One-and-a-bit years into a new decade, and the musical similarities to this point last decade, in 2001, are uncanny. There's a Radiohead album out that people are refusing to admit is – to put it bluntly – a load of old cobblers.
Meanwhile the defining band of the last decade – The Strokes – have made an album, 'Angles', that allows people other than the main songwriter to write for the first time, and that sounds like a band who've lost track of what they're all about (their 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants').
The biggest band in Britain are a bunch of likeable-rather-than-shaggable folkie types (Mumford & Sons, or 'Travis' as they used to be called). And there's loads of good pop, loads of dull people claiming they’re into “a bit of everything”, and loads of sounding of the death knell for rock and roll.
But in the air just in front of the mouths of any believers out there, is also the distinct sense that it is time for straight-ahead frills to make a return. Not just the people, either: the two best rock singers in the UK agree.
Witness Liam's cry of "Well it beats me, mama/I just wanna rock and roll!" on 'Different Gear...'; witness Arctic Monkeys’ comeback song, and Alex's primal roar of "I wanna rock and roll!" They, and me, and a lot of other people, think that it is time for bands to stop being esoteric, and start making people dance.
So in an attempt to encourage this, and because it’s nearly Friday night, and because it’s just one of the best things to write a song about (or write a piece about songs about), here are my ten favourite songs about rock’n’roll, featuring ‘rock’n’roll in their titles.
Ready? OK. And… “WAN-TWO-FREE-FOUR!”
1. Led Zeppelin - 'Rock & Roll'
“It’s been a long time since I did the stroll!” wails Robert Plant, before adding, “Let me get back, let me get back, let me get back… baby, where I come from!” What better way to kick things off than this? When things get to complex, or folky or both (as they had for Zep when this came out), resort to three chords and a groove. Someone call Thom Yorke, tell him to put down those papers and watch this!
2. The Velvet Underground - 'Rock & Roll'
Similarly, this one is great because it sees the world's most fawned over art-band stop singing about “Severin” or Marsha “finally submitting to the final caresses of sexual oblivion” and start “dancing to that fine, fine music”. The album from which it is from, ‘Loaded’, was so titled because Atlantic Records had asked for an album loaded with hits. Proof that the band who invented the future of rock and roll could do its past as well as anyone, too.
3. Joan Jett - 'I Love Rock & Roll'
Lots of these songs do not need explaining or quantifying, but none more than this one. If you don’t like this song, I genuinely feel sorry for you. She didn’t write it, but who gives a fuck? It is Joan’s version, not the original, that is everything rock and roll should be: stupid and simple, and emotional because of this. Look how amazing she looks!
4. Daft Punk - 'Rock & Roll'
A good use by the dance band with ‘Punk’ in their name of a title that encapsulates what they, at their best, are all about. Simple, direct, glamourous music that makes attractive young people want to dance and kiss each other.
5. Spiritualized - 'Rock & Roll'
A personal favourite. Flipping the perception of what a song entitled ‘Rock & Roll’ should be, it’s a lullaby and a love song. “Rock and roll, keep playing for me,” Jason Pierce coos. “It’s easy to see, why I love you.” At which point the gospel harmonies come in, and your heart melts. Also feature the amazing verse: “I love the way that you fly/I love the way that your heart beats in time/I love the way you’re all mine.”
6. Oasis - 'Rock & Roll Star'
Often noted is the fact that this song is NOT about being a rock and roll star, it’s about feeling like a rock and roll star. This is important. No song has ever, ever, EVER better encapsulated the feeling of being 18, leaving a shithole flat in beautiful clothes you can’t really afford, checking your hair one last time in the mirror, and slamming the front door with a force that says: “World, Saturday night: I truly hope you are both ready, because I am about to kick the living shit out of you.”
7. Chuck Berry - 'Rock And Roll Music'
The Lennon is version is great, Chuck’s own original is better, but for something a bit different, and amazing, and maybe even better than either, check out this clip of him doing it with Etta James. Oh YES.
8. Motorhead - 'Rock & Roll'
Ninety percent of songs written by Lemmy are about how rock and roll can save lives, and is something worth living for. His life is a living, just-about-breathing testament to this fact and here, over a typically million-miles-an-hour backbeat, he kisses goodbye to another let-down lover, because he’s still in love with rock’n’roll. “I got rock and roll/To save me from the cold,” he roars. “And if that’s all there is, it ain’t so bad.” And the way he barks, “Now play it to me!” just before the guitar solo is just unbelievably amazing.
9. The Human League - 'Rock & Roll Part 2'
Cold, synthetic, and lakcing in guitars: not things that you would necessarily associate with rock’n’roll. But in the line from Gary Glitter’s single that goes, “The world span around to the brand new sound of those far off days”, Phil Oakey was insisting what he and his band were doing was in the same spirit of those early 45’s. He was right.
10. AC/DC - 'Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution'
The kiss-off to ‘Back In Black’, the best rock and roll album ever, and the kiss-off to this list, too. I’ll leave it to them to Brian Johnson to have the final word: "Hey, there, all you middle men! Throw away your fancy clothes. And while you're out there sitting on a fence, so get of your ass and come down here, cause rock and roll ain't no riddle man. To me it makes good, good sense!"
Oh yeaaah! Now the big question is: what are we gonna do for an encore? We haven’t even touched on Black Sabbath’s ‘Rock And Roll Doctor’ or, er, ‘Rock & Roll’ by Dio or the other 3,232 AC/DC songs with ‘rock and roll’ in the title. Or the Stones. There’s loads of others!
Come on, people, quick: they want more, and they want it bad! What other great songs with ‘rock and roll’ in the title can you think of?
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