It’s crunch time! Here’s 200 to 101 of our top 500 songs of all time. Kicking us off at 200 is Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’ (1988, Rough Trade). Inspired by Frank Black’s experiences scuba-diving in the Caribbean, its eerie sense of mental dislocation saw this song played over the closing credits of Fight Club.
199. The Doors – ‘Light My Fire’ (1967, Elektra).
Willy-waving rock sorcerer Jim Morrison frotted himself to transcendence, but it was Ray Manzarek’s organ freakouts that made this a Doors highlight.
198. Blur – ‘This Is A Low’ (1994, Food Records).
Radio 4’s early morning shipping forecast inspired this lonely pan around the British Isles, the sound of Blur at their melancholic best.
197. Pixies – ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ (1988, Elektra).
God was dead, the planet was set to follow, but trust Pixies to make the apocalypse sound beautiful. Also featured rock’s coolest ad libs: “Rock me, Joe.”
196. The Stone Roses – ‘Made Of Stone’ (1989, Silvertone Records).
John Squire told NME ‘Made Of Stone’ was about “making a wish and watching it happen”. Certainly, the Roses seldom sounded dreamier, nor bigger of heart.
195. Joy Division – ‘Atmosphere’ (1980, Sordide Sentimental).
Released after Ian Curtis’ death, this cold swirl of liquid marble synths and pattering toms sounded like a post-punk funeral procession; a final testament.
194. Supergrass – ‘Alright’ (1995, Parlophone).
The Oxford nippers rolled out the old Joanna for a song about simple pleasures. Hanging with friends. Smoking cigarettes. Extinguishing cigarettes. It’s all there.
193. Blur – ‘Tender’ (1999, Food Records).
On ‘Tender’, we heard Blur do gospel, and they did it beautifully. At the time, of course, Albarn was hurting from his split from Justine Frischmann, and it all came out in this track’s bruised but euphoric six minutes. There was no smart-assery here, no clever-cleverness. Just a whole lot of feeling.
192. Prince – ‘Sign O’ The Times; (1987, Paisley Park).
The Purple One made like a psychedelic Marvin Gaye on this haunting testament to modern life, touching on AIDS, addiction and gang warfare.
191. Martha Reeves And The Vandellas – ‘Nowhere To Run To’ (1965, Gordy).
One of Motown’s most heart-rending singles – and one of its boldest productions, a metallic Detroit stomp employing snow chains as percussion tools.
190. Primal Scream – ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’ (2000, Creation).
The Scream Team capped the incendiary ‘XTRMNTR’ with an ecstatic, Krautrock-inspired closer featuring Kevin Shields in the producer’s chair.
189. The Libertines – ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ (2003, Rough Trade).
Pete and Carl at their shambolic, off-the-cuff best, a playful lurch of raucous chorusing, ragtime piano and big, beautiful heart.
188. Arctic Monkeys – ‘Mardy Bum’ (2006, Domino).
One of Alex Turner’s finest kitchen-sink song sketches, a lyrical portrait of a moody girlfriend with a smile “like looking down the barrel of a gun…”
187. Teenage Fanclub – ‘The Concept’ (1991, Creation).
“She wears denim wherever she goes/Says she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quo…” A wistful highlight of the Fannies’ excellent ‘Bandwagonesque’.
186. Bob Dylan – ‘Subterannean Homesick Blues’ (1965, Columbia).
Regina Spektor: “I love how his mind works, love his voice and I just think he’s so fucking funny – he’s got such a great joy.”
185. Doves – ‘There Goes The Fear’ (2002, Heavenly Records).
Life philosophy from Jimi Goodwyn’s atmospheric post-Britpop troupe, a gentle endorsement to let go of youth and grow old with grace.
184. Queen – ‘Under Pressure’ (1981, EMI).
Yes, it was co-written by Queen and David Bowie, but what everyone recalls ‘Under Pressure’ for is the bassline: one of the most memorable in rock history.
