Category Archives: Top Fives

Top Fives: Van Halen

Those who knock Van Halen usually do so because they are lyrically light weight- a party band with nothing to say. With a few exceptions that’s at least somewhat true, but that doesn’t change that the group altered hard rock and heavy metal music, especially sonically, for good. And they were one of the best party bands of all-time with a stable of songs that will forever be in the classic song pantheon and plenty of deep cuts to keep their hardcore fans interested. Van Halen also has at least two or three cuts that can be appreciated by most everyone, even those who shy away from the hard stuff.

Narrowing my favorites down to five cuts proved very difficult. Discovered by KISS, VH arrived fully formed in 1978 with their perfect, self-titled debut, along with Zeppelin, Sabbath & possibly Metallica, it’s still one of the best debuts in hard rock history. Though I only chose one track from it to include here, and it’s a deep cut, I do consider “I” to be their best album, with “1984” a close second. Though I chose two tracks from the very good “II”, I consider that album below both of their aforementioned albums as well as probably “Fair Warning” in quality. The best stuff on “II” is up their with the best in their entire catalog, but the tracks on the back end are a bit weaker. The David Lee Roth version of VH never made a bad album- six great ones in seven years. Even the too short and too reliant on covers “Diver Down” has some incredible gems on it. DEspite a few good tracks, I’m completely ignoring the Van Hagar era of the band and everything which came after it. These tracks focus on Van Halen from 1978-84.

The obvious choices from “Van Halen I” would have been to go with brilliant opening track “Runnin’ With The Devil”, the mighty 1-2 punch of “Eruption/You Really Got Me” or oft-played classic rock staples “Jamie’s Cryin'” & “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, which just missed the cut, but I opted for “Atomic Punk”, mostly because I just like it more. It’s one of their most hard charging, even angry-sounding tracks and the scratchy Eddie Van Halen guitar licks at the beginning were unheard of before that time. Eddie truly revolutionized the instrument. He unfairly takes the blame for much of the technically flawless & flashy, but showy and often soulless and overly bombastic playing which came after him, but to me Eddie still sounds innovative & badass. The rest of the world never reality caught up.

Like many second albums “Van Halen II” was comprised of many songs performed and some even recorded by the group prior to the release of their first album, but that hardly makes most of them cast offs. The hit “Dance The Night Away” is possibly my favorite VH song of all-time- like Def Leppard’s “Photograph”, it’s the perfect marriage of pop & metal, a track that you can both dance and rock out to that can be appreciated by metal and non-metal fans together. It never gets old to me. “D.O.A.”, like “Atomic Punk” is another great VH deep-cut, showing a darker, angrier sounding side of the band. Other notable great songs from “II” are single “Beautiful Girls” and slower track “Women In Love”.

I completely ignored 1980’s “Women And Children First” album but that’s not to say it isn’t a good one. “And the Cradle Will Rock” and “Everybody Wants Some” (remember the crazy dancing hamburger scene in “Better Off Dead”!) are both key VH tracks and deep cuts “Romeo Delight” and “In A Simple Rhyme” are among my faves as well. 1981’s “Fair Warning” is Van Halen’s darkest, most musically experimental and lowest selling album (between 1978-84 anyway), but time has been very kind to it. I chose to include single “Unchained” which has perhaps the best Van Halen monster opening guitar riff they every recorded, but album opener “Mean Street” and the great under appreciated “Sinner’s Swing!” could easily have taken its place.

Five out of twelve tracks on 1982’s “Diver Down” are covers, and three more are instrumentals. It’s safe to say the band was running low on ideas at the time, but “Oh Pretty Woman” and “Dancing In the Street” covers were both hits (and deserved it), and the Kinks “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” may even be better. Band original “Little Guitars” is the best song on the album and it hurt my heart not to include it among my top five. VH reached its greatest commercial success with 1984’s “1984”. The album contained four hit singles including the #1 “Jump”, “Panama”, perhaps the group’s most iconic video moment “Hot For Teacher” and the underrated synth gem “I’ll Wait”. “Panama” has always been my favorite with a guitar riff only second to “Unchained”, and certainly the groups heaviest sounding top 40 hit ever. The deep cuts on the album are all stellar as well making “1984” the band’s most consistent album. “Drop Dead Legs”, “House Of Pain”, “Girl Gone Bad” & “Top Jimmy”- gems all. Unfortunately due to inviting mostly between Roth and Eddie the band decided to call it quits at the height of its power, recruiting ex Montrose and solo performer Sammy Hagar to lead vocals and the group would quickly, in my opinion, become a shell of its former self.

