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.
499. Blur – ‘Out Of Time’ (2003, Parlophone). Graham Coxon famously got the hump with Blur’s direction circa ‘Think Tank’, but he couldn’t have had many quibbles with the gorgeous ‘Out Of Time’ – one of Damon’s deftest and most delicate strums.
498. Ash – ‘Girl From Mars’ (1995, Infectious). Ash were still studying their A-Levels when they hit big with the hyper-lurid thrills of ‘Girls On Mars’: a mixture of giddy, comic book excitement with sex, sleaze and thrashy guitars.
497. Primal Scream – ‘Kill All Hippies’ (2000, Creation). The aggressive apex of the Scream’s ‘XTRMNTR’ album, roughly shoving aside the lovey-dovey vibes of ‘Screamadelica’ like a coke-snorting stormtrooper.
496. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Hey Joe’ (1966, Track). An old 60s song covered by all and sundry, until Hendrix got his hands on it and delivered the definitive version: a smoking, slithering guitar masterpiece and the tale of a rogue running from the cops after shooting his wife.
495. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – ‘Patio Song’ (1996, Fontana). Trotting friskily down the psychedelic path of Welsh whimsy leveled by Super Furry Animals in their tanks, Gorky’s charmed the ’90s airwaves with his giddy, dewy-eyed, deeply weird love song.
494. ‘Everybody Hurts’ – REM (1992, Warner Bros). Yep, it’s as ubiquitous-as-they-bloody-come and soppy-as-hell but still –
493. Sugababe – ‘Overload’ (2000, London). Many’s the harried hack songwriter has tried to capture the pain and thrill of young womanhood; they all ring hollow next to this innocent-but-sexy, slinkily irresistible hookfest of a track.
492. The Strokes – ‘New York City Cops’ (2001, Rough Trade). Julian’s at his louchest and languid best on this fuzzy, skuzzy garage-punk racket, which remains one of the standouts of their ‘Is This It?’ debut.
491. Johnny Cash – ‘One’ (2000, American Recordings). The Man In Black gives a sombre take on U2’s hymn to mending dysfunction, stripping away the bombast and allowing his soft, cannonball-thud of a vocal to steamroll all in its path.
490. The Doors – ‘Riders On The Storm’ (1971, Elektra). This brooding, heavier-than-thou slab of psychedelic rock – all rain-and-thunder atmospherics and summoning-the-void tension – was frontman Jim Morrison’s last recorded song to be released.
489. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – ‘Red Right Hand’ (1994, Mute) High Priest Of Doom Nick Cave gives his finest Satanic shaman in the Bad Seeds’ Milton-aping masterclass: a torrid tale of a strange, ungodly figure stalking through a dusty old town.
488. The Stranglers – ‘Golden Brown’ (1982, Liberty). One of the strangest time signatures ever to charm the charts, the Stranglers’ ode to the wacky baccy is as hypnotically alluring and soothing as its subject matter.
487. Morrissey – ‘Suedehead’ Morrissey’s debut solo single after the disbanding of The Smiths is also one of his finest outings, period. Stephen Street’s arrangement gives a sweeping, softly-softly feel to the song, but the tropes – awkwardness, embarrassment and social clangers – are vintage Moz.
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.
481. Echo And The Bunnymen – ‘The Killing Moon’ (1984, Korova). The most indulgent sweep of dark, flouncy romance ever, Mac’s gothic masterpiece (in the Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley vein rather than the PVC and cobweb types sense) is deathless.
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.
479. The Beach Boys – ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ (1966, Capitol). Whimsical youth wishing its life away in blissful multi-harmony. The honey coating on the 60s.
478. AC/DC – ‘Highway To Hell’ (1979, Atlantic). Hard-as-nails riffing and Bon Scott’s tough-as-old-boots vocal make this, the title track from the band’s 1979 album of the same name, one of hard rock’s greatest anthems ever.
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.
476. John Lennon – ‘Imagine’ (1971, Apple). The late Beatles’ meditation on religion, life, death, politics and much more besides, underpinned by charmingly simple, nursery rhyme-like piano chords and one of Lennon’s sweetest vocals.
475. Gnarls Barkley – ‘Crazy’ (2006, Warner Bros). The meeting of minds between Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton and Cee-Lo Green birthed a bona-fide pop classic: a sultry-but-paranoid freak-out of neo-soul RnB.
474. Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Disarm’ (1993, Hut). The most scab-pickingly maudlin moment of an extremely angsty album, this boohoo-my-childhood track’s secret weapon is buoying of melodic delicacy with great, cosmic sweeps of strings that lift it far beyond Billy’s individual wallows.
