Featuring 1 Famous Rock Song Since 1951

Featuring 1 Famous Rock Song Since 1951 | I Love Classic Rock Videos

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There’s no denying our love for rock and roll. But what started out as a pretty simple combination of country and blues has grown into a massive and fascinating subgenre that has over 250 different branches, ranging from punk to metal to math. 

But, because rock ‘n’ roll is becoming less and less of a cultural mainstay, it is quickly becoming a classic, or an artifact.

But these days, when we talk about “classic rock”, certain pictures immediately spring to mind: Fender Stratocaster guitars, bandanas, beards, and aviator sunglasses worn by hippies in tie-dye. That’s the music your parents listened to, which you probably hated when you were younger but then realized was really very great.

However, not every iconic rock song is equally good. The mere fact that a song is played on the radio and dates back to the 1960s or 1970s does not ensure that it will always remain a timeless classic. Here are some rock songs that can represent the year they were released.

1951: “Rocket 88” – Ike Turner/Jackie Brenston

The song “Rocket 88”, originally known as “Rocket ‘88’”, was first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1951 and it topped the Billboard R&B chart at the time. While the band was attributed with vocals to “Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats”, the actual band members were Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm.

Many music writers acknowledge its importance in the development of rock and roll music; some even claim that it was the first rock and roll record. The song was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1991, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

1952: “Rock N’ Roll Blues” – Anita O’Day

Known professionally as Anita O’Day, Anita Belle Colton was a notable American jazz singer and self-described “song stylist”, receiving praise from all quarters for her flawless sense of rhythm and dynamics. Well-known for her early big band gigs, she broke the stereotype of the “girl singer.” 

One of her most well-known songs, “Rock N’ Roll Blues” was the opening track of O’Day’s 1953 album Anita O’Day Collates.  It was a 10-inch LP containing eight songs and was re-released as Anita O’Day by Norgran Records in 1955 and with four additional tracks as “The Lady Is A Tramp” on the Verve label in 1957.

1953: “The Things That I Used To Do” – Guitar Slim

This track is a blues standard penned by Guitar Slim that he recorded in New Orleans in a session arranged and produced by a young Ray Charles. Specialty Records released the single in 1953, and by the following year, it had become a bestseller. The song’s surge in popularity elevated Guitar Slim’s status, leading to high demand for his performances at prestigious venues like the Apollo Theater in New York City.

As one of Specialty’s most significant hits, the single made a lasting impact, maintaining a presence on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues Records charts for an impressive 42 weeks. Holding the number one position for six consecutive weeks, it emerged as the top-selling R&B record of the year, surpassing a million copies in sales.

1954: “Rock Around the Clock” – Bill Haley & His Comets

“Rock Around the Clock” is a 1952 rock and roll song written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter going by the pen name “Jimmy De Knight”). The song’s most well-known and popular version was recorded for American Decca in 1954 by Bill Haley & His Comets. It did wonderfully in the charts in the United Kingdom and held the top spot for two months. 

This iconic track is widely regarded as the song that, more than any other, helped rock and roll become widespread throughout the world. It is a notable piece of music history. Rolling Stone acknowledges its impact by ranking it at No. 159 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

1955: “Ain’t That a Shame” – Fats Domino

“Ain’t That a Shame” is a composition by Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Domino’s 1955 recording of the song, originally named “Ain’t It a Shame”, was later published by Imperial Records and became a smash, selling over a million copies. It debuted at number one on the Billboard R&B chart and at number ten on the mainstream chart. 

The track was altered in later versions. It was originally included in Fats Domino’s debut album, Rock and Rollin’ with Fats Domino (1956), and then in the compilation Fats Domino Swings (12,000,000 Records) (1958). The iconic singer then re-recorded the song in 1983, and this version appeared on his final album, Alive and Kickin’ (2006), under the title “Ain’t That a Shame 2000”.

1956: “Long Tall Sally” – Little Richard

“Long Tall Sally”. which is also known as “Long Tall Sally (The Thing)”, is a rock and roll song written by Little Richard, Enotris Johnson, and Robert “Bumps” Blackwell. Little Richard recorded the song for Specialty Records, which was then released as a single in March 1956 together with “Slippin’ and Slidin'”.

The song peaked at number one on the Billboard R&B charts, where it remained for six of the 19 weeks it was charted while also peaking at number six on the pop charts.  One of the singer’s most well-known singles, “Long Tall Sally” has become a rock and roll classic and has been covered by many musicians, including Fleetwood Mac, the Kinks, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles.