So I know outside of “Panama” and “Dance The Night Away” this list contains some surprises. What do you guys think? Are these choices crazy? What would you go with instead? Anyone want to lobby for Van Hagar being the better incarnation of the band. Any big Gary Cherone fans out there ūüėČ ?


BUY Atomic Punk AMAZON






BUY Dance The Night Away AMAZON













BUY Unchained AMAZON





“PANAMA” (1984) FROM “1984”


Top Fives: David Bowie

O.K.- how do you limit the great David Bowie down to his best five songs? Doing so may have been even more difficult that it was with the Clash. Bowie is a musical and stylistic chameleon, not just changing genres numerous times, but pioneering them. Though his solo debut was in 1967 and he’s released plenty of albums of varying quality over the past 30 years I’d like to focus on what I consider the most important part of his musical career which begins with his first major hit in 1969 with “Space Oddity” through 1983’s album “Let’s Dance”, where he achieved his greatest commercial pop success- at least in America.

Though “Space Oddity” is a monumental song and certainly one of his best, capturing the zeitgeist of space travel and the moon landing in the late 60’s and launching Bowie’s first in a series of many different characters with Major Tom. But it still doesn’t crack my top 5. The three singles taken from “Let’s Dance”- the title cut, “China Girl” and my favorite “Modern Love”- all massive pop radio and MTV hits at the time, don’t crack the top five either. That shows you the strength of Bowie’s catalog. Many other perfect Bowie tracks including what many consider to be Bowie’s signature song “Changes” from “Hunky Dory” along with other big hits like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Starman” (off of “Ziggy”), “Jean Genie” from “Aladdin Sane”, “Rebel Rebel” from “Diamond Dogs”, the perfect title cut from “Young Americans” as well as massive #1 hit “Fame”, “Golden Years” and “TVC-15” from “Station To Station” and “Ashes To Ashes” and “Fashion” from “Scary Monsters” all just miss the cut as well. Plenty of deeper album cuts that I love just as much as the above singles were left on the cutting room floor as well like “Queen Bitch” and “Oh, You Pretty Things” from my favorite Bowie album “Hunky Dory”, “Moonage Daydream” from “Ziggy”, “Panic In Detroit” and “Cracked Actor” from “Aladdin Sane”, “Always Crashing The Same Car” and “The Sound Of Breaking Glass” from “Low” and “The Boys Keep Swinging” from “Lodger”.

So where does that leave me? My first choice is beautiful & strange surrealistic piano ballad “Life On Mars?”, which has been called a cross between a broadway musical number and a Salvador Dali painting. The track was released as a single from the “Hunky Dory” album in 1971, reaching only #55 on the British pop charts, but has endured as a Bowie classic and shows Bowie stretching the parameters of a singer-songwriter and maintaining a perfect balance between accessibility and utter weirdness.

My second choice is from the following year’s “Ziggy Stardust”, probably still Bowie’s career defining album. Though I love the title track nearly as much, single “Suffragette City” just slays me. Along with possibly “Rebel Rebel”, it contains more swagger and rocks harder than any other single Bowie track. I’ve probably heard “Suffragette City” over a thousand times at this point but I still never change the dial when it comes on and it never fails to get my blood pumping.

