In the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, columnist Stephen King compiles his list of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. However, due to what must have been a production error, the column was evidently published completely unedited. After the click-through, we provide the editorial notes that EW no doubt intended to provide before publication:
So I run into one of my Constant Readers and — everybody’s a critic — the guy says, ”Your column’s suckin’ out lately, Steve. You’re losin’ your edge.”YOU SHOULD BE MORE SPECIFIC HERE–WHICH LACKLUSTER COLUMN WAS HE REFERRING TO? WAS IT WHEN YOU CALLED FOR A “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF FUN”? OR WAS IT WHEN YOU ACTUALLY USED “NOT!” AS A COMEBACK? My first impulse is to tell him I have a cozy place where he can put my column, but since he looks like a recently retired Hell’s Angel, WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN, 1968? I rethink this option. Instead I ask him what he thinks would make a good piece.
”Best rock songs of all time,” he says. ”That subject always starts arguments, especially if you don’t put ‘Stairway’ on there.”
I realized he was right. Especially since the idea of putting ”Stairway to Heaven” on such a list grosses me out. So I decided to take my biker buddy up on his idea. Twenty-four great songs, one for every hour of the day, picked by the Infallible Me. THE “LET’S ADD WEIGHT TO CERTAIN WORDS BY CUTELY CAPITALIZING THE FIRST LETTER” THING IS GREAT; I HOPE TO SEE IT CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE PIECE
I began by throwing out most of those Internet lists, because they’re full of ballads (”Tears in Heaven” as rock & roll? Oh, really?), soul (”When a Man Loves a Woman” is a great song but it’s not rock), and tunes that have been played to death. SO YOU NOT ONLY TALKED TO SOMEONE ON THE STREET FOR THIS COLUMN, YOU ALSO SCOURED THE WEB? NEVER LET IT BE SAID YOU DON’T DESERVE TO MAKE MORE THAN 4/5 OF ALL TIME INC EMPLOYEES!There’s also an amazing number of draggy songs on the lists, like ”Hotel California.” When would I like to hear that one again? Uh…how does never work for you? ZING!
I also eliminated all disco. I love Thelma Houston’s ”Don’t Leave Me This Way” (plus everything by KC and the Sunshine Band, sue me), but it ain’t rock & roll.
The stuff that hasn’t stood the test of time went out too. When ”Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” or ”Born to Be Wild” comes on my car radio (which is, by the way, a NO SUPREMES ZONE), YOU’RE RIGHT. THE SUPREMES WOULD SOUND JUST AWFUL ON A CAR RADIO I break my fingers switching the station. These songs have nothing new to say to me. The songs on the list that follows always have something new to say. So, with no further introduction, THE 24 GREATEST ROCK SONGS EVER MADE. GREAT, BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T HAD A LIST IN ALMOST FOUR PAGES.
They really are. Trust your Uncle Stevie on this. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THAT “UNCLE STEVIE” BIT IS THE FACT THAT IT’S NOT A) CREEPY OR B) PATRONIZING.
24. ”IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA,” Iron Butterfly
Only the long version counts. Which you can’t get on iTunes, curse them.
23. ”DEAD FLOWERS,” the Rolling Stones
Their finest rock-and-country fusion.
22. ”NEEDLES AND PINS,” the Searchers
The epitome of folk rock. SO, A FEW ENTRIES IN, I’M WONDERING: ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE ANY ACTUAL INSIGHT OR WHATNOT IN THESE WRITE-UPS? OR ARE JUST GOING TO LIST A STRAY FACT AND PACK ON A FEW OBVIOUS CLICHES?
21. ”I GET AROUND,” the Beach Boys
Pretty white-bread, but unlike the odious ”Kokomo,” it has stood the test of time. OKAY, I GUESS YOU ARE.
20. ”ON THE DARK SIDE,” John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
Still smokin’ after all these years. Simple and cool. JESUS CHRIST.
19. ”YOU NEVER CAN TELL,” Chuck Berry
The father of us all. And whoa! The whole story of true love and happy marriage in two and a half minutes? Can’t argue with that.
18. ”I WANT TO HELP YOU ANN,” the Lyres
The best stalker rock song ever. Listen to it once and you’ll never bother with ”Every Breath You Take” again.
