The Top 20 Records Of All Time
I remember listening to the radio on holiday weekends for the countdown of the “top songs of all time”. Would Under The Boardwalk still be #1 (on WCBS-FM)? Would Stairway to Heaven still reign (on WNEW-FM)? I would listen all weekend and have great angst about the songs they missed and ones they chose to be the greatest of all time.
I always felt I knew better and could make better selections. In fact as a child of the 60s, I started creating my own top 20 songs which I “revealed” (to myself) every Tuesday night because Cousin Brucie would be doing so at the same time at WABC.
I realize how important music was to me. It links the listener to memories of a special time, place or person. I had this very conversation with a buddy of mine, Rich Riley, poolside in Florida a couple of weeks ago. And we both spoke passionately about our favorite hits and the situations surrounding them.
The recent passing of Dick Clark, a music industry giant, made me think about his Rate-A-Record segment of the famous American Bandstand.
Therefore, I share with you, in reverse order, the undisputed top 20 records of all time. Each of these are 10+ years old, most are far older, so they stand the test of time—a key criteria. That’s important…at least to me. The results below were tabulated by moi, verified by no top accounting firm, yet the selections and their order are beyond reproach because they are based on a sample of one.. Here goes…….
20. We Gotta Get you a Woman–Runt (Todd Rundgren) 1970
This was the first record I played on my first air shift as a DJ in college at WRSU at Rutgers. The air shift was at 8am on a Sunday morning and the station was broadcast only in the dorms. I may have been the only person to hear it played. Yet I was terrified.
19. Hey 19–Steely Dan 1980
Steely Dan continues to be one of my favorite bands. Donald Fagen’s voice is like no other. “Hard Times Befallen the Soul Survivors”, they sang. The Soul Survivors sang Expressway to Your Heart, also a great song, just bubbling under my top 20.
18. I’m Eighteen–Alice Cooper 1970
Alice (Vincent Furnier) rocks. Still does. I’m going to see him and Iron Maiden with our 18-year old son, Carl, in June in Camden. Can’t wait.
17. I’m Too Sexy—Right Said Fred 1991
I have no defense for this selection other than I really like this song. Start the abuse now. “I’m too sexy for this blog, too sexy for this blog, my head’s in a fog”
16. Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe—Barry White 1974
Ask our children, Carolyn and Carl, who the greatest singer of all time is and they will respond immediately….. Barry White. They’ve been well trained.
15. Short Skirt/Long Jacket—Cake 2001
I love cake. The band too. What a unique sound. Great song and lyrics too—“touring the facilities & picking up slack”.
14. You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice–Lovin’ Spoonful 1965
I think I saw John Sebastian play this in concert a bunch of times in the 70s. Great every time. Shame on the other members of the Lovin’ Spoonful for touring recently without him and trying to fool the audience.
13. 867-5309/Jenny–Tommy Tutone 1982
I always believed that ads with memorable jingles and a sung phone # could make you remember it forever. Can’t forget the phone # in this song, and I am glad they didn’t include the area code. For those of you over 60, I bet you also remember Beechwood-4-5709?
12. Black Is Black—Los Bravos 1966
Great beginning. Simple lyrics. “Black is black. I want my baby back”. Classic.
11. Once In a Lifetime—Talking Heads 1981
You may ask yourself, why do I like this song so much? Maybe it’s because David Bryne is brilliant. The Heads are my 2nd favorite band (Grateful Dead #1). And David Bryne still performs like no other.
10. Everybody Have Fun Tonight—Wang Chung 1986
Everybody Wang Chung Tonight. If there’s a catchier hook, I’ve never heard it.
9. Jungle Love—Morris Day & The Time 1984
Morris Day was WAY cooler than Prince in Purple Rain. Apollonia, did you have rocks in your head?
8. Every Little Kiss–Bruce Hornsby & the Range 1986
I loved Hornsby from the first moment I heard him. And this song was always my favorite though The Way It Is was the bigger hit. Hornsby played with the Grateful Dead for years too!
7. Walk Away Renee–Left Banke 1966
This song has been covered by many, but the original is still the best.
6. Sugar Magnolia—Grateful Dead 1970
The Grateful Dead is my favorite band. I’ve seen the Dead and their various incarnations 50+ times (never a bad show). But if they don’t play Sugar Mag, I am still disappointed. I used to sing this song as a lullaby to our daughter when she was young. The studio version of Sugar Magnolia was recorded on the American Beauty album, the best album of all time.
5. Somebody’s Baby—Jackson Browne 1982
A truly great song from the classic teen movie—Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Best Sean Penn performance ever. By the way, where is Phoebe Cates today?
4. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)—Looking Glass 1972
A New Jersey band, they had a mega hit in the early 70s. “ The sailors say Brandy, you’re a fine girl…” Great.
3. 98.6—Keith 1967
I actually had this as #1 in a list I created 25 years ago, but it has slipped a bit. I took a lot of abuse for its selection. I never cared. But it’s still “good to have you back again”
2. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry Bout Me)—Four Seasons 1966
I think this song has the best beginning of any record ever. It wasn’t the Four Seasons’ biggest hit, but it was my favorite. What an anthem.
1. Dancing in the Moonlight—King Harvest 1972
King Harvest was a one-hit wonder, but I can’t help but smile when I hear this song. It makes me feel good. Great lyrics–“dancing in the moonlight, everybody’s feeling warm and bright, it’s such a fine and natural sight, everybody’s dancing in the moonlight”. Can’t top that.
Ok, so that’s it. I realize that you might not have selected the same exact songs in the same exact order–I suspect this list isn’t even close to yours. That’s OK. You can feel free to abuse me for some of my selections. Most importantly, I’d love to hear from Strumings readers on hits you loved and why. Just don’t ask me to toss any of these from the “official” top 20 of all time.
So what are your favorites?
The day after this was originally posted Pete Fornatale, one of the DJs from WNEW-FM mentioned above passed away. He was a terrific talent and one of my favorites in an era when the DJ mattered.
Other musical Strumings