Reluctantly, I have to skip over Bowie’s last two glam rock-era albums, 1973’s “Aladdin Sane” and 1974’s Orwellian apocalyptic concept album “Diamond Dogs”, as well as Bowie’s foray into plastic soul with 1975’s “Young Americans”, great albums all, to get to my next cut- the twelve minute title cut to 1976’s “Station To Station”. This album was the vehicle for Bowie’s last great character, the thin White Duke, and was a transitional album between Bowie’s soul phase and his Berlin Trilogy. “Station To Station” was said to be fueled by rampant cocaine usage, symptomatic of both the decadence and the paranoia heard on the album. Bowie took the American soul and funk music of the previous years “Young Americans” and developed them further, combining those sounds with German Krautrock of bands like Can, Faust & Neu!, along with both American and Euro disco gaining increasing popularity in the mid 70’s. “Station To Station” leads off the album and is over ten minutes long, quite a bold move. It is probably the single biggest influence on the music Bowie made throughout the rest of the seventies and is my choice for Bowie’s greatest epic.

Now on to Bowie’s famed Berlin trilogy, made up of albums “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”, recorded and released between 1977 and 1979 and worked on by Bowie in Berlin, Germany while collaborating with famed producer Brian Eno. All three albums, particularly “Low” began to focus on minimalistic, ambient electronic music, heavily featuring synthesizers and would all be massively influential and what would become known as techno music, particularly the IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) aspect of techno. The entire second side of “Low” was made up of all instrumental song fragments which has little in common with the rock music Bowie had made on prior albums. Even so Bowie managed a top 5 (in Britain) pop hit with the lead single “Sound And Vision”. It’s my favorite track on that nearly perfect first side of “Low” and shows the genius of Bowie and Eno that they would combine the the withdrawn, electronic minimalist music and still somehow create a catchy three minute pop single out of those elements.

The best known track of Bowie’s Berlin era is by far the track “Heroes” from the album of the same name. Though six and a half minutes long, the track was released as a singles, and though it didn’t chart highly at the time, it has since grown in stature to the point where it’s become one of Bowie’s most well-known and career defining cuts, along with “Changes”, “Space Oddity” and probably “Ziggy”. DEspite its nearly epic length “Heroes” sounds like a single and is much more radio ready than a track like “Station To Station”. It’s about two lovers meeting on the west side of the Berlin Wall, which ups the goose bump factor even further. It was recently played during the 2012 summer olympics and featured prominently in influential film “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”, a millennial touchstone, so if anything “Heroes” is likely to become an even bigger deal in the future.

So what do you think of my choices? What are your favorite Bowie cuts? Is there anything that killed you that I didn’t include?





Buy Life On Mars? Amazon








Buy Suffragette City (2012 – Remaster) Amazon








Buy Station To Station (1999 Digital Remaster) Amazon







Buy Sound and Vision (1999 – Remaster) Amazon







Buy Heroes (1999 Digital Remaster) Amazon

Top Fives: The Eagles

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the Eagles. They are one of the most popular and best selling groups of the rock era- universally known but not universally loved. It has become cool to hate this band- whether it’s from radio over saturation of their many hits, their lite-rock sound (more on that later), their two main leaders (Don Henley and Glenn Frey) coming off as money hungry dicks, or fictional character ‘Dude’ hating on them in “The Big Lebowski”. Credit my friend Rich Kamerman, who writes an excellent music blog ( ) for posing the question recently on his Facebook page. Is there really any good reason to hate this band or their music or it is just a hipster affectation?

The Eagles are not even close to being one of my favorite bands. If you check my hundreds of chronological mixes only a handful of their songs have managed to make it on to any of them (most of them make my top five Eagles songs below). That said I love many of their songs and just about every song on both of their top selling greatest hits albums are as familiar to me as a cold drink of water. I suspect many of you feel the same. You have to try hard not to have heard these songs. But their discography is a bit difficult. Other than probably 1976’s “Hotel California”, the Eagles never made a classic album. The important part of their discography was between 1972 and 1979. Six albums. None of them bad, but only “Hotel California” is anywhere close to a masterpiece. The Eagles are a singles band during the album rock era. Each of their albums contains at least a few duds and mediocrities and there aren’t a ton of hidden gems to be found on any of them, tough there are a few. For the most part their best songs are the singles and there are roughly three to be found on each of their albums and nearly all of them are on either best of volume 1 (covering 1972-75) or best of volume 2 (covering “Hotel California” and “The Long Run” + 1 live track). The thing is that every track on both of those ‘best ofs’ is a winner. This isn’t a band with only 5 or 6 great songs. I may be sick to death of songs like “Take It Easy” or “The Best Of My Love” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great songs. Their first best of album is the top selling album of all time- that happened for a reason.

