That Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll

On the way into the office today, I was the recipient of another dose of “radio luck,” that happy circumstance when whatever’s on at the time perfectly matches your mood and just keeps going through three, four, even five songs before the magic is gone. (It also helps to catch the first tune from the beginning.) Today’s playlist features that old time rock ‘n’ roll, the kind Bob Seger pays homage to and that, unfortunately, seems to be dying out after a really nice run.

Not only did it elevate my spirits, it got me thinking, “What are the best kickass rock songs of all time?” So I decided to compile a list. The best part of any “best of” list is that it’s completely subjective. You can argue with me all you want (and I hope you will), but you’ll never convince me otherwise because it’s a matter of personal taste. Even better, I get to set the ground rules. Don’t like my selections? Make your own damned list.

First the criteria:

Killer opening riff

Driving beat


Never get tired of it.

Louder the better.

Great for road trips

No self-reflection, subtext or irony

Still with me? Here’s my Top 5 (plus a few bonus tracks). Drum roll please . . .

5. Paranoid/Black Sabbath – Before Ozzy became a lovable doddering old cartoon, it’s good to recall that he used to scare the crap out of us, what with all the talk about devil worship and headless rabid bats and the like. Forget drugs, this guy snorted red ants. He and the band radiated danger and insanity, which translated nicely into the music. Like most of my picks, I could have easily chosen multiple Ozzy songs. But this is the one that satisfies all the requirements.

“Can you help me occupy my brain? Oh yeah!”

Enjoy this video from a Paris concert circa 1970:

4. Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Rolling Stones – I first saw the Stones live in 1975 at Detroit’s Cobo Arena and they opened with this song. The place went nuts. I’m as surprised (and delighted) as anyone that the “World’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band” is a.) Still alive (I’m sure Keith agrees with me) and b.) Still bringing it. I suppose I could have just as easily picked “Satisfaction,” but 93-KHJ in Los Angeles burned it out for me in 1965 by playing it once an hour for a year. Haven’t been able to listen to it since.

Meanwhile, Mick and the boys just keep rolling, as evidenced by this clip from Martin Scorsese’s 2008 documentary “Shine a Light.”

3. Helter Skelter/Beatles – According to Paul, the lads wanted to prove they could write “the loudest, nastiest, sweatiest rock number we could.” Did they succeed? You bet. Up to that time, critics had come to label the Fab Four as a “nice band,” as opposed to the Stones, the Who and other contenders with ostensibly more street cred. “Helter Skelter” changed all that. And it has the added bonus (if you can call it that) of inspiring those Manson meanies, not to mention the entire heavy metal era. Once again, the Beatles shoot and score.

Check this out and remember that Paul could scream with the best of them:

2. Rock ‘N’ Roll/Led Zeppelin – If you’re gonna name a song “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” it better deliver. And this one does. I can name that tune in one note (which happens to be a cymbal). It takes us back to a simpler time before Robert Plant became an old Englishwoman. Back when he first sold his soul to Mr. Scratch. I even forgive them for letting Cadillac use it in their commercial. It’s just that good.

Wembley. 1973. Say no more.

1.You Shook Me All Night Long/AC/DC – Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll? This one’s got that sex part down, with nonstop metaphors ranging from cars to boxing to food. Mix in ringing guitars, those growling Brian Johnson vocals and attitude, attitude, attitude, and you’ve got a surefire recipe for the ultimate in kickassness. I love everything about this song. I could listen to it on an endless loop until my wife threatened to leave me.

And if you ever wondered if you could look macho in a kilt, wonder no more:

Honorable mentions:

Welcome to the Jungle/Guns N’ Roses

Suffragette City/David Bowie

Dude Looks Like a Lady/Aerosmith

Smells Like Teen Spirit/Nirvana


Born to Run/Bruce

My Generation/The Who

Katmandu/Bob Seger

Born to be Wild/Steppenwolf