T Rex – ’20th Century Boy’
You’ve read 500-401 and 400-301 of our greatest songs of all time – now it’s time to get serious. Number 300 is T Rex – ’20th Century Boy’ (1973, Ariola). Characterised by possibly the most recognizable riff in glam rock, ‘20th Century Boy’ showcased T. Rex at their decadent, glamorous best.
The Rolling Stones – ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’
297. The Rolling Stones – ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ (1969, Decca).
A gospel choir, a universally relatable sentiment, some sweet choral children and a redemptive finale were what The Stones needed to create one of the sleekest gospel blues numbers of the 60s.
Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Mr Blue Sky’
292.Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Mr Blue Sky’ (1977, Jet).
Jason Lyttle, Grandaddy: “Jeff Lynne, who was ELO’s main guy, is my musical hero, definitely. In fact, I spend most of my time trying desperately hard not to rip him off when I’m writing my own music, though you can hear he is an inspiration. I never get tired of hearing ELO’s songs, his lyrics and arrangement are just incredible.”
Ride – ‘Leave Them All Behind’
273. Ride – ‘Leave Them All Behind’ (1992, Creation).
‘Going Blank Again’’s hypnotic opener was arguably the most expansive sonic panorama of the shoegaze era, moving from prickly beginnings into a layered, reverb-laden crescendo that bent, but didn’t quite break, the brain.
Elvis Presley – ‘Hound Dog’
263. Elvis Presley – ‘Hound Dog’ (1956, RCA).
A product of the Leiber and Stoller songwriting partnership that also birthed ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Hound Dog’ was first recorded by Big Mama Thornton as a classic twelve-bar blues track before Elvis changed the lyrics and the tempo, contorting Thornton’s offering into a hip-swivelling, sexually-charged slice of teen-bait rock’n’roll.
Underworld – ‘Born Slippy. NUXX’
261. Underworld – ‘Born Slippy. NUXX’ (1996, Junior Boys Own/Wax Trax!).
Originally an instrumental, ‘Born Slippy’ soon transformed into ‘Born Slippy. NUXX’, taking its place on Trainspotting’s bar-raising soundtrack and becoming the unifying chant of every lad’s bar crawl around Ibiza forever.
ODB – ‘Got Your Money’
255. ODB – ‘Got Your Money’ (1999, Elektra).
With ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ and his subsequent solo debut ‘Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version’ catapulting him to wide-scale success, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s 1999 follow up ‘Nigga Please’ spawned a stone cold killer in ‘Got Your Money’.
Dexys Midnight Runners – ‘Come On Eileen’
253. Dexys Midnight Runners – ‘Come On Eileen’ (1982, Mercury).
Serge Pizzorno: “We played one night with Arctic Monkeys in Japan. They were in a Karaoke bar and Alex was like, ‘Come down and have a go.’ They were all doing R Kelly’s songs which was quite surreal. The only one I could muster was ‘Come On Eileen’. Everyone was just looking at me going, ‘You knob, what are you doing?’.”
Elvis Costello And The Attractions – ‘Oliver’s Army’
251. Elvis Costello And The Attractions – ‘Oliver’s Army’ (1979, Radar).
The most successful single from the second most famous Elvis, ‘Oliver’s Army’ mused on class and the Northern Ireland conflict in the most infectiously jaunty ‘Dancing Queen’ fashion.
Jimi Hendrix – ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’
246. Jimi Hendrix – ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ (1968, Reprise).
After recording the mammoth 15-minute blues ‘Voodoo Chile’ with a bunch of rock-star mates one night, Hendrix got his regular band and had another crack at it the next day. Made up more or less on the spot, the tighter, more focused ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ was instantly legendary.
The Ramones – ‘Blitzkreig Bop’
237. The Ramones – ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ (1976, Sire).
The first track on the Ramones’ debut album was certainly a thrilling statement of intent. From the pounding drums and “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” chant, it channeled all the brash brattiness the Bruvvas made their stock in trade, and the only cogent response was to pogo.
Aretha Franklin – ‘Respect’
226. Aretha Franklin – ‘Respect’ (1967, Atlantic).
Aretha’s titanic version became an anthem of female empowerment, and gave us the hip hop slang for kudos (“props”, deriving from her “propers”). But the original version was released two years earlier by its writer, Otis Redding.
Spiritualized – ‘Electricity’
223. Spiritualized – ‘Electricity’ (1995, Sony).
Jason Pierce’s methodology of lulling his listener into a languid state of orchestral slumber before beating them senseless with volcanic punk thrashes was never better executed than on ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…”s most brutal assault.
Klaxons -‘Golden Skans’
222. Klaxons -‘Golden Skans’ (2007, Rinse/Polydor).
Frenetic and madly catchy, the song talked about holding light in your hand, and was inspired by a revolutionary piece of disco equipment that was as much a part of the 80s acid house experience as repetitive beats and dropping Es – so, fittingly, Klaxons’ stunning day-glo breakthrough nodded back to the first rave era their sound evoked.
Simon And Garfunkel – ‘Mrs Robinson’
221. Simon And Garfunkel – ‘Mrs Robinson’ (1968, Columbia).
Contracted to write three songs for Mike Nichols’ movie The Graduate, Paul Simon came up with a small part of just one. It was about the wife of wartime president Theodore Roosevelt, until Nichols insisted it hymn a different Mrs R.
Peter Gabriel – ‘Solsbury Hill’
214. Peter Gabriel – ‘Solsbury Hill’ (1977, Charisma).
This folksy tale of mystical interventions amid an Iron Age hill fort inspired covers by everyone from Erasure to Mercury Rev, since it’s roughly a billion times catchier and more life-affirming than a song about leaving Genesis should rightly be.
Pixies – ‘Here Comes Your Man’
213. Pixies – ‘Here Comes Your Man’ (1989, 4AD).
Pixies weren’t forced into recording this early song for their second full-length album, but it was close: they felt this surf pop wonder was too conventional. But, sequestered between the raging Biblical squalls of ‘Doolittle’, that was precisely its masterstroke.
Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Going On’
202. Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Going On’ (1971, Motown).
Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beasts: ”He was a smooth lothario in a pop band – almost like a modern-day Robbie Williams – who then went on to [sing] about Vietnam and oppression. To follow through on that sort of transformation so convincingly is just amazing.”