as it is here.

Appears on: All Eternals Deck (The Mountain Goats) (2011)

67: What a Catch, Donnie

Writer(s): Pete Wentz, Patrick Stump
Producer(s): Neal Avron
Released: October, ‘08
Length: 4:50

There was a five year hiatus between the release of this album and the eventual return of the former punk pop as a very different band. Songs from their two previous releases spoke about lack of esteem and issues with self reliance. “What a Catch, Donnie” provided a finale to the six years that the band had spent exploring their beginnings. Too bad the song was smack dab in the middle of the record.

Appears on: Folie à Deux (Fall Out Boy) (2009)

66: Suns of Zion

Writer(s): Tyler Ringer, Jeremy Ray
Producer(s): Micah Jayne
Released: June, ‘15
Length: 5:08

This song is the redemption to the story of found in my favorite album of all time: The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast. It was recorded in 2011 by three independent musicians who came together to record a progressive-indie mixture that tells the story of the apocalypse under the Beast (the devil himself). The entire story flows together and is sung from the perspective of the three titular characters. Utilizing outside vocals, as well as over forty instruments (ranging from an electric guitar to a glockenspiel), the record tells a great story with even better music.

Appears on: The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast (The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast) (2015)

65: Counting Out Time

Writer(s): Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s): John Burns, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Released: November, ‘74
Length: 3:40

This song is about sex and having a good time on a record that you would not expect to hear about sex or good times. From seemingly out of nowhere, the 94 minute concept progressive rock album takes a brief moment to sing a pop song, filled with fun sound effects and cheerful lyrics (very similar to the effect of “El Scorcho” actually).

Appears on: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis) (1974)

64: The Trees

Writer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
Producer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Terry Brown
Released: 1978
Length: 4:42

“What if trees acted like people?” Legendary drummer Neil Peart once happened upon a cartoon picture of trees that were “carrying on like fools”. He decided to write the trees as foolish, while managing to make a simple statement about his beliefs at the same time. Already an established libertarian with his credit to Ayn Rand just two albums prior, Peart crafts a fairy-tail story in maple trees attempt to force the taller, greedy oak trees to give up their light. In the end, they manage to pass legislation to make all of the trees equal, by cutting down the oak trees.

Appears on: Hemispheres (Rush) (1978)

63: The Game

Writer(s): Chris Squire, Jon Davison, Gerard Johnson
Producer(s): Roy Thomas Baker
Released: July, ‘14
Length: 6:51

Yes’ twenty-first studio album was actually better than people give it credit for. It’s understated and doesn’t try to be anything more than some guys getting together to release some standard rock songs. After decades of creating extravagant epics, topping out three years prior with the 24 minute suite “Fly From Here”, they decided to take a fresh outlook to make an accessible, adventurous record.

Appears on: Heaven & Earth (Yes) (2014)

62: In the Flesh

Writer(s): Roger Waters
Producer(s): Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie, Roger Waters
Released: November, ‘79
Length: 4:15

Roger Waters was responsible for the four back-to-back phenomenal albums Pink Floyd released throughout the seventies. His proudest record took aspects from his childhood, as well as his drug abuse and problems with connecting with others and compiled it into a character called Pink who sinks so far from the realm of normalcy that he begins to become truly despicable. Towards the tail-end of the album, Pink, after suffering from a drug-induced hallucination believes himself to be a fascist dictator and begins ordering attendees at the concert to beat “queers” and “Jews”. His concert crew become a brown coat police force. His audience becomes loyal members of the party, cheering for him at the end of the song as he shares his wish that undesirables could be shot.

Appears on: The Wall (Pink Floyd) (1979)

61: The Spirit Carries On

Writer(s): John Petrucci
Producer(s): Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci
Released: October, ‘99
Length: 6:38

To meet fan demand, Dream Theatre’s fifth album was a follow-up to a track called “Metropolis Pt. 1” on their sophomore album. It tells the story of a man who dreams of a woman frequently in his dreams. Through psychotherapy he finds that this woman was himself in a previous life; he hopes to uncover the truth behind her death and hopefully put these restless thoughts at piece. At the record’s climax, he looks back on his revelation’s with his past self, Victoria, and finds comfort in the fact that he knows that “if I died tomorrow I’d be alright because I believe that after we’re gone the spirit carries on.”

What begins as a simple lullaby on the piano – unique for the progressive metal titan group – slowly crescendos, becoming more grand and complicated as the time stamp grows larger. “The Spirit Carries On” is the climax to what is considered the band’s magnum opus, beginning in tranquility and concluding as a rock opera.

Appears on: Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (Dream Theatre) (1999)

60: Float On

Writer(s): Isaac Brock, Dann Gallucci, Eric Judy, Benjamin Weikel
Producer(s): Dennis Herring
Released: February, ‘04
Length: 3:28

On January 1st, 2016, my girlfriend spent the entire day listening to “Float On” on a loop. She said that it comforted her and helped her when she was sad. The song certainly appears to have that effect, preaching a message of positivity that encourages the listener to keep going even if life gets annoying or bad. Writier Isaac Brock said that this was entirely intentional in an interview after the song reached mainstream popularity. “It was a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad [stuff] had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere… I just want to feel good for a day.”

Appears on: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Modest Mouse) (2004)

59: Tiny Dancer

Writer(s): Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s): Gus Dudgeon
Released: February, ‘72
Length: 6:12

Maxine Feibelman was the first wife of Elton John. In 1972, after the release of Elton John’s fourth album, he dedicated the song “Tiny Dancer” to her. As such, a misconception that this now-infamous song is a love ballad to his wife was born. That’s entirely untrue. Lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote this song as an assurance to the women of California, whom he felt were beautiful as a whole.

Appears on: Madman Across the Water (Elton John) (1972)

58: Here Comes the Sun

Writer(s): George Harrison
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: September, ‘69
Length: 3:06

As the Beatles recorded their final project together as a unit, any cohesion and brotherhood that was present earlier in their career had been so thoroughly destroyed that every day was exhausting. Paul McCartney’s wife, Linda, brought in her brother to help the Beatles with their finances and settle disputes over ownership rights (as most songs were credited to Lennon-McCartney, resulting in claims that other Beatles should receive less revenue for their lesser contributions to the band). As the weeks dragged on, with constant meetings and heated arguments, three bandmates were able to rally around a set proposition, while McCarney remained loyal to his brother-in-law.

Frustrated with the atmosphere, George Harrison ditched one day to go spend time with his friend, Eric Clapton. The two of them spent time in garden, while Harrison absentmindedly played the acoustic guitar. Being the first real sun he had felt in months, he felt himself so overwhelmingly as peace that he felt that everything could be alright.