183. The Prodigy – ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’ (1994, XL).
A highlight of Liam Howlett’s magnum opus ‘Music For A Jilted Generation’, twisting Kelly Charles’s ‘You’re No Good To Me’ into a queasy adrenaline rush.
182. The Who – ‘I Can See For Miles’ (1967, Track).
Paul McCartney once dubbed this slab of bruiser psychedelia the “heaviest” song he’d ever heard, and set out to write ‘Helter Skelter’ shortly after.
181. Wu Tang Clan – ‘Protect Ya Neck’ (1993, Loud Records).
Straight outta Staten Island, a new generation of New York hip-hop landed in a ninja stance, katana sword at your throat.
180. The Flamin’ Groovies – ‘Shake Some Action’ (1976, Sire).
A lilting power-pop gem from this San Francisco quartet, harking back to the flower power ‘60s, but with a muscular edge that endeared it to the punks, too.
179. The Jesus And Mary Chain – ‘Never Understand’ (1985, Blanco Y Negro).
East Kilbride’s finest took a song fit for one of Phil Spector’s girl groups and strafed it in ear-lacerating feedback. The result: noise-pop in excelsis.
178. Smokey Robinson And The Miracles – ‘The Tracks Of My Tears’ (1965, Tamla).
Covered by everyone from Bryan Ferry to Linda Ronstadt to, er, Peter Andre – but no-one can top the raw sorrow of Smokey’s original.
177. Chuck Berry – ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ (1956, Chess).
The St Louis singer-guitarist ushered out the old order and waved in the new with this genre-defining cut of primal, rocking rhythm’n’blues.
176. The Libertines – ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ (2004, Rough Trade).
The Libs’ penultimate single dwelt on Pete and Carl’s fraying relationship – but no soap opera in history felt this romantic, this poetic, or this raw.
175. The Who – ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (1971, Polydor).
It has an anthemic air, but the eight-minute closer of ‘Who’s Next’ was a cautionary tale, warning of false revolutions and how power always corrupts.
174. McAlmont & Butler – ‘Yes’ (1995, Hut).
To celebrate his freedom from Suede, Bernard Butler teams up with soul singer David McAlmont for Motown-tinged guitar pop with a barb in the tail.
173. Public Enemy – ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ (1987, Def Jam).
The opening salvo from ‘A Nation Of Millions…’ saw The Bomb Squad working at a new intensity and Chuck D hitting the mic with righteous fury.
172. LCD Soundsystem – ‘Someone Great’ (2007, DFA Records).
Is it about a break-up? A death? A miscarriage? ‘Someone Great’ was one of James Murphy’s most cryptic songs, but everyone could identify with its wrenching loss.
171. Vampire Weekend – ‘A-Punk’ (2007, XL).
The smartie-pants New Yorkers in pastel-shade pullovers announced their arrival with this breathless and erudite Violent Femmes jangle.
170. Primal Scream – ‘Higher Than The Sun’ (1991, Creation).
A dreamy highlight of 1991’s ‘Screamadelica’, Bobby G sang of spiritual transcendence and ego death as he sailed off on waves of Ecstasy bliss.
169. Booker T And The MGs – ‘Green Onions’ (1962, Stax).
From one of America’s first multiracial soul groups, a Hammond jam so named because, says Booker T, ‘Green Onions’ are “the nastiest thing I can think of”.
168. Bat For Lashes – ‘Daniel’ (2009, Parlophone).
Natasha Khan got her Kate Bush on for this evocative electropop melodrama, a memory of first love told under “marble movie skies”.
167. Paul McCartney – ‘Temporary Secretary’ (1980, Parlophone).
From 1980’s home-recorded ‘McCartney II’ came this odd gem, wonky electro-pop that didn’t sound so much ahead of its time as out of it altogether.
