Tag Archives: eric clapton

The 20 Best Rock Songs of All-Time

Derek and the Dominos

By Alan Weeks, howiGit Music Writer & Geoff Roberts, howiGit Founder, Boston, MA

Geoff’s preliminary remarks: So here it is at long last, howiGit’s 20 Best Rock Songs of All-Time. After our success with The 20 Best Rap Songs of All-Time, this list was a given — especially considering our music writer’s Rock N’ Roll leanings. To touch on our process and criteria, I can assure you that this list was completed after countless hours of listening and deliberation. There are literally thousands of other amazing songs that did not make the list, and similarly thousands of incredibly influential songs (there’s no Elvis on the list) that also did not make the list. We took a broad interpretation of rock, as many of these songs pull from genres such as blues, jazz, and pop. There’s only room for 20 songs people, so before you argue with us ask yourself, “Is this really a top 20 song ever?” As Alan and I collaborated on the list, neither of us is 100% satisfied with the results– but this is pretty damn close and a great place to start anyone listening to rock music.

Alan’s preliminary remarks: Before we get into the list to end all other non-Rolling Stone, MTV, or VH1 lists, I want to say that as a law student, this has been the hardest thing I have had to do in the past month. While standing on the subway platform every afternoon I was thinking “Little Wing” by Stevie Ray, or “Little Wing” by Hendrix? Is “Space Oddity” by Bowie a better song than “The End” from the Doors, or do I just like it because I love the movie Mr. Deeds? G and I stayed up many a night discussing and at times arguing to the point that physical threats may or may not have been thrown around. We finally agreed on a list that we felt was the best ever. Not the best, but the best ever, and if you disagree, you are wrong. If you haven’t heard of a song on the list, do me a favor Ke-mo sah-bee, take the three minutes out of your mundane Ke$ha-listening existence and plug-in.

Without further adieu, The 20 Best Rock Songs of All-Time, in order…

1) Derrick and the Dominos — Layla

Now I know that we are going to get a lot of rabble rabble and “that is so trite” for this pick, but the truth is people, like it or not, this is the best Rock and Roll song of all-time. We are not talking about the MTV “Unplugged” version here. My boy EC (Eric Clapton for you haters) wrote this song of love and everlasting longing about Pattie Boyd, the then current wife of one of Clapton’s best friend’s, none other than the Beatles’ quiet guitarist, George Harrison. The two had a long flirtation-based relationship while she was still married. Clapton was told about an old Persian love story about a princess, “Layla,” who was to be married to someone other than the man she was madly in love with. This drove the left out party to madness, and later death in the desert — EC related. One fateful week in Miami, while recording the Dominos’ album, Rock N’ Roll history was made. Duane Allman of the very same Allman Brother Band sat in on “Layla” on slide during that amazing piano/guitar solo. The power of this song is what should drive all rock songs, madness, love, and benders in Miami. When Clapton finished the album, he called Pattie, went over to her house, and sat with her while all four sides of the LP played. Yeah, pretty awkward, she was terrified and rejected him. But she must have realized how much the song rocked at some point, because the two were later married. There is your number one people.

2) The Rolling Stones — Gimme Shelter

3) Led Zeppelin — Stairway to Heaven

4) Pink Floyd — Run Like Hell

5) The Beatles — Come Together

6) Jimi Hendrix — All Along The Watchtower

7) Bob Dylan — Like A Rolling Stone

8)Lynyrd Skynyrd — Free Bird

9) The Eagles — Hotel California

10) The Rolling Stones — You Can’t Always Get What You Want

11) The Velvet Underground — Rock N’ Roll

12) The Band — The Weight

13) Credence Clearwater Revival — Fortunate Son

14) The Who — Baba O’Reilly

15) The Allman Brothers — Midnight Rider

16) Queen — Bohemian Rhapsody

17) CREAM — Sunshine of Your Love

18) Pink Floyd — Comfortably Numb

19) Elton John — Rocketman

20) The Doors — Light My Fire

Honorable Mentions: Led Zeppelin — Over the Hills and Far Away, The Who — Emminence Front, The Mammas and the Pappas — California Dreaming

Other Songs Seriously Considered included: There were hundreds of songs considered, which we subsequently cut to a list of about 100, which was then cut to about 40 before the list was finalized. These songs included: Buffalo Springfield — For What It’s Worth, The Clash — Rock the Casbah, CCR — Born on the Bayou, Led Zeppelin — Tangerine, Pink Floyd — Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here, Oasis — Wonderwall, Lynyrd Skynyrd — Sweet Home Alabama, The White Stripes — 7 Nation Army, Foo Fighters — Everlong, Nirvana — Come As You Are, Nirvana — Smells Like Teen Spirit, U2 — One, The Rolling Stones — Under My Thumb, David Bowie — Space Oddity, Rush — Tom Sawyer, The Beatles — Elinor Rigby, Bruce Springsteen — Born to Run, The Allman Brothers — Whipping Post

Now go make yourself a playlist.