Appears on: Abbey Road (The Beatles) (1969)

57: The Endless Enigma (Part One, Fugue, & Part Two)

Writer(s): Keith Emerson, Greg Lake
Producer(s): Greg Lake
Released: September, ‘69
Length: 10:40

This is three tracks, so am I cheating? I’m not sure. If multiple tracks were allowed why not include the entire “Abbey Road Medley” and put it in the top ten. To be quite honest I’m not sure what the difference is between that and these three tracks, but I chose to include them under the name “The Endless Enigma”, as they are truly one song – not a song series.

Appears on: Trilogy (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) (1972)

56: Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls

Writer(s): Uncredited
Producer(s): Steve Albini
Released: November, ‘02
Length: 20:42

This song sounds like it should belong to a different band when compared to the tracks on the preceding release. Their second record is a double-album consisting of four 20+ minute-long tracks, all of which find themselves consumed with distractions like interviews and field recordings. This song is the evolution of their earlier work, resembling the post-rock created by the likes of Mono and Slint. Without abandoning what makes post-rock uniquely post-rock (creating music that isn’t rock music… with rock music instruments), they embrace what creates music. It’s less experimental – maybe that’s a good thing.

Appears on: Yanqui U.X.O. (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) (2002)

55: Your Hand in Mine

Writer(s): Chris Hrasky, Michael James, Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith
Producer(s): John Congleton
Released: November, ‘03
Length: 8:16

When I found the vinyl for The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place I was astonished. This album is critically acclaimed and popular within the genre, but I would’ve never expected to come across it a Barnes and Noble, alongside the likes of F#A#Infinity and Young Team. I quickly spent twenty dollars on it and regretted that I would have to wait until that night to listen to it on the record player.

The vinyl cover is illustrated on two sleeves – one of which contains a beautiful forest image, full of life and fauna; the other displays fires that blend together in paint strokes – that hold three sides of a record. When I heard the finality to the conceptual masterpiece (brooding, ominous, and infinite) I turned the record to the D side and found no music. Engraved in the record were etchings of birds flying across words that encapsulate what this album is about. “Because you are breathing, Because you are listening, The Earth is not a cold dead place”.

Appears on: The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (Explosions in the Sky) (2003)

54: Fat Bottomed Girls

Writer(s): Brian May
Producer(s): Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, Roy Thomas Baker
Released: October, ‘78
Length: 4:15

One of the greatest things about Queen is their whimsical nature. They have a frontman with a great voice who really understands music, yet isn’t afraid to make massive productions out of silly concepts. This is a fun song and isn’t anything more than that, but it certainly rocks.

Appears on: Jazz (Queen) (1978)

53: distance

Writer(s): Uncredited
Producer(s): Uncredited
Released: October, ‘07
Length: 3:36

It’s short, sweet, and simple. The lyrics are a rather liberal mixture of Japanese and English, mixing midsentence to create sentences that feel like it a conversation spoken by one person to himself, who cannot decide what language to speak. I don’t know many people who like this song; I don’t think that I could convince anyone to like it either.

Appears on: Long Shot Party (Long Shot Party) (2010)

52: Johnny B. Goode

Writer(s): Chuck Berry
Producer(s): Little “Bongo” Kraus
Released: March, ‘58
Length: 2:41

“Johnny B. Goode”, the story of a country boy who had nothing but his guitar and somehow made it as a big ole’ rock star, is autobiographical one. It became a hit even among white people, partly due to Chuck Berry’s change of the word ‘colored boy’ to ‘country boy’, as well as changing his hometown from St. Louis to New Orleans. He wrote a song that hadn’t been told before: the feelings involved when one goes from rags to riches.

Appears on: Chuck Berry Is On Top (Chuck Berry) (1958)

51: Have a Cigar

Writer(s): Roger Waters
Producer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason
Released: November, ‘75
Length: 5:08

In 1974, Pink Floyd found themselves overwhelmed with the success of their most recent release: The Dark Side of the Moon. The way albums were recorded was tedious and boring, and tensions rose as bandmates grew weary of other’s personal struggles, such as impending divorce and emotional exhaustion. Gilmour said, of the time period, that it “was a very difficult period I have to say. All your childhood dreams had been sort of realized and we had the biggest selling records in the world and all the things you got for it… everything had sort of come our way and you had to reassess what you were in it thereafter, and it was a pretty confusing and sort of empty time for a while.

As a response, “Have a Cigar” was made to express the frustrations with the music industry specifically. Pink Floyd’s relationship was the press was horrible. Mason found recording to be a horrible experience. All of them had been creating records for quite some time. It was time to vent and criticize and scrutinize the industry “fat cats”.

Appears on: Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (1975)

50: Twist And Shout

Writer(s): Bert Berns, Phil Medley
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: March, ‘63
Length: 2:35

In 1963 the Beatles began to record their debut record, which they would famously record in under ten hours. The cover of the Top Notes song was left to be recorded last – with only fifteen minutes left on the schedule. To deliver the incredibly rough and scratchy performance that Lennon gave this song, he needed to be able to rest afterwards. To make matters worse, he was suffering from a cold at the time, resulting in even more rowdy vocals due to the medicinal effects. The track was captured in one try. It had to be; the second didn’t work. Lennon couldn’t sing anymore.

Appears on: Please Please Me (The Beatles) (1963)

49: Levon

Writer(s): Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s): Gus Dudgeon
Released: November, ‘71
Length: 5:22

When I was younger I heard this song about a son who can’t connect to his father; all his father cares about is money. They never connect and they never try to. The father’s name is Levon and he named “his child Jesus because he liked the name”. Jesus was born “on a Christmas day when the New York Times said ‘God was dead’”. The fact that apparently the creator of the Universe died was a bit startling to hear as a kid.

Appears on: Madman Across the Water (Elton John) (1971)

48: The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain

Writer(s): Takaakira Goto, Yoda, Tamaki Kunishi, Tasunori Takada
Producer(s): Steve Albini
Released: March, ‘06
Length: 13:29

Mono is intense and emotional. They play with electric guitar and drums but choose to create music that speaks to unspeakable. Landscapes are painted by their instrumentals, which slide back and forth between positive and negative emotions, often within a single epic song. You Are There was their first record to abandon their minimalist style to create orchestral masterpieces meant to be unforgettable. “The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain” utilizes a string quintet and may be their most memorable for it.

