By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

When Paul Gaszak approached me about his idea to do a ‘favorite songs’ series of posts, I thought “what a great idea.”  As I sat down to start compiling my list, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I initially assumed.  Some dilemmas:

  • What were my criteria going to be?  Favorite songs spanning all genres?  Should I add Beethoven, and/or Miles Davis to the list?
  • Should I pick recent songs that have lately become favorites, or old standards that I have loved for years?
  • Can I have a favorite song by an artist I don’t like that much?

I realized something interesting about my music tastes.  I really don’t focus upon songs as much as I do albums. I think I would have had a much easier time compiling a list of my favorite albums, or even favorite bands, than favorite songs. Nonetheless, I persevered and came up with a list.  It is 1.) made up solely of rock/pop/r&b and 2.) composed of songs that I have loved for at least 5 years.

Here it is, ordered chronologically from oldest to most recent.

  • Gimme Shelter, by The Rolling Stones, 1969: ‘The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?”  That is the classic rock and roll question. I love both bands, but I can’t say there is ONE Beatles song that is my favorite. So, I chose Gimme Shelter by the Stones because it just seems to encapsulate the late 1960’s.  It is unfortunate that the Stones are now the symbol of geriatric rockers because they were once bad-ass rebels.  Just goes to show that real rock is the art of  rebellious youth.

  • My Cherie Amour, by Stevie Wonder, 1969: This is simply a perfect love song. It is impossible not to put a smile on your face. Your body just sways when Stevie starts to sing.
  • London Calling, by The Clash, 1979: I needed some punk rock.  This has always been my favorite Clash song. Not an original choice, but when the hard-driving guitars hit in time with the pounding drums, you gotta move.
  • Welcome to the Terrordome, by Public Enemy, 1989: Still one of my favorite rap songs, by one of my favorite rap groups. Chuck D was/is incredible. Politics, anger, poetry.
  • Waterfall, by The Stone Roses, 1989: A perfect pop song. Between 1988 and 1990, The Stone Roses created incredibly infectious music.  I highly recommend their eponymous 1989 debut album for 11 perfect pop songs much like the one I chose.
  • Sennen, by Ride, 1991: Ride is mostly forgotten today, but twenty years ago they captured the ‘shoe-gazing’ flash of the early 90’s. Wall-of-sound production, jingly-jangly guitars, whispered lyrics.  Love it.
  • Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, by Jeff Buckley, 1994:  Jeff Buckley released the album ‘Grace’ in 1994.  Three years later, while working on his second album, he drowned in the Mississippi River. A tragic ending for an artist with incredible potential.  Here is a live version of my favorite song from his finished masterpiece.
  • Paranoid Android, by Radiohead, 1997: Ah, what Radiohead song to pick?  I will go for this one simply for the line, “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly, kicking screaming Gucci little piggy.” Another live version.  Radiohead is amazing live.
  • Via Chicago, by Wilco, 1999: For me, Wilco is an ‘album band’ more than a ‘song band’. Their albums have been great, but I can’t say many of their songs would be in my top ten.  However, Via Chicago is an exception.  My wife makes fun of me for liking ‘sad bastard’ music, and I would say this song definitely fits into that category.
  • The Way He Sings, by My Morning Jacket, 2002: My Morning Jacket does something different with each album.  Though I also enjoy their more experimental stuff, this shows their melodic chops.

So, there you go.  I don’t often listen to many of these songs at this point in my life, but they go up on my all-time favorites. I intentionally avoided more recent music because I can’t be sure my favorite song of this year will still be a favorite in 2014. However, there are a couple songs that look promising.   You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb by Spoon, Laredo by Band of Horses, Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes, Skinny Love by Bon Iver, Green Aisles by Real Estate, Dance Away by Smith Westerns or Lazuli by Beach House have a good chance of making this list in the future. We will need to wait and see.

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