17. ”LONG COOL WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS,” the Hollies
Should get old, but somehow never does.
16. ”DON’T BE CRUEL,” Elvis Presley
Total bebop testifying. Brian Setzer would sell his soul to do this.
15. ”AIN’T NO FUN (WAITING ROUND TO BE A MILLIONAIRE),” AC/DC
The quintessential AC/DC hook…played over…and over…and over.
14. ”SIXTY MINUTE MAN,” the Dominoes
Basic dirty boogie boasting, 1950s style. What could be finer? I GET THAT YOU’RE 60 YEARS OLD AND STILL A CULTURE-VULTURE OR WHATEVER, AND THAT’S GREAT. BUT COULD YOU NOT FIND ONE SONG FROM THE LAST 20 YEARS? DID THE MUSIC WORLD END AROUND WHEN JOHN CAFFERTY WENT TO THE DARK SIDE? AT THIS POINT, A ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS TRACK WOULD UP YOUR CRED.
13. ”MASS. AVE.,” Willie Alexander
Rattle-box guitar and the weirdest male falsetto ever laid down; it’s Boston punk at its best. THIS IS ACTUALLY AN INTERESTING CHOICE. GLAD YOU DIDN’T CONFUSE THE READERS WITH ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE SONG.
12. ”THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT,” Little Richard
Can you imagine this guy on American Idol? The mind boggles.
11. ”SHE LOVES YOU,” The Beatles
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: OH PLEASE DO! It’s the best Beatles track because it gets in, does its business, and gets back out again.
10. ”A BIG HUNK O’ LOVE,” Elvis Presley
This is not your father’s barrelhouse-piano banger, kids. If you think Ben Folds invented the black-and-white blitz, you’ve got to get along, little doggie. I MADE THIS ONE UP, BUT BE HONEST: COULD YOU EVEN TELL?
9. ”BIP BOP BOOM,” Mickey Hawks
Under two minutes and still the greatest rockabilly record ever made.
8. ”LET’S HAVE A PARTY,” Wanda Jackson
That raspy, frantic vocal has never been equaled. Ms. Jackson makes Beyoncé look like Britney. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS
7. ”NEW ORLEANS,” Gary U.S. Bonds
Terrific recorded-in-a-bathroom reverb, insanely danceable backbeat. Earl Swanson’s sax is the Special Bonus Feature. “INSANELY DANCEABLE”? IS THIS ACTUALLY BEING WRITTEN BY A 20-YEAR-OLD INTERN?
6. ”RAMROD,” Bruce Springsteen
His cleanest, coolest, purest track. To quote Mr. Berry, his guitar rings like a bell.
5. ”C’MON EVERYBODY,” Eddie Cochran
The apocalyptic call of the teenage male: Dude, let’s party. And screw the consequences.
4. ”STUPID CUPID,” Connie Francis
Don’t argue; I THINK WE’VE ALREADY USED THAT PHRASE ABOVE–PER YOUR CONTRACT, YOU HAVE TO ALLOW FOR THREE WEEKS TO PASS BEFORE REPEATING A HACKY CONSTRUCTIONthe vocal is hotter than a pistol, and it’s the best clap track ever. Stupid cupid, stop pickin’ on me: Ay-men.
3. ”MYSTERY DANCE,” Elvis Costello
It’s 1:35, but how much angry, frustrated sex can you take?
2. ”BURNING LOVE,” Elvis Presley
He saved the best for last. Lawd-a-mighty, I feel my temperature rising. ICK
1. ”ANARCHY IN THE U.K.,” The Sex Pistols
This song still sums up what I love about rock & roll: anger and joy and urgency, all compressed into three and a half minutes of drums and buzz-saw guitar. By God, even the name of the group sweats rock & roll. BY GOD, IT DOES! NEVER EVEN NOTICED THAT NAME BEFORE. ANYWAY, MORE NOTES TK; IN THE MEANTIME CAN YOU GET GOING ON NEXT MONTH’S COLUMN: “UNCLE STEVIE’S 50 MOST FUNDERRATED AUDIOCASSETTES OF ALL TIME”?
Stevie’s Wonders [EW]