When asked about the music they make and attempts to define them, lead guitarist Takaakira Goto said that “Music is communicating the incommunicable; that means a term like post-rock doesn’t mean much to us, as the music needs to transcend genre to be meaningful.”

Appears on: You Are There (Mono) (2006)

47: Don’t Stop Me Now

Writer(s): Freddie Mercury
Producer(s): Roy Thomas Baker, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon
Released: January, ‘79
Length: 3:29

When this track was released it underperformed (No. 86) for an album that was seen as such a critical and commercial success. Today that is no longer how the song is perceived. Through constant radio play over the past forty years and use in advertising galore, “Don’t Stop Me Now” has gone on to become one of Queen’s most popular songs and one of their best works overall, winning the honor of being considered the third best Queen song ever in a Rolling Stone reader poll.

Appears on: Jazz (Queen) (1978)

46: The Great Gig in the Sky

Writer(s): Richard Wright, Clare Torry
Producer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason
Released: March, ‘73
Length: 4:36

I feel like a lot of people don’t know that this album is a concept album. The entire first side is the journey from birth to death. The first track features crying and a heartbeat, while childhood takes up an entire song. Much of life flies by as an unmemorable droll in “On the Run” (coincidentally the one bad song on the album), while “Time” is an elderly person looking back at life and knowing that it was wasted. The final part of that journey is Wright’s greatest achievement, the non-lexical vocal explosion that is “The Great Gig in the Sky”.

It was first constructed as an organ piece with short sections of the Bible read aloud alongside the instrumentals. Changes were made in the form of playing the song in piano, as well as attempting to include the sounds of NASA astronauts talking (revisited the space rock themes they were almost pigeon-holded in before their ocean ballad “Echoes”). The final decision was to have a female vocalist screaming while the music played behind her; it worked.

Appears on: The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) (1973)

45: Earth Angel

Writer(s): Curtis Williams, Jesse Belvin, Gaynel Hodge
Producer(s): Dootsie Williams
Released: March, ‘73
Length: 4:36

When Marty McFly found himself trapped in 1955, his very existence threatened by the inability of his teenage father to be the man that Loraine wanted him to be, helping Marvin Berry & The Starlighters perform a cover of “Earth Angel” was the only way that he could possibly fix his parent’s future romance. This version will always be my favorite, as it is from my favorite movie (if you haven’t seen Back to the Future I don’t know what to tell you).

This one-hit wonder song has been covered by many bands, and there are many groups that I could have chosen to put as the album that it appears on, ranging from Death Cab for Cutie to the Vogues. It’s wide-known – and rightfully so.

Appears on: Hey Señorita / Earth Angel (The Penguins) (1954)

44: Sign

Writer(s): Uncredited
Producer(s): Uncredited
Released: January, ‘10
Length: 3:58

I talked about the hilarious music video for the song “In Too Deep” earlier in this list. “Sign” may win that award if it’s hilarity were intentional like Sum 41’s was. This music video is so incredibly edgy that it embarrasses me to watch it. Despite that (and some choppy English), Sign is a great song with great instrumentals.

Appears on: Sign (Flow) (2010)

43: Blowin’ in the Wind

Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Producer(s): John H. Hammond
Released: August, ‘63
Length: 2:48

“There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind – and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know… and then it flies away.” – Bob Dylan

Appears on: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan) (1963)

42: I, the Lonely Island

Writer(s): Tyler Ringer, Jeremy Ray
Producer(s): Micah Jayne
Released: June, ‘15
Length: 6:08

This album makes extensive use of complexity and call-backs to previous moments. So many are repeated and made in the middle of the record, at this track. Some of the most simple instrumentals turn into songs that have as many as 94 tracks mixed and programmed together. Though worked on intermittently, the mixing and mastering took four years to complete, which producer and band member Micah Jayne said was “a bit daunting, but I’m happy how they turned out…”.

Appears on: The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast (The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast) (2015)

41: My Way

Writer(s): Paul Anka, Claude Francois
Producer(s): Sonny Burke
Released: 1969
Length: 4:35

In 1967, musical artist Paul Anka negotiated the rights to a French pop song and rewrote the lyrics and melodic structure to fit for Frank Sinatra. When completed he called him at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, saying: “I’ve got something really special for you.” Anka’s record label was apparently very upset when they got news of this, but Anka didn’t think the song was for himself.
“My Way” went on to become one of Sinatra’s most popular songs, acting as the title track to a record and appearing on numerous compilation albums. It became so requested that there are rumors that in the evening years of his life, Sinatra had grown to hate the song.

Appears on: My Way (Frank Sinatra) (1969)

40: Let It Be

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: March, ‘70
Length: 3:50

Mary wasn’t the virgin Mary, or some grand allusion to anything otherworldly or greater than himself. Mother Mary was simply Paul’s mother, who came to him in a dream to let him know that everything would be alright. McCartney has maintained that the majority of the lyrics come from this dream of his. In real life, the Beatles were falling apart. George had temporarily quit and their efforts to go back to the basics in studio recording were tearing the once friends further apart. Let it be.

Appears on: Let It Be (The Beatles) (1970)

39: Storm (I. Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven… , II. Gathering Storm/II Pleut à Mourir [+Clatters Like Worry], III. Welcome to Barco AM/PM…’ [ L.A.X.; 5/14/00], IV. Cancer Towers on Hold Road Hi-Way)

Writer(s): Uncredited
Producer(s): Daryl Smith
Released: March, ‘70
Length: 22:32

Instrumental suites like Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” are subtle. The most noticeable aspects of their earlier could the unalloyed noise that rings out – like the interrupting screeches in the second side of the Meddle album. This release is far subtler. It is at times beautiful and at others reckless and disarming. The first side of the double record cinematic-like production is made up of glorious musical prowess, abstaining from the conversations and random samples that populate the other three major tracks. The release is universally claimed; “Storm” is its claim to fame.

Appears on: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) (2000)

38: La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence) (I. Buenos Noches, Mein Froinds!, II. To Sleep, perchance to dream…, III. Strangiato theme, IV. A Lerxst in Wonderland, V. Monsters!, VI. The Ghost of the Aragon, VII. Danforth and Pape, VIII. The Waltz of the Shreves, IX. Never turn your back on a Monster!, X. Monsters! (Reprise), XI. Strangiato theme (Reprise), XII. A Farewell to Things)

It’s interesting that periods that seem to be the most stressful for bands often turn out to be the most memorable and important to their fans. The records that followed the immensely popular 2112 were such a period for the progressive rock experience, Rush. Their most accomplished release was dominated by a continuation of the epic song series that started beforehand (more on that later); the second side was impressive in its own right however. The climax to the magnus opus of one of the biggest success stories in rock history is a nine-part instrumental explosion (going as far as to subtitle it ‘An Exercise in Self-Indulgence’), which, according to drummer Neil Peart, took longer to record than the entire Fly By Night album.

