10Buddy Holly, 'Peggy Sue'
An early work of rock genius. Holly And The Crickets created a penetrating slab of early, guitar driven blues. The rolling rumble of bass and drums and the lo-fi guitar sound would influence everyone from The Beatles to Girls, while the simplicity of its chord structure provided that the most infectious tracks often came in seemingly basic packages - the effect of which would be seen until this day.
9Hank Williams, 'Your Cheatin' Heart'
As legend would have it, this track was penned by Williams about his first wife, but dictated to his second wife, whilst he was driving. The cad! Released after his death, it would typify a sort of ageless, heart-sore balladeering form that Williams helped inaugurate.
8The Drifters, 'Money Honey'
Forget Lady Gaga’s 2008 album monstrosity, this slinky shuffle features some top vocal lines from the Drifters’ tenor, bass, and baritone voices and, halfway through the playful sax solo, one of the greatest screams in rock history. Being broke never sounded so good.
7Sam Cooke, ‘You Send Me’
Sometimes the best songs are the most simple. A sweet love letter to his darling full of earnest sentiment and unashamed admiration, this beautiful track saw Cooke shift from his gospel roots to a more soulful direction. Subsequently revived by all manner of crooners, from Michael Bolton (questionable) to Aretha (worth a listen).
6Eddie Cochran, 'Summertime Blues'
Armed with an amazing rockabilly riff (so good that it was later covered by The Who), ‘Summertime Blues’ pulverizes with Cochran’s “gee, shucks” vocal style and jumping, speed demon rhythms. If there were any blues contained in this summer, we couldn’t detect them.
5Howlin Wolf, ‘Smokestack Lightnin'’
Think blues and you think Howlin Wolf and ‘Smokestack Lightnin’. Played live since his Delta blues days in the ‘30s and honed for two decades before its release in ’56, it sees harmonica, train references and a repeated E major chord collide to mesmerising effect.
4Little Richard, 'Tutti Frutti'
Little Richard's best track was revolutionary in terms of how it shaped rock and roll, not just in musically but in its pioneering use of double entendre. The original lyrics (“Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy”) were so, well fruity, they made ‘Relax’ seem like a Vera Lynn track.
3Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘Great Balls of Fire’
“You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain / Too much love drives a man insane”. So begins the third greatest song of the entire decade and one of the best rock ‘n’ roll tracks ever. From Jerry Lee to Goose and Maverick, this irrepresible dose of raw rock energy and serious piano abuse has been a stone cold classic for nearly 60 years.
2Elvis Presley, 'Hound Dog'
A cover of the bluesy Big Mama Thornton track, Elvis changed the track into hip-swiveling pound of rolling drums and grinding guitars that set teenage girls alight and made parents blush. After years of prom-friendly sweetness, here was a track that finally soundtrack the rampant, fiery nature of spurned love.
1Chuck Berry, ‘Johnny B Goode’
What else could it be, really? That riff, that piano, and that chorus – all packaged into a timeless track about rock ‘n’ roll itself. Covered hundreds of times, from B.B. King to Back To The Future, it was included on the Voyager Golden Record, a selection of discs sent into space to demonstrate the cultural capacity of life on earth. Makes you proud to be human.