1957: Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley

“Jailhouse Rock” is an iconic track recorded by the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley for the film of the same name, with songwriting credits going to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. On September 24, 1957, RCA Victor issued the song as a 45 rpm record, making it the first single from the movie’s soundtrack EP.

Rolling Stone recognized the song’s influence as it received a ranking of 67 ranking on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It also gained recognition as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On November 27, 2016, “Jailhouse Rock” entered the Grammy Hall of Fame, adding to the celebration of its legacy along with that of 24 other songs.

1958: “Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry

“Johnny B. Goode” is a composition by the Father of Rock and Roll Chuck Berry, which he wrote and recorded in 1958. When released as a single that same year, it achieved notable success, reaching the second position on the Hot R&B Sides chart and the eighth spot on its pre-Hot 100 chart. The song has endured as a fundamental piece of both early and later rock music.

This iconic rock and roll track is widely recognized as one of the most instantly recognizable songs in the history of popular music and was often referred to as “the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom”, receiving several honors and distinctions in recognition of its enduring appeal. Its cultural significance is further highlighted by the song’s inclusion on the Voyager Golden Record, an assemblage of sounds, images, and music chosen as a record of humanity.

1959: “Kansas City” – Wilbert Harrison

“Kansas City” is a rhythm and blues composition crafted by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. Initially recorded by boogie-woogie singer Little Willie Littlefield in the same year under the title “K. C. Loving”, the song later achieved chart-topping success when Wilbert Harrison recorded it in 1959.

With more than three hundred recordings, “Kansas City” is one of Leiber and Stoller’s most widely recorded songs; many of these versions made it onto the R&B and pop record charts.

When Harrison recorded the song, it retained the original title “Kansas City”, but underwent some modifications in the refrain, along with an inspired rhythm and solo guitar work by guitarist Wild Jimmy Spruill.

1960: “The Twist” – Chubby Checker

“The Twist” is an American pop track written and initially released by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and first appeared as the B-side to “Teardrops on Your Letter” in 1958 and has inspired by the popularity of the twist dance. Ballard’s version peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, showing some measure of success. 

On September 19, 1960, singer and dancer Chubby Checker’s version of the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for one week. Being the only song to debut at number one in two different hit parade runs, this set a record at the time after reappearing on January 13, 1962. This extraordinary achievement wasn’t replicated until December 2020, when Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” hit number one on the charts following its initial stint at the top in December 2019.

1961: “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” – Ike & Tina Turner

Composed by Rose Marie McCoy and Joe Seneca, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” was first recorded by Ike & Tina Turner in 1961 as a single from their album Dynamite!. This album is notable for being their first Grammy-nominated track and their second million-selling single after “A Fool In Love”.

When it was released as a single in June 1961, it became their biggest hit since “A Fool in Love” as it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart and became their third mainstream hit, peaking at No. 14 on the Hot 100. Beyond just being on the record Dynamite!, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” was also included on the eponymous album that was published in 1962.

1962: “Love Me Do” – The Beatles

“Love Me Do” is the first song released by the English rock band the Beatles, accompanied by “P.S. I Love You”, marking the inception of the Fab Four’s legendary journey. When the record was originally released in the UK on October 5, 1962, it peaked at number 17.

Remarkably, the song was written several years before its recording and the formation of the Beatles. It is notable for John Lennon’s unique harmonica playing and for Paul McCartney and Lennon’s duet vocals. It’s noteworthy that the Beatles recorded three distinct versions of the song, each with a different drummer. Pete Best played drums on the original June 1962 recording, which was never officially released until the Anthology 1 CD in 1995.

1963: “Surfin’ U.S.A.” – The Beach Boys

“Surfin’ U.S.A.” is a track by the iconic American rock band the Beach Boys, credited to Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson. Berry’s name is included because it is a reworking of Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”, with new lyrics written by Wilson and Mike Love, who is not given credit. 

The song was a big hit, peaking at number two on the Music Vendor trade paper list (eventually renamed Record World) and number three on the Billboard and Cash Box charts. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was ranked as the top song of 1963 by Billboard. Its depiction of California captures the spirit of the genre, and it has come to represent the California Sound over time. Additionally, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” is included among the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a notable list.

1964: “The House of the Rising Sun” – The Animals

“The House of the Rising Sun” is a popular folk song, also referred to as “Rising Sun Blues”, that tells the story of a person’s life in New Orleans coming to an end. The British rock group The Animals recorded the version that was most commercially successful in 1964; it peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart and at the top of the charts in both the US and Canada. Some have referred to this traditional folk tune, which was altered by an electric rock band, as the “first folk rock hit”.