473. The Kinks – ‘Lola’ (1970, Pye). We’ve all got our many and varied stories about accidentally sleeping with a ladyboy, but Ray Davies’ is by far the sweetest. Big hands, that’s the sign.
472. Palma Violets – ‘Best Of Friends’ (2012, Rough Trade). Getting the old ‘I just don’t see you that way,’ routine never sounded so bittersweet as on Palma’s rambuncious tale of unrequited love. BASTARDS. (We still love them.)
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.
469. The National – ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ (2010, 4AD). A tornado of pop, no song about being carried by bees to the American mid-west has ever been so, ahem, uplifting.
468. The Coral – ‘Dreaming Of You’ (2002, Deltasonic). Jaunty psychedelic scouse pop at its most infectious, ‘Dreaming Of You’ ushered in the shroomadelic era.
467. Teenage Fanclub – ‘Star Sign’ (1991, Creation). A fuzzy-guitared but never-fuzzy headed up-yours to superstition, in which the Fannies embrace the unknowability of the universe, probably while wearing a stripy woolly jumper.
466. Salt-N-Pepa – ‘Push It’ (1987, FFRR). A bona-fide great beat, one helluva danceable beat and an aggressive take on female sexuality, best espoused in the line “Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?”.
465. Mercury Rev – ‘Goddess On A HiWay’ (1998, V2). The gorgeous gem at the heart of the ‘Deserter’s Songs’ album, this track brought mainstream success with its irresistible late-night drive melancholy and widescreen beauty.
464. Nirvana – ‘About A Girl’ (1989, Tupelo). The first sign of Kurt Cobain’s nascent genius, and the proof that Nirvana were as indebted to pop as they were the sludgy angst of grunge with its Beatles-like melodies and sweet-but-snarky sentiment.
463. Gloria Gaynor – ‘I Will Survive’ (1978, Polydor). The go-to song for anyone who’s been heartlessly dumped, and destined to be a disco-classic until the end of time: the ultimate ‘I don’t need you anyway’ kiss-off to an ungrateful ex.
462. The Vaccines – ‘If You Wanna’ (2011, Columbia). Essentially the anti-‘Scientist’, this was pure punk pop heartbreak bursting clean out of Justin Young’s chest and racing down the street after his ex.
461. Wings – ‘Live And Let Die’ (1973, Apple). The Bond theme to end them all, Macca’s most bombastic moment was the sound of the Royal Philharmonic spontaneously combusting, and then God trying to stamp them out.
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.
459. Iggy Pop – ‘Lust For Life’ (1977, RCA). Co-written with David Bowie, and blessed with both one of the sleaziest, filthiest and adrenaline-specked howls from Iggy and a none-more-iconic opening drumbeat.
458. Rihanna feat. Jay Z – ‘Umbrella’ (2007, Def Jam). The monster hit which elevated Rihanna to pop’s top table – with a little help from Jay Z – is RnB perfection: all spacious, cavernous drums, thunderous production and a fraught-as-they-come declaration from Ri-Ri of eternal love and devotion.
457. Prodigy – ‘Firestarter’ (1996, XL). ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’ had already made the Prodigy rave poster-kinds and dance megastars, but this was the punktronica smash, so gleefully
456. Snoop Doggy Dogg – ‘What’s My Name?’ (1993, Death Row/Interscope). Snoop’s laconic, languid drawl is arguably at its finest here, on the rapper’s debut solo single.
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.
454. The Flaming Lips – ‘Race For The Prize’ (1999, Warner Bros). A lush, giddy and opulent piece of psychedelic pop perfection from the Lips, who tell the tale of two scientists trying to defeat a virus threatening the survival of mankind.
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.
452. Led Zeppelin – ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (1969, Atlantic). Duh-duh duh-duh WHUMP. Duh-duh duh-duh WHUMP. Imagine watching this and ‘Purple Haze’ slugging it out above a city skyline, like the Godzilla and Mothra of the riff world. Our money’s on the never-tighter-trewed Zep.
451. The Chemical Brothers – ‘Setting Sun’ (1996, Freestyle Dust/Virgin) Long before Amorphous Androgynous, Noel G was indulging his psychedelic side with Tom and Ed in this unnerving, edgy big beat brain-battering.
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.
449. Billy Bragg – ‘A New England’ (1983, Utility) A tender Brummie heart, bleeding poetically and politically with wry humour all over a salt-of-the-earth rockabilly strum; how could anyone resist Billy’s sweet advances?