Now on to that lite-rock sound. The Eagles didn’t really pioneer a sound, but they did capture the zeitgeist of the time by taking the country rock sound of late 60’s groups like the International Submarine Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds (all not coincidentally featuring Gram Parsons who really was instrumental in pioneering the sound) and making it for mass consumption by taking the southern twang and turning it to a radio-friendly and countrypolitan. It didn’t hurt that the Eagles had three different singers who could sing lead vocals, while the group could harmonize like the Beach Boys or the Everly Brothers. It’s notable how much the Eagles changed their sound in 8 short years. Their first three albums (The Eagles, Desperado & On The Border) don’t stray much from the L.A. country-rock sound though these three albums are hardly made up of just harmony-filled ballads. Tracks like the aforementioned “Take It Easy”, while hardly hard rock, has quite a pulse and “Already Gone” and “James Dean” from “On The Border” both do qualify as rave-ups. My favorite track from this era, though is the Glenn Frey-sung “Tequila Sunrise” from “Desperado”, which I think best captures their beautiful harmonies, mellow vibe and decadence of L.A. in the early seventies. Similar Frey tracks like “Lyin’ Eyes” (actually from the slightly later album “One Of These Nights”) and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” just missed the cut.

The Eagles fourth album in 1975, “One Of These Nights”, was their most successful album yet and aside from cuts like “Lyin’ Eyes”, it was more heavily produced than their previous albums moving away from country twang and even experimenting with the disco sound which was beginning to sweep the nation with the great title track. The ballad “Take It To The Limit” made the top ten on the top 40 charts (along with the title cut) and was sung by the high-pitched Randy Meisner. It was the first Eagles A side not sung by Henley or Frey. 1976’s “Hotel California” became their best and most popular album and arguably made them the biggest rock band in the country. The title track is almost certainly the Eagles signature and best known song. I know it has been played to death, but not including it among their top five would feel like a joke. Try remembering how much you loved it the first time you heard it. It’s up there in the untouchable epic classic rock canon along with “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven”. The song features a reggae beat and then a long interplay between the bands two lead guitarists Don Felder and Joe Walsh, who had recently joined the Eagles from the hard rock group the James Gang and was instrumental in providing the group with their heaviest tunes, including other great cuts like “Victim Of Love” & “Life In The Fast Lane” & then later “In The City” which Walsh took lead vocals on. “Hotel California’s” mysterious lyrics, along with “Fast Lane”, captured the dark undercurrent of the hedonistic baby boomers. Southern California (Hotel California) stood in for American society at large and underneath all of the good times and parties, there were the dark specters of drug addiction, divorce and death.

The Eagles took nearly three years to follow up their biggest album, which back then was a huge amount of time. Their final album before their breakup was the unfairly maligned “The Long Run”. It may not measure up in quality to “Hotel California”, but like all of their other albums it contains three big hits, one or two hidden gems and some filler. By all accounts the recording of the album did not go well and helped lead to the bands split. Randy Meisner had left the band, and they brought in similar voiced Timothy B. Schmidt from the group Poco. He took lead vocals on #8 hit “I Can’t Tell You Why”, which has always been my favorite Eagles ballad. First single “Heartache Tonight” was the Eagles last #1 hit and the title cut (which definitely would make my top ten Eagles songs) made it to the top ten as well.

So there you have it. My top five Eagles songs. Five songs sung by four different lead vocalists within one band- and that doesn’t even count Joe Walsh- pretty impressive if you ask me. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Do you love, like, respect or hate this group? If you hate them do you deny that they have some great songs?


