It all started back in September, when Robert Cass sent an e-mail to the staff telling us Billboard had announced that Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” is the top song of the Hot 100 era. The reactions were swift and predictably shocked, ranging from “There must not be a God” to “That is one brutal list” to “Just as a general rule, I don’t think an artist is allowed to complain about a lack of respect once they’ve recorded a duet with the Fat Boys.” And just as swiftly, an idea was born: what if we all ranked our favorite songs of the era and shared the results with all of you?

So here it is — the Popdose 100. We limited our choices to songs from the last 50 years, and in the interest of establishing some kind of consensus, we tried to stick to singles that actually charted on the Hot 100. Some of us limited the number of times we could pick a single by any particular artist, but for the most part we kept it as informal as possible — and wouldn’t you know it, “The Twist” is nowhere to be found.

Now, this being the Internet and all, we know two things: 1) people love lists; and 2) they love to complain about what’s on them. So we expect a fair amount of grousing about what made our list; hell, even some of the writers who participated were a little perturbed by the final results. Where’s all the rap? Where the hell are the women? So on and so forth. Every list is flawed, and ours is no exception, but remember, this isn’t meant to be a list of the “best” or “top” singles of the era — only our favorites.

Now that we’ve gotten all the background info and caveats out of the way, thanks are in order: to David Medsker, for tabulating the results; to Robert Cass, for editing it into something legible; and to the Popdose staff — not to mention our friends Peter Lubin, Amy Davis, Carl Abernathy, and Mike Heyliger, who added their votes to our own. Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?

1. The Beach Boys, “God Only Knows” (download)
It starts with what superficially should be the least cool combination of instruments you could conjure up in a pop song: accordion and French horn. Then comes the horse-clop percussion and the sleigh bells. The lead vocalist is singing up front for only the second time in his life. And he’s singing about God. In a pop song. In the middle of the ’60s. This doesn’t seem like revolution. More like Ozzie and Harriet. Warm apple pie and sock hops. This is the greatest single of the rock era?

In a word, yes. Because the man who put it all together — the man who composed and arranged and produced this work and plucked a midlevel advertising copywriter out of obscurity to write the heartbreaking, shockingly honest lyrics for the song — is also the greatest American composer of the last 50 years: Brian Wilson.

There are a few moments in this life that are both exhilarating and sad at the same time. The first time I listened to “God Only Knows,” in 1991, was one of them. Exhilarating because from the first notes I had goosebumps: it is simply one of the most beautifully composed and arranged songs in the history of not just pop music, but Western music. To place “God Only Knows” in its proper context is to compare it not just to 1966 Paul McCartney, but 1836 Frederic Chopin.

And the sadness? It’s the realization that, like with a drug, the first high is the greatest. Unlike a drug, though, the trance that “God Only Knows” leaves upon the listener does no damage; it only elevates, leaving the listener wanting more. A gateway drug, as it were, to the rest of Pet Sounds (see also #22 below), and Wilson’s artistic legacy. –Matthew Bolin

2. Stevie Wonder, “Superstition” (download)
Even when it was bad, funk was good. And when it was good, it was sublime. And when it was created by an absolute musical genius at the peak of his musical powers like Mr. Stevie was in 1972, funk could fuse rock, soul, and pop, making its groove somehow greater than the sum of its parts.

“Superstition” was pivotal in Stevie’s career; like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, he’d been a popular soul figure but was in the process of evolving his music into a heavier, more socially conscious style. The album it sprang from, Talking Book, was something of a coming-out party for the new Stevie, with Jeff Beck contributing guitar parts on several tracks. In fact, Stevie wrote “Superstition” for Beck but recorded it first because his manager, knowing a hit when he heard one, pressed him to do so. Allegedly, that caused some bad blood between Stevie and Beck, who eventually recorded his own version.

Stevie performed “Superstition” live on Sesame Street, and it’s been covered by countless bands since, its brilliant trademark clavinet rhythm line and dramatically chorded chorus part of one of the most unforgettable songs of the 1970s. –Mojo Flucke, Ph.D.

3. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (download)
You turn on the radio and hear this monster breath of venom, William S. Burroughs-esque wordplay nearly sliding off the rails, and you wait for the “baby” that never arrives. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991) was both the beginning of a new phase of hard rock and the end of one. Nirvana introduced a stream of consciousness that had been flowing in the underground for a while, but until it found its way onto the airwaves, it seemed an impossible feat.

Could you tear into the pop culture without the face paint, the male chauvinism, and the rest of the hard-rock trappings? Was the youth of America prepared to take to heart such a raw, almost dissonant sound? Millions of sales later and what seemed like as many imitators, the answer was a resounding “Yeah, what-ev-urrr …” The double-tracked force of Butch Vig’s production, the pummeling combination of Krist Novoselic on bass and future Foo Dave Grohl on drums, and that scabbed, sleepwalking scream of Kurt Cobain was nothing anyone expected, but it was, invariably, exactly what they were looking for. –Dw. Dunphy

4. Marvin Gaye, “WhatÁ¢€â„¢s Going On” (download)
In your face, Berry Gordy. The Motown brass famously quarreled with Gaye over his leap out of the bedroom and onto the six o’clock news with “What’s Going On” (1971), and Gordy only released the single after all manner of prodding from Gaye, proclaiming it a flop before it even reached the shelves. It’s hard to question Gordy’s ears, but he’d heard “What’s Going On” — whether it fit within the Motown sound or not, he was a fool for trying to prevent its release. The outgrowth of Gaye’s grief over Tammi Terrell’s death as well as his distress over the letters his brother was sending him from Vietnam, “What’s Going On” combined Gaye’s predilection for the deeply personal with a burgeoning social conscience, and shocked fans and critics alike. It was an instant hit, and whatever Gordy’s prerelease qualms were, he wasn’t too proud to eat a little crow — after “What’s Going On” broke sales records for Motown, he swiftly ordered the full-length album that would become one of the label’s enduring classics. –Jeff Giles

