The 200: 34-17

Whoops. This was written, but never actually posted. So, we’re a little out of order.

We come to the Second Set of songs from the top, the real meat and potatoes here. Now, you have to pretend I said that last sentence in a historically gravelly voice, since it’s lifted from former WNEW-FM disc jockey Scott Muni when the station used to broadcast its annual Memorial Day Top 1027 songs of all-time.

Unlike the Modern Rock 500, broadcast by WOXY annually over the same weekend, the top of WNEW’s list barely changed from year to year. Stairway to Heaven was always No. 1, followed by Born to Run, Layla and Baba O’Riley. While only Springsteen was represented on my countdown, I like the Who and I can tolerate a lot of Zep. On the other hand, my life has been Clapton-free for a very  long time.


34           Breathe Me   Sia (You Tube)

33           Subdivisions         Rush     

32           Lovecraft In Brooklyn         The Mountain Goats

31           Here’s Where The Story Ends   The Sundays   

30           When Doves Cry    Prince

29           Another Nail In My Heart   Squeeze                             

28           Mighty K.C.   For Squirrels

27           Born To   Jesca Hoop (You Tube)

26           Sultans Of Swing    Dire Straits

25           Ears Ring   Rainer Maria

24           Deeper Into Movies   Yo La Tengo (You Tube)

23           City Of Angels      The Distillers 

22           Pop Goes The World   Men Without Hats

21           New Slang    The Shins 

20           These Days   R.E.M. 

19           Left Of Center      Suzanne Vega Feat. Joe Jackson

18           Ace Of Spades     Motorhead

17           Time After Time   Cyndi Lauper    


33. As alluded to in the intro, there aren’t many holdovers from my high-school era “Classic Rock” fandom period in my musical rotation today, but I’ll always have a soft spot for these Canadian boys.

25. In 2006, I attended a Rainer Maria show at Metro in Chicago, with 10-year-old Ian in tow (it was an all-ages event). It was his first concert. RM was the third of four bands on the bill, and we left midway through the headliner, as he was starting to lag. On our way out, I saw the charming lead vocalist for the three-piece outfit, Caithlin De Marrais, talking to some fans. I walked by, as I was wont to do. Only after I got out did I realize that Ian most certainly would have liked to get the chance to meet her, and she probably would have been amused to meet the only pre-teen in the crowd. When I got home, I sent her an email through the band’s website, and she responded with a nice note to Ian telling him how she saw us at the show, and hoped we’d stop by to talk. He liked that. The band is back together now, and I’d like nothing more than to go see them again, accompanied by a twenty-something Ian.

22. They weren’t one-hit wonders. They had two hits, and this was the much, much better one.

20. Not included on this list, but REM supplied the song for my 1992 nuptials. For our first song, Kem had this cool idea to invite the entire wedding party on the floor for the first dance. The DJ then played about 15 seconds from a sappy love song, before breaking into “It’s the End of the World As We know It (And I Feel Fine). The rest of the wedding party was stunned when it happened, while everyone else at the reception kind of crept closer to see what the heck was going on, including a bunch of little kids dancing just off the floor. It really set the tone. Also, if you give it some thought, it’s not a bad idea for a wedding song.

Oddly, years later I was reading a Chicago Tribune piece of reader-submitted fun wedding reception stories, and a couple mentioned how they had done the exact same thing, and I concluded they had to have heard about it from someone who went to our reception. It was just too damn identical in the details to be a coincidence.

19. I always felt no song did a better job of capturing that all-too common sense of alienation so many teens experience. The song was the highlight of my all-time favorite movie soundtrack, Pretty in Pink.

18. See 166.

The 200: 16-1

So we’ve reached the end. The Top 16, plus one.