Buy Tequila Sunrise Amazon






Buy One Of These Nights Amazon



Buy Take It To The Limit Amazon






Buy Hotel California Amazon







Buy I Can’t Tell You Why Amazon

Top Fives: The Clash

Now that I’m finally finished putting up all of my chronological mixes on this blog I thought it would be a great time to bring back the top five feature, which is considerably less taxing, time consuming and hopefully will be a conversation starter with plenty of viewer participation. ¬†In the first months of this blog I used the feature to rate my favorite five tracks for whole genres, such as rap, metal, disco &¬†punk. ¬†While I may continue with those genre exercises some in the future, I thought it would be more fun to focus on bands. ¬†Some of these bands will likely contain be under appreciated bands that I hope to spread some love and info about, other groups will be well known and nearly impossible to narrow down to their best five tracks.

My first band, the Clash, clearly falls into the latter category. ¬†They are much loved by most rock music loving people. ¬†They were part of the first wave of British punk bands. ¬†Though their first singles and album was released after the first songs of the Damned, the Buzzcocks & the Sex Pistols, the Pistols were the only other UK punk group to match the Clash’s popularity. The Clash’s self-titled debut is widely considered, along with “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols” and “The Ramones”, to be the best of punk’s first wave. ¬†Though the debut has straight up punk classics like “White Riot” in lead track “Janie Jones”, my favorite song on it is “Complete Control” (actually only on the U.S. version but released as a stand-alone single in 1977 in the UK). ¬†It is the most musically varied and shows that the Clash was headed toward bigger things than punk in the future. ¬†While most bands flamed out quickly after 1977, the Clash expanded their sound. ¬†Their second album, “Give Em Enough Rope”, was an artistic disappointment compared to the debut, but still held classic Clash tunes like “Tommy Gun” and “Stay Free”. ¬†The group released the “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” single in ’78 as well, which is my favorite Clash song of all-time and a severe left turn from their more straight forward punk songs of the debut. ¬†The track contained a more slowed down ska rhythm, the first instance of a punk band using Jamaican rhythms. ¬†It was more lyrically sophisticated as well, addressing racial tensions during al all night Reggae showcase in London.

The end of 1979 saw the release of the double album “London Calling”, widely considered to be one of the best rock albums of all-time, punk or otherwise. ¬†While still falling under the punk genre “London Calling” expanded their sound further into reggae & ska, along with rock n’ roll roots music, New Orleans style R&B, lounge jazz & even a pop crossover hit with unlisted track “Train in Vain”. ¬†“London Calling” is so loaded with gems that it actually pains me not to include songs like “Guns of Brixton”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Rudie Can’t Fail” and the aforementioned “Train in Vain”. ¬†The title track is one of the bands signature cuts and despite current oversaturation on classic rock radio, remains a monster. ¬†“Clampdown” defines the group’s populist ‘us vs. the man’ blue collar ethic. ¬†1980 saw the Clash letting it all hang out with the triple album “Sandinista!”, a warts and all album which showed them even further expanding their sound. ¬†Though it contained classics like the Eddy Grant cover “Police On My Back”, the rap-influenced “Magnificent Seven” and “Somebody Got Murdered”, there was also much filler and experiments gone wrong. ¬†It would have made a much better single album, but is still a worthwhile and interesting listen.

After “Sandinista” and the great 1981 single “This Is Radio Clash”, the Clash seemingly had nowhere to go but toward the radio. ¬†They had their biggest radio hit with “Combat Rock’s “Rock The Casbah” (which just barely missed the cut here). ¬†The awesome single somehow managed an stellar dance beat, while commenting on Middle Eastern geopolitical oil issues. ¬†“Should I Stay Or Should I Go” was the lead single off the album, and remains one of the Clash’s most recognizable hits, ironically becoming a ‘jock jam’ omnipresent at sporting events. But the best track on the album was double A side single (with “Should I Stay”)¬†“Straight To Hell”, a slow, trippy masterpiece, decrying world injustice, specifically toward the poor and new immigrants. The track was later sampled by M.I.A. on the amazing “Paper Planes”. After “Combat Rock”, they booted co-vocalist, songwriter and band leader, Mick Jones, out of the group and released 1985’s “Cut The Crap” album, largely considered one of the biggest artistic failures of a major band ever, though it did contain the excellent “This Is England”. After “Crap” the Clash was finished.

The Clash are one of my favorite groups of all-time.  While listening to their best stuff sometimes I think that they are my favorite.
So please let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. ¬†Let me know what you think of the Clash. ¬†What’s your top choice¬†by them? ¬†What did I miss?