Writer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
Producer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Terry Brown
Released: October, ‘78
Length: 9:35

Appears on: Hemispheres (Rush) (1978)

37: American Pie

Writer(s): Don McLean
Producer(s): Ed Freeman
Released: November, ‘71
Length: 8:33

As a child, when I heard this song I imagined a near-apocalyptic scenario, in which the happiness had been drained out of the world. Color had been muted. Music was impossible to create. Collectivism was being preached publicly. Satan himself stood upon stages in front of spectators and happy girls were unable to give happy news.

The reality of “American Pie” is that it is a response to death. In an 2009 interview he claimed that the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, was the catalyst that allowed him to pour forth his feelings regarding Holly’s death. What was created, though, became a history of rock and roll, featuring characters such as the king (Elvis Presley), the jester (Bob Dylan), and the quartet (The Beatles). It makes references to the drug culture at Woodstock and cries in outrage that the death of McLean’s favorite artist (and the subsequent loss to the culture that the rest of the song evokes). It talks about American music; it’s an American song.

Appears on: American Pie (Don McLean) (1971)

36: Dream Odyssey

Writer(s): Takaakira Goto, Yoda, Tamaki Kunishi, Tasunori Takada
Producer(s): Steve Albini
Released: September, ‘12
Length: 8:10

This record is the Mono record which truly cemented their sound as truly unique, and unlike any other group that has ever played or is currently playing. The heart of the release, “Dream Odyssey”, becomes one of Mono’s most chilling songs once the music video that accompanies it is viewed. In the classic sense of the word Odyssey – a journey to an unknown place, alone and unwilling – the video finds an astronaut slowly fading from view. At one point the entire screen is consumed by his helmet and by the end is barely visible. Around him, the cosmos burst into incredible displays of star storms and planets beginning and ending. The dream must come to an end, but not before changing into something completely unrecognizable.

Appears on: For My Parents (Mono) (2012)

35: Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage

Writer(s): Neil Peart
Producer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Terry Brown
Released: August, ‘77
Length: 10:25

Do me a favor. Open up a new tab. Go to YouTube and search for ‘Cygnus X-1 Book 1’. When you find a song that has a similar length to the track length listed above, move the timestamp to 5:45. Listen until it reaches 6:22.

Appears on: A Farewelll to Kings (Rush) (1977)

34: Pigs (Three Different Ones)

Writer(s): Roger Waters
Producer(s): David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright
Released: January, ‘77
Length: 11:25

As an homage to George Orwell’s anti-Stalinist fairy tail Animal Farm, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters created the musical counterpart, criticizing capitalism. Though the arguments, few and far-between, are weak, the music and concept was a truly creative one that created a great album. Writing on what author Glenn Povey called “the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals”, the chosen track takes a look at the big-wigs of society, specifically targeting moralists who talk down to the populace. It’s vulgar and demeaning. It’s a great song too.

Appears on: Animals (Pink Floyd) (1977)

33: Piano Man

Writer(s): Billy Joel
Producer(s): Michael Stewart
Released: November, ‘73
Length: 5:38

Like a memoir in song, “Piano Man” is based on the real-life experiences of Billy Joel’s time working as a piano-lounge bar in Los Angeles. It’s sad to hear, yet triumphant in the ending, if a bit melancholy in actual content of the compliments being paid. This song is a story; it can’t really be done true justice in description. It’s majesty lies in the lyrics (rare for the instrumentals that dominate my list) and the fact that the piano and harmonica are being played simultaneously.

Appears on: Piano Man (Billy Joel) (1973)

32: We Know Where You Sleep

Writer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Producer(s): John Congleton, Sean Kirkpatrick, Bobby Weaver, Jason Garner
Released: June, ‘06
Length: 4:22

So it must be clear that I like this record if it is not only the album to get the most tracks on this list, but also the only album by Paper Chase to appear on this list at all. The truth is that it isn’t incredibly listenable individually, with the exception of the opening (it may as well be) track. It immediately explains the cover art – a pantless corpse hanging from the ceiling – and has a chorus that seems to be a sadist speaking in a derogatory manner to someone beneath them. It’s catchy and horrible, but it ends in a chanting repetition that I’m a sucker for (see “Foolish Father” and “What a Catch, Donnie” above).

Appears on: Now You Are One Of Us (Paper Chase) (2006)

31: Mr. Brightside

Writer(s): Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning
Producer(s): Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer, Ronnie Vannucci
Released: September, ‘03
Length: 3:43

This was one of my childhood songs. I’m sure everyone has them. It was a song that I don’t remember not knowing, along with a handful of other Killers tracks and some popular Queen songs. “Mr. Brightside” is probably the best of those childhood songs, for me at least. It’s a song that I don’t listen a lot, but I’m super happy to sing along to every time I do.

Appears on: Hot Fuss (The Killers) (2003)

30: The Gates of Delirium

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Patrick Moraz, Chris Squire, Alan White
Producer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Patrick Moraz, Chris Squire, Alan White, Eddie Offord
Released: November, ‘74
Length: 21:50

This is a war song. It came into existence when band members Jon Anderson and Patrick Moraz were both reading the classic novel War and Peace. It tells the story of every war. That is a beginning, the build-up, the climax, and then remorse. The heart of the song – the battle – features clashing instruments that take up the middle of the track. Scrap metal from junk-yard cars were piled on top of each other and pushed to a collapse to mimic crashing warfare. The sounds are intense and powerful. Guitar solos frequent the track, and later the more experimental, shorter pieces on the record. It’s dense and complex; it’s rather overblown until the ending. The remorse for war comes in the form of a short prayer for peace at the end of the song, which acts as a hope for the future.

Appears on: Relayer (Yes) (1974)

29: Say It Ain’t So

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo
Producer(s): Ric Ocasek
Released: July, ‘95
Length: 4:18

The Blue Album is a lot like high school. There are problems and there are insecurities. Boys may get crushes on girls and relationships may fall apart, but all in all it is a pretty melo experience. It’s just a time of fun. The Blue Album doesn’t have the emotional impact that it’s successor does. It’s power-pop; it’s the only example of it done very well either. Frontman Rivers Cuomo played with the band for two years in clubs that only wanted grunge bands. “I remember just being totally shocked at how little people responded to us, because I thought we were so good,” he later wrote. Little did he know his record would become a high school experience for so many, built on catches lyrics and simple chord progressions.