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Best Rock Songs Ever Submissions

Jimi Hendrix

Ok, ladies and gentlemen. You might have read our post The 20 Best Rap Songs of All-Time. That article has since moved to #1 on Google if you search for anything resembling “Best Rap Songs of All-Time” and has been read over 13,000 times. As our music writer is a wannabe 70’s child, we figured we better provide our fine readers with The 20 Best Rock Songs of All-Time as well. We’ve already begun the research process, and should have a list out to you shortly. In the meantime, help us out. Send us your submissions — we promise to listen to every last one.

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Keith Richards’ “Life” — Worthy of a Read

Life by Keith Richards

By Alan Weeks, howiGit Music Writer, Boston, MA

The book sleeve says “This is the Life. Believe it or not I haven’t forgotten any of it.” The best rhythm guitarist in Rock and Roll history has decided to grace us with all the stories that we’ve wanted to hear about since we saw Kurt Cobain drunk on MTV at twelve years old. What do rockstars do when they aren’t on stage? This shockingly candid and surprisingly well written autobiography from Keith Richards is nothing short of a MUST read for anyone who has ever cared about The Rolling Stones. Have you ever wondered about the rumors of Keith having annual blood transfusions or heard that when his father died he mixed his ashes with cocaine and snorted them? Well ponder no longer, friend. Keef starts with his childhood in Dartford, England, befriending Mick Jagger, up until the death of his mother and his cameo in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He leaves no Stone unturned.

What is special about this autobiography is that it mixes all of the scandalous and absurd stories about fame and fortune in tandem with a very pure musical narrative. We see the maniacal party animal of Rock and Roll folklore, while also seeing the meticulous guitarist that could spend 24 hours without leaving a studio, or even taking a piss. Keith Richards presents himself as the righteous demon, the wingless angel, basically the anti-hero. But you love him, and feel for him in every page.

The book touches on many facets of his life — of course all of the arrests, acquittals, and drugs to fill a federal penitentiary — but also some very emotional accounts of his friends, lovers, and family. The story behind the story is the relationship between Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Their friendship has deteriorated over the last 50 years. They go from the “Glimmer Twins,” an inseparable musical duo, to fellow employees who rarely speak. The reader can very much tell from Keith’s words that their distance weighs heavily on his mind. In both the number of pages that he dedicates to speaking about his lost friend and in the words that he uses to describe their friendship over the years, it is translucent to the reader that no matter what has happened, he and Mick are still brothers, though not friends. “There is too much wear and tear for that,” Keith says.

Have you ever wondered what the song “Jumpin Jack Flash” was written about? Did you ever think it was possible for a human being to snort 8 grams of narcotics in one sitting? How about where Jimi Hendrix found the song, “Hey Joe?” Well this book will be your Rolling Stones Rosetta Stone. For me, the most enjoyable part of this book are the stories about Keith’s friendships with other musicians — John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Gram Parsons, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, and many more. Every story has criminal charges and drunken debauchery attached. The only problem with this book is that after reading it, you have the strong urge to call Keith up and ask him to come over with a carton and some vodka, but you can’t. I strongly suggest you pick it up, grab an ashtray, and get ready for a ride. I un-quit smoking because of this book. Check it out.

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The Death of Rock and Roll?

Green Day

By Alan Weeks, howiGit Contributing Music Writer, Boston, MA

While I skimmed through the channels not so patiently waiting for the premiere of Anthony Bourdaine’s 100th episode of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” I stopped at the Palladia Channel. Palladia is a shoot off of MTV, made to appear as a channel that caters to a more musically inclined crowd, and not one that is preoccupied in the many interesting life issues that face Terrell Owens on a weekly basis. On this particular night, the show highlighted was England’s Isle of Wight Festival, and the band performing was the ever more popular Kings of Leon. The “Kings” of Leon are a mediocre band from Tennessee, whose band members draw inspiration from Eddie Vedder — enough said? Did I offend all of you Pearl Jam lovers who still claim that Pearl Jam’s music is original, non-formulaic, and honest? Pearl Jam’s music has about as much integrity as Eddie Vedder’s claims of sobriety. I saw him perform, much to my chagrin, at Bonnaroo in 2008. I am not a fan of this band, but because I was attending a festival, and because I like to be proven wrong, but mostly because of my inebriated state, I decided to show up for their set. This was a mistake. Not only was their performance less than lackluster, bust just as I was getting ready for Eddie to belt into their so called “masterpiece” “Betterman,” Eddie decides to talk about how sober he is — when he is clearly blind drunk, slurring his words, and wishing that it was still 1992.  He goes into a rant about the Bush Administration, and foreign oil, at which point it is clear that he is wasted, and can barely stand. Finally he shut up, the set ended, the pain between my temples gave way, and I was left thinking only one thing: If this band is the inspiration for our up and coming artists of tomorrow, is Rock and Roll Dying? Which lead me to my next realization: This was all Green Day’s fault.