166. Beastie Boys – ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ (1987, Def Jam).
The snotty, not yet socially conscious New Yorkers teamed up with Rick Rubin and spray painted their punk-rock manifesto all over rap’s façade.
165. The Breeders – ‘Cannonball’ (1993, 4AD/Elektra).
Former Pixie Kim Deal one-upped her former band with this feast of candied hooks and fizzy quiet-loud dynamics. About the Marquis De Sade, apparently.
164. Dizzee Rascal – ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ (2002, XL).
Oiii! Dizzy Diz showed there was more to him than grime on this UK rap stomp sampling Billy Squier’s ‘The Big Beat’.
163. The Jackson Five – ‘I Want You Back’ (1969, Motown). Five kids from Gary, Indiana made their Motown debut, and what an introduction: youthful infatuation channelled into the purest pop imaginable.
162. David Bowie – ‘Changes’ (1972, RCA Records).
The rock’n’roll chameleon ushered in 1971’s ‘Hunky Dory’ with this manifesto for artistic reinvention: “Oh, look out, you rock’n’rollers!”
161. Dusty Springfield – ‘The Son Of A Preacher Man’ (1968, Atlantic).
Dusty got sinful with the titular Billy-Ray on this highlight of 1969’s ‘Dusty In Memphis’, revived for a new generation after appearing on Pulp Fiction.
160. Joy Division – ‘Transmission’ (1979, Factory).
Ian Curtis surveyed the collapsing of his relationship to a crackling, propulsive post-punk that slowly angled down into the abyss.
159. Jimi Hendrix – ‘Purple Haze’ (1967, Track).
James Ford: “The first record I really connected with was ‘Purple Haze.’ I remember being blown away by its wild and unhinged energy. It was also the first thing I ever tried to work out on a guitar.”
158. Elton John – ‘Tiny Dancer’ (1972 Uni/DJM).
A six-minute epic penned by Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, about the beautiful women of California – but it’s Elton’s delivery that makes this soar.
157. The Kingsmen – ‘Louie, Louie’ (1963 Jerden/Wand).
The Portland garage band reworked Richard Berry’s reggae-tinged 1957 hit as a crude beat-group howl, making it one of the most-covered records ever in the process.
156. The Beatles – ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ (1963, Parlophone).
Lennon and McCartney wrote this sweet entreaty “eyeball to eyeball”, and its raucously pretty harmonies made it the Fabs’ first US chart-topper.
155. Motorhead – ‘Ace Of Spades’ (1980, Bronze).
Three minutes of breathless, sulphate-snorting thrash to make even the meekest online poker player feel like a dangerous rock’n’roll nihilist.
154. James Brown – ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ (1965, King).
A horn-powered funk jive to shaking your shit on the dancefloor, and
Brown’s first song to crack the Billboard Top 100.
153. Dinosaur Jr – ‘Freak Scene’ (1988, SST).
Grungy hymn to outsider bonding with a lyric to swoon to: “Don’t let me fuck up will you/‘Cause when I need a friend it’s still you…”
152. Martha Reeves – ‘Dancing In The Street’ (1964, Gordy).
This 1964 anthem, co-written by Marvin Gaye, became an anthem for the civil rights movement and a jewel in Motown’s crown.
151. Eric B And Rakim – ‘Follow The Leader’ (1988, MCA).
On 1988’s ‘Follow The Leader’, the pair really came of age. This was hip-hop not rooted in ghetto tales and ego-driven one-upmanship, but music of substance and boundless imagination. Hip-hop moves quick these days, but ‘Follow The Leader’ still sounds untouchable.
150. Otis Redding – ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ (1968, Volt/Atco).
Redding was killed in a plane crash just days after recording his timeless ode to keeping busy doing nothing. Tragic, but what a song to end on.
149. Mott The Hoople – ‘All The Young Dudes’ (1972, Columbia).
It doesn’t matter if you get old and it doesn’t matter if the good times stop. Such was the moral of Bowie’s greatest gift to the Hoople, and the foundation of at least three Oasis songs.