Appears on: Weezer (The Blue Album) (Weezer) (1994)

28: Time

Writer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
Producer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
Released: February, ‘74
Length: 7:01

Though it has a nice percussion foundation at the opening, the strength of this track, and by extension, the entire record, is the lyrics. Waters is acutely aware of the fact that age comes with regret, no matter what one does. The speaker finds himself at death’s door, admitting that he left the mark that told him he was supposed to start living.

Appears on: The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) (1974)

27: 21st Century Schizoid Man

Writer(s): Peter Sinfield
Producer(s): Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, Peter Sinfield
Released: October, ‘69
Length: 7:20

King Crimson’s first major show was in the June of 1969 when they supported the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. They got on beforehand to unleash their unique, highly rehearsed sound on an audience that was completely unprepared for that type of music. The song blared out – helped by the fact that they played particularly good that day – in the eponymous beginning of “21st Century Schizoid Man”, followed by the rapid passages. No one knew that rock musicians could play like that. Peter Sinfield noted that afterwards “there was a silence at the end and no one knew whether to clap or not. That was good.” There was a clap. Then it erupted into a roar of people who had a glimpse into a band that didn’t exist in any time and that existed without the past – but looked boldly past everything in the future.

Appears on: In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson) (1969)

26: Divine Melodies

Writer(s): Tyler Ringer, Jeremy Ray
Producer(s): Micah Jayne
Released: June, ‘15
Length: 6:18

By the time someone hears the final track on this conceptual masterpiece, they should already know how to sing along to at least a small degree. The opening refrain leads magically into a great, succinct song. The interim that divides this and the climax contains call-backs to the other tracks, while the ending is a beast all in itself. This is a great song. It’s an even better conclusion.

Appears on: The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast (The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast) (2015)

25: Freewill

Writer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
Producer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Terry Brown
Released: January, ‘80
Length: 5:24

My dad once showed me this song, praising Rush as one of the greatest lyricists of all time. The libertarian, almost objectivist, thinkers followed up their explosive progressive production with a more toned down, radio-friendly album. “Freewill” exists as a continuation of the brilliant lyrics found on Hemispheres. Instead of debating whether or not free will exists or is a gift from some Creator, the band points out that even in instances where an individual may not choose or avoid free will… the evasion is a choice in of itself.

Appears on: Permanent Waves (Rush) (1980)

24: unravel

Writer(s): Tōru Kitajima
Producer(s): Tōru Kitajima
Released: July, ‘14
Length: 4:00

This is the second to last song on this list to contain Japanese lyrics, I promise. It’s a single that is just incredibly catchy. The words are rather dismissable, but the animation that it can and has been timed up with brings out the force in the song. The high-pitched vocals cascade into rhythmic and slamming instrumentals, which collapse into melodic chaos.

Appears on: unravel (TK) (2014)

23: Starship Trooper

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire
Producer(s): Jon Anderon, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford, Eddy Offord
Released: February, ‘71
Length: 9:29

When the Beatles decided to stop touring, the freedom from live performances drove innovation to a new height. Suddenly, there was no worry about whether or not a song could be regurgitated in exactly the same way. The studio could allow constructions that wouldn’t be possible with just instruments and voices. Bands like King Crimson took it to a new height on releases like A Lark’s Tongue in Aspic. Yes’ foray into this new world of recording resulted in a song that regularly changed rhythm and style throughout it’s building time stamp. Unlike the early work of Rush and other progressive bands that dominated the Canterbury scene and the various recluses of the UK, Yes managed to create an epic that combined the wildly different segments into a singular track that flowed with a natural progression. When “Starship Trooper” moves past the introspective, religious, sci-fi experience, the concluding bolero-paced chord sequence becomes one of the greatest instrumental conclusions I can think of.

Appears on: The Yes Album (Yes) (1971)

22: A Day in the Life

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: June, ‘67
Length: 5:35

When the Beatles set out to make their tour de force concept album that would allow them to escape the restrictive songwriting of the Beatles, they accepted that they would no longer be touring as a group. They would be a studio band, possibly at the risk of hurting their own popularity. The exact opposite happened. Picking up from the springboard that the Beach Boys provided the year earlier, the Beatles created a pop record that was the most experimental piece of art most people had ever heard. It drew people in on a level no one had seen before. In America, the radio stations played the album from start to finish, virtually non-stop. It exceeded the success of all previous Beatles albums.

Rolling Stone writer Langdon Winner has said that “the closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the Sgt. Pepper album was released. In every city in Europe and America the radio stations played it and everyone listened… it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. For a brief while the irreparable fragmented consciousness of the West was unified, at least in the minds of the young.” “A Day in the Life” was the epitome of that, not relying on the past but looking forward to the future of what rock songs would one day be.

Appears on: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles) (1967)

21: Hallelujah

Writer(s): Leonard Cohen
Producer(s): John Lissauer
Released: December, ‘84
Length: 5:13

The Buckley version of this song has appeared in nearly every form of media, specifically film and television, one can imagine (it’s most famous useage is probably with a green ogre who is upset that a princess doesn’t love him). There have been dozens and dozens of covers of this song, but in my opinion the most emotionally pungent rendition is the version that appeared on the Christmas album of the presently named Tenors. The fourth verse is replaced with a version that I much prefer – one that conjures an image of some unnamed internal conflict that demands the attention of the almighty God himself.

Appears on: The Perfect Gift (The Canadian Tenors) (2009)

20: Comfortably Numb

Writer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour
Producer(s): Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie, Roger Waters
Released: June, ‘80
Length: 6:23

From the concept album that represents concept albums, Waters includes a personal story that is plucked straight from a real-life event, in which a Philadelphia doctor thrust tranquilizers straight into the bloodstream of the drug-ridden rock star just before a show. Waters found himself performing for over two hours, barely able to move his body. “That was the longest two hours of my life,” he later said, describing the inspiration for the piece that Rolling Stone magazine has praised as having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.