Green Day, once the voice of a misunderstood and lethargic generation, has become nothing more than a blend of Blink-182 chord progressions and Michael Moore like anti-establishment teen angst, with all members now entering their late 30’s. These guys are actually considered rock icons — significant contributing voices in the music community, and not for Dookie, but for American Idiot. They symbolize everything that is cheap and disingenuous in rock and roll. It is almost as though Billy Joe Armstrong received a memo from Robert Smith in 2006, giving him fashion advice and telling him that he could learn a lot from the band Panic at the Disco. What happened to these guys? “Welcome to Paradise,” “Basket Case,” even tracks off of Nimrod were genuinely good, if not at least catchy and fast (thank you Ramone family). I am not entirely sure whether the band sees the irony in calling their latest album “21st Century Breakdown.” It’s like they know they haven’t produced anything resembling art in the last ten years.

Now that I have meandered, and expressed my anger for Billy Joe Armstrong’s eye makeup, which I am sure he stole from Marilyn Manson’s closet, I can get back the “Kings.”  The band has grabbed the attention of 17 year old girls and men with questionable music taste the world over with their “hits” “Sex is on Fire” (what does that even mean?) and “Use Somebody.” Although these songs are semi-catchy, they are by no means an expression of extreme musical talent warranting the high praise that they have been getting from the rest of the music community. But is this the Royal House of Leon’s fault? I’m not entirely sure. If what they have to look up to, as musical mentors, are Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell, I can’t say that I wouldn’t suck either.

The greats that everyone considers great — The Band, Dylan, Hendrix, The Who, Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and the Beatles had rich musical roots to draw on from the decades before them. Jazz and blues greats like Louis Armstrong and Big Bill Broonzy were real pioneers and visionaries, genuine and thoughtful artists that made music because they were musically talented. The Stones were a blues band before being labeled the “Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time.” The Beatles sound more like 1950’s Rock and Roll than what we associate their music with, until the mid 1960’s. They could draw on the influence of real talent, not just what pop culture had deemed hip and accessible to teenagers. The very festival that The Kings of Leon were playing once hosted a list of headliners that included Jefferson Airplane, Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendrix. To even have them considered contemporaries is disheartening. The fact that today’s listeners hold the love, respect and esteem for these musicians that generations before had for The Doors would make Jim Morrison spin in his alcohol filled grave.

The musicians aren’t even selling their music, they are selling their image as Rock and Roll stars. Music is becoming a thing that doesn’t even involve music. What is Anthony Followill (front man of the “Kings”) supposed to think when Green Day starts showing up in all black with painted fingernails, and black studded belts, like they were the headliners at hardcore night at CBGB’s. Anthony remembers the little hell raisers wearing plaid and complaining about not having enough weed and hating their parents, not hating politicians and making emo chicks weep. He sees the people that he looked up to, and tried to emulate, prostituting themselves out to remain “cool.”

You cannot remain cool forever unless you have something that is special, timeless, sacred, and genuine, which apparently these Cali boys do not possess, because they have become far too concerned with trying to look like Liza Minelli, and not so much with their sound. Look, I am not ignorant enough to think that artists can’t, and many times need to change to adapt to the culture around them, as even the greats have done. Eric Clapton in 1990 sounds very different at the Royal Albert Hall then he did when he played there with Ginger and Jack in the 1960’s. But Clapton sounds different because HE changed, got sober, lost a son, and Layla, not because he thought that he would be able to sell more albums or become more marketable to a younger demographic. And guess what, he changed, and his music still remains great —  “From the Cradle” is powerful, honest, and straight up Clapton.

Rock’s ancestors are getting old, and soon will be no more. A musical family tree that started with Elmore James, gave birth to Jimi Hendrix, which created inspiration for Stevie Ray Vaughn which produced a very capable John Mayer, will likely be a thing of the past. Musical dynasties cannot sustain themselves when the list goes as follows: Pearl Jam to Limp Bizkit , to Dashboard Confessional, to Panic at the Disco, and ending with Hellogoodbye (who may, or may not know that their name stems from a Beatles song).

My point is this — I am a lover of music, especially of Rock and Roll, and I don’t see any bands that I would consider Rock and Roll bands riding mainstream media bliss, or even enjoying their due respect. Acts like Umphrey’s McGee, who tour 200 days of the year, or Joe Bonnamasa, a blues virtuoso, although mildly popular, have not been given their due from the rest of the music community. Rock and Roll has become less earnest, more about a seven word band name and Chad Kroeger’s locks, than about the gritty, wild, and intoxicated madness of bleeding fingers after mind-blowing guitar shred that could be akin to a religious experience.

If there is to be any hope, there must be a concerted effort on the parts of our younger generation of listeners to reach back to these greats, and follow their family tree, to see what they have been missing. They will also realize that the bullshit that New Found Glory is selling them is simply a less thoughtful, less talented, and more commercialized version of the Velvet Underground.  To Green Day, stay true to your roots — do you honestly think everybody just forgot what you guys used to look and sound like prior to the year 2000? To Pearl Jam and Eddie, go make another Target commercial. To Panic at the Disco, you would have a better chance at musical integrity if you actually made disco music. Is Rock and Roll dying? Yes, but Keith Richards has been dying since Exile on Maine Street, so there is still hope.

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