Recently, the esteemed and highly entertaining Joe Posnanski was trying to determine the most iconic songs of the rock era. Along with a team of writers and blog readers he came up with a final list* of iconic songs. I’ve got a comment about the list but first go see the final list complete with Joe’s commentary and the follow up post here.
* Some writers like ESPN’s Keith Law have made their list public.
Overall I can’t argue with the list, all of the songs are certainly iconic. The list contains nothing but outstanding songs but now that the list of iconic songs has been established I’d like to propose something:
Let’s take every song on the list and place it in a vault for one year where no one can listen to them.
It’s not that I don’t like the songs, take another look at the list:
Alive, American Pie, Another Brick in the Wall, Bohemian Rhapsody, Born to be Wild, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water, (Gnarls Barkley), Crazy, Crazy (Patsy Cline), Georgia On My Mind, God Save the Queen, Good Vibrations, Fight the Power, Fortunate Son, Freebird, Friends in Low Places, Hey Ya, Hotel California, Hound Dog, I Feel Good, I Love Rock and Roll, I Walk The Line, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Imagine, Johnny B. Goode, Layla, Like a Rolling Stone, Like a Virgin, London Calling, Louie Louie, Mack the Knife, Melt With You, My Generation, My Way, Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang, Oh Pretty Woman, Peggy Sue, Purple Haze, Purple Rain, Rapper’s Delight, Redemption Song, Respect, Rock Around The Clock, Satisfaction, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Stairway to Heaven, Staying Alive, Sunday Bloody Sunday Thriller, Welcome to the Jungle, The Weight, Y.M.C.A.
Those songs are great but I’ve heard them all many, many (and in some cases MANY) times before. I could sing every song on this list without having to look up the words. It’s not that I never want to hear them again, I just don’t NEED to hear them anymore. I can play them in my head from memory.
I think we could all benefit from putting these songs away and hearing some different voices; songs and artists that while not iconic today could become iconic if given a chance. Here are five of my choices to replace songs on the icon list, some are well know and some are not but they are all worth checking out. I’m not saying they are better than all of the songs listed above. I’m just saying that if you removed any of the five songs above with the ones I’m about to name I would be okay with it. I can name about 200 more but these will do for now. Feel free to suggest some alternate icons in the comments.
Townes Van Zandt – Pancho and Lefty: Not the best Townes van Zandt song (that’s To Live is To Fly) but the best story he ever told, that makes it icon worthy.
Greg Cartwright -Live The Life: Greg Carwright originally recorded this traditional gospel song song as a member of The Compulsive Gamblers then again with The Oblivians, here he is playing a quieter acoustic version.
FYI – This version was recorded at Goner Records which I mentioned yesterday in reference to a very good cause.
The Replacements – Bastards of Young: Over the past few years I’ve listened to the Replacements less but this makes my list no matter what.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Ballad of the Sin Eater: The iconic version appears on the Hearts of Oak record but here is a live version from a solo Ted Leo show that captures the feeling of it very well.
Toots & The Maytals – Pressure Drop: Far superior to the version the Clash later recorded (and I love The Clash).
Note: If you’re wondering: Am I just trying to call attention to some of my favorite songs? Yes, of course I am but for a good reason. While my choices may never become iconic rock anthems they derserve to be heard by a wider audience and it’s hard to for these voices to be heard when the airwaves are filled with the same old songs. I would love to see everyone retire some of the classic rock standards, just for a little while, and try something else.