299. The Primitives – ‘Crash’ (1988, RCA).
The quartet’s only real hit was an indie-pop earworm of hummable “na na na”s, coy vocals and simple riffs that The Primitives never topped. The sweetest motorway pile-up on record.
298. House Of Pain – ‘Jump Around’ (1992, XL).
Introduced by an instantly recognizable fanfare, House of Pain’s squealing funk rap pogo-starter quickly became an instant club smash.
296. PJ Harvey – ‘Words That Maketh Murder’ (2011, Island).
The first offering from ‘Let England Shake’ was a telling hint of the dense narratives and chilling war stories that would follow, and the spectre that lingered long after the album had finished.
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.
295. David Bowie – ‘Fashion’ (1980, RCA).
Bowie’s ode to designer fakery and frivolity strutted at catwalk pace alongside purposefully hollow lyrics and sonic references to ‘Golden Years’.
294. Sly And The Family Stone – ‘Family Affair’ (1971, Epic).
The first Number One to feature a drum machine, ‘Family Affair’ displayed a more downbeat direction but provided the group’s most timeless tune.
293. Wolfman ft Pete Doherty – ‘For Lovers’ (2004, Rough Trade).
A wistful slice of nostalgia, swept up in gentle strings and lyrical poetry that earned the pair an Ivor Novello nomination for songwriting.
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.”
291. Robert Wyatt – ‘Shipbuilding’ (1982, Rough Trade).
Written for him by Elvis Costello, the combination of Wyatt’s affecting vocal and Costello’s poignant lyrics made ‘Shipbuilding’ a touching exercise in restraint.
290. Glasvegas – ‘Daddy’s gone’ (2007, Sane Man).
Glasvegas’ niche of peculiarly masculine melancholy reached its pinnacle on ‘Daddy’s Gone’ – a terrace anthem for the lost, abandoned and disenfranchised.
289. Arcade Fire – ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ (2005, Rough Trade).
On their debut album ‘Funeral’, these mourning maniacs did souring power-chant epics better than anyone, as ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ and its carnival of bawl and clatter attests.
288. James Brown – ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ (1966, King).
A thought-provoking sentiment combined with Brown’s soulful, guttural howl ensured the long-lasting impact of this cultural critique.
287. Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’ (2013, Columbia).
Daft Punk’s ubiquitous 2013 return, with Nile Rodgers revving up their disco diodes, made the biggest splash of any track in recent years.
286. Wings – ‘Band On The Run’ (1973, Apple).
Part harmonic spine-tingler, part rolling blues stomper and part soaring pop hit, ‘Band On The Run’ combined three songs into one complete behemoth.
285. Crystal Castles – ‘Crimewave’ (2007, Last gang/PIAS).
Like a video game soundtrack dragged into the darkside, ‘Crimewave’ somehow made electronic glitches and icy detachment eminently danceable.
284. Supergrass – ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ (1994, Parlophone).
This two-minute tale of youthful exuberance in the face of interrogation by the cops introduced Supergrass as the hedonistic, hyperactive little brothers to Britpop’s elder statesmen.
283. The Smiths – ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ (1986, Rough Trade).
Easily the finest song about bludgeoning people in their beds, ‘Bigmouth’ combined Morrissey at his most caustic with Marr at his most melodic.
282. Elastica – ‘Connection’ (1994, Deceptive).
A stuttering explosion of juddering riffs, the swagger from Wire’s ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ and Justine Frishmann’s insouciantly cool vocal made ‘Connection’ way more than “that song off Trigger Happy TV”.
281. Elbow – ‘One Day Like This’ (2008, Fiction).
Chosen to soundtrack the London 2012 closing ceremony, Elbow’s blustery modern standard had the positive message and rousing atmosphere to prove a perfect fit.
280. The Beatles – ‘She Loves You’ (1963, Parlophone).
On which The Beatles proved that, in the right hands, the simplest sentiment, said in the simplest way is all you need.
279. Pixies – ‘Velouria’ (1990, 4AD).
Pixies’ first Top 40 hit was a spidery surprise-attack of characteristically quiet-loud-quiet dynamics that announced the band’s fresh fascination with all things UFO with a hook like a raygun to your temples.
278. Kate Bush – ‘Hounds Of Love’ (1985, EMI).
Released in ’85 and later given a spiky makeover by The Futureheads, Kate Bush’s Hitchcock-inspired tale of being hunted by (metaphorical) carnal canines was as tumultuous and passionate as its singer.
277. Bob Dylan – ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ (1975, Columbia).
Exhibiting Dylan’s exemplary lyrical skill, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ was more poetry than song, a contorted, masterful story underpinned by a simple, acoustic backbone.
