60 Elvis Costello – ‘Oliver’s Army’
Released: February 1979
Lyrically it couldn’t have been more timely. With political unrest in Ireland, Palestine and further field, Costello’s track about working class army proles exploited by the government seemed right on the money. Steve Nieve’s ABBA inspired keyboard work was the cherry on the top.
59 Curtis Mayfield – ‘Move On Up’
Released: September 1970
Free from The Impressions, Mayfield’s solo debut ‘Curtis’ featured many shining moments – but ‘Move On Up’ was perhaps the finest. The uplifting horns and vocals were the heart of a track that empowered for a generation going hopefully and nervously into a brand new decade.
58 The Modern Lovers – ‘Roadrunner’
Released: June 1972
Written after multiple exposures to The Velvet Underground’s splatter-rock epic ‘Sister Ray’, Jonathan Richman’s laconic drawl perfectly reflected the arid, suburban boredom reflected in the track’s lyrics and repetitive riff. A precursor to the slacker rock phenomenon almost 20 years later.
57 Squeeze – ‘Up The Junction’
Released: May 1979
Inspired by a TV play by Ken Loach, Chris Difford’s lyrics were brilliant street poetry, a kitchen sink drama that zipped along with soap opera like speed via bawdy colloquialisms. The grand keyboard line was just as important as the words in making this a new wave classic.
56 The Velvet Underground – ‘Rock & Roll’
Released: April 1970
Lou Reed could have been singing about himself when he said Ginny’s life was “saved by rock’n’roll.” The guitars and bass sound jangling and groovy, whilst the usually dour Reed sounds positively born again as he intones lines about radio hits making everything “alright” again. From ‘Heroin’ to this in four years? Wow.
55 Junior Murvin – ‘Police & Thieves’
Released: April 1977
Junior’s falsetto vocal and the gentle swish of the instrumental track (produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry) belied the lyrics which spoke of civil unrest and societal tension. Little wonder it was covered by The Clash on their debut album.
54 Elton John – ‘Tiny Dancer‘
Released: February 1972
A beautiful lyric from Bernie Taupin about navigating love on the road with future wife Maxine Feibelman was met by an instrumental that caught John at his singer/songwriter peak, creating a soft rock gem that would resonate with generations to come.
53 Thin Lizzy – ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’
Released: May 1976
With lyrics tense with a Springsteen-ish drama and multiple hooks – the legendary riff, the fist-punching chorus, the twin guitar solo from Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham to the chorus – this track is rife with the smell of summer lawns and the memories of beach parties. No wonder the track was co-opted by Irish rugby teams, jeans companies and Bon Jovi.
52 Queen – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘
Released: October 1975
In a career of classic rock moments, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ still stands out as Queen’s campest and most outlandish. A piano chanson (complete with Brian May’s jaw dropping guitar solo) leaps gleefully into a full blown operatic parody, and the results are legendary.
51 Iggy Pop – ‘Lust For Life’
Released: September 1977
‘Lust For Life’ hums with skid row defiance, wrapped up with a seductive jangle pop bow. Little wonder it was later co-opted by Trainspotting – Bowie and Iggy reference heroin stalwart William Burroughs and dead dealers – but altogether, the song is as life-affirming as a gospel track.