The song was initially heard by vocalist Eric Burdon in a Newcastle, England club, where Northumbrian folk singer Johnny Handle was performing. The song was chosen by The Animals, who were traveling with Chuck Berry at the time, because they wanted to sing something different.

1965: “My Generation” – The Who

“My Generation” is a song by the English rock band The Who, which became a hit and one of their most recognizable songs. In Rolling Stone‘s 2004 and 2010 lists of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, it was ranked number eleven. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic, and significant” merit and was included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It is regarded as a signature song for the group.

On October 29, 1965, “My Generation” was made available as a single. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK—becoming The Who’s highest-charting song in their own nation alongside 1966’s “I’m a Boy”—and No. 74 in the US. The Who also included the song, in a much longer version, on their live album Live at Leeds (1970) and on their 1965 debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the United States).

1966: “Paint It Black” – The Rolling Stones

“Paint It Black” is a song by the Rolling Stones and one of their most recognizable tracks. This raga rock song, which features lyrics on loss and suffering, was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It has influences from India, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. 

“Paint It Black” remained at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks, including two at number one, and the top of the UK Record Retailer chart for 10 weeks. In addition to being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018, “Paint It Black” was placed 213th on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

1967: “Light My Fire” – The Doors

“Light My Fire” is a song by the psychedelic rock pioneers The Doors. The band as a whole was given credit for authorship, even though guitarist Robby Krieger wrote the majority of the songs. Known as one of the pioneering works of psychedelic rock, it was recorded in August 1966 and published on their self-titled debut album in January 1967. The song’s sensual lyrics and avant-garde arrangement have made it synonymous with the hallucinogenic and sexual revolutions of the 1960s.

Released on April 24, 1967, as an edited single, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks. It then re-entered the list in 1968, thanks to the popularity of a cover by Puerto Rican musician José Feliciano, which peaked at number 87 after charting at number three.

1968: “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

“All Along the Watchtower” is a song by American folk icon Bob Dylan from his eighth studio album, John Wesley Harding.  Although many artists have covered it, this track is most closely associated with the version that Jimi Hendrix recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience for their third studio album, Electric Ladyland (1968).

Six months after Dylan’s original recording, the Hendrix version was released and went on to become a Top 20 single in 1968. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song 48th out of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (it was ranked 40th in the 2021 version).

1969: “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Fortunate Son” is a track by the American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, featured on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys, released in November 1969. Before the album came out, the song was released as a single in September 1969 along with “Down on the Corner”.

It quickly became an anti-war anthem and a moving representation of the counterculture’s opposition to American military involvement in the Vietnam War as well as their support for the soldiers fighting in that war. The song’s impact was so great that it was widely used to depict the anti-war movement and the Vietnam War in popular culture.

1970: “Paranoid” – Black Sabbath

“Paranoid” is one of the most iconic songs by the English heavy metal titans Black Sabbath, released in 1970 as part of the band’s second studio album, Paranoid. Acting as the album’s lead single, along with “The Wizard” on the B-side, it was one of the greatest heavy metal songs ever recorded. It peaked at number 61 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and fourth on the UK Singles Chart.

In VH1‘s 40 Greatest Metal Songs, “Paranoid” peaked at number 34 while it was named number 11 on Q magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks in March 2005. On the other hand, it was ranked 250th on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

1971: “Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin

“Stairway to Heaven” is a composition by the hard rock pioneers Led Zeppelin, unveiled in late 1971 through Atlantic Records. Written by guitarist Jimmy Page, with lyrics penned by lead singer Robert Plant, the song found its place on the band’s untitled fourth studio album, commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV. Widely hailed as one of the preeminent rock songs in history, it has garnered significant acclaim.

In VH1‘s 2000 list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs, “Stairway to Heaven” secured the third position, and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 31 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. Remarkably, despite never being officially released as a single in the US, the song dominated FM radio stations in the United States and was consistently the most requested track of its time.

1972: “Smoke On The Water” – Deep Purple

“Smoke on the Water” is a track by the English rock band Deep Purple, featured on their 1972 studio album Machine Head. The song’s narrative draws from actual events, specifically recounting the 1971 fire at Montreux Casino. Widely regarded as the band’s iconic composition, it is distinguished by one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs in rock history.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Smoke on the Water” as number 434 on its compilation of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Total Guitar magazine esteemed the song’s riff, ranking it at number 4 on its list of the “Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever”. Additionally, in March 2005, Q magazine acknowledged its guitar prowess, placing it at number 12 in its catalog of the 100 greatest guitar tracks.