5. John Lennon, “Imagine” (download)
Ladies and gentlemen, the most subversive pop single of all time! ItÁ¢€â„¢s an extraordinary contradiction: a song that plaintively argues against capitalism, nationalism, and organized religion — a song that Lennon himself referred to as Á¢€Å“virtually the Communist ManifestoÁ¢€ — remains beloved throughout the Western world to this day. In many ways an elegy to all that wasnÁ¢€â„¢t quite accomplished during the Á¢€â„¢60s, Á¢€Å“ImagineÁ¢€ (1971) has outlasted its association with the antiwar movement. A decade after its release, the song served as the perfect argument against religious-right censorship in a brilliant episode of the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati that aired four months after LennonÁ¢€â„¢s death. Twenty years after that, Clear Channel blacklisted Á¢€Å“ImagineÁ¢€ in response to 9/11, and the circle was complete. The ensuing public ridicule made it clear that Á¢€Å“ImagineÁ¢€ will vanquish all foes foreign or domestic, dogmatic or jingoistic. Bigger than Jesus indeed. –Jon Cummings

6. Otis Redding, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” (download)
Arguably the best song from the Memphis Stax era’s most powerful and talented singer, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” (1968) takes everyman’s frustration with past decisions, couples it with worries about living up to your family and friends’ expectations, and wraps it up in the most beautiful vocal performance of which mankind is capable. Even on the 3,000th play, this song can send shivers down the spine of anyone who’s grabbed a mike and attempted to sing. But ol’ Otis didn’t do it all by himself: he had Booker T. & the M.G.’s keeping the beat in the background, helping the singer reach sweet soul perfection. For those of you playing Trivial Pursuit: recorded three days before Otis’s untimely death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, Stax released “The Dock of the Bay” — his only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — posthumously. –Mojo

7. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” (download)
Derided throughout his secular career for wasting his extraordinary voice on frivolous dance tunes, Cooke tragically was gone before this song — written in response to DylanÁ¢€â„¢s Á¢€Å“BlowinÁ¢€â„¢ in the WindÁ¢€ — turned him into a civil rights icon as well as a soul progenitor. His death just as Á¢€Å“ChangeÁ¢€ (1964) was finally seeing commercial release (as a B-side!) shaped the songÁ¢€â„¢s legacy as a harbinger of dreams not fully realized, of great men destroyed before their work could be completed. Its use in Spike LeeÁ¢€â„¢s Malcolm X (1992) and Michael MannÁ¢€â„¢s Ali (2001) enhanced that bittersweet legacy; it took Barack ObamaÁ¢€â„¢s election to finally bring it all back home. Á¢€Å“ItÁ¢€â„¢s been a long time coming,Á¢€ Obama said during his victory speech, Á¢€Å“but tonight, change has come to America.” –JC

8. Prince & the Revolution, “When Doves Cry” (download)
Though it was the first single released from the Purple Rain soundtrack, “When Doves Cry” was actually the last song to be written and recorded for the film. It was an unconventional choice for the first single, as it had no bass line and sounded very different from all the other pop songs on the airwaves at the time. But Prince loved that about the song and was sure it would be a hit. In Per Nilsen’s excellent biography Dance Music Sex Romance — Prince: The First Decade, Prince’s former sound engineer, Peggy McCreary, remembers mixing the song with him: “Finally, he reached over and punched out the bass track. That’s when we knew we had something special. He said something like, ‘Nobody would have the balls to do this. You just wait, they’ll be freaking.'” And freak they did. “When Doves Cry” was released in May of 1984 and was an instant smash, remaining at the top of the Billboard charts for five weeks straight that summer and becoming the best-selling single of the year. With the success of “When Doves Cry” paving the way, Purple Rain, its soundtrack, and the subsequent world tour cemented Prince’s status as a pop superstar. –Kelly Stitzel

9. Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (download)
During January of my sophomore year of high school, our choir director announced that we would be performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975) for our spring concert. I had discovered Queen the year before, thanks to the miracle of a dubbed 90-minute cassette featuring Queen’s greatest hits. I have countless memories of rehearsing the piece. I tried out for a solo, attempting to sing the part of an alto in a humiliating attempt at falsetto. Mr. Zysk, the choir director, referred to the lyrics as “can’t do this to my baby.” A freshman was given a chance to play the guitar solo and brought in a hot pink, C.C. DeVille-style guitar. And by some miracle of luck, the film Wayne’s World (1992), featuring the unforgettable Mirthmobile sequence, was released less than a month prior to our performance, which meant that an auditorium full of listless boomer parents actually started acting like they were at a rock concert — headbanging and all. –Zack Dennis

10. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Born to Run” (download)
It’s a rare kind of song that I can sing to mourn my father and lull my newborn daughter to sleep. It works as a powerhouse set-closing rocker or a tender acoustic ballad. “Born to Run” (1975) was etched on my consciousness at an early age — on my parents’ stereo, the car radio, dad even had a “Born to Run” pin on the hat he wore to work. The breakthrough tale of cars, glory, and a girl named Wendy offering the only salvation from the death-trap town is but one of Springsteen’s rock ‘n’ roll parables. For the chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected protagonist, the search for the “runaway American dream” is never truly over, nor is it won in the end. Before the incendiary live version of “Born to Run” on the Live 75-85 box set, Bruce tells us, “Remember, in the end nobody wins unless everybody wins.” But it doesn’t matter. So long as love is wild and love is real, we can still walk out on the wire and get out while we’re young. –Ben Wiser

11. XTC, “The Mayor of Simpleton” (download)
An upstanding showing for a preposterously unlikely entry in the almost-top-ten! What is the magic that propels this track from 1989 above most others and causes it to shine so brightly in the extensive Partridge catalog? ItÁ¢€â„¢s the bass line, stupid. Well, that and the slamming drums courtesy of Pat Masteletto. Well, that and the couplets, rhythms, and rhymes, plus the two bridges, the refrain, the melody, the harmonies, the chord pattern, and, of course, the tambourine (from back in the day when you didnÁ¢€â„¢t just take two good bars from the performance and cut-and-paste them in across the length of the track — this one is played in its artful totality).