Appears on: The Wall (Pink Floyd) (1980)

19: Moya

Writer(s): Thierry Amar, David Bryant, Bruce Cawdron, Aidan Girt, Norsola Johnson, Efrim Menuck, Mike Moya, Mauro Pezzente, Sophie Trudeau
Producer(s): Dale Morningstar
Released: March, ‘99
Length: 10:51

Rate Your Music, an aggregate voting website, ranks the two-track sophomore release of Godspeed as the best EP of all time. The record itself it formless and empty, containing no artwork, lyrics, song names, or references to the band whatsoever. The only art is hebrew characters which translate to “formless and empty”, a phrase used twice in the Bible to describe the separation of light and darkness by God. While the second track, “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”, has some personality, featuring a character who shares his ripped-off poem with a news cast, the first track is completely free to be the musical excellence that it comes to be. It is based off Polish composer Henryk Gorecki’s work, “Symphony No. 3, Op. 26, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. The symphony itself was dedicated to his wife and makes allusions to the historical reality of the Polish people during World War II, plagued by the holocaust. Perhaps this plays into the Hebrew culture found present in the release. Whatever the case, “Moya” proves itself to be an entertaining and suspenseful piece worthy of a listen.

Appears on: Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) (1999)

18: Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres

Writer(s): Neil Peart
Producer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Terry Brown
Released: October, ‘78
Length: 18:08

The previous entry found our hero launching himself into a black hole called Cygnus in his glorious ship, the Rocinante. Following classic literature references, Rush picks up their next album with the astronaut emerging into Mount Olympus, acting as an arbitar between a civilization engaged in a bloody civil war over the ideologies pushed by the gods, Dionysus and Apollo. Sections of the first track make a reappearance in the finalized conclusion to the greatest story-song found in music in order to reaffirm that the new god is in fact that undead, yet unborn, incarnation of the wayward space traveller. It ends with him being titled the God of Knowledge, claiming as Rush always does, that classical liberal values (free markets and free individuals) prevail as the supreme ideology. “Sensibility, armed with a sense of liberty.”

Appears on: Hemispheres (Rush) (1978)

17: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IX)

Writer(s): David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright
Producer(s): David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason
Released: September, ‘75
Length: 26:00

“Shine On” became was the third epic by Pink Floyd, though it thankfully avoided the fate of being stranded on one side of the record alone, instead being split into two large sections to bookend the album. It certainly takes the listener for a ride, changing a person’s mood over and over to make you think and expect different things. It manages to be a good rain song, while also being a song to pump you up if played loud enough. It’s sad, just like the record it comes from, and genius too.

Appears on: Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (1975)

16: Something

Writer(s): George Harrison
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: October, ‘69
Length: 2:59

Behind “Yesterday”, this track is the second most covered Beatles song of all time. Unlike the aforementioned song, “Something” finds itself riddled with accolades describing it as the ascension of Harrison’s songwriting to a level worthy of his two other infamous bandmates. It was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite songs. Elton John said that “Something is probably one of the best love songs ever, ever, ever written… It’s better than ‘Yesterday,’ much better… It’s like the song I’ve been chasing for the last thirty-five years.”

I would go further than Elton John’s declaration. It is the greatest love song ever written. It is simple and elegant in a way that I don’t think many songs are. It is honest. “You ask me, ‘Dear, will my love grow?’ I don’t know. I don’t know. You stick around and it may show, but I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Appears on: Abbey Road (The Beatles) (1969)

15: Roundabout

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe
Producer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Eddy Offord
Released: January, ‘72
Length: 8:29

I may have listened to music as a kid. Everyone does; but there does come a certain point when a person gets into music on their own in a deeper way. The cursory way that I experienced songs before hearing “Roundabout” is nothing like the way I know music now. I used to listen to singular songs and know nothing about the artist, the song meaning, or the years of releases that went into inspiring it. My enjoyment was very casual and conditional. “Roundabout”changed that. It is the song that got me into music.

I listened to it and for the first time I looked up a song online. I found out that it was by Yes and belonged to the progressive rock genre. I learned about Yes by listening to Close to the Edge, and learned more about their contemporaries by listening to In the Court of the Crimson King and Farewell to the Kings. For the first time I listened to albums from beginning to end, as experiences in themselves, rather than as a conduit for me to listen to the single that I liked.

I expanded from progressive rock into classic rock, and eventually into post-rock and math-rock. I now know about ambient music, dark ambient, and even drone music. I can list off my favorite folk rock albums and how they came to be. Music is important now, and wouldn’t have been that way if there hadn’t been a song to get me interested enough in the history behind it.

Appears on: Fragile (Yes) (1971)

14: Moonlight

Writer(s): Takaakira Goto, Yoda, Tamaki Kunishi, Yasunori Takada
Producer(s): Steve Albini
Released: March, ‘06
Length: 13:04

“Moonlight” is the greatest post-rock song ever written. It is incredible; the power it has cannot be understated. It is as if the song is the soundtrack to a moment of retrospective reflection; the gentle flow of positive vibes and memories, washed with an undertone of “I’ve missed the point. There is no going back. Now it’s too late.”

It is a worthy conclusion to an album that stands out amongst the decade of its release, and manages to contain a bursting glow of emotion at the beginning, before devolving into madness and reconstructing itself as a droning wall of noise that never lets the listener go. Ever.

Appears on: You Are There (Mono) (2006)

13: Under Pressure

Writer(s): Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, David Bowie
Producer(s): Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, David Bowie
Released: October, ‘81
Length: 4:08

The lyrics at the end of “Under Pressure” are the greatest song lyrics I’ve ever heard:

“Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”

Appears on: Hot Space (Queen) (1981)

12: Hey Jude

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer(s): George Martin
Released: August, ‘68
Length: 7:11

When divorce proceedings began between John Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia, Paul McCartney found himself showing support for the mother and child, Julian, while they stayed at Montagu Square in London. While driving out to meet Lennon’s son, who never was close to Lennon himself, claiming that “there seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than pictures of me and dad,” McCartney began to improvise a song of comfort for the five-year-old child. When he began to work with Lennon on the same, as usual, he changed the name from Julian to Jude and the lyrics became less specific (to such a degree that the self-absorbed divorcee actually claimed for a decade afterward that he believed the song was truly about him).

Julian has been critical of his father, who is known to have verbally and physically abused both him and his mother. “There was some very negative stuff talked about me – like when he said that I’d come out of a whisky bottle on a Saturday night… It was very psychologically damaging and for years that affected me.” McCartney has been said to be more of a father to him than Lennon ever was, and this anthem of reassurance was one of the first of it’s kind to exist in the musical space. It is over seven minutes long – it was played on the radio, because it was a Beatles song. It went on to become their most successful single ever.

