A gift for my five loyal readers (okay, I inflated the number to boost my ego). Here in no particular order are ten of my favourite classic rock songs. As with everything else music and list related, if you were to ask me tomorrow my favourites would likely 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 biggest tracks in the band’s catalog. Don ‘I invented music’ Henley’s lead vocal is both haunting and mesmerizing.
Jackson Browne – “Running On Empty”
The title track from Browne’s biggest selling album (more than seven million copies sold in the U.S. alone), “Running On Empty” is a rock and roll classic that fits in any time and space. Who hasn’t turned to face the future without a hint of regret for 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 out on the road, a life that gave us some of rock’s best songs (including this one).
Led Zeppelin – “Rock And Roll”
It’s been more than four decades since the death of John Bonham and the subsequent breakup of Led Zeppelin. The band’s catalogue contains numerous gems, but “Rock And Roll” is a song that sticks in your brain long after the last note has faded. Bonham’s and John Paul Jones’ rumbling bottom end, chained to Jimmy Page’s monstrous guitar work, and 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 before, at least as good. From the spooky high-hat countdown, to Angus and Malcolm Young’s dual guitar 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 was already an international success. The second single from 4, “Juke Box Hero,” became a top 5 hit and is considered by many to be among the band’s best work. From the opening thud of the bass, to the shimmering keyboards and Lou Gramm’s soporific vocals, the song draws the listener in. Add Mick Jones’ blistering guitar work, 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 many countries. With its ghostly melody, “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” made Tyler a household name around the world. The blonde beauty’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 a 1960 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. 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 backbeat. Written about an illegal and legendary Texas brothel (The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas musical was written about the seedy joint), “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 metal and rock fans. Iconic front man Lemmy’s elastic bass and razor-blade 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. Bang your head!
Mike + The Mechanics – “The Living Years”
Mike Rutherford (the Mike in Mike + The Mechanics) was responsible for this great ’80s hit. “The Living Years” is an emotional 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 quite matched the success of “The Living Years,” but three decades after it’s release, the song continues to resonate.