16            What Do All the People Know   The Monroes

15            Post-War Blues     Dan Mangan

14            The Life Of Riley   The Lightning Seeds (You Tube)

13            In Circles    Sunny Day Real Estate

12            Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards  Billy Bragg

11            Carry Me Ohio      Sun Kil Moon (You Tube)

10            Panic      The Smiths

09            The Band Played Waltzing Matilda   The Pogues 

08            Audiowhore   Archers Of Loaf

07            Two-Headed Boy  Neutral Milk Hotel

06            Wolf Like Me        TV On The Radio

05            Roscoe   Midlake                 

04            Understanding Jane   The Icicle Works (You Tube)

03            Civilian   Wye Oak 

02            White Lightning    Lowlife

(Secret Unranked Bonus Song) (You Tube)

01            The Bleeding Heart Show    The New Pornographers


16, 02 – Most of the songs on this entire list are from acts that had something of a shelf life. Neither of these did. The Monroes were a San Diego band that released an EP featuring the song, then suffered the common fate of a failing label, shelved albums, etc. before petering out. Lowlife was a Winnipeg-based band that released a single 7-inch, and White Lightning wasn’t even the lead single, even if, in my opinion, it is rock and roll in its purest form.


09-08-07 – If Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, the Pogues’ second album, isn’t my favorite record of all-time, then it’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel that earns that distinction. And if the Pogues are not my favorite band, then it would be Archers of Loaf. I saw all three of these acts on reunion-type tours, which isn’t the place you want to see them, but it’s hard to begrudge them the money that mostly eluded bands like these the first time around.


05 – I’ve written a lot of song parodies on Baseball Think Factory through the years. My two favorites were an 88 Lines About 44 Women remake about pitchers, and a version of Roscoe for Derek Jeter.


03 – The 2.37 mark of this song is my favorite moment in music history. It’s simply orgasmic.


Secret Unranked Bonus Song: The answer to the oldest/second-oldest question can be found if you click on the You Tube link. For my money, it’s simply the finest song ever written, but I didn’t think about it until after I’d thrown the rest of the collection together. And it might not really fit on this particular list.


01 – I read a recent run-down of the best New Pornographers albums of all-time. It ranked Twin Cinema somewhere on the lower side of the band’s catalogue, which isn’t consistent with most observers’ rankings. More remarkably, the reviewer managed to write up his critique of the album without even mentioning The Bleeding Heart Show, which may not be the top-ranked song of all-time on any other list, but is surely the band’s biggest song and the one they closed out my birthday show with. That list reeked of Slate-style contrariness. I hope mine didn’t.








The 200: 50-35

50            Last Cigarette       Dramarama

49           Breaking the Ice     Mojave 3 (You Tube)

48           Insistor     Tapes ‘n Tapes 

47           The Whole Of The Moon   The Waterboys

46           Grey Cell Green  Ned’s Atomic Dustbin  

45           Girl From Mars    Ash (You Tube)

44           Windstorm    School of Seven Bells

43           Ice Cold Ice   Hüsker Dü 

42           Reason is Treason   Kasabian 

41           Under The Milky Way   The Church

40           Oldest Story in the World   The Plimsouls

39           Dear God   XTC 

38           Like A Prayer   Madonna

37           I Am The Resurrection       The Stone Roses

36           How A Resurrection Really Feels    The Hold Steady

35           Rapture    Pedro The Lion (You Tube)



48 – While I do love a good lyric, it’s not always a requirement. “And when you rush I’ll call your name/Like Harvard Square holds all inane/And don’t you know I’ll be your badger/And don’t be terse and don’t be shy/Just hug my lips and say good lies/and know that I will be your bail bond” is incoherent, but I like it just the same. I guess I mostly disdain moronic lyrics when it seems the author thinks they’re profound.


42 – Of my favorite bands, Husker Du is easily the one I most regret never having seen live, an unfortunate byproduct of not discovering them until they had just released their contentious, we’re sick of each other but we still managed to make a fantastic farewell album farewell album.


40 – If you’ve ever seen the movie Valley Girls (a much better flick than you’d expect, given the title), the Plimsouls were the band playing in the club when Nic Cage took the adorable Deborah Foreman to dangerous downtown L.A.


