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Top 10 Tunes of All Time

June 5, 2012
I’m tired of writing (and worrying about) fraternal solvency, relevance, and governance – and you’re probably tired of reading about those topics. So I thought I’d take a shot at a “Letterman-like” Top 10 list of my favorite recordings of all time – you know, the tunes you listen to at ear-splitting volume…that you remember where you were the first time you heard them…that make you FEEL. So here’s my list of singles and artists – we can argue about best overall albums in a later post. I forced myself to limit songwriters to only one song on the list. 10)  30 Days in the Hole (Humble Pie) – One of the great party songs of all time performed by a band that was so much better live than they were on vinyl. Writing credits go to the entire band, but Steve Marriott, the poor man’s Rod Stewart, was the heart and soul of the group and this tune.  Rod got a poofy haircut and sings “standards” in Vegas. Steve kept rockin’ until his death in 1991.  If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll know why. 9)  Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young) – Neil Young pounding out the chords on “Old Black” backed by Crazy Horse.  Can a rock-and-roll song get much better than this? 8)  In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Allman Brothers Band) – The live version from the “Fillmore East” album. If there is a better guitar solo than Duane Allman’s searing roller coaster ride on this tune, then I haven’t heard it. 7)  Intro/Sweet Jane (Lou Reed) – Anyone can sing along with Lou; and I do every time I set the needle down on this tune.  If your windows don’t rattle during the transition from Intro to those first chords of Sweet Jane, then it’s not loud enough. 6)  Funky Pretty (Beach Boys) – A little known tune from the “Holland” album, this song has always moved me for some reason. 5)  The Weight (The Band) – I was moving into a dorm room in the mid-70s when I heard this song for the first time, and I’ve never missed a Band concert since.  Yes, that includes “The Last Waltz.”  There are several terrific live versions of this tune out there, but the studio version recorded with The Staples Singers is my favorite. 4)  Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones) – There are probably 15 Jagger/Richards songs that could have made this list (all of them from 1968-72 when the band was at its pinnacle), but this one has the perfect combination of riff and lyrics that make me wish I could have seen the Stones on a small stage at the Double Door in Chicago before one of their mega tours.  Who needs pyrotechnics with songs like this? 3)  Me and Bobbie McGee (Kris Kristofferson) – Kristofferson wrote it, Janis Joplin made it a hit, but the Grateful Dead’s cover of this tune on their self-titled live album from 1970 breaks my heart every time I hear it. 2)  Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) – This one is all about hope – about taking a chance, breaking out, seeking something better. I’ve heard several early versions of the song with a variety of different lyrics and am amazed by how it evolved before becoming track one on Springsteen’s groundbreaking album, “Born to Run.”  My favorite version is from the E Street Band’s 1974 shows at the Roxy in Los Angeles.  The song was still so new the band didn’t really play it well, so Springsteen sings it backed by just a piano and glockenspiel.  It’s timeless… 1)  It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (Bob Dylan) – Here’s the scene: Oakland Coliseum, 1974, in the depths of the Watergate scandal; “Before the Flood” Tour featuring Bob Dylan and The Band.  During the acoustic set, Dylan plays this song and when he snarls out the lyric “But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked,” the crowd erupts in a primal roar. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. Let me know if any of these strike a chord with you, or feel free to post your own list…