276. Eminem – ‘My Name Is’ (1999, Interscope).
A bold introduction to ‘The Slim Shady LP’, this Dre-produced confessional teamed deadpan witticisms with overtly personal rhymes to form a controversial and groundbreaking cartoon-rap major label debut.
275. The Orb – ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ (1990, Big Life).
Initially released in 1990, ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’’ euphoric spoken word-sampling beats quickly became the defining moment of ambient house, eventually breaking the top 10 in ’93.
274. The Four Tops – ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ (1966, Motown).
Featuring the best grunts/roars in the Motown canon, ‘Reach Out…’ showcased The Four Tops’ on righteously romantic form.
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.
272. Happy Mondays – ‘Hallelujah’ (1989, Factory).
Arriving during the Mondays’ undisputed purple patch at the turn of the decade, ‘Hallelujah’’s ephemeral dance beat and worshipful lyrics made Baggyism a certified religion.
271. Manic Street Preachers – ‘You Love Us’ (1992, Columbia).
With the music world already polarized by MSP’s outsider politics, ‘You Love Us’ struck a beatific snarl and stuck two fingers up to the doubters with glorious irony.
270. George Harrison – ‘My Sweet Lord’ (1970, Apple).
Probably one of the most unabashedly joyful tracks ever committed to tape, Harrison’s first solo single was a blissful slice of spiritual positivity.
269. Lou Reed – ‘Perfect Day’ (1972, RCA).
Taken from seminal solo outing ‘Transformer’, ‘Perfect Day’’s gentle nostalgia provided one of Reed’s more straightforward offerings, but one that would ring through the ages, eventually to be ruined by Heather Small and friends.
267. Suede – ‘Trash’ (1996, Nude).
Suede had always been the decadent outsiders to Britpop’s Albarn/Gallagher monarchy, and nothing summed up their gritty/glamorous manifesto as well as ‘Trash’.
266. The Jacksons – ‘Shake Your Body Down To The Ground’ (1978, Epic).
The key release of The Jackson 5’s disco period, this dancefloor buzzbomb helped transition a then-20-year-old Michael from child superstar to adult icon.
265. Jay-Z – ‘Empire State Of Mind’ (2009, Roc Nation).
Trumping ol’ Blue Eyes, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ 2009 serenade to NY already chimed like the ultimate Big Apple tribute anthem.
264. The Beatles – ‘Paperback Writer’ (1966, Parlophone).
The Fab Four’s tale of a struggling scribe was an early-career highlight of melodic nouse, lyrical playfulness and multi-harmonic skill.
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.
262. Stardust – ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ (1998, Roule).
Stardust – who featured Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter among their number – sampled Chaka Khan’s ‘Fate’ to produce ‘98’s spangliest one hit wonder.
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.
260. Beck – ‘Sexx Laws’ (1999, Geffen).
An eclectic party fusion of funk beats, brass sections and pedal steel guitar that was as odd and inspired as the Jack Black-featuring video that accompanied it.
259. TLC – ‘Waterfalls’ (1995, LaFace).
Tackling difficult issues surrounding the drug trade and HIV, ‘Waterfalls’ was a classy slice of undulating R’n’B that would cement the trio’s musical legacy.
258. Run DMC And Aerosmith – ‘Walk This Way’ (1986, Profile).
Injecting a new life into Aerosmith’s 1977 original, Run DMC’s cover smashed through the basement wall between rap and rock to pioneering and hugely influential effect.
257. QOTSA – ‘Feelgood Hit Of The Summer’ (2000, Interscope).
“Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol… Ccccccocaiiiiine”; QOTSA’s Class A manifesto was as addictive as the sledgehammer riffs that surrounded it.
256. The Horrors – ‘Sea Within A Sea’ (2009, XL).
‘Sea Within A Sea’ was the track that changed everything, instantly elevating The Horrors from East London goths to genuine sonic innovators.
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’.
254. Pulp – ‘This Is Hardcore’ (1998, Island).
A seedy, six-and-a-half-minute tale of sexual depravity, Jarvis’ anthem to society’s pornographic underbelly was a parallel to the singer’s increasing discomfort with fame.
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?’.”
252. Dr Dre – Still D.R.E. (1999, Aftermath/Interscope).
Co-written with Jay-Z and featuring Snoop Dogg, Dre’s 1999 hit centred around the most famous piano chords in hip hop.
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.
250. David Bowie – ‘Space Oddity’ (1969, Phillips).
It was several years before Bowie’s classic about a pre-smack Major Tom stranded in space – written partly to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing – became a hit.