148. Pet Shop Boys – ‘West End Girls’ (1984, EMI).
And so Neil and Chris arrived, exquisitely bottling gender politics and the social tension of encroaching Thatcherism in their sublime synthpop, then scattering it onto rainy streets. Still perfect.
147. John Lennon – ‘Number 9 Dream’ (1974, Apple).
Could this have been Lennon’s most hypnotically gorgeous, ethereal moment ever? Try and figure it out before you inevitably pass out from its wooziness.
146. My Bloody Valentine – ‘Soon’ (1991, Creation).
The magnificently sprawling, seven-minute closer to the timeless ‘Loveless’, ‘Soon’ pushed the masterpiece in a dance direction as Shield’s glide guitar made the sound of Madchester melting.
145. Lee Hazelwood And Nancy Sinatra – ‘Some Velvet Morning’ (1967, Reprise).
This psychedelic odyssey stands out as Exhibit A of why it must have been fucking brilliant to have been around in the 60s. Lee and Nancy gallop around a dreamscape, effectively singing two different songs, and it not mattering at all.
144. Blondie – ‘Atomic’ (1980, Chrysalis).
A gleaming glitterball that still knew how to rock, amid a catalogue not shy of amazingness. New wave’s most devastating disco A-bomb.
143. The Beatles – ‘Hello Goodbye’ (1967, Parlophone).
Nick Frost: “When I was 17 working in the City, I did karaoke quite a bit. My song was ‘Hello GoodBye’ by The Beatles. Me and my friend Peter Ashton would work out which bits we’d do, it worked. We had a thing going on.”
142. Radiohead – ‘Creep’ (1992, Parlophone).
Radiohead’s albatross was and is also their monument. ‘Creep’ was the moment grunge got to the UK and turned into something smoother, and the band’s later resistance to it would fire all their subsequent innovations.
141. Love – ‘Alone Again Or’ (1967, Elektra).
A haunting lesson in psych folk that echoes through the ages, few songs can marry the despair of a moment with a hope for the future so poetically.
140. Aphex Twin – ‘Window Licker’ (1999, Warp).
Richard D James’ glitch techno mainstay is the sound of pure evil that left you feeling violated by the end. The B-side, incidentally, is called “ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] + Fexti[[n−1]]”
139. Bob Marley – ‘No Woman, No Cry’ (1974, Island).
Looking back to his younger days in the ghettos of Trench Town, Jamaica, Marley’s lilting reassurance to a distressed lover must go down as his most effortlessly beautiful four minutes.
138. Kanye West – ‘Monster’ (2010, Roc-A-Fella).
Getting the boys (and his gal Nicki) over for an apocalyptic jam, Kanye proved his genius was still developing at the same rate as his mania. This is how you do a supergroup.
137. The Cribs – ‘Men’s Needs’ (Wichita, 2007). The moment when Team Jarman graduated from awesome chaotic scrappy indie boys to awesome chaotic scrappy indie boys the world would take seriously.
136. The Rolling Stones – ‘Paint It Black’ (1966, Decca).
Social upheaval, Vietnam, Satanist treatise or goth-sex… whatever ‘Paint It Black’ was about, it exposed the dark voodoo soul of The Stones.
135. The Charlatans – ‘The Only One I Know’ (1990, RCA).
The original blast of baggy from Warrington’s finest might be the aural equivalent of a gawky slouch, but /what/ a slouch. The blueprint for louche indie psychedelia.
134. Hot Chip – ‘Over And Over’ (2006, EMI).
In which they graduated from east London clockwork wimps to that era’s ultimate cocks of the dancefloor walk. Who knew clubbing could get so… sensitive?
133. Pixies – ‘Gigantic’ (1988, 4AD).
It says a lot the deranged majesty of Kim Deal that a song sung by a person who wasn’t the singer sits amongst a great band’s most definitive tunes. But such is the heartswelling uplift of her romantic rock nursery rhyme. Big, big.