1973: “Dream On” – Aerosmith

“Dream On” is an iconic power ballad by Aerosmith, featured on their 1973 eponymous debut album. This song, written by lead singer Steven Tyler, became a classic rock radio staple and became their first big hit. When it was released in June 1973, it peaked at number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

The song was ranked 172nd on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004. It was then reranked at number 199 in 2021 after being moved to number 173 in 2010. Because the master audio was missing when the game was being developed, Aerosmith had to rerecord the song and a few others in 2007 for Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

1974: “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Sweet Home Alabama” is from American Southern rock giants Lynyrd Skynyrd’s second album, Second Helping (1974). The lyrics, which were written in reaction to Neil Young’s 1970 song “Southern Man”, which the band felt unjustly condemned the entire South for American slavery, contain both praise and condemnation of the singer.

Remaining a cornerstone in the southern and classic rock genres, “Sweet Home Alabama” is considered by many to be the band’s signature song. It was different from the band’s earlier singles, which did not have a clear release focus. The band turned down two offers for television rock shows after the song’s success. The song originally appeared on Second Helping, but it has since appeared on several compilations and live albums.

1975: “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song by the British rock band Queen, serving as the lead single from their fourth studio album, A Night at the Opera (1975). Composed by the inimitable Freddie Mercury, the song is a six-minute suite that consists of an opening, a ballad portion, an operatic piece, a hard rock interlude, and a meditative coda. It is notable for not having a repeating chorus.

Being one of the rare progressive rock songs from the 1970s to be both commercially successful and popular with a wide range of listeners, the song has made a lasting impression on the music industry. After receiving a mixed reception at first, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been hailed as one of the best songs ever recorded and is frequently considered the band’s breakthrough release. 

1976: “Hotel California” – Eagles

“Hotel California” serves as the titular track from the Eagles’ album of the same name, released as a single in February 1977. Don Felder is credited with writing the music, while Don Henley and Glenn Frey with the lyrics. Henley sings lead in the Eagles’ original version of the song, and Felder uses a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck to produce a classic two-minute and twelve-second electric guitar solo that is backed by Joe Walsh on a Fender Telecaster. They switch off between the lead roles in this conclusion before harmonizing and playing arpeggios as a group before the fade-out.

Regarded as the group’s most well-known release, “Hotel California” held the distinction of having its long guitar coda chosen as the greatest guitar solo of all time by Guitarist readers back in 1998. In addition, the song received the 1978 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

1977: “’Heroes’” – David Bowie

“‘Heroes'” is a track by the English musician David Bowie, featured on his 12th studio album of the same name. The song was co-written by Bowie and Brian Eno and co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. 

This track is a dynamically evolving art rock composition that explores the tale of two lovers, one from East Berlin and the other from the West. Dreaming of freedom and swimming with dolphins, they exchange dreams. Bowie added a dash of sarcasm to the otherwise victorious and romantic parts of the song by enclosing the title in quotation marks. The song’s inspiration came straight from Bowie’s observation of Visconti and singer Antonia Maass sharing a kiss close to the Berlin Wall.

1978: “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits

“Sultans of Swing” is a composition by the British rock band Dire Straits, penned by the lead vocalist Mark Knopfler. The song’s first demo was recorded in July 1977 at Pathway Studios in North London, and it quickly became well-known when it was played on BBC Radio London. 

The song was a huge hit, making it into the top 10 in Australia, Ireland, and the UK, and ranking in the top 5 in Canada, South Africa, and the United States. “Sultans of Swing” is one of the band’s most well-known and identifiable songs, and it has remained a classic rock radio staple over the years.

1979: “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

“Comfortably Numb” is a track by the English progressive rock stalwarts Pink Floyd, featured on their eleventh studio album, The Wall (1979). Guitarist David Gilmour wrote the song’s melody, and bassist Roger Waters wrote the lyrics, which were inspired by his experience using tranquilizers prior to a 1977 concert.

Known for having two distinct guitar solos, “Comfortably Numb” is among Pink Floyd’s most well-liked tracks. It was the last live performance by Waters, Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Richard Wright as a cohesive group. In 2021, Rolling Stone listed it at number 179 on its list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. 

1980: “Back in Black” – AC/DC

The song “Back in Black” is by the Australian heavy metal super rockstars AC/DC. In 1980, Atlantic Records released it as the second single in the United States from their seventh album of the same name. It peaked at number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. It peaked at number 27 in the UK and number 65 in Australia in 2012.

The song, which is well-known for its opening guitar riff, was composed as a remembrance of the band’s late singer Bon Scott, who passed away unexpectedly in February 1980. The song can be heard in Spider-Man: Far from Home, Family Guy, Iron Man, Megamind, The Muppets, The Smurfs, and Supernatural, to name a few.