38 – What I said about the Pointer Sister’s song could be repeated verbatim for Madonna. I didn’t initially care for much of her catalogue, but was in love with this song from the get-go. Now, my playlist has a couple of songs from her.




The 200: 66-51

66            I Got You   Split Enz

65            I’m So Excited       The Pointer Sisters

64            Astronaut   Ass Ponys

63            Spaceage Love Song   Flock of Seagulls

62            Inside Out    The Mighty Lemon Drops

61            Everywhere You Turn   Longwave (You Tube)

60            The Road   Frank Turner

59            The Battle of Hampton Roads    Titus Andronicus  

58            Run    Snow Patrol  

57            Take A Walk   Passion Pit (You Tube)

56            The Way    Fastball

55            Love And Anger   Kate Bush

54            Keep Slipping Away   A Place To Bury Strangers

53            Gravity    Superjesus  (You Tube)

52            This Corrosion      The Sisters Of Mercy

51           Everything Looks Beautiful on Video   The Epoxies

50            Last Cigarette       Dramarama


65- I was most definitely a part of the Disco Sucks generation, but I always loved this song. Today, I like a lot more songs from that era than I did back then.


64 – With my WOXY devotion, there’s a strong Southwestern Ohio bent to the list, with contributions from The National, the Afghan Whigs, Guided by Voices and the Ass Ponys.


63 – The stupid hair disguised a much better band than how they’re remembered.


59 – At 14 minutes, the longest song on this countdown by a considerable amount. It serves as the final track on Titus Andronicus’ incredible Monitor album, which connects the Civil War to the songwriter’s roots growing up in New Jersey.


54 – A Place to Bury Strangers is a real band, and not just what organized crime in Chicago thinks of Newton County, Indiana. I’ve seen them twice in small clubs, an experience highly recommended for people who enjoy distortion-heavy music, or those who no longer like to possess functional ear drums.




51 – For my money, the Epoxies are simply the greatest new wave band to ever live, and it’s a long way down to No. 2. Oddly, they existed about 20 years after New Wave had pretty much run its course.


The 200: 84-67

84           Miss Misery   Elliott Smith

83           Life In A Northern Town  Dream Academy

82           Get a Gun             The Connells (You Tube)

81           That’s When I Reach For My Revolver   Mission of Burma                                                        

80           See These Bones    Nada Surf (You Tube)

79           Sheena Is A Punk Rocker   The Ramones

78           Voices Carry   ‘Til Tuesday

77           Shell-Shock   New Order

76           One More Time   Joe Jackson

75           Crank     Catherine Wheel

74           Orinoco Flow       Enya 

73           Weston Super Mare   Celebrity Pilots

72           Hopeless   The Wrens

71           Apply Some Pressure         Maxïmo Park (You Tube)

70           Future Foe Scenarios         Silversun Pickups

69           Crash     The Primitives (You Tube)

68           Hazel     Weekend            

67           Vapour Trail   Ride                                                                            


82 – With some bands on the list, it’s easy to understand why they remained obscure. Their music simply doesn’t have widespread appeal. Then there’s the Connells. In a more sensible, orderly world that recognized solid pop songcraft, they would have been stars, instead  of just some guys from Chapel Hill.


80 – I guy I knew online (and later met before a concert) who was in a band called IfIHadAHiFi. The name was a palindrome, as was the stage name of each of the band members. Nada Surf, the band behind “Popular” wanted to title an album with that name, but initially balked because of “some noise band from Milwaukee.” Eventually, they said screw it, and named an EP “IfIHadAHiFi.” The band responded by naming its next EP “Nada Surf.”


73. I wanted to provide a You Tube link for this song, but as with most Celebrity Pilots work, it’s incredibly difficult to find. I own the band’s first disc, but the follow-up is tough to track down, even in this era of access to virtually everything. ‘Tis a pity, as the Pilots created some damn catchy music.


70 – What Smashing Pumpkins might have sounded like today, if Billy Corgan hadn’t been so damn full of himself.


68 – Not to be confused with the third e gone Weeknd.


