Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Whoops, I just realised it has been over a week since I last posted. I hope no one thought I had come down with H1N1 or something.

I have been reading This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, a book about the science behind how we perceive music and what makes certain combinations of sounds pleasant or unpleasant to people. One part of the book amused me, in the mid-90s a prominent scientist, who was not familiar with rock music, had asked him to bring six songs that "captured all that was important to know about rock 'n' roll". The scientist also noted that he was familiar with Elvis Presley so Daniel didn't need to bring any of his songs.

While Daniel felt that no six songs could really cover all that was important to know about rock 'n' roll this is what he brought:

"Long Tall Sally," Little Richard
"Roll Over Beethoven," the Beatles
"All Along the Watchtower," Jimi Hendrix
"Wonderful Tonight," Eric Clapton
"Little Red Corvette," Prince
"Anarchy in the UK," The Sex Pistols

Daniel did admit that now he would probably make some adjustments to the list, but didn't say what changes he'd make.

So that got me thinking what I would have chosen as six vital rock 'n' roll songs. Here is what I came up with:

1) "Jailhouse Rock," while Elvis Presley was excluded from the original list I won't constrain myself that way; this is one of Elvis's quintessential rock songs;
2) "Great Balls of Fire," Jerry Lee Lewis. Another early-era choice: I would put Jerry Lee Lewis or Bill Halley over Little Richard for that early piano-rock sound;
3) "Shook Me All Night Long," AC/DC. While I am not the biggest fan of AC/DC this song is high-energy and it is difficult to not tap or sway to the beat. Narrowly beat out "Gimme All Your Loving" by ZZTop;
4) "Bodies," The Sex Pistols. I think the Sex Pistols deserve to be on the list but I don't think "Anarchy in the UK" is their most rock-like song. While the lyrics of "Bodies" leaves something to be desired the music has a better beat and faster tempo. I even think "God Save the Queen" would be a better choice then "Anarchy". (Of course I doubt the Pistols would ever identify themselves as a rock band but it's my list dang-it);
5) Any three songs in quick succession by The Ramones. Really I don't think you can pick just one song by the Ramones, the kick lies in how they go from one song to another; and
6) "A Hard Day's Night," the Beatles. A lot of their other early songs sound, to me anyway, closely related to the other rock acts of the late 50s and early 60s that the Beatles were inspired by. I think "A Hard Day's Night," has a more original sound.

Looking at my list it appears that fast tempo is my key criteria for a good rock song, which is why I think guys like Clapton and Hendrix didn't make my list.

What would make your list?

1 comment:

Magnus said...

I'll have to give this some thought.