Top 50 Favourite Songs: Jack Thompson

I looked it up and the Rolling Stone greatest song list top ten had four songs by Black artists on their 2010 list; now, six songs, including the top three spots (and, coming out of nowhere, “Fight the Power” at 2), on the 2021 list. I remain at four. But I applaud their wokeness.

And must admit I still find this “greatest” songs question fascinating: What are the biggest, most popular, most influential, genre-generating, paradigm-shifting songs? Problem is putting a list like this together for yourself, what you find, glaringly, is that often the arguably “greatest” songs aren’t favorites, or at least no longer favorites. There are mass pop crowd favorites that never moved me much, but what it comes down to mostly with RS’s greatest list is that so many of those songs have just been played out for me, they’re overly familiar, unexciting. So, I came up with a compromise of sorts. I attempt a Top Ten ordered “greatest” songs, ten epic pop movers and shakers, which is, coincidentally, narrowly cast between 1957 and 1981 for me. Basically, I reshuffle a small portion of the artists on the RS list with alternate tracks that fit my personal listening experience.

The other forty are alphabetized with no greater claim to all-time “greatness” than they are all bona fide personal favorites. Nor are they particularly underground, or even inspired esoterica, more like my own little personal alt pop mixtape history as of Oct 17, 2021.

Ultimately, the best part of this process was stuffing playlists with unknowns or forgotten oldies off a bunch of lists: the ones posted here so far, the RS lists, the Xgau’s lists, Dave Marsh’s big list, a list of 500 songs by Elvis Costello I found in an old magazine (where he claims to have maybe heard it all about 20 years before my age now when I’m fairly certain I’ll never come close), a bunch of Hot 100 Charts, and Greil’s ten semi-random-but-still-exemplary Rock ’n’ Roll songs. I even went back and looked at my Radio On list from ’93, something I had not done since at least the turn of the century. This was curious, and dredged up lots of forgotten nuggets, but for better or worse seemed to push me towards not repeating songs from that list here, or unless I couldn’t help myself.

Preliminary Conclusions: 1978 was my favorite year; the ‘70s my fave decade, almost doubling any other decade. I was a teen, so that isn’t that surprising. Music (the arts, etc) hit us with an intensity in our teens and twenties that Is hard to match later. (Another factor complicating “greatest” assessments, of course.) My first blush of enthusiasm for music began with my parent’s country music records and ‘my’ Top 40. Then punk and disco turned me into a music nerd in the late ‘70s. I could list 500 faves easy. Anyway, my world is an exhilarating mess and it’s in my list.


1) “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer (1977)
2) “Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothing,” James Brown (1972)
3) “School Days,” Chuck Berry (1957)
4) “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones (1965)
5) “I Saw Her Standing There,” The Beatles (1963)
6) “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan (1965)
7) “California,” Joni Mitchell (1971)
8) “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel,” Grandmaster Flash (1981)
9) “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” Neil Young (1969)
10) “Anarchy in the U.K.,” Sex Pistols (1977)


11) “OO7 (Shanty Town),” Desmond Dekker & The Aces (1967)
12) “A-1 On the Jukebox,” Dave Edmunds (1978)
13) “Ain’t You,” Kleenex/Lilliput (1978)
14) “Bird Dog,” The Everly Brothers (1959)
15) “Blue Monday,” New Order (1983)
16 “Bros,” Panda Bear (2007)
17) “Compared to What,” Les McCann (1967)
18) “Dream On,” Robyn (2006)

19) “Easy To Be Free,” Rick Nelson (1970)
20) “Fascinated,” Company B (1987)
21) “First Time,” The Boys (1977)
22) “Guess I’m Falling in Love (Instrumental Version),” The Velvet Underground (1968)
23) “Hallelujah,” Jeff Buckley (1994)
24) “Hello,” Erykah Badu & Andre “3000” (2015)
25) “If You Don’t Like the Effects, Don’t Produce the Cause,” Funkadelic (1972)

26) “I Was Young When I Left Home,” Antony & the Johnsons (2009)
27) “Love Hangover,” Diana Ross (1976)
28) “m.A.A.d city,” Kendrick Lamar (2012)
29) “Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable to Lunch Today),” Ella Fitzgerald (1956)
30) “On the Radio,” Cheap Trick (1978)
31) “On the Rebound,” Floyd Cramer (1964)
32) “Open My Eyes,” The Nazz (1968)
33) “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness- The Coldcut Remix),” Eric B & Rakim (1987)
34) “Rasputin,” Boney M (1978)

