How hard is too hard?

Nope.  No more depression for the time being – we’re talking about music.  Oh yeah.

If this were a Friends episode, I guess you could call this The One In Which TB Put On His Snooty Hard Rock Critic Hat and Lectured Us.  Not that I ever watched an episode of Friends – except that one that came on after the Steelers/Cowboys Super Bowl, and that’s because I was at somebody else’s house.

Anyways.

Damn you, Laura.  You know damn well I can’t pass up a direct challenge.

Okay.  So Laura’s talking about VH1’s “100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.”  And truly, in looking over the list, they could have done worse – a lot worse, actually.  But “hard rock” is a very very subjective term, and a whole lot of their list doesn’t fit my definition.  So, I’m going to write up my own.  But, b’gawd, I’ll deconstruct the list.  But first I’m gonna do the 25 greatest – any more and I’d spend months on this and annoy my wife until she my wife divorced me or beat me or all of the above.

First, definitions.  The characteristics of a “hard rock” song according to TB are:

1)       Distorted guitars.  Naturally.

2)      Melodic singing (aka no rap, no Cookie Monster death growls)

3)      Straightforward time signature (no 5/4, or 2+3+3/4, etc) – you have to be able to headbang to it.  So long, Tool and Soundgarden.

4)      Uptempo – I’m not counting ballads for this list.  Which is debatable, I’ll admit.

5)      (And this is the tricky one) – moderate but limited aggression.  That is, YES to AC/DC, NO to Metallica, whose best songs are all over what I’d say is the (grey and fuzzy) aggression threshold that separates hard rock from metal.  There’s also what I’d call a “manic line” that separates hard rock from punk – I think of rock as more “cool” and punk as more “crazy.”  But that’s me.

So.  With that in mind, the top 25.

25)  The Cult – Fire Woman

24)  Rick Derringer – Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo

23) Ted Nugent – Stranglehold

22) Living Colour – Cult of Personality

21) Black Sabbath – War Pigs

20) Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son

19) AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long

18) Boston – More Than A Feeling

17) Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

16) Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

15) The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

14) KISS – Love Gun

13) Pearl Jam – Alive

12) Rush – Tom Sawyer

11) Led Zeppelin – Achilles’ Last Stand

10) The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

9) Scorpions – Rock You Like A Hurricane

8 ) Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It

7) Motley Crue – Looks That Kill

6) Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

5) Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle

4) AC/DC – Back in Black

3) Black Sabbath – Paranoid

2) Led Zeppelin – Rock & Roll

1) AC/DC – Highway to Hell

In looking it over – Sabbath is hardest for me to deal with.  Are they hard rock, or the first true metal act?  Or both?  Hmm.

In a future post, I’ll quote the original VH-1 top 100 and break it down.  But I thought it was more fair to throw mine up for criticism before I started tearing down someone else’s work.

There ya go – you know I’m wrong, tell me where and how and why!

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6 Responses

  1. Hmm! An unexpected list from you, though I couldn’t exactly tell you why.

    “Don’t Fear the Reaper” doesn’t constitute “hard” rock to me, just “rock” (and is forever known as “The Cowbell Song” in our house, thanks to SNL).

    I’m also surprised at “Cult of Personality” since that strikes me as more poppy, but YMMV.

    Also, how is “Carry On my Wayward Son” NOT a ballad? A fast one, yes, but ballad-ish all the same.

    Boston – do you count “Foreplay” as being part of that song?

    I fully agree with your top 10! I bet you’re relieved, too. 😀

    “Reaper” – hmm, that’s a valid point. Although it’s kind of hard to distinguish older songs that way sometimes. “You Really Got Me” is a seminal moment in hard rock because of the distortion…but is it really all that much harder than anything else?

    “Personality” is, IMHO, a badass hard rock song – almost metal. It’s a good thing it’s not on RB, or I’d actually try to sing it…which would be devastating for about a three-county radius.

    I never once thought of “Wayward Son” as a ballad. I suppose the pianos could qualify it, but it’s generally a little more uptempo than that, isn’t it? If not, feel free to replace with one of the ones that barely missed the cut, like Zep’s “The Ocean.”

    “Foreplay” is part of “Long Time,” not “More Than A Feeling.” You’re getting your RB songs mixed up! 😉

  2. Also, I have all of these songs on my iPod and have now created a “TB Hard Rock” playlist. You come in handy, you know that?

    *stifles a laugh*

    Dys comment in 3…2…1…

  3. I would have to include an AC/DC song with Bon Scott on vocals. ‘If You Want Blood’ would be my choice to replace ‘Back In Black’ and I love that AC/DC is in the number one spot and not Guns N Roses like on that other list. 😉

    I never once thought of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ as a ballad either. Would it be on my list? Probably not but I understand your inclusion of it as well as ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’. I would disagree on ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ as a hard rock song though, but that’s just me.

    I totally agree on ‘Cult of Personality’ being a badass hard rock song.

    It would be difficult for me to pick a Jimi Hendrix song, but I like that he’s up there.

    ‘Love Gun’, awesome. I’d be torn between that song and ‘Strutter’. ‘Detroit Rock City’ would be under consideration too.

    No, I’m not making my own list so quit looking at me like that!

    You get 500 cool points for “If You Want Blood” being so high on your list – mine too. I almost put it in the top 25. Personally, I like both it and “Shoot to Thrill” better than “Back in Black” but I can’t argue that “BiB” isn’t the greater hard rock song – it’s too iconic.

    Dys asked me if “Wayward Son” would have been on my list if I hadn’t remembered it from the VH-1 list or RB2 – I honestly had to say “no.” But it would have been if I’d done this list back in the mid-90s when I was playing guitar regularly, because that was one of my favorite songs to play.

    Ok, I’ll quit staring in your direction and making air-guitar gestures.

  4. I have a harder time distinguishing between hard rock and metal. Like to me, metal is Megadeath, Metallica, etc. Sabbath I would think is hard rock, but I can’t give any good reasons why.
    I do think your list is a lot more accurate than Vh1’s though!

    I think the difference between hard rock and metal fits that old obscenity definition of “I know it when I see it” – as well as the unspoken part of that definition of “it’s a little different for everybody.”

    Thanks for the compliment!

  5. “Foreplay” is part of “Long Time,” not “More Than A Feeling.”

    D’oh! My bad.

    I’ll let you off with a warning this time.

  6. […] made my list as the #1 hard rock song EVAR.  With good reason, damn it.  If you don’t like this song at […]

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