ThereÁ¢€â„¢s a saying in comedy: Á¢€Å“If you buy the premise, then youÁ¢€â„¢ll buy the bit.Á¢€ Well check this:

I don’t know how many pounds make up a ton
Of all the Nobel prizes that I’ve never won
And I may be the mayor of Simpleton
But I know one thing
And that’s I love you

So in the end, when all logic grows cold and all thinking gets done, where better to wind up than warm in the arms of the mayor of Simpleton? ItÁ¢€â„¢s just chockablock full of fun — more than should be allocable in a mere three minutes and 58 seconds. –Peter Lubin

12. Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (download)
Marvin had been absent from pop radio just five years when Á¢€Å“Sexual HealingÁ¢€ glided onto the scene at the tail end of 1982, yet even then the song felt less like a comeback than a valedictory. Á¢€Å“HereÁ¢€â„¢s one more,Á¢€ he seemed to say, Á¢€Å“just in case you need reminding.Á¢€ We did — and Marvin seduced us with one last, slow-building orgasm of loverman soul. It felt just as good as it ever had, which is amazing, considering the passage of time; on the other hand, we were still smoking our cigarette (metaphorically speaking) when we heard the news of MarvinÁ¢€â„¢s death 16 months later. —JC

13. Ray Charles, “Georgia on My Mind” (download)
“Georgia on My Mind” was 30 years old by the time Ray Charles covered it in 1960 — and it had already been recorded by a number of other performers — but he was the first to turn it into a bona fide hit. It’s fitting, since Charles’s version is inarguably the definitive one, not only because of his typically impeccable performance but because his recording became something of a symbol for the post-civil rights era in Georgia, culminating in his performance before the Georgia General Assembly in 1979, shortly before the state adopted “Georgia on My Mind” as its official state song. That was just a formality, though — Charles’s “Georgia” was an anthem long before any politicians put their stamp of approval on it. Even if you’ve never been to Georgia — or known anybody named Georgia — hearing him bleed out those lyrics will simultaneously break your heart and make your spirit soar every single time. –JG

14. Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue” (download)
To me, “Tangled Up in Blue” (1975) is a well-worn and wine-stained great American novel. I want to be the protagonist in the song — rising up from the wreckage of a failed relationship to drift from one end of the country to the other, until after a night in a seedy strip joint I would rediscover my true love over a book of Italian poems and a proto-pipe. In the end, after the bottom falls out, we’re all heading back to one true love. A constant. Home. Everything else is an illusion. Everything else, just drunken dumbshow. –BW

15. The Band, “The Weight” (download)
It missed the Top 40, but “The Weight” has enjoyed a long and fruitful life since originally appearing on 1968’s Music From Big Pink, inspiring so many covers that you may very well have thought it was a standard poached from an old hymnal. Like all of the Band’s best work, it feels timeless, like something that’s always simply been here, played by men who’ve always simply been here too. It’s got an instantly memorable chorus and a gang vocal that practically dares you not to sing along, and although the people mentioned in the lyrics were friends of the band, the story — about a traveler whose good deeds get the best of him — is universal enough to transcend its pompous origins: Robbie Robertson claims to have been inspired by the films of director Luis BuÁƒ±uel. It isn’t my favorite Band song — in fact, I’ve heard it so many times that I confess to skipping past it occasionally — but when you’ve got Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel putting their voices together, you can never go too far astray. –JG

16. U2, “One” (download)
The magnificence of this song is how it transcended its original intent and became something much more profound. Written as a message from Bono to the Edge, “One” (1991) is about the troubles and pain U2’s guitarist was going through as his marriage was hitting the rocks. However, in 1992, when the song reached its chart peak, “One” stopped being U2’s song and became the world’s. With the world recovering from the first Iraq war, and the AIDS epidemic on the front page of every newspaper, the song’s message of inclusion took on new meaning. Bono has often cited John Lennon as one of his major influences; with “One,” he and U2 wrote the next generation’s “Imagine.” –Scott Malchus

17. Nick Lowe, “Cruel to Be Kind” (download)
Nick Lowe has become known for many things in his time: writing “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” one of Elvis Costello’s signature songs (see #88 below); earning a cool million in royalties when Curtis Stigers covered it for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard in 1992; having his single “Heart of the City” be the first ever released on Stiff Records; producing the first British punk album ever released (the Damned’s Damned Damned Damned); being Johnny Cash’s son-in-law; and rhyming “Rick Astley” with “ghastly.” For the members of the general populace who aren’t card-carrying music geeks, however, Nick Lowe is just the guy who sings “Cruel to Be Kind,” but, really, that’s a pretty decent credit to have on your resumÁƒ© in and of itself. Backed by fellow former Rockpile members Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams, “Cruel” — which he cowrote with another Brinsley-Schwarz alumni, Ian Gomm — possesses a hook that has been stuck in people’s heads since they first heard in 1978, but it also has lyrics that sneak up on you with their profundity about the cyclical nature of a love-hate relationship. “You say your love is bona fide, but that don’t coincide with the things that you do,” sings Lowe. “And when I ask you to be nice, you say you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind in the right measure.” Although this is ostensibly “a very, very, very good sign,” our hero continues to pick himself back off the ground, only be knocked back down again and again until the song fades to a close. So does that make us romantic sadists for wanting to sing along? –Will Harris

18. Van Morrison, “Moondance”
Just like so many of his peers during the ’60s, Van Morrison’s music went through a lot of dramatic changes — in his case, moving from the Stonesy R&B of Them (“Gloria,” “Here Comes the Night”) to bubblegum pop (“Brown Eyed Girl”) to lengthy, poetic ruminations on life and love (Astral Weeks) — in just six short years. Then, in 1970, he hit on something that was, well, magic (see also #48 below). “Moondance” swung like a jazz standard, teemed with drunken yet restrained horniness, exuded sweet romanticism and oozed cool all at once. And most remarkably, it never got old. Girls love it, and guys can proudly enjoy it without their manhood ever being called into question. “Brown Eyed Girl” might be more popular, and the songs that make up Astral Weeks might be more acclaimed, but when it comes down to it, “Moondance” is by far Van the Man’s greatest moment. Dig it. –Michael Fortes

19. Aretha Franklin, “Chain of Fools” (download)
I don’t care how many people think “Respect” is Aretha’s best song — “Chain of Fools” outshines any of her up-tempo numbers from the late ’60s. Written by Don Convay, the song came out in 1967 and became an instant sensation. It has everything you’d expect from the Queen of Soul: a tight band behind her, her backup vocalists singing in perfect harmony with plenty of sass, and so much attitude we all overlook that she’s willing to still get some from this scoundrel of a man for as long as she can, even though she’s just a link in his chain. Ah, but that’s how Aretha turns the song, isn’t it? She’s telling this no-good guy that she knows his game and she’s taking control. If he wants some, she’s available, and if he doesn’t want it on her terms, then f**k ‘im. All of this context plays out over one of the most danceable songs of the era. I guarantee that if you put on “Chain of Fools” in the middle of a party, booties will start shaking. –SM