448. Coldplay – ‘The Scientist’ (2002, Parlophone). Love ’em or loathe ’em, Coldplay’s most lovelorn five minutes were amongst the saddest ever put to record, a devastatingly simple sentiment that answered the question about where broken hearts go. They come here.
447. Pulp – ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ (1994, Island). Breathless with the thrill of first love, brittle with the pain of heartbreak and regret, the arch and retro skulkers in the kitchen at the Britpop party have rarely sounded so vulnerable.
446. The Rolling Stones – ‘Tumbling Dice’ (1972, Rolling Stones Records).
Sleepy-eyed, ruffle haired and disreputable, the Stones sleep-all-day, jam-all-night schedule for ‘Exile On Main St’ paid off in this deliciously lazy, sleazy boogie-woogie jackpot.
445. Blur – ‘Popscene’ (1992, Food). One of the first flowerings of Britpop popper, this sharp, lean burst of horn-stabbed, waspish satire on a gormless music industry that didn’t know what was about to hit it remains one of Blur’s most headbangingly fun moments.
444. Leftfield feat. John Lydon – ‘Open Up’ (1993, Hard Hands). The rampant theme tune of alternative dance music’s golden era harnessed the glorious, gleeful, antichrist vengeance of the erstwhile Mr Rotten to turn it on the hollow icons of Hollywood.
443. Pulp – ‘Sorted for E’s And Wizz’ (1995, Island) Ah, drugs! Brilliant aren’t they? Well, they are until they’re not, as Jarvis well knows on this archly satirical take on rave’s jilted and pilled-up generation.
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.
441. Bobby Fuller Four – ‘I Fought The Law’ (1965, Mustang). Made even more famous by The Clash, Bobby Fuller enjoyed six months of success on the back of this anti-establishment lament in 1965 before dying in an apparent – but allegedly questionable – suicide.
440. Beck – ‘Where It’s At’ (1996, Geffen). The weird, wonderful and sample-heavy first single from Beck’s genre-straddling masterpiece ‘Odelay’. Contains more ideas than most artists muster up in their whole career.
439. The Imposter – ‘Pills And Soap’ (1983, F-Beat). Elvis Costello dons an alter ego to take a doomy, jazzy scourge to Thatcher and her mercenary demolishment of UK society; political post-punking at its most bitterly furious.
438. Madonna – ‘Material Girl’ (1984, Sire). The Queen Of Pop’s tongue-in-cheek take on 80s consumerism, with a stonking chorus and a cheesy-but-great synthpop sound.
437. Special AKA – ‘Nelson Mandela’ (1984, 2 Tone). One of the best-known protest songs in history, because it followed the three golden rules: keep it simple, make it catchy, make your message strong.
436. Kings Of Leon – ‘The Bucket’ (2004, Handmedown). A classic of the verse-better-than-chorus genre, ‘The Bucket’ was Kings Of Leon’s melodic high-point, a sparkling pop tribute to slackerdom.
435. Arctic Monkeys – ‘R U Mine?’ (2012, Domino). The moment where the Monkeys begun their evolution into an even more swaggering, hard-rocking band, pilfering tips, ideas and attitude from the 70s but wrangling them all into something utterly modern and utterly vital.
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.
433. At The Drive-In – ‘One Armed Scissor’ (2000, Grand Royal). The crossover blast that kicked down the doors of a new prog-hardcore era and turned the world’s attention to At The Drive-In and the wave of fresh US punk acts that followed in their wake.
432. The Verve – ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ (1997, Hut). Even if you’ve never been a cat in a bag waiting to drown, you could relate to The Verve’s grandiloquent paean of loss, belonging and shonky narcotics.
431. Shirley And Company – ‘Shame Shame Shame’ (1974, Philips). One of the first big worldwide disco smashes, you can hear this track sliding from soul to something smoother, more sci-fi and silvery, haranguing you onto the dancefloor as it does so.
430. Althea and Donna – ‘Up Town Top Ranking’ (1977, Lightning). This song has more peerless attitude than most people’s entire record collections, and its teenage singers might have been one-hit wonders, but they were still cooler than all the punk boys in 1977.
429. Weezer – ‘Buddy Holly’ (1994, DGC) Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo thought this was “too cheesy” to include on their self-titled debut. Thankfully he changed his mind.
428. David Bowie – ‘Golden Years’ (1975, RCA). Not even a diet of “cocaine, milk and red peppers”, could stop The Thin White Duke turning out plastic soul this good.
427. The Hives – ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ (2000, Burning Heart). The eccentric Swedes have been trying to better this garage-rock masterclass for 14 years. They won’t.
