This list is weird. It was decided often by how much a given song actually moved me. Other songs might work better in crowds. But slogans make for bad songs. "Give Peace a Chance"? Sure, but don't make me listen to it.
Joseph Arthur, a modern artist of interest, has just released a song for the Occupy Wall Street movement called "We Stand As One." It serves its purpose. It unites people in their cause. Whether or not it will sound as rewarding coming out of the car stereo or on the iPod as one bops down the street remains to be seen. I'm glad he did it.
The following are songs that are enjoyable as music. Throw in some Curtis Mayfield and we've got a deal. If you want to stand around holding hands singing "We Shall Overcome," that's nice, too.
24) World Wide Suicide — Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder and Co. have written a number of tunes that have addressed the ugly side of humanity. But this one nails it down in three minutes. "Inside Job" takes seven.
22) Masters of War — Bob Dylan: Picking a Bob Dylan song is difficult. "A Hard Rain's-A Gonna-Fall" might be more "fun." "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" less timely. But I think everyone gets off a little singing "Let me ask you one question, is your money that good"? Taken alone, it's pretty good. Add in the way Dylan chews the line and it's something more.
20) London Calling — The Clash: No idea what this song is actually about and don't tell me. I could look it up or listen closer. But I don't want to. I want the magic of the swooping bass, the marching guitars and that ominous beep to last forever.
18) Fight For Your Right To Party — The Beastie Boys: Never discount the importance that some people accord partying. I don't have the figures, but surely people have died for this right.
16) The Fightin' Side 0f Me — Merle Haggard: Here we go. Here's that grey area. The song rocks. Especially the live version where the guitars drive it to the edge. Use of the word "hoss" makes it even better. It's not like I just posted a song by Skrewdriver, folks.
14) Rednecks — Randy Newman: As Randy himself asked when approached about how potentially offensive this song could be to those who don't get the irony. Would it have been better if he had sung, "Racism is bad"?
12) Pills and Soap — Elvis Costello: The lyrically dexterous Elvis Costello turns some great phrases here that could easily be misread by his American fans, but the real joy of this tune is in the arrangement that sounds like a John Cale song on ice.
10) Five to One — The Doors: "You see, I gotta go out in this car with these people…" I have a friend, we'll call him Zoraxx, and after over twenty years of playing the guitar he realized that every guitar solo he's ever played is basically a rewrite of the five notes he plays in the solo for "Five To One." Being a more limited musician, I have always stuck to the two notes that make up the basic riff. Ain't protest grand?
8) Eve Of Destruction — Barry McGuire: Sure, it's a Dylan ripoff. Folk rock for the people. The lyrics sound like they shouldn't be there. Who puts "coagulatin'" into a song and gets away with it? These days more odd is just how raw this tune sounds. Today, it would be remixed and smoothed over. You can hear Barry McGuire spittin' into the mic, popping 'P's. Music that is technically worse is often better. Ain't that a kick?
6) God Save The Queen — The Sex Pistols: While everyone knows "We Mean It Man" and, of course, "No Future," there's also the disturbing truth that "all crimes are paid." The more things change, the more things stay the same. In the end, we got Johnny Rotten and a screaming wall of guitars out of the deal.
4) Going Underground — The Jam: "You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns" is snuck inside this rapid-fire missive that I've never listened to close enough to realize just how great and layered it is. I always loved the sound of it. I can't figure out if it's mocking me or agreeing with me. Sign me up.
2) Rockin' In The Free World — Neil Young: After being dazzled by cowboy Ronnie, Young woke up when the rhetoric came from a Yale man. The thousand points of light illuminated the homeless man. Has there ever been a song more fun to jam out? Has Neil's voice ever been better served? "Let's Impeach The President" and the entire Living With War album doesn't even exist compared to this.