20. Crowded House, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (download)
Neil FinnÁ¢€â„¢s brilliance as a tunesmith, honed during his apprenticeship in his brotherÁ¢€â„¢s band, Split Enz, emerged in full flower on Crowded HouseÁ¢€â„¢s debut single. Most listeners probably responded first to the organ solo, which tethers the song eternally to Procol Harum’s Á¢€Å“A Whiter Shade of PaleÁ¢€ (see #84 below). But it was the lyrical imagery of Á¢€Å“DonÁ¢€â„¢t Dream ItÁ¢€â„¢s OverÁ¢€ (1986) that marked it as an utterly unique presence on pop radio in the mid-Á¢€â„¢80s. Á¢€Å“Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup,Á¢€ Finn sang — a line that would come to define Crowded HouseÁ¢€â„¢s entire oeuvre, which proved too smart and too emotionally complex for the pop charts. Is Neil Finn the most underrated songwriter in rock history? –JC

21. Prince, “Little Red Corvette”
Released as the second single from 1999 (1982), “Little Red Corvette” was Prince’s first top-ten hit and the most rock-oriented single he’d released up to that point. As a result of its success and the video getting heavy airplay on MTV, he started to see a more diverse (read: white) audience at his concerts. Considered his breakout, it paved the way for the monster success he would achieve over the next few years. –KS

22. The Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
There’s no other song that so perfectly captures the idea of innocent love. But for such a simple lyrical sentiment, the opening track of 1966’s Pet Sounds is musically sophisticated, almost dense, artistically packing so much — crazy instrumentation, a beautiful bridge, signature Beach Boys harmonies, and a big tempo change — into just over two minutes. –Amy Davis

23. The Impressions, “People Get Ready” (download)
Arguably Curtis Mayfield’s finest hour, this 1965 gospel number should have its own McDonald’s marquee updating how many millions of times it’s been covered. –Mojo

24. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
The single from Thriller (1982) that turned Michael Jackson into MICHAEL JACKSON. The landmark video and the assault on all-white MTV; the Jheri curl and the single white glove; Motown 25 and the moonwalk; and, in the lyrics, a denial of untoward sexual activity. Oh, yeah, the songÁ¢€â„¢s awesome too. –JC

25. Ray Charles, Á¢€Å“What’d I Say”
The film Ray surely put the Á¢€Å“hackÁ¢€ in (director Taylor) Hackford, but the scene in which Ray Charles, his band, and the Raelettes conjure Á¢€Å“WhatÁ¢€â„¢d I SayÁ¢€ (1959) on the spot is perhaps cinemaÁ¢€â„¢s finest showcase of the glory of improvisation. –JC

26. The Beatles, “Hey Jude”
One of my fondest musical memories will always be sitting on the Spanish Steps and watching one man with an acoustic guitar spark an impromptu 20-minute “Hey Jude” (1968) sing-along with dozens of random strangers. Now that’s the mark of a classic song. –JG

27. The Spencer Davis Group, “Gimme Some Lovin'” (download)
The scariest part about “Gimme Some Lovin'” (1967) isn’t that it’s as fun and booty-shimmying good as it was when it came out, but that it features Steve Winwood singing when he was a teenager — and he sounds exactly the same to this day. –DD

28. America, “Sister Golden Hair”
I’d go so far as to say “Sister Golden Hair” (1975) is America’s best moment — a countrified pop tune with hooks for days and nary a no-named horse or tin man in sight. Just a straight-ahead sing-along about cold feet. –DD

29. Isaac Hayes, “Theme From Shaft
As a piece of music, the theme from 1971’s blaxploitation classic Shaft gets bogged down by its status as something of a punchline. “They say this cat Shaft is a baaad mutha–” “Shut yo’ mouth! “Well, I’m talkin’ about Shaft …” And we can dig it. It also loses focus after all the blurbs about how Isaac Hayes was the first black artist to win the Oscar for Best Song, shattering a decades-old Hollywood color barrier. If you actually listen to the song, though, for the funky build as well as for the complex arrangement and skill behind it, you realize why it won. It’s tightly constructed, as orchestrated as anything John Barry and Maurice Jarre were doing at the time, and dayum, it grooves. –DD

30. Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (download)
It isn’t the lyrics, per se, that make this song so special, but their economy. If you listen to “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971), you could write all the words on the back of an envelope and still have room for an address. It’s how Bill Withers sings them, that rocking back and forth on the edge of the bed, racked with anxiety in thinking that the only happiness in your life is lost forever: “I know, I know, I know, I know …” If you haven’t lived this song at least once in your life, you haven’t lived at all. —DD

31. Derek & the Dominoes, “Layla”
Just to be clear, we’re talking about the original “Layla” from 1970, not Clapton’s Unplugged version from ’92. Not many artists could articulate so well, both musically and lyrically, the simultaneous thrill and angst of falling in love with a friend’s wife. It’s also the only song in the Clapton catalog for which another guitarist — in this case, Duane Allman — does the heavy lifting. –AD

32. George Michael, “Freedom ’90” (download)
Heaven knows you were such a mature boy, George, breaking so completely from your past. Insufferable too. But damn if this song isnÁ¢€â„¢t the greatest thing youÁ¢€â„¢ve ever done, and thatÁ¢€â„¢s saying something. –JC

33. Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust”
Before the release of 1980’s The Game, Queen was merely an extraordinary rock band. Bassist John Deacon, lyrically inspired by spaghetti westerns of the ’60s and musically inspired by an evening hanging out in the studio with Chic, brought the band their first crossover success, with “Dust” reaching #2 on the Billboard R&B and disco charts. With an unbelievably tight rhythm section (almost all the instruments were played by Deacon in the studio) and Freddie Mercury impeccably adapting his aggressive vocal quality to the funk genre, “Another One Bites the Dust” remains one of Queen’s most iconic tracks — even if it did unfortunately lead to many of the clunky dance tracks on 1982’s Hot Space. –Jason Hare

34. Elvis Costello, “Veronica” (download)
The greatest pop song ever written about an Alzheimer’s patient, the biggest chart hit of Costello’s career (it reached #19 in ’89), and one of the finest post-Beatles works to bear the name McCartney. –JG