132. The Sex Pistols – ‘Pretty Vacant’ (1977, Virgin).
Rhys Ifans: “It was my first record. I got it by swapping it for a Damned armband that I ordered from the back of Melody Maker. I think it was an American import because it had a picture of Frank Sinatra on the cover with his eyes cut out – Yeah, really rare. I’ve still got it somewhere.”
131. The Rolling Stones – ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ (1968, Decca).
If you had to describe the Stones to an alien in one song, you’d choose this horny old throbber about Keef’s gardener to best encapsulate their heinous brand of sex-blues.
130. Glen Campbell – ‘Wichita Lineman’ (1968, Capitol).
Not for nothing described as “the first existential country song,” this otherwordly classic pushes not just the limits of genre, but of song itself.
129. Sam Cooke – ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (1964, RCA Victor).
Not released until after Cooke’s death, and just a modest hit by his standards, this yearning, hopeful croon came to exemplify the struggles of the civil rights movement.
128. The Jam – Eton Rifles (1979, Polydor).
In a career not exactly lacking in seething, righteous charges, this Oi-punk rally against class inequality is the most seething, righteous charge Paul Weller ever made.
127. Warren G And Nate Dogg – ‘Regulate’ (1994, Def Jam).
A towering totem of 90s hip-hop, the sleek ‘Regulate’ also cannily described itself, as G-Funk went “tweaking into a whole new era… funk on a whole new level”.
126. Jesus And Mary Chain – ‘Just Like Honey’ (1985, Blanco y Negro).
Tipping the hat to such an iconic pop emblem as ‘Be My Baby’ could have been a risky, reckless move in lesser hands, but the Reid brothers created something just as beautiful, but couched in ever-darker hues, an enveloping chasm of narcotic fuzz that you can never fully scrape off your eardrums.
125. Pulp – ‘Disco 2000’ (1995, Island).
If ‘Common People’ marked Pulp out as the true masters of all Britpop surveyed, then ‘Disco 2000’ was their victory lap, a neon-flooded anthem to millennial optimism.
124. The Undertones – ‘Teenage Kicks’ (1977, Good Vibrations).
John Peel’s favourite song was basically the heady thrill of hormonal whoopsie put on tape. The picture of Dorian Gray that resides inside every rock fan’s heart.
123. Prince – ‘Purple Rain’ (1984, Warner).
Somewhere in all of the billions of possible alternate universes, every one of us is stood on a cocktail table, drenched in sambucca, glitter everywhere, shrieking ‘Purple Rain’. That’s the mark of a song with legs.
122. The White Stripes – ‘Hotel Yorba’ (2001, XL).
Light relief from all the lightning bolt blues, ‘… Yorba’ was Jack and Meg’s wild, thigh-slapping hoedown. Pop fact: the Hotel Yorba was a former hotel in southwest Detroit and the track was recorded in room 206, now used as subsidised government housing.
121. Hole – ‘ Celebrity Skin’ (1998, Geffen).
“Oh make me over, I’m all I wanna be, a walking study, in demonology.” From this defiant statement of rock luminescence in her own right, Courtney’s rep as the grunge Yoko was buried forever.
120. Roxy Music – ‘Virginia Plain’ (1972, EG).
Roxy Music’s rollocking ode to the jet-set high-life has become so seminal that it has a Virgin Atlantic Beong 747 named after it. Fact.
119. The Stone Roses – ‘Waterfall’. A romantic baggy glide that sounded so effortlessly stratospheric you’d imagine Ian, John, Mani and Reni were spinning hazy melodic gold in their sleep. Masterful.
118. The Strokes – ‘Someday’ (2002, Rough Trade).
In little over two minutes, rock’n’roll was saved from navel gazing gloom. ‘Someday’ was indecency personified, plus crooning, twangs and leather jackets. Win.