35) “See You Again,” Miley Cyrus (2007)
36) “Shred A,” Le Tigre (2001)
37) “Stop That Girl,” Vic Goddard & the Subway Sect (1981)
38) “Take a Bow,” Madonna (1994)
39) “That’s The Way of the World,” Earth, Wind & Fire (1975)
40) “The Next Day,” David Bowie (2013)
41) “Tubthumping,” Chumbawamba (1997)
42) “Unchain Me,” Lil B (2011)

43) “Uncontrollable Urge,” Devo (1978)
44) “Uproar,” Lil Wayne (2018)
45) “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” Dusty Springfield (1972)
46) “Which Way is Up,” Stargard (1978)
47) “Why Can’t We Live Together,” Timmy Thomas (1972)
48) “Y.A.L.A.,” M.I.A. (2013)

49) “You Get What You Give,” The New Radicals (1998)
50) “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” Dead or Alive (1985)


9 thoughts on “Top 50 Favourite Songs: Jack Thompson

  1. Cool. Stargard? Never heard of ‘em (was worried for a bit there they might have been one of those regrettable one-star bands Marsh dissed in the original RS record guide—gratified to see I was waaay wrong).

  2. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find Stargard on Xgau’s Meltdown list. “Which Way is Up” is a one-hit-wonder, basically, and was actually associated with a pretty lousy Richard Pryor movie. But it did hit number one on the R&B chart and it’s a Norman Whitfield song. didn’t like Marsh’s 1001 list didn’t so as much for me as it did the first time I looked at it way back when. In retrospect, I should have pulled out Tom Moon’s 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. Sooo much good music, so little time.

  3. Oops, more legible: I wouldn’t have been surprised to find Stargard on Xgau’s Meltdown list. “Which Way is Up” is a one-hit-wonder, basically, and was actually associated with a pretty lousy Richard Pryor movie. But it did hit number one on the R&B chart and it’s a Norman Whitfield song. Marsh’s 1001 list didn’t do so as much for me as it did the first time I looked at it way back when. In retrospect, I should have pulled out Tom Moon’s 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. Sooo much good music, so little time.

  4. Marsh’s list was excellent for its time, I think. Of course, thing’s done changed considerably since then (1989!), and I would not expect—nor wish for—an update. Time for someone else to take the reigns. On the other side of the coin, Tom Moon’s book is good wacky fun, but you don’t vote for Curtis Mayfield’s Winter in America, for instance, in a song poll. We need a different take on the whole thing—i.e., a non-white, straight dude perspective. (Obviously not saying anything new here—just spitballing, as the kids like to say.)

  5. Oops. That should have read “non-white/-straight dude perspective.” Apologies. :-/

  6. Marsh’s list, which I did pull out again this year for the first time in a long time, is, for me, strongest in two areas: ’50s vocal music (as Christgau noted in the Marsh festschrift – freshstricft? fredfrith? – he participated in on YouTube), and ’80s dance music. The latter doesn’t comprise a TON of entries, but given the proximity of the book’s publishing date (’89) to stuff still current at the time, I think his list catches a lot of the good (and some of the quirky) stuff, and he has better ears for (then) newfangled digital beats than many other critics of his vintage… maybe? There are still about a dozen (literally) too many Marvin Gaye songs for my liking, but that’s what lists are for, right?

  7. Marcus complained about the number of Sam and Dave cuts. Others might say there’s too much Aretha, or Elvis, or who knows what. I think he found a pretty good balance over all. But if I was going to diss any of his choices, most likely it’d be the midwestern-type stuff—of course, I say that as someone who grew up in Los Angeles. So…

  8. Ran into this song on shuffle today and reminded me of this conversation. Carsie Blanton’s “Shit List,” “You want a medal just for being a white boy/that ain’t the way we’re doing it no more.”

    It’s was exciting in the ’90s when critics were building the canon. I liked Marsh’s list then because it featured so many Black artists; way more than your average Pazz & Jop year-end poll, for instance. But by now the aggregate Rock era lists are largely familiar to most of us and their remaining curiosity is in how they change, compensating for their original boomer blindspots: adding more Black, Latin, women, LGBTQ, etc.

    “Fight The Power,” Number 2 on the latest RS list, apparently, didn’t appear at all on previous lists. And, according to Newsweek, that was the case for over half the songs on their latest list, so they’re trying.

    I’m rooting for more dance music, in particular. And I don’t remember the ’80s dance stuff on Marsh’s list, so I’ll have to give that another look.

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