35. Jackie Wilson, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” (download)
The second — and best — of Wilson’s late-’60s trio of comeback singles, “Higher and Higher” (1967) matches up Mr. Excitement with the Funk Brothers to produce undeniable results. –JG

36. Def Leppard, “Photograph”
It isn’t cool to like this song now. It’s not rock or metal, it solidified Mutt Lange’s production style into a globulous parody, and it conjures a thousand images of mullet haircuts and “rat tails” circa 1983. But underneath it all, it’s pure pop music. –DD

37. New Order, “Bizarre Love Triangle” (download)
New OrderÁ¢€â„¢s most accessible moment, and perhaps the greatest of all synth-pop singles (1986). Now, could someone tell me what it’s about? –JC

38. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “The Waiting” (download)
In a hundred years, when some snot-nosed kid wants to know what stadium rock was all about, this 1981 single will be the answer: anthemic lyrics, air-guitar-worthy power chords, defiant vocals. –JC

39. Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”
This is a song I would love to see someone try on American Idol. Because if they got it right (which would be highly unlikely), I would do something I’ve never done before — pick up the phone and call in my vote. It’s both a snapshot of 1978 new wave and a timeless pop song. –AD

40. Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
The brilliant 1973 title track to one of the only worthwhile double LPs in rock ‘n’ roll history, and proof positive that Bernie Taupin can, when the mood suits him, pen a lyric that actually makes a lick of sense. –JG

41. Guns n’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”
When I was in sixth grade, two of my good friends were girls who lived on my street: Kristy and Rachael, who were three and five years older than me, respectively. Kristy already had her driver’s license, and in the summer a bunch of us would pile into her black Firebird and go driving around town, windows rolled down, music blaring. Kristy loved anything remotely considered heavy metal; our typical cruising soundtrack consisted of Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Motley Crue, among others. The night she bought GNR’s Appetite for Destruction (1987), we all went for a drive in one of the worst parts of town. She put the tape in the cassette player, turned the volume all the way up, rolled down the windows, and proceeded to almost get us shot. “Welcome to the Jungle” indeed. –KS

42. Otis Redding, “Try a Little Tenderness” (download)
Though Otis Redding wasn’t the first or last to record this song, his 1966 version is arguably the best. It has a smooth, soulful start that slowly builds to an intense, frenzied ending. To say that Otis tore “Tenderness” to pieces in concert is an understatement. And I wouldn’t be a good child of the ’80s if I didn’t at least mention my love of the scene in Pretty in Pink when Duckie (Jon Cryer) lip-synchs to it in the record store. –KS

43. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “All Along the Watchtower”
Other than the words, virtually nothing in Hendrix’s 1968 reimagining of Bob Dylan’s song resembles the original. From the way he howls and cries out the lyrics, to the way he makes his guitar sing and weep and moan, Jimi owns the song. While others who’ve covered Dylan have often approached his music with a reverence that castrates the intent or turns his songs into weak folk music, Hendrix was bold enough to reinterpret “All Along the Watchtower” and make it a psychedelic anthem for the ages. He was on a different playing field, and most of us are still trying to catch up. –SM

44. The Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations”
It cost $50,000 to record in 1966, and it was worth every penny. When you hear Wilson apologists wonder what might have been, these are the three minutes and 39 seconds that keep them dreaming. –JG

45. R.E.M., “Losing My Religion”
The culmination of an Á¢€Å“alternativeÁ¢€ bandÁ¢€â„¢s ten-year climb to the mainstream pinnacle, Á¢€Å“Losing My ReligionÁ¢€ (1991) is one of popÁ¢€â„¢s greatest paeans to unspoken, unrequited love. Á¢€Å“ThatÁ¢€â„¢s me in the corner, thatÁ¢€â„¢s me in the spotlight.” Michael Stipe may never have written a more resonant lyric. –JC

46. LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out” (download)
For some reason people thought LL was washed up by 1990, before he decided to show the world how it’s done. Gangsta rap? Damn, no problem. He beat that beat like a skull and created enough damage (unh!) damage (unh!) damage (unh!) damage to revive his career and make him one of the most important rappers of all time. –SM

47. The Doobie Brothers, “What a Fool Believes”
Michael McDonald and Ted Templeman gave the Doobies a badly needed, funky kick in the ass in 1978 with this track, which no doubt made Jeff “Skunk” Baxter want to stick his head in the oven. From a musical standpoint, it’s so well written that even most covers do a respectable job (although you’re advised to stay away from cowriter Kenny Loggins’s live version on Outside From the Redwoods). I tried to write something objective about “What a Fool Believes,” but the truth is, if you don’t love it I will hunt you down and shoot you. –JH

48. Van Morrison, “Into the Mystic”
I love everything about “Into the Mystic” — the gorgeous lyrics, the earnestness of Morrison’s vocals, the amazing sax solos. Included on 1970’s Moondance, it wasn’t a hit for Morrison, though a cover by Johnny Rivers did make it to #51 that same year. Other excellent covers include one by Ben E. King and a version performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, which is included on the collector’s edition of the soundtrack to their film Once (2006). –KS

49. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (download)
There’s nothing about Presley’s 1969 cover of Mark James’s song that makes much sense — not the intrusive female backup singers, not the blues breakdown in the bridge, not the fact that Presley’s private life contradicted the sentiments of the damned thing entirely, not even that the thing reeks of the Vegas vibe that would be the death of the King. So why does “We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out, because I love you too much, baby” satisfy so completely after all this time? –DD

50. Peter Gabriel, “Big Time”
GabrielÁ¢€â„¢s So (1986) is the most-represented album on this list (see also #61 and #66 below), and its third single felt like both a symptom and a celebration of the albumÁ¢€â„¢s surprising, outsize success. ItÁ¢€â„¢s also a biting satire of over-the-top, Reagan/ Thatcher-era ambition, but how many Masters of the Universe noticed Á¢€Å“how my life is one big inventionÁ¢€? –JC