249. Air – ‘Sexy Boy’ (1997, Virgin).
Their first full-length album, ‘Moon Safari’, introduced the world outside France to the new Parisian electronic sound, and ‘Sexy Boy’ was its sophisticated brainworm of a first single.
248. Animal Collective – ‘My Girls’ (2009, Domino).
A revolution in global-beat experimental pop, ‘My Girls’ kicked off the modern age of Foalsian mathtronics with a dancefloor destroyer built from tons of squelchy handclaps and deep-cavern rave.
247. Beastie Boys – ‘Intergalactic’ (1998, Grand Royal).
The first single from the Beasties’ fifth album restated their claims to old-school hip-hop authenticity, even while battling gigantic robots in Tokyo.
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.
245. Babyshambles – ‘Fuck Forever’ (2005, Rough Trade).
Pete Doherty’s first post-Libertines single railed against those who try to build a future, but found him still dreaming of a happy ending. Ramshackle, but thrillingly impassioned.
244. Manic Street Preachers – ‘Motown Junk’ (1991, Heavenly).
They were still stencilling their own t-shirts and playing to half-full pub back rooms, but this icon-skewering single showed that the Manics meant business.
243. The Beta Band – ‘Dry The Rain’ (1997, Regal).
This track from their first EP delivered everything The Beta Band promised, melding folk with hip hop, an anthemic ‘Hey Jude’-ish coda, and a trumpet.
242. PIL – ‘Public Image’ (1978, Virgin).
For his first single after leaving the Sex Pistols, John Lydon wrote a song about how nobody in his old band took a blind bit of notice of him. The world took notice.
241. Portishead – ‘Sour Times’ (1994, Go! Discs).
A trip-hop benchmark, the eerie percussion and guitar atmospherics that frame Beth Gibbons’ dislocated vocal were sampled from a 1968 album of Mission: Impossible outtakes by Lalo Schifrin.
240. Pet Shop Boys – ‘Rent’ (1987, Parlophone).
Despite Liza Minelli covering it in 1989, it wasn’t until the sleeve notes to the reissue of ‘Actually’ that Neil Tennant confirmed ‘Rent’ was written from a female perspective.
239. Oasis – ‘Whatever’ (1994, Creation).
As though tired of ripping off The Beatles, Noel Gallagher borrowed part of ‘Whatever”s melody from Fabs parodists The Rutles. Songwriter Neil Innes claimed a share of royalties, but not before the song swept everyone away.
238. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – ‘Tupelo’ (Mute, 1985).
Cave re-imagined the birth of the messiah – Elvis, not Christ – in the middle of an epic thunderstorm at the edge of the Mississippi delta.
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.
236. The Cure – ‘In Between Days’ (1985, Fiction).
With the doomy Goth side of his ouvre set to one side, Robert Smith and chums were inspired by the breezy pop of New Order for this huge worldwide hit.
235. Elvis Presley – ‘Jailhouse Rock’ (1957, RCA).
America had already found difficulty dealing with Elvis’s suggestive gyrations: good job nobody noticed the homoerotic lyrics in this evergreen Lieber/Stoller movie theme.
234. Talking Heads – ‘Psycho Killer’ (1977, Sire).
Although it’s possibly Talking Heads’ best-known song, this murderously catchy early single was never a hit, only reaching Number 92 in the US.
233. Rex – ‘Get It On’ (1971, Fly).
The glam starship lifted off the second Marc Bolan banged his glittery gong, and the early seventies instantly became the age of the stomping sequinned sex rocker.
232. Blue Oyster Cult – ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ (Columbia, 1976).
A huge ’70s hit with a ’60s feel that may be best known in the 21st century for inspiring the infamous Will Ferrell/Christopher Walken “More cowbell!” sketch on Saturday Night Live.
231. Arctic Monkeys – ‘Do I Wanna Know? (2013, Domino).
Alex Turner’s sleaziest song was as pervy as Jarvis Cocker in his ‘This Is Hardcore’ days – the perfect foil for those disgustingly rigid riffs.
230. Outkast – ‘Ms Jackson’ (2001, LaFace/Arista).
The hit that broke OutKast worldwide took the form of an open letter from Andre 3000 to the mother of his former girlfriend, Erykah Badu.
229. Grimes – ‘Oblivion’ (2012, 4AD).
Drawing on her own experiences, Claire Boucher’s breakthrough track couched its lyrics of fear and assault inside a bright, light electro-pop setting.