Appears on: Hey Jude / Revolution (The Beatles) (1968)

11: And You and I (I. Cord of Life, II. Eclipse, III. The Preacher, the Teacher, IV. The Apocalypse)

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire
Producer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Eddy Offord
Released: September, ‘72
Length: 10:08

When Yes set out to record their fifth album, they found themselves wrapped up in torment and disagreements at every turn. In a recurring theme, the period in which the artists went through the most turmoil results as one of the most endearing to fans. Due to the hippie democracy that the band organized itself in, the members constantly found themselves arguing amongst each other whether a riff should end with an F sharp or a C. Their magnus opus took three months to record, in fact. Member Bill Bruford, who became disillusioned and left afterwards to join King Crimson, said: “It took three months because Simon & Garfunkel took three months to record Bridge over Troubled Waters. We heard this and went, ‘Well, by golly, our next record is going to take three months and a day!’ That was the infantile way we behaved; we took three months and a day.”

So when done with the symphony that took up the first side of the disc, they found themselves eager to complete more epics that could satisfy their need for self-indulgence. Yes created their progressive rock demonstration in the concluding track, “Siberian Khatru”, but chose to fill in the middle with what I’ve always perceived as a ‘chiller’ “Roundabout”. It begins with guitar strings and breaks into the main song, before slowing down and then coming back in a force stronger than the initial melody that came before. “And You and I” is a concise (for a Yes song) in its progression and poignant in the totality of its lyrics.

Appears on: Close to the Edge (Yes) (1972)

10: Only in Dreams

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo
Producer(s): Ric Ocasek
Released: May, ‘94
Length: 8:03

Being the second most popular Weezer song (behind “El Scorcho”) according to a fan survey, “Only in Dreams” holds the title of the being the longest song the power pop group ever recorded, and likely will ever record. Five minutes in, when the song concludes with an unresolved chord, it picks back up with subtle guitar plucks that evolves into a three-minute crescendo that dominates the back-half of the track. The ending of this song is longer than the majority of the songs in the Weezer catalog, most of which are short pop tunes.

Weezer will never write another song like this. Their second longest song, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variation on a Shaker Hymn)”, clocks in at six minute and goes through twelve distinct motions (one of which is a choir section!). Even this focuses on concise writing, with musical pit-stops being short-lived and underdone. Cuomo doesn’t like this type of music. In 2002, when asked about the song on Weezer fan boards, he went on a tirade about how the band hates this song and doesn’t like much of the album it comes from either. He called it “GAY! GAY! GAY!” But hey, adolescent writers can’t always see genius when they have it. Only in their dreams, right?

Appears on: Weezer (The Blue Album) (Weezer) (1994)

9: Like a Rolling Stone

Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Producer(s): Tom Wilson
Released: July 20, 1965
Length: 6:15

Bob Dylan was going to quit music. He didn’t like his own music, despite the fact that it was very popular with the audience the consumed it. He wanted to write other things, but one song changed all of that. “After writing that I wasn’t interested in writing a novel, or a play. I just had too much, I want to write songs,” said Dylan, after his breakthrough. What began as ten to twenty pages of vomit (sources differ) was crafted into a six minute single that extended popular verse in a way that had never been done before. “It wasn’t called anything. Just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn’t hatred, telling them they were lucky. Revenge, that’s a better word. I had never thought of it as a song, until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper it was singing, “How does it feel?” in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion.” Dylan’s song about a privileged girl falling on hard times and living the life that she had always made fun of in the past isn’t about love and it isn’t happy. It’s a harrowing song for 1965. Dylan said the following year that it was “the best song I’ve ever written.” I think it’s one of the best songs ever.

Appears on: Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan) (1965)

8: Stairway to Heaven

Writer(s): Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer(s): Jimmy Page
Released: April, ‘71
Length: 8:03

“The idea of Stairway was to have a composition that would keep unfolding and building into more layers and moods so the subtlety and the intensity of the composition would actually accelerate as it went through on every level – on every emotional level, on every musical level – so it just keeps opening up as it keeps passing.” The piece gradually speeds up throughout the piece, breaking the cardinal rule of songwriting: consistent tempo. The backbone of what the song was intended to be was merely instrumental, while the lyrics were added in later. It was difficult to add in, due to the changes that occurred throughout the song. The drums delay their entry to increase their increase their impact. The song continues to open up. “Everything was planned. It wasn’t an accident.” The entire song flows like a stairway that increases the perspective range of the song up to the solo, which is a definite break that provides fanfare for the listener. The conclusion isn’t incredibly fast; the passion is what drives through. The final vocals are inspired and drive home the honest, epic message of the song.

Appears on: Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin) (1972)

7: Hiyori Ittai

Writer(s): Kitagawa Yu Hitoshi
Producer(s): Uncredited
Released: December, ‘13
Length: 5:46

Yuzu is a pop folk duo from Japan that creates masterful singles (and I’m sure albums if I could find some way to legally obtain them!) that are available on their YouTube channel. Their masterpiece – Two Sides of the Same Coin, or “Hiyori Ittai” – is one of the most strikingly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. It is musically superb, featuring vocal exercises that create a beautiful and profound effect before the lyrics even start.

Though I doubt any listener will be able to understand, the song begins by questioning whether the feeling that the speaker is feeling is black or white. As it explores the two-sided nature of conflict it compares it to a helix, pointing out that the ending on wishes for has an effect for others. “The brighter the light, the darker the shadow… two futures came together.” Nothing is completely objective. It can be applied to people, concepts, and actions. “Light and darkness. Love and hate. They’re all powerful emotions with the same roots.”

Appears on: Two Sides of the Same Coin (Yuzu) (2013)

6: Across the Sea

Writer(s): Rivers Cuomo
Producer(s): Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp
Released: September, ‘96
Length: 4:32

Cuomo’s second album was a flop, both commercially and critically. It was an outpour of emotion that focused almost exclusively on sexual frustration and the inability to love and be loved. Every song that describes a girl is seemingly about a different girl, while every song in which he finds something good it is ruined by his own immaturity. It becomes even more emotionally honest by Cuomo’s admitting that all of these problems are the results of his habitual actions.

In the emotional climax of the album, Cuomo describes his “love”, idealized and flawed in the worst way, for a Japanese girl who sent him a letter a year ago. He treats her as an idea and does this without consequence, despite the fact that he knows that it is wrong to do. He lusts after a young, foreign child, and ends up writing her a song in which he pleas for her to be his. It is hypocritical and it knows that. It’s genius, and honest in the saddest way one can imagine.