51. Simon & Garfunkel, “The Only Living Boy in New York” (download)
According to our very own Jon Cummings, based on an interview he did with Paul Simon, “The Only Living Boy in New York” (1970) is one of the few Simon & Garfunkel songs Simon can still stand. It’s not hard to see why, as it’s almost hymnlike, with Garfunkel’s harmonies in the background nearly holding up the church pillars with “Here I am …” The lyrics seem to be from the perspective of the last member of the gang, who stayed behind even after his friends moved on. Considering the song came out during the Vietnam war, those friends didn’t necessarily move on to a better life. –DD

52. Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”
Barring however you may or may not feel about The Wall (1979), Pink Floyd’s double-thick concept album of daddy issues, war, fascism, megalomania, and groupies, it’s impossible to deny the absolute power and beauty of David Gilmour’s guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb.” The song is a defining moment not only for the work’s fragile protagonist but for the band itself. –BW

53. The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
A lethal guitar riff that came to Keith Richards in a dream, some of Mick Jagger’s most pointed lyrics, a seductive bass line by Bill Wyman, and a driving beat from Charlie Watts that got asses shaking on dance floors and in bedrooms and backseats around the world make “Satisfaction” (1965) one of the most unforgettable songs ever. This is rock ‘n’ roll in its rawest, most primal form, and it still generates excitement 40 years after its release. –SM

54. The Beatles, “Come Together”
Never mind the double entendre — the last of John LennonÁ¢€â„¢s great nonsense songs, and the last of his singles for the Beatles, put a shot of danger (and a dose of blues) back into the bandÁ¢€â„¢s oeuvre just as things were winding down. Á¢€Å“Come TogetherÁ¢€ (1969) was actually side B (or maybe side A-minus) of the greatest two-sided single of all time (see also #57 below). –JC

55. Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”
After Bowie showed up in Queen’s studios to put some backing vocals on an awful track called “Cool Cat,” a random late-night jam somehow evolved into yet another track that sounded unmistakably like Queen, while remaining absolutely unique of anything released before it. If you think about it, “Under Pressure” (1981) is really a strange song, with a structure that’s almost impossible to follow, yet the final result — a combination of a driving, cohesive rhythm section and the impassioned vocals of Bowie and Mercury — is incredibly powerful and moving. I just regret that the first time I heard that bass line it was being used in, um, another song. Word to your mother. –JH

56. Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising”
The brilliant title track from Springsteen’s meditation on America in the post-9/11 world (2002) is a moving number from the perspective of a fallen firefighter. As this man sees his wife at his graveside, he joins the souls of the departed on their way to heaven. Only Springsteen could take a song about the tragedy of the falling towers and still give it a sense of hope and community. –SM

57. The Beatles, “Something”
It’s hard to imagine a time when George Harrison’s contributions to Beatles albums were seen almost as concessions. It was one of the tensions within the band when he was coming up with things like “Taxman” and, eventually, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”; his songs were regarded by die-hard Lennon-McCartney fans as less than utterly brilliant. Abbey Road‘s “Something” is a big middle finger to the doubtful. –DD

58. Sly & the Family Stone, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (download)
Can you call Sly Stone the progenitor of the funk? Maybe not, but he certainly was the craftsman of it. The shout-out vocals, the shimmy in the guitar, that knockabout bass line: “Thank You” (1970) is imminently crankable to the present day. –DD

59. Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”
A snare-drum hit, a couple bars of Al KooperÁ¢€â„¢s swirling organ, jangling electric guitar (?!?), and a snarling Á¢€Å“Once upon a time you dressed so fine.” “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965) proved that Rock Á¢€â„¢nÁ¢€â„¢ Roll Would Never Be the SameÁ¢”ž¢. –JC

60. George Michael, “Faith”
George went back home and got a brand-new face for the boys at MTV, but what we remember best about his second post-Wham! single (1987) is his ass. That, and the most indelible rockabilly-influenced hit since “Jailhouse Rock” (see #70 below). –JC

61. Peter Gabriel, “In Your Eyes”
A boy. A meadow. A boombox. And the greatest love song of the Á¢€â„¢80s. –JC

62. Elton John, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”
The only single released from 1975’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is said to be based on a very difficult time in John’s life that included a failed engagement and a suicide attempt. The first time I heard it, I was probably seven years old. My father had gathered me and my younger brother around the record player and said, “I want you to hear this song.” The three of us sat silently as it played, and when the needle lifted from the record, signaling both the end of the song and side one of the album, I looked at my father and said, “Play that again, Daddy.” One of my favorite memories from childhood and the first time a song had affected me that way. –KS

63. Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire” (download)
The younger me couldn’t get past the mariachi horns and repetitive burn burn burns and down down downs so I could appreciate the poetry and passion in the lyrics. And while the image of love as a fiery pit is still difficult for me to grasp, I’ve grown to treasure this signature Cash song (1963). –AD

64. B.B. King, “The Thrill Is Gone”
“The Thrill Is Gone” (1969) is the archetypal blessing/curse song. It brought B.B. the mass exposure he needed in order to rise above the stigma of “soulful, unheralded blues man,” but let’s be honest — it’s almost the only thing anyone knows by him. Sure, maybe you recognize him from U2’s “When Love Comes to Town,” and maybe you know him from his stirring on-screen work in John Landis’s Spies Like Us (“Would anyone care for a Pepsi?” gets me right here, man), but “Thrill” is a given. It isn’t a bad thing, though, as King’s strident voice and the wailing licks coming out of his trusty guitar, Lucille, deserve every ounce of regard. –DD

65. The Temptations, “My Girl” (download)
If it’s packed with brilliantly simple lines and set to a melody you can’t forget after the first time you hear it, it must be a Smokey Robinson song. And if the vocals are delivered with soul-shattering perfection, it must be the Temptations at their peak (1964). Perfection. –JG

66. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer” (download)
The greatest music video of all time (screw Á¢€Å“ThrillerÁ¢€!) supported GabrielÁ¢€â„¢s blatant yet somehow ironic grab for the pop brass ring. Thanks to the Memphis Horns, a synthesized shakuhachi flute, a litany of phallic references, and a balls-out vocal few knew Gabriel was capable of, he got us all to show him ’round our fruit cage. –JC

67. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Take Five” (download)
This snazzy little number in 5/4 time bum-rushed the show back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (1959 A.D.) and jazz songs could infiltrate the Top 40. –Mojo

68. X, “4th of July” (download)
Dave Alvin infused his own brand of smoky poetry into X’s 1987 outing, See How We Are, and penned the lyrics to “4th of July,” a Los Angeles love story crammed into three and a half minutes of big guitars and X’s new, rootsy maturity. –BW