Buy (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais




Buy London Calling




Buy Clampdown






BuyStraight to Hell

Top Fives: Top Five Metal Songs

Black Sabbath- Paranoid (1971)

*Track not available via iTunes

Buy Paranoid Album via Amazon

Motorhead- Ace of Spades (1980)

Buy Ace of Spades – Ace of Spades

AC/DC- Hells Bells (1980)

*Track not available via iTunes

Buy Back in BlackAlbum via Amazon

Metallica- Fade to Black (1984)

Buy Fade to Black – Ride the Lightning

Guns N’ Roses- Welcome to the Jungle (1987)

Buy Welcome to the Jungle – Appetite for Destruction

Top Fives: Top Five Punk Songs of All Time

My Top Five Punk Songs of All Time

1.  Iggy & the Stooges- Search & Destroy (1973)

Buy Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power - Search And Destroy

2.  The Ramones- Blitzkrieg Bop (1976)

Buy The Ramones - Ramones (Deluxe Version) - Blitzkreig Bop

3.  Sex Pistols- God Save the Queen (1977)

Buy The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen

4.  The Clash- White Man in Hammersmith Palais (1978)

Buy The Clash - The Clash - The Singles - (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais

5.  The Undertones- Teenage Kicks (1978)

*Track not available via iTunes.

Buy The Very Best of the UndertonesAlbum via Amazon

Top Fives: Top Five Disco Songs

My top five disco songs below**. ¬†Please tell me yours and/or let me know why I’m right or wrong!!

Donna Summer- I Feel Love (1977)

Buy Donna Summer - I Remember Yesterday - I Feel Love

The Bee Gees- Night Fever (1977)

Buy Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever (The Original Movie Soundtrack) [Remastered] - Night Fever

Cheryl Lynn- Got To Be Real (1978)

Buy Cheryl Lynn - Cheryl Lynn - Got to Be Real

Chic- Good Times (1979)

Buy Chic - Risque - Good Times

Diana Ross- Upside Down (1980)

Buy Diana Ross - Diana (Deluxe Edition) - Upside Down

** ¬†I know that “Disco” can be applied to many forms of dance or club music but the Disco I’m concerned with here is the dance music that was wildly popular underground from 1974 to 1976 before dominating mainstream music culture starting in 1977 before finally petering out in 1980.

Top Fives: Top Five Albums By A Female

Here are my top five albums by a female in chronological order-female fronted bands count as well. ¬†This top five was ridiculously hard. ¬†Massive apologies to Liz Phair, Ella Fitzgerald, The Go Go’s, Dusty Springfield, Erykah Badu & Hole who all would have valiantly fought for positions if it were a top ten list.

Please tell me why I’m right or why I’m wrong. ¬†Wendy Urquhart- I hope we are still friends.


Buy Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Buy I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You Amazon


Buy Joni Mitchell - Blue

Buy Blue Amazon


Buy Blondie - Parallel Lines

Buy Parallel Lines Amazon


Buy Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Buy The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Amazon

5.  M.I.A.- KALA (2007)

BuyM.I.A. - Kala

Buy Kala Amazon

Top Fives: Top Five Pogues Songs

In honor of the holy St. Patrick’s Day here are my top five Pogues songs (though it may be a bit too sunny for The Pogues today)


Buy The Pogues - Rum Sodomy & the Lash [Expanded]


Buy The Pogues - Rum Sodomy & the Lash [Expanded]

1 & 2 from

Buy Rum Sodomy & the Lash Album via Amazon


Buy Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace With God [Expanded]


Buy The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace With God [Expanded] - If I Should Fall from Grace With God

3 & 4 from

Buy If I Should Fall from Grace with God Album via Amazon


Buy The Pogues - Very Best of the Pogues - The Body of an American


Buy The Very Best of The Pogues Album via Amazon

Top Fives: Intro

The purpose of these top five lists is to generate discussion. ¬†It’s pretty much impossible to narrow anything down to a top five. ¬†So these are my top five but I really want to here from you. ¬†What are yours?