Classic Rock And Pop Music Blog

Listen To The Music – Songs that shaped Rock & Pop

So for my first blog post, I decided to tackle a task that seemed insurmountable:  to make a playlist of seminal songs that shaped the landscape of rock and pop music over the years, from rock’s origins to its evolution over the years.  I will admit it is very light on straying to other genres, including punk, rap, and grunge, and relies heavily on mainstream rock and pop, but that was the challenge set down.

The rules were simple:

  1. The song/artist should be something/someone that influenced and shaped the face of rock and pop music, something new, something inspiring, something that left its indelible stamp on rock and pop.
  2. The song does not have to be the best or most popular song from the artist, but most representative of the artist, or demonstrating its influencing style or sound.
  3. Only one song is allowed per artist or band, though if the artist were in multiple bands and recorded as a solo artist they may appear once for each group.
  4. There is no limit or quota to the number of artists allowed from any year or era.

Interestingly, when reviewing my artists and acts, a pattern appeared, that the early 70’s and the early 80’s were disproportionately represented.  It appears that the events of the late 60’s into early 70’s and then the early 80’s encouraged an explosion of great artists, bands and sounds.

I did not extend my reach into the 21st Century.  I must admit I don’t listen to new music nearly as much as classic rock, and thus did not want to try to include the songs and artists that influenced these decades.  Additionally, I will toss out my contention that most of the music of the 60’s to 80’s will be music that stands the test of time.  Many teens and young adults are not only rediscovering the music of their parents, they are doing so on vinyl.  Who would have guessed?

There were some bands that I had great difficulty in choosing a song, for instance Aerosmith.  Do you choose the energetic, “Walk This Way” which inspired the great cover by Run DMC, the rock anthem “Dream On”, or the power ballad “Sweet Emotion”?  Or for Steely Dan, “Reelin’ In The Years”, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Hey Nineteen”, or even “Kid Charlemagne”, my favorite Steely Dan tune, off “The Royal Scam”, which many feel holds the ignominy of being one of the ugliest album covers of all time.

For others it was easy, such as “American Pie” for Don McLean.  Though not just a one hit wonder, with “Vincent” (“Starry starry night…”), a lamenting song about Vincent Van Gogh, receiving lots of air play, the inclusion of this song was warranted based on its status as a light rock anthem that has inspired much discussion and debate.  At 8 minutes and 42 seconds, it is the longest song to ever reach number 1 on the Billboard charts.  While the song mourns the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, it further chronicles the disillusionment of a generation of young people, and the marching forward of then next era of rock, with references to multiple artists, groups, social and political events.  College classes have even been taught on its lyrics.

Interestingly, on this day, September 20, in 1957, Buddy Holly released his hit “Peggy Sue.”  Also on this date, only 11 years later, in 1968, Led Zeppelin recorded in just 36 hours their first album, including the songs “Good Times Bad Times” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.  Talk about what a change a decade makes.  While Buddy Holly’s death may have heralded the end of early rock, the arrival of Led Zeppelin ushered in a new hard, loud, no holds barred sound that would capture the next few decades.  Rock would never be the same.

Also on September 20, 1 year later, in 1969, Blind Faith, with Eric Clapton (appearing in his many iterations – Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos, and solo on this playlist), Steve Winwood (appearing on this list several times as well with Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, and solo), and Ginger Baker (of Cream fame with Eric) had their only album, including the hit “Can’t Find My Way Home”, start a 2 week run at number 1 on the US charts.  You could argue should one artist in his or her various incarnations appear so many times on the playlist, but I believe that in each they made significant contributions.  So there they appear.

Also on this day:

In 1969 John Lennon announced he was leaving the Beatles.

In 1970 Jim Morrison of the Doors was acquitted of lewd and lascivious behavior but found guilty of publicly exposing himself.

In 1972 Paul and Linda McCartney were arrested for marijuana possession.

In 1975 David Bowie scored his first number 1 US single, “Fame” (not chosen for this playlist, but instead “Ziggy Stardust”), co-written by John Lennon, with John singing, with some techno alterations,  “fame, fame, fame” at the end of the song.

In 1976 AC/DC released “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which has since sold over 6 million copies.

In 1997, Elton John started a 6-week run at number 1 on the UK singles chart with “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” and “Candle In The Wind ‘97”.  The song, re-written from the Marilyn Monroe tribute to honor Diana, Princess of Wales after her death in Paris, went on to become the biggest selling single of all time.  Who knew?

Back to the music included, these indisputable gems – to be clear, the songs I included in this playlist aren’t necessarily my favorites, but again those that had a profound influence of were so amazing they made you take notice.  As the list grew longer, I decided to cap it at 200, so there are actually some artists and songs that I cut from the list.  That does makes it a long and unwieldy playlist, but cutting it further seemed impossible.  So it’s best listened to when you have the time, such as a long road trip, or a backyard gathering, or in sessions.  Still, even with its length, I’m sure some of you will jump up and down about my lack of inclusion of some of your favorite bands and favorite songs.  And that’s the great part about music.  We all have our own tastes and opinions. 

Available along with the “Listen To The Music” playlist is also “Revival”, playing off the music revival theme in my intro of the blog, “a new presentation of something old.”  I hope that is what this adventure you are joining me on is for you, a revival, a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment

Enjoy the moment

Love the moment

Listen to the MUSIC!

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3 Comments

  1. Andy Schofield

    Lots of work and energy obviously went into this list of meaningful songs to me – I will have to start the challenge of creating my own list – I guarantee we will share some of the choices – very well written blog

    • Bill Storo

      That’s my hope for this blog – to inspire people to revisit great music and eagerly await listening to playlists of mine or inspired by the blog.

  2. Bill Storo

    Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the music!

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