69. The Beatles, “Ticket to Ride”
A key step along John LennonÁ¢€â„¢s path to maturity as a songwriter, “Ticket to Ride” (1965) is one of the BeatlesÁ¢€â„¢ hardest-rocking singles. Opening with one of GeorgeÁ¢€â„¢s signature riffs and rumbling across the radio with thunderclaps of bass drum from Ringo, it rendered the word Á¢€Å“moptopsÁ¢€ obsolete. –JC

70. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock”
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, rockÁ¢€â„¢s first great songwriting team, penned what may have been the perfect rock Á¢€â„¢nÁ¢€â„¢ roll movie theme — and Elvis sang the hell out of it in 1957. (Yes, we’re cheating by including this 51-year-old song in the Popdose 100.) The legendary production number in the film of the same name provided an early template for music videos. –JC

71. Brook Benton, “Rainy Night in Georgia”
Someone said Johnny Ray was the sound of heartbreak, but I submit that “Rainy Night in Georgia” (1970) trumps any of Ray’s often overwrought melodrama. You’d have to be cold-blooded not to be moved by Benton’s smooth but certainly influenced delivery. –DD

72. Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (download)
The lyrics aren’t as universal as you’d expect for a song with the word “everybody” in the title, but that gently loping riff and plangent melody are thoroughly irresistible. Plus, Tears for Fears’ first U.S. hit (1985) played over the closing credits of Val Kilmer’s finest cinematic effort. What else do you want? –JG

73. The Monkees, “Daydream Believer”
In the original version of “Daydream Believer,” recorded by its composer, John Stewart (of Kingston Trio fame), there’s a lyric that goes, “Now you know how funky I can be.” The Monkees’ decision to change the word from “funky” to “happy” wasn’t just a good idea — it was an absolute necessity. Producer Chip Douglas turned the fairy-dust dial up to 11 and, with the help of Davy Jones’s sunshiny lead vocal, created one of the cheeriest pop songs of all time. Guilty pleasure, my ass: the Monkees put out some of the best songs of the ’60s, period, and “Daydream Believer” (1967) is right up near the top. –WH

74. Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
MarvinÁ¢€â„¢s version of Á¢€Å“GrapevineÁ¢€ (1968) wasn’t the first to reach the top five, but his slowed-down arrangement and piercing vocal left poor Gladys Knight in the dust, earning him a guaranteed spot on lists like this one. It also heralded a new era of moodier records and serious themes at Motown. –JC

75. Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
ItÁ¢€â„¢s difficult to overestimate the impact of “Respect’s” (1967) rambunctious, riveting performance — on ArethaÁ¢€â„¢s career, on Atlantic RecordsÁ¢€â„¢ profit margin, on the womenÁ¢€â„¢s liberation movement, on Laugh-InÁ¢€â„¢s Á¢€Å“Sock it to me!Á¢€ shtick, and on songwriter Otis ReddingÁ¢€â„¢s bank account. Á¢€Å“That girl stole my song,Á¢€ he famously said. Too bad he didnÁ¢€â„¢t live long enough to enjoy the royalties. –JC

76. Aretha Franklin, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
Even by the Queen of Soul’s rigorous standards, “Natural Woman” (1967) is a marvel: one of her most cutting vocal performances, set against a beautifully tender arrangement. Simply stunning. –JG

77. Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Roots, Rock, Reggae” (download)
In 1976 Rastaman Vibration broke through in the U.S. with this mighty single. “We bubbling on the top 100, just like a mighty dread” was something that no one in the States was prepared for. That dready rhythm and Marley’s vocals, as sweet as ganja smoke and as precious as Jah’s love, brought Zion by way of Kingston into our daily lives. –BW

78. Prince & the Revolution, “Kiss”
“Kiss,” Prince’s third number-one single and the only major hit from 1986’s Parade, was originally given to Revolution bassist Brown Mark’s side project, Mazarati. Prince had quickly recorded a demo of the song with just an acoustic guitar and gave it to Mazarati to work on for their first album. But when he heard the funked-up groover “Kiss” had become after Mazarati and producer David Rivkin were finished with it, he decided to reclaim it for himself. A few changes were made to the Mazarati version before its inclusion on Parade, but the bulk of their work, including the backing vocals, remained untouched. –KS

79. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Ohio” (download)
Darker than any shadow of Altamont and released just one month after the Kent State killings, “Ohio” (1970) is an angry and visceral call to arms. David Crosby felt Neil Young’s lyrics were the bravest he had ever heard, but Young would regret the song later, feeling he had profited from the deaths of the four protesters. –BW

80. Blue Oyster Cult, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”
Once upon a time, this 1976 single was celebrated for its memorable guitar solo — and derided by the religious right for supposedly advocating suicide. It still gets folks hot under the collar; in fact, Á¢€Å“I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription … is more cowbell!Á¢€ –JC

81. The Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat”
This early disco hit (1974) is just too fun to refuse — especially with the low-register piano holding the bass line, and that harmony in the chorus — even though it is slightly silly. But remember when slightly silly wasn’t such a bad thing? –DD

82. The Band, “Up on Cripple Creek”
Stevie Wonder goes to Mayberry and raises some good old-fashioned hell (1970). Every time I think about what Robbie Robertson did to this band, I get pissed off all over again. –JG

83. Roy Orbison, “In Dreams”
The voice. That’s all one needs to know about Roy Orbison and his lasting influence. With those velvet pipes he invoked so much pain and loneliness on “In Dreams” (1963) that millions of young boys who thought they were the only ones with broken hearts realized they weren’t alone. From Springsteen to Petty to Chris Isaak and Raul Malo, Orbison’s legacy will continue to live on for generations to come. Oh, and there’s that David Lynch film that uses it too. –SM

84. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (download)
It’s easy to dismiss Procol Harum as a one-hit wonder. When you say the band’s name I doubt “Conquistador” or “Bringin’ Home the Bacon” snap to mind, but Keith Reid’s seriously bizarre lyrics matched with Gary Brooker’s smoke-and-Irish-whiskey voice and funeral-dirge organ combined to proclaim the death of innocence and the love generation in 1967, before the movement even knew it was on life support. A small piece of brilliance. –DD