1981: “Tom Sawyer” – Rush

“Tom Sawyer” is a track by the Canadian prog rock giants Rush, originally featured as the opening song on their 1981 album Moving Pictures.  Lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee has referred to the song as the group’s “defining piece” from the early 1980s.

As one of Rush’s best-known songs, it continues to be a mainstay on classic rock radio playlists and in the band’s live performances. Since its original release, Rush has played it on every tour. The song achieved its peak positions at number 24 in Canada, number 44 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number eight on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.

1982: “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” is a track by the English punk rock band the Clash, featured on their album Combat Rock and written in 1981, with Mick Jones taking the lead vocals. Along with “Straight to Hell”, the song was released in 1982 as a double A-sided single and saw some degree of success on international music charts.

Interestingly, the track did not make it into the top 40 in the US Billboard Hot 100 list. A Levi’s jeans commercial in the early 1990s brought the song more prominence over ten years later, leading to a re-release in 1991. The reissue made it to number one on the UK Singles Chart and into the top 10 in New Zealand and other European charts.

1983: “Every Breath You Take” – The Police

“Every Breath You Take” is a track by the British rock band the Police, featured on their most successful album Synchronicity (1983). Composed by Sting, the song became the most popular hit in the US and Canada in 1983. It was the band’s only No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles list, and it topped the chart for eight weeks running.

As the definitive song by the Police and Sting, “Every Breath You Take” brings in a substantial amount of money for Sting’s music publishing business. It was named the most-played song in radio history by BMI in May 2019. At a ceremony held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Sting was presented with a BMI Award, marking approximately 15 million radio plays.

1984: “Panama” – Van Halen

“Panama” is a song by the American rock group Van Halen, which was the third single from the album 1984. Despite the name, the song is not about the country; instead, rumors indicate that it was inspired by an automobile. 

The song’s origins were from singer David Lee Roth’s confrontation with a reporter about his repeated references to women, parties, and fast vehicles. This led Roth to the realization that he had never written a song about fast automobiles particularly, which resulted in the composition of “Panama”. 

1985: “Money For Nothing” – Dire Straits

“Money for Nothing” is a song by the Dire Straits, serving as the second track on their fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms (1985). The lyrics of the song present the viewpoint of two men from the working class who watch music videos and comment on them. The song is notable for featuring a guest appearance by Sting, who contributed the signature falsetto introduction, background vocals, and the iconic backing chorus of “I want my MTV”.

“Money for Nothing” is the most commercially successful track by Dire Straits, peaking at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks charts for three weeks. It also landed the band’s home UK at number four. A month after its release, in July 1985, Dire Straits and Sting played the song at Live Aid.

1986: “Livin’ On a Prayer” – Bon Jovi

“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a song by the American rock band Bon Jovi and serves as their second chart-topping single from the third album, Slippery When Wet. The song, which was written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child, debuted in late 1986 and was well-received on rock and pop radio. The band achieved their first No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and their second consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 success after their music video gained a lot of attention on MTV.

Regarded as the band’s trademark song, “Livin’ on a Prayer” still tops fan-voted lists and enjoys resurgence on charts across the globe decades after it was first released. The song was certified triple platinum in 2013.

1987: “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns ‘N’ Roses

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” is a track by the American rock band Guns N’ Roses, featured on their debut studio album, Appetite for Destruction (1987). In June 1988, the song was released as the lead single from the album in the US. It went on to become the band’s only number-one single in the US and reached the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Interestingly, this iconic track was born out of a casual jam session at the Sunset Strip home of the band. Slash struck up a conversation with drummer Steven Adler during their warm-up, breaking into a spontaneous “circus” melody and displaying lively facial gestures. Izzy Stradlin, a rhythm guitarist, was intrigued and asked Slash to play it again. Adler came up with the beat, Duff McKagan created the bassline, and Stradlin provided the chords.

1988: “Where Is My Mind?” – Pixies

“Where Is My Mind?” is a track by the American alternative rock band Pixies, occupying the seventh slot on the band’s inaugural 1988 album, Surfer Rosa. Regarded as one of the band’s signature songs, the song has spawned a number of renditions. It landed at No. 493 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2021 edition of their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

The song’s lead singer, Black Francis, wrote it while attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was inspired by his experiences scuba diving in the Caribbean. Thinking back on his creative process, he remembered coming across “this very small fish trying to chase me. I don’t know why—I don’t know too much about fish behavior.”