426. Tame Impala – ‘Elephant’ (2012, Modular). The best track on NME’s Album Of 2012, ‘Lonerism’. With its giant, thumping riff, it sounds fittingly like its title.
425. Muse – ‘Plug In Baby’ (2001, Mushroom). Muse nodded to Bach’s ‘Toccata And Fugue In D Minor’ to create their heavy riffing prog-rock signature.
424. PJ Harvey – ‘Down By The Water’ (1995, Island). Only PJ Harvey could make a song about a woman drowning her daughter this enjoyable.
423. Guns N’ Roses – ‘Paradise City’ (1987, Geffen).Thick riffs, air-guitar-worthy solos, Axl Rose’s squawk and lyrics eulogising pretty girls, this is quintessential Gn’R.
422. The Magnetic Fields – ‘The Book Of Love’ (1999, Merge). The gloriously gloomy showtune that proved the biggest standout on Stephin Merritt’s wonderful ’69 Love Songs’.
421. Neutral Milk Hotel – ‘Holland, 1945’ (1998, Merge). Probably the only song about war, death, injustice, Anne Frank and her sister Margot that you can dance to.
420. Coldplay – ‘Yellow’ (2000, Parlophone). Originally written as a Neil Young parody, these four minutes thrust Coldplay to global fame.
419. The Jam – ‘Start!’ (1980, Polydor). An unashamed reworking of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ it may be, but with that bassline, who cares?
418. Nirvana – ‘Come As You Are’ (1992, Geffen). If ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ showed Nirvana’s raw power, ‘Come As You Are’ proved Cobain’s songwriting prowess.
417. Tindersticks – ‘Marbles’ (1993, This Way Up). The sublimely no-fi key track from the Nottingham murder-mumblers’ debut sounds like Nick Cave produced by Lee Hazlewood.
416. Blur – ‘Chemical World’ (1993, Food). With giant nods to XTC, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by Graham’s crashing intro riff and Damon’s high-as-a-kite chorus.
415. Carly Simon – ‘You’re So Vain’ (1972, Elektra). Is it about Warren Beatty? David Bowie? Who cares? 70s soft rock rarely got better than this.
414. The Only Ones – ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ (1978, Columbia). Easily new wave’s best song about ‘loving the alien’, The Only Ones’ biggie still zips by at warp speed nine.
413. Elvis Costello And The Attractions – ‘Watching The Detectives’ (1977, Stiff). Costello wrote this slab of stalker reggae noir, about a lover who’d rather watch TV, after staying up all night listening to The Clash.
412. Friendly Fires – ‘Paris’ (2007, XL Recordings). Stephen Street: “I heard that and thought, ‘Wow’. It’s so euphoric. It was a surprise hearing something like this from a very new band – it’s not what you’d expect.”
411. Fugazi – ‘Waiting Room’ (1988, Dischord). Not so much as a wasted note on this lesson in leanness. The four-second silence at 0.22 is exhilarating.
410. Nine Inch Nails – ‘Hurt’ (1994, Interscope). Yes it was covered by Cash, but here’s the original – and best – version.
409. The Ronettes – ‘Baby, I Love You’ (1963, Philles Records). The peerless combination of Ronnie Bennett, The Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector and Cher on backing vocals makes for one of the most joyous love songs ever.
408. Arctic Monkeys – ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ (2005, Domino). “You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham.” Early, snarky lyrical brilliance from a teenage Alex Turner; jitterpop genius from his fellow Monkeys.
407. The Ramones – ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ (1977, Sire). A punk band playing a surf-rock tune. Simple, really, but the world span a whole lot faster as a result.
406. Alt-J – ‘Breezeblocks’ (2012, Infectious). Joe Newman’s distinctive vocal, offbeat rhythms and arrangement make this an otherworldly treat.
405. M.I.A – ‘Bad Girls’ (2012, Interscope). Sexual empowerment and feminism wrapped up in a fusion of hip hop beats and Arabian sounds? Only M.I.A.
404. U2 – ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ (1987, Island). Say what you like about Bono – and most do – he can certainly bawl out an unstoppable stadium anthem or two.
403. Black Grape – ‘Reverend Black Grape’ (1995, Radioactive Records). The lyrics about the hypocrisies of the church were controversial, but the tune was one almighty funk hallelujah.
402. Thin Lizzy – ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ (1976, Vertigo). Macho rock’n’roll thunderblast that understandably become an anthem for sports teams around the world.
401. The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy – Television, Drug Of The Nation (1991, 4th & Broadway/Island) “Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation” went DHOH’s landmark attack on America’s brain-deadening culture. Amen.