85. AC/DC, “Back in Black”
With its classic guitar hook courtesy of Angus Young, bloodcurdling screams from Brian Johnson, and the perfect marriage of band and producer (“Mutt” Lange), “Back in Black” is the song every heavy metal band has been trying to write since it first entered the public consciousness in 1980. But it’s impossible to duplicate the sound and fury of AC/DC. Any normal band would have crumbled after their lead singer (Bon Scott) died and they’d just achieved their major album breakthrough (1979’s Highway to Hell). But AC/DC hired Johnson, recorded the Back in Black album a few months after Scott’s death, and acheived their greatest success proving they still had the biggest balls of them all. –SM

86. Joan Armatrading, “Drop the Pilot” (download)
Joan drops the introspection (not that thereÁ¢€â„¢s anything wrong with introspection) on her minor hit from ’83 and unleashes an exuberant, glorious plea for submission. How can love fail when it sounds like this much fun? –JC

87. Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Aretha made it work as gospel, Simon later refashioned it as reggae, and Clay Aiken belted it a la Barry Manilow. But when Art Garfunkel traversed this Á¢€Å“BridgeÁ¢€ for the first time in 1970, he crossed into immortality. –JC

88. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”
Sometimes artists write songs that end up being much more successfully interpreted by another. It happened to John Hiatt with “Thing Called Love” (Bonnie Raitt). It happened to Bob Dylan with “All Along the Watchtower” (Hendrix; see #43). And it happened to Nick Lowe in 1979, when Elvis Costello made a hit of “Peace, Love and Understanding,” preserving the song’s purity and idealism without coming off like a schmuck. –AD

89. Roxy Music, “More Than This” (download)
Before the Avalon album (1982), Roxy Music was seriously fringe: too weird for the pop charts, too pop for the art-rock crowd, and Bryan Ferry was scarily slick, suave yet still projecting an undercurrent of sleaziness. By all accounts, Roxy Music should have stayed a cult band until their demise. Then came “More Than This,” as smooth as expected (since Brian Eno had taken the edge off years before) yet earnest. It teeters perilously close to smooth jazz, but the synth-y atmosphere saves it. There isn’t a bum moment in the song, but then again, there isn’t a bum moment on all of Avalon. –DD

90. The Police, “Message in a Bottle”
It isn’t just Sting’s lyrics that make this song so great. It’s the aching in his voice when he sings “A year has passed since I wrote my note.” It’s Andy Summers’s intricate guitar licks and full-frontal attack on the power chords. And it’s Stewart Copeland’s impossibly difficult drum part during the chorus that keeps the mind spinning. Sting may get sole credit for writing “Message in a Bottle” (1979), but this is a song by a band, and no one should forget that. –SM

91. Etta James, “At Last”
Not even Christina Aguilera’s histrionics could spoil this elegant, oh-so-timeless ode to first, true love (1961). It never gets old. –JG

92. The Kings, “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide”
It figures that the only genuine one-hit wonder on this list should be represented with two songs (1980), bridging new wave and Á¢€Å“96 TearsÁ¢€ and cramming in a smorgasbord of sing-along lines (Á¢€Å“Lunatics Anonymous, thatÁ¢€â„¢s where I belongÁ¢€). How did this not rocket straight to #1? –JC

93. Chuck Berry, “No Particular Place to Go”
By all rights we could have just as easily included “School Days” in this spot, since it doesn’t take a great deal of examination to realize that, once you set aside the lyrics, it’s the exact same song, but provided that you’re indeed capable of setting aside Chuck’s tendency toward self-plagiarism, “No Particular Place to Go” (1964) easily warrants inclusion for its historical importance. After all, how many other top ten hits feature a tale about a guy being cockblocked as a result of his girl having buckled up for safety? –WH

94. Scritti Politti, “Perfect Way” (download)
How much did I love this song? I heard it while I was doing a newspaper internship in Roanoke in ’85. When I rented a car on weekends I would change stations frequently, impatiently, hoping to hear it, again and again. It was the sonic equivalent of crystal meth. Decades later I love it just as much, but I no longer pose a threat to Virginia drivers. –Robert Cashill

95. Glen Campbell, “Wichita Lineman”
For years I thought Campbell’s 1968 hit was about a football player. It’s even better once you realize it’s not. –AD

96. The Beatles, “A Day in the Life”
Entire books have been written on everything that “A Day in the Life” epitomizes. It’s the last song on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), but itÁ¢€â„¢s the first song of everything else that would follow. –BW

97. James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”
The 1965 song that originated not only a sound — Brown’s funky call-and-response duets with his horn section — but also a groovy ’60s phrase! As with most of Brown’s greatest hits, the subject matter (an old dude who can kick it on the dance floor) is far less important than random snippets of memorable lyrics (“Ain’t no drag — papa’s got a brand new bag”) and that undeniable groove that makes you want to move your feet like … well, like James Brown. –JC

98. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, “The Message”
One of the first rap hits from pioneers of the genre, “The Message” is widely considered to be a hip-hop masterpiece. Though they were written more than 25 years ago, the song’s lyrics, which matter-of-factly describe inner-city life, are just as relevant today as they were in 1982. “The Message” was the biggest hit for Flash and the Five, reaching #62 on the pop chart and #4 on the R&B chart. Disagreements over business matters, which included a lawsuit against record label Sugar Hill, eventually led to the group’s split in 1984, though they did briefly reunite three years later. In 2007 Flash and the Five became the first rap group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. –KS

99. R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe”
Mumbles’s first strike is best remembered now for the cleaned-up, echo-laden version on 1983’s Murmur rather than the raw (yet still incomprehensible) single from two years earlier. The inscrutable lyrics amped up the mystery factor and forced listeners to focus on StipeÁ¢€â„¢s tone, Mike Mills’s melodic bass, and Bill BerryÁ¢€â„¢s blistering drumming. Thus the ultimate college-rock band was born. –JC

100. Tears for Fears, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”
Time to eat all my words and swallow my pride: For the longest time, I thought this song was called “Sewing Machines of Love.” Years later, after I had the CD and realized my error, I found a website that confirmed I wasn’t alone in my delusion. Whatever. With this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hit from the fall of ’89 — a Great Wall of Sound to dwarf Phil Spector — ’80s pop basically imploded, and from the rubble emerged ’90s grunge. –RC

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