117. Dexys Midnight Runners – ‘Geno’ (1980, EMI).
Dexy’s second single and first Number One paid tribute to Indiana soul singer Geno Washington with a loving pastiche that turned into a basement soul revue all of its own.
116. The Killers – ‘Mr Brightside’ (1993, Island).
Dandyish Mormons with a thing for new wave Brit miserablism. The Killers should not have worked. Then you heard this freewheeling hate-ride of bitterness and infidelity and they made immaculate sense.
115. The Verve – ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ (1997, Hut).
That a song so completely lacking in hope (“you’re a slave to money then you die”) ended up one of the most rapturous of the 90s was testament to the madness of both the decade and the band.
114. Happy Mondays – ‘Step On’ (1990, Factory).
Still the signature tune of Madchester hedonism despite the Roses’ towering legacy. Listening to this psych salad, it was hardly surprising that Shaun Ryder ended up hunting UFOs.
113. Prince – ‘When Doves Cry’ (1984, Warner).
This taut funk wail against domestic tension was the white-hot peak of Mr Rogers-Nelson’s imperial phase. It saw the most memorable synth riff of the entire 80s collide with industrial beats and /that/ guitar to whip up a genuinely menacing sense of disco apocalypse, amid which he can lament a relationship that is getting just as End Of Days.
112. Oasis – ‘Supersonic’ (1994, Creation).
A real chop-slap of mountainous riffs, glorious fuzz, cocky drawls and narcotic nonsense lyrics, ‘Supersonic’ was Oasis’ big introduction and the early signature tune that sent weedy old Britpop reeling. Gin and tonics all round.
111. Fontella Bass – ‘Rescue Me’ (1965, Chess).
The definitive slice of rhythm and blues ardour that set the tone for late-60s Motown and R&B at ‘pained elation’.
110. Super Furry Animals – ‘Ice Hockey Hair’ (1998, Creation).
A lugubrious hot bath of woozy psychedelia, SFA’s magnum opus ‘Ice Hockey Hair’ built to a finale as uplifting and stratospheric as any opera.
109. The Gossip – ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ (2006, Kill Rock Stars). Feeling helpless and cheated after gay people in the US were denied the right to marry, Beth Ditto bellowed out her anger on this, which married Riot Grrl politics with disco escapism. A classic modern protest anthem.
108. Kate Bush – ‘Running Up That Hill’ (1985, EMI).
The moment where Queen Kate graduated from wispy ingénue to bona fide good witch. Let’s just try and forget the Olympics remix though hey?
107. The Rapture – ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ (2002, DFA).
The early-noughties punk funk explosion preserved in gleaming aspic. More cowbell!
106. Oasis – ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ (1996, Creation).
The song that marked Noel G emerging from his brother’s formidable shadow, the ‘Hey Jude’ of the Gallagher cannon stands up well against its inspiration.
105. Blur – ‘Song 2’ (1997, Food).
It didn’t make much sense – “feeling heavy metal” involves goblins and Jaagerbombs really – but this buzzing firecracker instantly became Britpop’s mosher war-cry.
104. Suede – ‘The Drowners’ (1993, Nude).
Brett and co sashayed onto the scene with this swooner and soon turned indie an androgynous shade of jaundiced yellow.
103. Stevie Wonder – ‘Superstition’ (1972, Motown).
Of all the precious gifts bestowed on the world by Motown’s grinning prince, ‘Superstition’ was by far the catchiest.
102. Manic Street Preachers – ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (1992, Sony).
Every ounce of loathing, glamour and hope the Valley Clash ever stood for condensed into four ludicrous minutes. Ambition, filth, pomposity and romance; stadium rock never sounded cooler.
101. REM – ‘Losing My Religion’ (1991, Warner). REM entered their golden years by bending the mainstream to their own ever-so-slightly twisted shape. Dynamics, minor chord tension and spiritual disenfranchisement were the orders of the day, forcing literate, collegiate indie rock deep into daytime radio.