I’ve got this playlist on my iPod called "All Time," and because I’m the kind of guy that makes lists out of everything (I loved High Fidelity), I’ve been slowly creating a list of my favorite songs of all time. I know, it’s vain and self-indulgent, and nobody but me cares a lick, but what the hell is a blog if not self-indulgent?
There's no methodology here, no rules. Just the ones I like best. I've had this list going for a few months now, so these aren't off the top of my head.
So here they are, my Top Ten Favorite Songs of All Time. In order, from 10 to 1. You’ll notice that I have a thing for live tracks and covers. There is no greater joy, in my opinion, than when one of my favorite bands covers one of my favorite songs (see number 3). If I heard Wilco covering a Bill Mallonee song (or vice versa), I think I could very easily die of pure giddiness.
10. Least Complicated - The Indigo Girls
I was given this song on a mix tape in 1996 by Allison Semones, who I worked with at Steak and Ale in Orlando. Man, I dug that chick (she smoked and played the guitar). That mix tape had a diverse and edgy feel to it - it felt subversive to a kid who grew up with Billy Joel and Steven Curtis Chapman. "Least Complicated" was the star of the tape. After listening to the mix about a thousand times, I went out and bought 1200 Curfews, the IGs live record. It's been a staple ever since, and this is my favorite track. Plus, Amy’s story at the beginning is absolutely priceless.
9. Goodnight, Elizabeth - Counting Crows
This was a tough one. If I were doing a favorite bands list, they'd be number 3 - right behind (who else) Bill Mallonee and Wilco. So it was tough to pick just one song. "A Long December" has special meaning to my bride and I, and I leaned toward that one, but there's something about "Goodnight, Elizabeth," and especially this kick-ass live version that sold me. Give it a listen.
Goodnight, Elizabeth (with Postcard from 15 alt)
8. Best Imitation of Myself - Ben Folds Five
Man, it was hard to pick my favorite Ben Folds song. With five or six albums of fantastic tracks to choose from, I had to go back to the first. Back when it was Ben Folds Five, and the music felt more… rebellious – which is a big thing when you’re at Ouachita Baptist University and a prospective religion major. I think Mr. Folds is partially responsible for me not being a paid member of the clergy right now. Thanks, Ben. Seriously.
Best Imitation of Myself
7. Tear Stained Eye - Son Volt
If you ran a family tree type diagram of the music that I listen to now, a lot of it would trace (no pun intended) back to this song. This was the first alt-country song that got it’s hooks into me. Back then, I thought that Son Volt was the better half of the Uncle Tupelo split. Who knew? Also, it was this song that gave this blog its name.
Tear Stained Eye
6. Holy is the Lord - Andrew Peterson
You remember that song, “One of these things is not like the others / One of these things does not belong”? I realize that Andrew Peterson kind of sticks out like a sore thumb here, but I can’t help it. This song is everything I love about AP and exemplifies what contemporary Christian music could be, if it wanted to. AP takes biblical characters and makes them people that struggle with faith and God and everything. This song is special to me because of the subject matter – anyone who has a son can’t possibly listen to this without being affected.
Holy is the Lord
5. Not for the Season - Wilco
This one is typical of one of my other fetishes – non-album tracks (so, for that matter, is the Peterson song, which only shows up on a City on a Hill record). I tend to be such a completist that I have to have any and every song by these guys. Fortunately, thanks to iTunes, I no longer have to buy the entire CD to get the one song. I heard this one first on the Wilco movie “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” I found it floating out there through the tubes of the Interweb, and it’s a freaking staple now.
Not for the Season
4. Oh My Sweet Carolina - Ryan Adams
This song.. oh, this song. This song has my all time favorite lyric. Plain and simple – I think the last verse of this tune is the best thing ever laid down on tape.
Up here in the city, feels like things are closing in
The sunset’s just my lightbulb burning out
I miss Kentucky and I miss my family
All the sweetest winds, they blow across the South
Plus, that piano and Emmylou’s BGVs make this one an all-time gem. It was in serious consideration for the top spot.
Oh My Sweet Carolina
3. Return of the Grievous Angel - Gram Parsons
This is the All Along the Watchtower of alt-country music. You ain’t nobody ‘til you’ve covered it. I have versions of this song by Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch, David Crosby & Lucinda Williams, and Counting Crows. There’s a reason for it. It’s a perfect song. It’s simply the greatest country song ever written. This version is (of course) the Counting Crows, making their second appearance on this list. This is fun stuff. If you don’t like this, I don’t want to be your friend any more.
Return of the Grievous Angel
2. Nothing Like a Train - Bill Mallonee and/or Vigilantes of Love
I heard this song live in my living room last weekend. If you are someone with kids, with a family, with anybody that you love, this song is a powerful one. It should say something that out of Bill’s 23 albums (yes, really) and, literally, hundreds of songs, this is the one that made the list. This is the album version, with Julie Miller’s beautiful background vocals. Now go buy some of his music! You can buy it a la carte from his website now. Go here.
Nothing Like a Train
1. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
Here it is, my favorite song of all time. It had to be somebody pretty impressive to move ahead of Bill Mallonee, but The Boss is up to the challenge. I love every single thing about this song. From the simple piano & harmonica combo beginning to the Roy Orbison reference to “roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair” to “ohhh come take my hand, we’re riding out tonight to case the promised land” to Springsteen’s gravelly delivery to the gathering sense of urgency to well, you get it.
Thunder Road Live with The Boss & Melissa Etheridge
So there it is. And since I had a hard time limiting it to ten, here are the honorable mentions:
Waterdeep – At Least I Got a Car
Marc Cohn – Walking in Memphis
Andrew Peterson – Canaan Bound
The Gourds – Gangsta Lean
The Monkees – Listen to the Band
Pearl Jam – Black
Wilco – When the Roses Bloom Again
Vigilantes of Love – Certain Slant of Light
Caedmon’s Call – Somewhere North of Here
Toad the Wet Sprocket – Fly from Heaven
Simon & Garfunkel - Evey freakin' song ever
Now go and buy their stuff. Now. Go. Really. Now. Go.