The Top 20 Records Of All Time

iStock_000011878924XSmallI 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

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Why I Love Radio

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  1. Kel Smith says:

    Too many to mention. I can’t argue with your choices for #’s 20, 16, 14, 13, 11 or 4.

    “My Favorite Things” – John Coltrane
    “Different Trains” – Steve Reich as performed by the Duke Quartet, third movement
    “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
    “What We All Want” – Gang of Four
    “Gimme Shelter” – Rolling Stones
    “Under the Milky Way” – The Church
    “Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green
    “The Lark Ascending” – Ralph Vaughn Williams as conducted by Sir Adrian Boult
    “Academy Fight Song” – Mission of Burma
    “Small Was Fast” – Pere Ubu
    “Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)” – Talking Heads
    “DJ’d” – Tortoise
    “The 15th” – Wire
    “Marquee Moon” – Television
    “Canvey Island” – British Sea Power
    “After the Flood” – Talk Talk

    Okay, some of these aren’t really songs.

  2. Don Sherow says:

    Lonny, great concept, thanks for sharing.

    Don Sherow’s Top 20

    20-Surfin’ Bird, The Trashmen – 1st record I ever bought
    19-Pinball Wizard, The Who
    18-Green Acres TV Show Theme, Oliver & Lisa Douglas – I still love this show
    17-Miss Judy’s Farm, The Faces – A rocker with great lyrics
    16-So What, Miles Davis – The birth of cool
    15-Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan – Zimmy rappin’
    14-Aja (the song), Steely Dan
    13-Spider Fingers, Bruce Hornsby
    12-Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
    11-Rock And Roll Doctor, Little Feat
    10-What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
    9-Welcome to the Machine, Pink Floyd
    8-Burning Love, Elvis Presley
    7-Respect, Aretha Franklin
    6-Little Wing, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    5-Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Bruce Springsteen
    4-Going For The One, Yes
    3-Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, The Rolling Stones
    2-California Girls, The Beach Boys
    1-I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Disco Don–

      What no Rock the Boat, I Will Survive or Disco Inferno on your lists? But a great list from you regardless.

  3. Bob Paine says:

    Dancing in the Moonlight has the greatest opening line of any song ever…”We get it almost every night…” That line just pulls you right in.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      I know you were at Syracuse watching Dennis DuVall play ball when the song was popular (and I was at Rutgers). Everything about the song was great.

  4. Rob Simek says:

    You almost lost me at #17, but won me back at #15 and with many others. Obviously, your #13 is my #1;) Thanks for sharing!

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Tommy Tutone appreciates your support no doubt. Glad you enjoyed reading it. Hope all is well, Rob.

  5. Karin Krueger says:

    I’m liking your list, Lonny. I have to say that mine would be filled with an electic mix from the 40s and 80s. Strange, right? I’m glad to see you’ve paid homage to David Byrne!

  6. Barry Bertiger says:

    Stairway to Heaven doesn’t make the top 20 at all? Nothing from the Beatles, Stones,Who, or Springsteen either?

  7. Lonny Strum says:

    Beatles, Stones, Who, Springsteen…who are they? Now the Looking Glass, Keith and King Harvest..they are real musicians.

  8. Joe Lamberti says:

    What? That’s it? Your intro mentions Under The Boardwalk and Stairway, but they’re not on the list? You’ve got a couple of classics, #6 & 16, I agree. But, c’mon dude, where are songs from The Beatles…Rolling Stones…The Who…Led Zeplin…Van Morrison? A NJ kid without Springsteen on the list? And let’s go back to Sinatra…off the top of my head, Summer Wind has GOT to be on this list!

  9. Jay Henderson says:

    Love this. Your choices are very individualistic and the people who wrote in named some songs I’ve never even heard of! Here are some of my favorites.

    In My Life – Beatles
    I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams
    Time Passages – Al Stewart
    Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills and Nash
    If – David Gates and Bread
    Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (That’s a performing credit ONLY, not a writing credit. With Zep, you don’t list writing credits ’cause you’ll just have to change them later when somebody discovers who really wrote the damn thing)
    Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

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