1989: “Free Fallin’” – Tom Petty

“Free Fallin'” serves as the introductory track on American musician Tom Petty’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever (1989). Petty co-wrote the song for the album alongside Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne, who also played bass guitar and provided backing vocals.

Among Petty’s most well-known songs, “Free Fallin'” is notable for having the longest duration and highest chart position of all of his songs. It became his third and last top-ten hit when it peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles list in January 1990. When Petty passed away in 2017, the song surged to No. 2 on the Spotify Global Viral 50 chart.

1990: “Wind of Change” – Scorpions

“Wind of Change” is a power ballad by the West German rock band Scorpions, recorded for their eleventh studio album, Crazy World (1990). After the band’s tour of the Soviet Union during the perestroika era—which saw significant socioeconomic improvements in the Soviet Union and a reduction in hostility between the communist and capitalist blocs—lead singer Klaus Meins was inspired to write the lyrics.

With an estimated 14 million copies sold globally, this track is one of the all-time greatest-selling songs and holds the distinction as the best-selling single by a German artist. In 1991, the band sent Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev a gold record and $70,000 in royalties from the single as a symbolic gesture.

1991: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the iconic grunge hit by the American rock band Nirvana, serving as the opening track and lead single from their second album, Nevermind (1991), released on DGC Records. The song’s surprising success catapulted the album to the top of several album charts at the start of 1992—a period that is frequently seen as grunge’s mainstream debut. 

This became Nirvana’s biggest hit, peaking at number one in Belgium, France, New Zealand, and Spain, among other international chart places in 1991 and 1992. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is still regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time, despite Nirvana’s discomfort with the mainstream and commercial attention the song garnered. It was widely praised by critics and hailed as an “anthem for apathetic kids” of Generation X.

1992: “Creep” – Radiohead

“Creep” is the first single by the English rock band Radiohead, released on 21 September 1992 and featured on their debut studio album, Pablo Honey (1993). A portion of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood’s 1972 work “The Air That I Breathe” was included in the song that led to a lawsuit settled with Hammond and Hazlewood credited as co-authors.

Radiohead never planned for “Creep” to be released; instead, producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie suggested it be recorded while they were working on other songs. Despite some early disappointments, “Creep” achieved popularity on American alternative rock radio and received radio play in Israel. Reviews for “Creep” were generally good, and a 1993 reissue propelled it to international prominence, garnering comparisons to alternative rock “slacker anthems” like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Beck’s “Loser”.

1993: “Linger” – The Cranberries

The song “Linger” is from the debut studio album of the Irish alternative rock group The Cranberries, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993). Produced by Stephen Street and written by band members Dolores O’Riordan and Noel Hogan, “Linger” was first released by Island Records on February 15, 1993, as the album’s second and last single.

The band made their first major hit with the song, which included an acoustic arrangement complemented by a string section. It peaked at number three in Ireland, ninth in the US, and fourteenth in the UK. The song astonishingly remained on the US Billboard Hot 100 for a remarkable twenty-four weeks.

1994: “Basket Case” – Green Day

“Basket Case” is a rock song by Green Day, released in August 1994 as the second single off their third studio album, Dookie (1994), via Reprise Records. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Alternative Songs list for five weeks. 

Green Day’s guitarist and singer Billie Joe Armstrong revealed that “Basket Case” explores his own battle with anxiety. He didn’t understand he wasn’t going mad at the time until years later when he was given a panic disorder diagnosis.

1995: “Wonderwall” – Oasis

“Wonderwall” is a composition by the English rock band Oasis, penned by lead guitarist and primary songwriter Noel Gallagher. The song, which was produced by Owen Morris and Gallagher, was included in the group’s second studio album, Morning Glory (What’s the Story) released in 1995. “Wonderwall” is portrayed, according to Gallagher, as “an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself”.

This quintessential 90s hit remains one of Oasis’s most well-known songs. Several artists, such as Ryan Adams, Cat Power, and Brad Mehldau, have covered the song. In October 2020, “Wonderwall” made history by becoming the first song from the 1990s to reach one billion Spotify plays.

1996: “Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine

“Bulls on Parade” is a song by American rock band Rage Against the Machine, the second song from their second studio album, Evil Empire (1996). It was released as the album’s first single to modern rock radio on February 9, 1996. The subject of the song is the US military and its combative methods.

The song is most known for guitarist Tom Morello’s famous guitar solo, which has a vinyl scratch effect. To achieve this, he toggles between two pickups, one on and one off, and rubs his hands over the strings over the pickups to simulate someone scratching a record.

