50 The Cramps – ‘Human Fly’
Released: July 1978
Produced by Big Star’s Alex Chilton, this was a grotty slice of swamp rock, featuring Poison Ivy’s vine-creeping guitar and Lux Interior’s guzzling vocals uniting to create a two-minute goth-rock diamond.
49 The Clash – ‘Train In Vain’
Released: December 1979
‘London Calling”s catchy, wheezing closer was hardly meant to be there. In fact, it was destined for an NME flexidisc but never arrived – instead it was tacked onto The Clash’s meisterwerk after the sleeve had gone to the printer, making it an unintentional hidden track. Your CD cover lists it now, as do the credits for Garbage’s 1996 hit ‘Stupid Girl’.
48 Bob Dylan – ‘Tangled Up In Blue’
Released: January 1975
The chiming first track on Dylan’s marriage-dissecting ‘Blood On The Tracks’ is a surreal, jump-cutting tale of a relationship from soup to nuts. Crammed with detail – “Working for a while on a fishing boat/Right outside of Delacroix” – none of it directly referencing the failure of his marriage to Sara Lowndes, it nevertheless has a personal quality. And his Bobness sings pretty nicely too.
47 Fleetwood Mac – ‘Dreams’
Released: February 1977
Simple, pretty and aimed like a laser at Lindsey Buckingham‘s guilty conscience, ‘Dreams’ was written by Stevie Nicks as everyone’s marriages and relationships fell to rack and ruin around the recording of AOR phenomenon ‘Rumours’. It doesn’t do a great deal but is mesmeric as it needles away, persuading its target to have a damn good think about “what you lost”.
46 Gang Of Four – ‘Damaged Goods’
Released: December 1978
The lead track from Gang Of Four’s debut EP boasts a riff that could slice through a particularly strong girder, the coldest funk this side of Prince & The Refrigeration and a seedy little lyric about ending an affair that’s become a bit wearing on the physical side. Jon King and Andy Gill trade vocals with all the soul of George Osborne. Brilliant.
45 Blondie – ‘Hanging On The Telephone’
Released: September 1978
One hell of an album opener. Blondie’s 1978 classic ‘Parallel Lines’ blams into life with ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, a pummeling war horse of a track written in 1973 by Jack Lee but first surfacing on his band The Nerves’ debut EP in 1976. Blondie’s version is strung-out, pleading and strident, and it’s impossible to ignore Debbie Harry’ siren call.
44 Deep Purple – ‘Smoke On The Water’
Released: March 1972
A story as legendary as the song’s four-note riff, ‘Smoke On The Water’ was inspired by the, er, smoke floating over Lake Geneva while Deep Purple were recording in their mobile studio. It came from a Frank Zappa gig at the Montreux Casino that caught fire when some chump fired a flare gun, the blaze now forever commemorated by inept guitarists trying to ape Ritchie Blackmore‘s axework.
43 Dolly Parton – ‘Jolene’
Released: October 1973
Dolly Parton’s signature smash actually limped to a mere No.60 in the States but it endures as an oddly jaunty plea to the titular stunner to leave Dolly’s man alone, even though she could take him any time she likes. There’s no artifice here – which is Parton’s main strength. However brassy and unreal she can be, she’s never less than pure-hearted. Later covered by the White Stripes.
42 T. Rex – ‘Get It On’
Released: July 1971
There’s a rice paper’s difference between each T. Rex riff, isn’t there? But who gives a hoot when Marc Bolan can clip them as funky as his work on ‘Get It On’, a chart-chomping monster of an effort that helped form the foundations of T. Rex’s annexation of Britain’s No.1 spot. Covered to lumpen effect by Robert Palmer/Duran Duran/Chic supergroup Power Station in 1985.
41 The Rolling Stones – ‘Tumbling Dice’
Released: April 1972
All ‘Exile On Main Street”s grubby cool is scrunched up into this UK Top 5 hit as Keith Richards plays a riff so loose its trousers are around its ankles and Mick Jagger drawls nonsense about “gambling love”. In actual fact, ‘Tumbling Dice’ had been kicking around for years before its ‘Exile’ completion, only worked into shape once Mick Taylor had been booted off lead.