Appears on: Pinkerton (Weezer) (1994)

5: Somebody to Love

Writer(s): Freddie Mercury
Producer(s): Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp
Released: November, ‘76
Length: 4:57

Queen had a lot to live up to after they released the musical complex, ground-breaking climax on their previous release: A Night at the Opera. The track focused on how God relates to love. The singer finds himself lacking in any sort of love in his life, and demands to God an answer to why this is the case. To match the religious overtones, gospel was incorporated into the song construction. Three voices were overlaid to create a choir of one hundred people, while piano featured prominently in the song (it was written on one, originally). “Somebody to Love” went on to become one of the most popular Queen songs, featuring in cinema and media for decades afterward. The varied voices provide multiple avenues by which to sing along, while the build-up towards the end allows for any group to feel justified in shouting the ending.

Appears on: A Day at the Races (Queen) (1976)

4: Close to the Edge (I. The Solid Time of Change, II. Total Mass Retain, III. I Get Up, I Get Down, IV. Seasons of Man)

Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe
Producer(s): Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Eddy Offord
Released: June, ‘72
Length: 18:43

“Back in those days you had two or three records that weren’t that good getting you to the winner. The one that the thing existed for was Close to the Edge. That’s the one you exist for in rock and you think, ‘That’s the cookie! That’s the one right there!’ Done deal. I’m gone; I left.” Bill Bruford perceives Close to the Edge as the greatest Yes album; he isn’t alone. Most fans consider this record to be the best the band ever made, if not one of the singular best vinyls to ever be released. The title-track, which took up the entire first side of the album, tested the limits of how long songs could be.

“When we got to the high spot, which was Close to the Edge – well really, I don’t know how that record got made.” The song finds itself woven together by five musicians who combined their own segments as a patchwork creature. It was all muscle-power and strong-man decisions that pushed the bartering system that the rock quintet put together. A bassline would be created and melded with a short four-second segment, which would be extended into an entire opening segment before the alto lyrics come in.

Pushing the envelope of budgetary grants from record labels, Yes utilized organs and symphonic instruments to create an epic, other-worldly feel. The lyrics were crafted out of nonsense, chosen to fit the sound of the music. The final section of the song, beginning about four and half minutes from the ending, all at once roars into a blazing guitar solo that must’ve been played at the speed of sound. The final verse plays into the chorus that is chanted with length and intention. It’s the height, and probably the greatest singular section of music ever recorded.

Appears on: Close to the Edge (Yes) (1972)

3: Wish You Were Here

Writer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour
Producer(s): Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason
Released: September, ‘75
Length: 5:41

Most people think that this is a love song. In a way it is, but it isn’t romantic in the slightest sense of the word. Pink Floyd doesn’t write romance song. In the instances when they do, such as the “Pigs on a Wing” song series, they end up being somewhat forgettable and ignored. This track focuses on the love between friends and colleagues, and the results of admiration – and eventually, surpassing your idols.

When former frontman Syd Barret returned to Pink Floyd in their studio, years after his break down and drug addiction, he was unrecognizable. The record in the works was the follow-up to the most successful album the world had ever seen. It intensely focused on Barret, who by now was fat, bald, and a saddened shell of the man he used to be.

When the bandmates finally recognized who he was they showed him what they had so far, specifically the two-track epic, “Shine On”. It was clear that it was an homage to him. It treated him like a God, but was somewhat regretful too. It was reverant while remaining distant to the fact that he wasn’t in the same league as them any longer. When he picked up a guitar and asked how he could help, Barret was told: “Sorry. There isn’t anything left to play.”

Appears on: Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (1975)

2: Libera Me From Hell

Writer(s): Taku Iwasaki, Roman Catholic Office of the Dead
Producer(s): Uncredited
Released: 2007
Length: 4:47

This is a weird song to be on this list, especially so high. There’s no rap on this list. There’s no opera on this list, but “Libera Me From Hell” is an opera-rap fusion song. It begins with a piano, which acts as the beat while the lyrics are spit out. In between these verses are segments of the Catholic hymn “Libera Me” sung in latin. There’s even a bass drop, which leads into the rap and opera being played simultaneously in some mismatched union that works surprisingly well. Most people I’ve shown this song to hate it at first, but nearly every person has grown to love it. It sounds ridiculous and it is ridiculous, but I urge everyone and anyone to listen to it a few times while you’re feeling particularly excited or competitive. If it’s anything it’s a hype song. When that final chorus of chanting comes in – “Row Row Fight the Power” – it is so hard to resist chanting along.

Appears on: Gurren Lagann Television Show (Tarantula and Kasahara Yuri) (2007)

1: Bohemian Rhapsody

Writer(s): Freddie Mercury
Producer(s): Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, Roy Thomas Baker
Released: October, ‘75
Length: 5:55

“Bohemian Rhapsody” has been my favorite song for eleven years. I’m not alone either. The aggregate ranking website Top Tens has it voted as the greatest song ever. The Guinness Book of Records named it the top British single of all time. Ever since 1999, the annual “Top 2000” poll finds that it is voted as the best song ever – every year since (except for three years, in which it was voted number two). Dr. Jochen Eisentraut said that a “year before punk made it unfashionable, progressive rock had an astounding success with the theoretically over-length single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which bore many of the hallmarks of the ‘prog’ genre.” It has been compared to “Stairway to Heaven”, as a song that had no reason to become as popular as it did. It’s long, with a slow beginning that gradually climbs into a raging metal climax that falls again. Queen choose to incorporate operatic elements and it paid off in strides.

Mercury wrote the entire song himself at home in London. According to producer Roy Thomas Baker, Mercury “played the beginning on the piano, then stopped and said, ‘And this is where the opera section comes in!’” It was a stark contrast to the usual material, which was written in studio by the entire band. The band was a bit confused initially, but thought that the composition was worthy of work. It was nearly a parody of art rock, and progressive rock music as a whole. It was a mock opera that was outside the normal rock atmosphere, but followed operatic logic. The lyrics are muddled and the emotion is over the top. It was so complex that some sections featured 180 different overdubs, which had be ‘bounced’ down to ‘sub-mixes’, due to the technological restraints of 24-track analogue tapes in the 1970s.

It is the ultimate progressive rock masterpiece, featuring the rapid changes in tempo, the changes in rhythm from section to section. It blends classical genres, in this case opera and symphonic rock, with heavy metal and modern rock music. It contains Italian references in the over-the-top operatic choruses, existing as a beautiful suite instead of merely a song. It’s a single that abandons love in favor or murder, apathy, and a wish for death.

Sure enough, label executives told them at due to it’s length it would never be a hit. Various bands listened and promised that the song would never be a hit. Radio heads said the same. The song became the 1975 UK Christmas number one for nine weeks; it succeeded on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US as well. It is certified quadruple platinum as a single as of 2014 and is revered as one of the greatest songs in popular music history. But none of that really matters to me.

Appears on: A Night at the Opera (Queen) (1975)