1997: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” – The Verve

The English rock group The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is a lead single from their third studio album, Urban Hymns (1997). Produced by British musician Youth, it was released on June 16, 1997, by Hut Recordings and Virgin Records.

After being released, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” shot to the No. 2 position on the UK Singles Chart, where it remained for three months. Receiving positive reviews, the song was named Rolling Stone and NME Single of the Year and was nominated for Best British Single at the 1998 Brit Awards. Considered by many to be a key component of the Britpop movement, it has been included in two editions of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone.

1998: “Iris” – Goo Goo Dolls

“Iris” is a song by the American alternative rock band Goo Goo Dolls, which was first written for the soundtrack of the 1998 movie City of Angels. The song ended up on the band’s sixth album, Dizzy Up the Girl, and was formally released on April 1st, 1998 as a single.

Amazingly, this power ballad became the number-one song at the time in Australia, Canada, and Italy. It also peaked at number three in the UK and number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. Most people agree that “Iris” is the Goo Goo Dolls’ hallmark song, as it has received positive reviews from critics and is known to be a “ubiquitous” part of the band’s live shows.

1999: “All The Small Things” – Blink-182

The American rock group Blink-182 released “All the Small Things” as their second single and the eighth track off their third album, Enema of the State (1999). It was mostly written by guitarist and singer Tom DeLonge as an homage to his then-girlfriend. The song is “really catchy and basic”, and the band wanted to make it appealing to a wide audience.

The song, which was first heard on radio on September 28, 1999, quickly shot to the top of the global charts. It was the band’s most successful single to date, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart on Billboard, and landing in second place on the UK Singles Chart. Rolling Stone named “All the Small Things” one of the “100 Greatest Pop Songs,” and the song was included in the 2010 book 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die.

2000: “In The End” – Linkin Park

“In the End” is a track by the American rock band Linkin Park, featured as the eighth track on their debut album, Hybrid Theory (2000). When the song was released as the fourth and last single off the album, music critics gave it favorable reviews, with many commending the unique piano melody and emphasizing the significance of rapper Mike Shinoda’s vocals in the arrangement.

After being released, “In the End” was met with worldwide popularity and financial success in addition to critical acclaim. The song debuted at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and made it into the top ten on several international music charts. This established the band as a phenomenon by marking their greatest peak on the chart and their first foray into the top 40 in early 2002.

2001: “Chop Suey!” – System of a Down

The American heavy metal band System of a Down released “Chop Suey!” as the lead single from their second album, Toxicity (2001), to the public on August 13, 2001. In 2002, this song earned the band their first Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance.

Guitarist Daron Malakian explained the meaning of the song in an insightful interview, saying, “The song is about how we are regarded differently depending on how we pass. Everyone deserves to die.” In addition, singer Serj Tankian picked the lyrics for the middle section, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit,” on the spur of the moment from the book collection of producer Rick Rubin when he encountered a creative impasse.

2002: “Can’t Stop” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Can’t Stop” is a track by the American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, featured on their eighth studio album, By the Way (2002). Released on February 3, 2003, as the album’s third single, the song peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 and secured the band’s ninth number-one spot on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Lyrically, “Can’t Stop” is a perfect example of the band’s infrequent strategy of writing lyrics to match a preexisting rhythm instead of modifying lyrics to meet preexisting rhythms. Frontman Anthony Kiedis adds to the song’s unique lyrical material with his signature circumlocutory manner.

2003: “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

“Seven Nation Army” is a composition by the American husband-wife rock duo the White Stripes, serving as the opening track on their fourth studio album, Elephant (2003).  The song, written and produced by Jack White, has distorted vocals, a simple percussion, and a bass-like riff that is made by using a pitch-shift effect on a guitar.

This song rose to fame on charts all over the world and played a major role in the revival of garage rock and the rise to prominence of the White Stripes. “Seven Nation Army” was highly praised by critics for its unique percussion and riff. This track has been acknowledged by numerous critics and media as one of the best songs of the 2000s. 

2004: “Wake Up” – Arcade Fire

The Canadian rock group Arcade Fire released the indie rock song “Wake Up” as the fifth and final single from their debut album, Funeral. This single came out as a one-sided 7″ vinyl record on November 14, 2005.

Rolling Stone ranked “Wake Up” as the 42nd best song of the 2000s while NME further validated its lasting significance in October 2011 by ranking it at an impressive number 22 on their compilation of the “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”.

2005: “Best of You” – Foo Fighters

“Best of You” is the lead single from the American rock group Foo Fighters’ 2005 fifth studio album, In Your Honor. Frontman Dave Grohl notes that the song came about as a result of attending American presidential candidate John Kerry’s 2004 campaign trail. It conveys a theme of “breaking away from the things that confine you”.