67 – Vapour Trail is the greatest fade out song I’ve ever heard. Ride recognized that in its original pressing of the Nowhere disc, though I’ve only got the one with the bonus tracks tacked on.


The 200: 100-85



100         Our Haunt   Palomar  (You Tube)

99           Haunted  Poe

98           Downbound Train   Bruce Springsteen

97             Just Another Day    Oingo Boingo

96           23    Blonde Redhead 

95           Save It For Later  The Beat

94           Cutoff    Jawbox

93           Carefree    The Refreshments (You Tube)

92           God Monkey Robot   The Apparitions 

91           I Predict A Riot     Kaiser Chiefs 

90           Lightning Blue Eyes   The Secret Machines (You Tube)

89           History Repeating   Propellerheads               

88           First We Take Manhattan   Leonard Cohen

87           I Will Follow         U2

86           Smalltown Boy    Bronski Beat

85           (Antichrist Television Blues)    Arcade Fire 


98 – By far my favorite Bruce Springsteen song, just a beautiful, haunting track (which is why it follows those other two songs). However, if I made a Bottom 200 list, I’m positive the title track from the album this song is on would make the list. While well-intentioned, Born in the USA is a plodding aural atrocity, with Bruce making the strange musical choice to go with the vocals via foghorn delivery.

97 – I always tried to introduce friends and family members to the music I liked, since they likely had no access to it any other way. One of my biggest successes was turning my mom (aka the greatest human being I’ve ever known) onto Oingo Boingo, or as she called them, Boingo Boingo.

93 – The lead single to this album, Banditos, unfortunately burnished the Refreshments as disposable, if comical, lightweights, an idea reinforced when they supplied the title track to the cartoon King of the Hill. That’s a shame, as Roger Clyne is simply a wonderful songwriter, and the two Refreshments albums remain mainstays in my CD rotation.

87 – Tied with INXS for the band I’ve seen the most often live. They also provided my “most famous” concert experience, when they played at the former Hoosier Dome in 1987. After the Bo Deans opened up, the band announced that second act Los Lobos had plane trouble and they wouldn’t be able to perform, but they found a local band to perform in its stead. The band came out, announced it played both kinds of music, country and western, then proceeded to play a Hank Williams song (senior, not the one with all them rowdy friends who like to watch football), and an original. It wasn’t until the band was shown on the big screen when it became apparent that it was U2 dressed up in country garb.

Oddly, at the aforementioned New Pornographers show I attended earlier this year, a fellow concert goer was relating a tale of this show to a friend of his. It was an older crowd.

85 – One of two songs on the list that sound like they could be Springsteen songs. Interestingly, they don’t sound like each other. Spoiler Alert: the other song is by the Hold Steady.

The 200: Halftime

Mid-list interlude.

A number of songs/artists didn’t make the list, but it’s fair to bring them up.

Elvis Costello, who I saw this summer with Kiera, could have been on there for a number of songs, though I’m most fond of Beyond Belief. An inexcusable oversight.

The Talking Heads are an obvious no-show. In their case, while I like a lot of the Heads’ songs, I don’t know that I truly love any of them.

The Dears, a Canadian band whose frontman is routinely compared to The Smiths’ Morrissey for reasons that elude me, should have placed Thrones somewhere in here.

Had I compiled the list six months later, I’m certain that it would have included Powder (You Tube), a spectacular slowcore tune from a band that I had previously never heard of, though now I own all three of their discs.

The recently departed Tom Petty crafted a hell of a catalogue of songs in his 40 years of performing, but American Girl is his masterpiece.

In the intro, I mentioned the only artists that could justifiably have 10 songs in the Top 200 would be the Beatles, Elvis or the Stones, though in my case none of them produced anything I would include (for the record, my favorites from each are Norwegian Wood, Suspicious Mind and Sympathy for the Devil). Inexcusably missing from that list, and this countdown, is Michael Jackson. My favorite MJ song, Man in the Mirror, should have been included here.

I’m going to reserve the right to edit this entry as needed when other oversights occur.