This week’s NME counts down the 500 greatest songs of all time. Kicking off our countdown at 500 is David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ (1972, RCA). A brittle, bittersweet and piano-led anthem for an Earth doomed to imminent destruction, and the timeless opening track of Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ masterpiece.
486. Bobby Womack – ‘Across 110th Street’ (1972, United Artists). “Been down so long, getting up didn’t cross my mind,” sings Womack in a song that’s such a yearning, powerful, bitter and succinct exploration of the struggle to escape ghetto life that it now overshadows the 1972 film of the same name it soundtracked.
485. David Bowie – ‘Starman’ (1972, RCA). Perhaps the greatest unwanted intrusion by a label suit ever, this single was crowbarred into ‘…Ziggy Stardust…’ by RCA man Dennis Katz at the 11th hour. Thank The Man, then, for this itchily sexy twist on the classic “alien visitor commenting on Earth society from external viewpoint” trope.
484. Oasis – ‘Some Might Say’ (1995, Creation). There’s nonsensical lyrics aplenty – fishes in the sink, itchy dogs in the kitchen and so forth – but ‘Some Might Say’ , with its infectious-as-fuck guitar lines and bawl-along choruses, is still one of the dumbest, funnest throwaway pop larks imaginable.
483. Aphex Twin – ‘Come To Daddy’ (1997, Warp). Electronic guru Richard D James said it was written while he was listening to ‘crap death metal’. ‘Come To Daddy’, though, is far freakier than that: a genre-splicing horrorshow of lo-fi bass riffing, given an even nastier edge by the genetically mutated kids haunting the accompanying video.
482. Franz Ferdinand – ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ (2003, Domino). The single that launched sent thousands of immaculately-dressed indie kids tumbling onto the dancefloor, and Franz Ferdinand’s debut release. Suave, sophisticated and oh-so-sexy, combining sharp, Gang Of Four-style guitars with Alex Kapranos’ wink-heavy charm.
480. David Bowie – ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (1972, RCA) Rivaling Major Tom for Bowie’s most enduring and adored character, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ introduced a glammed-up, androgynous sex freak into the world: a larger-than-life alien who, buoyed by Mick Ronson’s smouldering guitar licks, would become one of pop culture’s greatest pin-ups.
477. Dr Dre – ‘Nuthin’ But A G Thang’ (1992, Death Row). On which the Good Doctor distanced himself from the bombastic, abrasive production he’d perfected with NWA’s gangster rap and introduced the world to G Funk instead: fat, whistling beats given extra swagger by then-newcomer Snoop Dogg’s so-relaxed-he’s-horizontal drawl.
471. Guns N’ Roses – ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ (1987, Geffen). Axl, Slash and co may be fond of some wanton destruction – shrieking riffs, even shriekier vocals and the rest of it –but there’s always been a tender side to them, too: witness ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’, all sweetness and one of Slash’s most epic guitar lines.
470. Primal Scream – ‘Movin On Up’ (1991, Creation). The Scream have two flipsides to their coin: nihiistic S&M fascist dance commandants, and spaced-out, Stones-loving psychonauts. This is their most singalong, unashamedly warm, open and jubilant incarnation of the latter guise, and if you can’t take it, your soul is broken.
460. REM – ‘It’s The End OF The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ (1987, IRS). All hail the jaunty indie apocalypse, as Stipe and co play us unto the end of all things with an impervious spring in their step, a tip of the hat to Bob Dylan, and an impressive way with improvised initial-based wordplay.
455. Blondie – ‘One Way Or Another’ (1978, Chrysalis). Proof why Blondie are richly deserving of the Godlike Genius Awards at the 2014 NME Awards with Austin, Texas: the stuttering New Wave follow-up to ‘Heart Of Glass’ showed their flair for catchy punk was a match for their disco chops.
453. The Jam – ‘A Town Called Malice’ (1982, Polydor) In which Weller’s southern-northern soul sound takes the pain of suburban alienation and stifled potential, whirls them round the dancefloor and makes a song so giddily exuberant it would make even the 60s Woking of his youth zing with vibrant potential.
450. The Beatles – ‘I Am The Walrus’ (1967, Parlophone) What makes this song so amazing is the way it sounds like the ’60s turning sour; Lennon’s rancour seeping through as he combines Lewis Carroll and playground rhymes in an almost-parody of psychedelia. “Let the fuckers work that one out,” he reportedly quipped on writing it.
442. Roots Manuva – ‘Witness (1 Hope)’ (2001, Big Dada). A bouncy, big-bollocked breakthrough for UK hip-hop in the ’90s, this track reminded us that we didn’t need to look to the US for rap heroes, with its “10 pints of bitter” and “cheese on toast”. Not “grilled cheese”, mind. Cheese on toast.
434. The Kinks – ‘Sunny Afternoon’ (1966, PYE). One of the most deliciously musically nonchalant tracks ever written, the combination of music hall whimsy, speakeasy amble and a killer singalong chorus means you’ll almost be sympathetic to Ray Davies’ tax-dodging dreams by the time he’s through.