228. New Order – ‘Temptation’ (1983, Factory).
It should have been little more than a waystation as New Order morphed from doomy proto-Goths to full-on disco monsters, but ‘Temptation”s swirling chaos still mesmerises.
227. The Rolling Stones – ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (1968, Decca).
Over congas and insistent backing vocals, Jagger told the history of the world from Satan’s point of view. It’s as powerful as it is eerie and hypnotic.
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.
225. James Brown – ‘Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine’ (1970, King).
The nascent JB’s – with Bootsy Collins on bass – lay down a groove so heavy its place on the playlist of a thousand wedding discos couldn’t dilute its power.
224. Sugarcubes – ‘Birthday’ (1987, One Little Indian).
The world outside Iceland’s first exposure to the remarkable and singular Bjork, ‘Birthday’ was an apt taster: a bizarre song about a five-year-old girl’s feelings for a 50-year-old male neighbour.
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.
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.
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.
220. Blur – ‘End Of A Century’ (1994, Food).
Always keen to get in on the next big thing before anyone else, Damon Albarn started mining pre-millennial tension six years early.
219. The Kinks – ‘You Really Got Me’ (1964, Pye).
Musicologists maintain this was the first hit based on powerchords. Everyone else just reckons it’s ace.
218. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – ‘Straight To You’ (1992, Mute).
As Nick Cave’s balladry reached sublime peaks, tempering his bar-brawl furies with some world-beating heartbreak, 1992’s ‘Straight To You’ was his thundering, stately ode to devotion.
217. Manic Street Preachers – ‘Faster’ (1994, Sony).
High controversy at the Beeb when the Manics dropped in to play this ‘Holy Bible’ single on Top of the Pops: James wore an IRA-esque balaclava, 25,000 people complained.
216. Orange Juice – ‘Rip It Up’ (1983, Polydor).
Adding synths, funk and samples to the mix, Edwyn Collins’ band enjoyed their biggest hit, bridging the gap between new wave and 80s alternative pop so snugly it felt machine-tooled.
215. Nirvana – ‘Lithium’ (1991, Geffen).
One of the few songs Kurt Cobain completed without having to add in fragments of other pieces of writing, ‘Lithium’ was about a man who used religious faith to get over a break-up.
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.
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.
212. REM – ‘Radio Free Europe’ (1981, Hib-Tone).
The band hated their debut single. There was a good reason for Michael Stipe’s infamously indecipherable lyrics: he hadn’t finished them. They re-recorded it two years later, when the same excuse surely was not available.
211. The Supremes – ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ (1966, Motown).
The unmistakable guitar intro to this explosive landmark of cut-the-crap dude-ditching was variously said to imitate Morse code or radio news stings.
210. The Fall – ‘Hit The North’ (1987, Beggars Banquet).
When The Fall followed a top 30 hit cover version of Motown standard ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ with a glossily produced single boasting an actual hummable melody, some cried “sell out”. As if.
209. John Lennon – ‘Jealous Guy’ (1971, Apple).
It was Roxy Music who first had a hit with this ‘Imagine’ track only three months after his death; Lennon’s original wasn’t released as a single until several years later.
208. Daft Punk – ‘Da Funk’ (1995, Soma).
You may have thought it sounded like a 1970s disco tune recorded in outer space, but Thomas Bangalter said it was hip hop, inspired by Warren G…
207. Billy Bragg – ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’ (1986, Go! Discs).
A breathtaking song about the power of pop: Bragg’s female protagonist wept for her lost love as she listened to the Four Tops in her caravan.
206. PIL – ‘Rise’ (1986, Virgin).
Lydon had this song about police torture in South Africa back in the Pistols days. He fired his second band, recruited Tony Williams, Steve Vai and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and turned it into an unlikely hit.
205. The Strokes – ‘Reptilia’ (2004, RCA).
The tune that proved ‘Is This It’ was no mere fluke, the propulsive garage roar of ‘Reptilia’ had the band accelerating towards the dark side of town with no brakes, pouting all the way.
204. The Pogues & Kirsty McColl – ‘Fairytale Of New York’ (1987, Stiff).
It sounds so natural, but ‘…Fairytale…’ took nearly two years to write, the band couldn’t play it, and Kirsty MacColl’s vocal was just supposed to be a demo.
203. Patsy Kline – ‘Crazy’ (1961, Decca).
Seeking a comeback hit after almost dying in a car crash, Cline was persuaded to try this Willie Nelson composition, which she initially hated. It came to define her.
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.”
201. The Velvet Underground – ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ (1967, Verve).
If Lou Reed’s dealer had arrived on time, this chugging riff monster may never have been around to inspire countless time-rich but talent-starved indie hopefuls