A gift for my five loyal readers (okay, so I inflated the number to boost my ego). Here, in no particular order, are ten of my favourite ‘classic’ rock songs. Of course if you were to ask me tomorrow, the list would be completely different.
Eagles – “Hotel California”
“On a dark desert highway/Cool wind in my hair/Warm smell of Colitas rising up through the air.” Who can forget the brilliant opening line from 1977’s “Hotel California?” Another #1 hit for the Eagles, the song’s haunting imagery and guitar interplay of Don Felder and Joe Walsh has made it one of the most famous tracks in the band’s catalog. Don Henley’s lead vocal is both spooky and mesmerizing.
Jackson Browne – “Running On Empty”
The title track from Browne’s biggest selling album (more than seven million copies sold), “Running On Empty” is a rock and roll classic. Who hasn’t turned to face the future without a hint of regret about the past and a slight twinge of fear toward the future? Browne rides a romping production as he searches for meaning in a life lived on the road.
Led Zeppelin – “Rock And Roll”
More than thirty years have passed since the death of drummer John Bonham and the subsequent breakup of Led Zeppelin, but the band’s music lives on. Zeppelin’s catalogue contains quite a few gems, but “Rock And Roll” is one of those songs that sticks in your brain. The rumbling bottom end of Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page’s monstrous guitar work, combined with singer Robert Plant’s from-the-gut wail, make “Rock And Roll” one of rock music’s high points.
AC/DC – “Back In Back”
Written as a tribute to late vocalist Bon Scott, “Back In Black” stands at the top of the list of classics from AC/DC. The title cut from the group’s first post-Scott album – and first featuring singer Brian Johnson – “Back In Black” signalled to the world that AC/DC were, if not better than they had been with Scott, at least as good. From the spooky high-hat countdown, to Angus and Malcolm Young’s dual guitar riffage and power chord chunk, “Back In Black” is unforgettable.
Foreigner – “Juke Box Hero”
By the time Foreigner released their fourth studio album, cleverly titled 4, in 1981, the group had become an international success. The second single from 4, “Juke Box Hero,” became a top 5 hit on the charts and is considered by many to be one of the band’s best songs. From the opening thud of the bass guitar, to the shimmering keyboards and Lou Gramm’s hypnotic vocals, the song draws the listener in. Add Mick Jones’ blistering guitar work into the mix, and you’re hooked.
Bonnie Tyler – “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”
Known for her 1977 hit “It’s A Heartache,” Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler enjoyed her biggest success with 1983’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.” The song, taken from Tyler’s multi-platinum album Faster Than The Speed Of Night, was an international hit, peaking at #1 in numerous countries. With it’s haunting instrumentation and ghostly melody, “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” made Tyler a household name. Tyler’s raspy vocals drip with raw emotion.
Bob Seger – “Night Moves”
There have been many songs written about coming of age, but few of them match the intensity and authenticity of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.” A brilliantly crafted track about a guy and a girl fumbling around in the back seat of his ’60 Chevy, exploring each other and learning about love (or in this case, lust) with pure abandon. The song’s lyrics have a pulled-from-real-life quality that almost everyone can relate to.
ZZ Top – “La Grange”
Perhaps one of the coolest riffs ever laid-down on analog tape, “La Grange” grabs the listener by the crotch and doesn’t let go until the last note fades. Singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons lays on a contrived blues voice (to great effect), while Dusty Hill rattles his bass and Frank Beard pounds out a solid beat on his kit. Written about a legendary Texas brothel, “La Grange” is one of ZZ Top’s – and classic rock’s – coolest songs.
Motorhead – “Ace Of Spades”
“Ace Of Spades” is considered a classic by both heavy metal and rock fans. Iconic front man Lemmy’s elastic bass line and gravelly vocal drives the ragged and cacophonous tune. The song’s production is a bit rough and dated, but the ferociousness of the band’s performance is undeniable. The Ace Of Spades album, from which this song was taken, featured the classic Motorhead lineup of Eddie Clark, Lemmy and Phil Taylor.
Mike + The Mechanics – “The Living Years”
The co-writer behind Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer,” Mike Rutherford (the Mike in Mike + The Mechanics) was responsible for this great ’80s hit. “The Living Years” is an affective number about waiting too long to say the things that matter to the ones we love. The song, a massive hit worldwide, featured Paul Carrack on lead vocals. Rutherford, a founding member of Genesis, never matched the success of “The Living Years.”