The song ruled the charts, spending four weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks list and seven weeks at the top of the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. After the Foo Fighters’ Live Earth concert, “Best of You” saw a comeback on the UK charts, making a reappearance at number 38. In September 2023, Billboard celebrated “Best of You” by ranking it at number 91 on its list of the 100 most successful songs in the chart’s history.

2006: “When You Were Young” – The Killers

The American rock group The Killers released “When You Were Young” as the lead single from their second studio album, Sam’s Town (2006), on September 18, 2006. The Killers wrote and produced the song, with producers and engineers Flood and Alan Moulder contributing further co-production.

It has gone on to become one of the group’s most successful hits. It reached its highest position on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 14, giving the band their first-ever number one on the U.S. Chart of Contemporary Rock Tracks. Only “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside” had greater pop airplay and lengthier chart stays.

2007: “The Pretender” – Foo Fighters

“The Pretender” is another Foo Fighters entry in this list, serving as the lead single from the group’s 2007 album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.  It is one of Foo Fighters’ greatest hits, peaking at number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and becoming their third top-40 single. 

Dave Grohl illustrated this track as “a stomping Foo Fighters uptempo song, with a little bit of Chuck Berry in it.” The song, which was written in the key of A minor, perfectly captures the changes in dynamics that Grohl tried to include in Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. The song opens with a simple introduction with vocals and a gentle string section playing alongside a delicate guitar.

2008: “Sex On Fire” – Kings of Leon

“Sex on Fire” marks the inaugural single from the fourth studio album, Only by the Night, by the American rock band Kings of Leon. In Australia, Finland, Ireland, and the UK, this song helped Kings of Leon achieve their first number-one single status. It was also a huge hit in the US, peaking at number one on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and ranking 56th on the Billboard Hot 100.

Kings of Leon received their first Grammy nominations with “Sex on Fire” in 2008; the song was nominated for Best Rock Song and went on to win Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Only by the Night was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock record. 

2009: “Check My Brain” – Alice In Chains

Grunge icons Alice in Chains released “Check My Brain” as a single in 2009, featured in their fourth studio album, Black Gives Way to Blue (2009). With “Fear the Voices” serving as their last single in 1999, the band made their official comeback to the music scene with the release of this song on August 14, 2009.

In September 2009, the single became the number-one song on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and Billboard Hot Rock Songs charts, marking a noteworthy accomplishment for Alice in Chains.  “Check My Brain” is also the sole entry by the band on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching a peak of number 92. 

2010: “Tighten Up” – The Black Keys

“Tighten Up” is a song by the American rock group the Black Keys, the first single of their 2010 album Brothers. As the Black Keys’ first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts, this song has become one of their most successful singles in the US.

This track became the last song to receive the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal Grammy at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2011. It was nominated for Best Rock Song as well. “Tighten Up” was regarded as one of the Black Keys’ best songs and won awards in a number of polls.

2011: “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys

“Lonely Boy” is another track by the Black Keys, serving as the opening piece on their 2011 studio album, El Camino. It was also chosen as the A-side of a promotional 12-inch single in honor of Record Store Day’s “Back to Black” Friday event.

At the top of several rock radio charts, including the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts in the US and the Alternative Rock and Active Rock charts in Canada, this song was a high point in the Black Keys’ collection of songs. The song was acknowledged for its greatness and received significant awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. It was nominated for Record of the Year and won Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song.

2012: “Ho Hey” – The Lumineers

American folk rock group The Lumineers released “Ho Hey” on June 4, 2012, as the lead single from their 2012 self-titled debut studio album. The song achieved notable success, peaking at the top of the Billboard Rock Songs chart for eighteen weeks in a row. “Ho Hey” became the band’s first top 5 song and the first single to debut at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

The song was originally written while Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites were living in New York. It was meant to get attention from the uninterested concertgoers in Brooklyn. Schultz clarified that the song was an intentional attempt to connect with the apathetic audience, using yells to make an unforgettable impression.

2013: “Do I Wanna Know?” – Arctic Monkeys

“Do I Wanna Know?” stands as a track by the English rock band Arctic Monkeys, featuring lyrics penned by frontman Alex Turner. The second single from their fifth studio album, AM (2013), was released by Domino Recording Company on June 19, 2013. The song is built around an intriguing guitar riff and combines elements of alternative music, blues rock, stoner rock, indie rock, and psychedelic rock.

This track charted in several other countries after reaching its highest position of number 11 on the UK Singles Chart. For Arctic Monkeys, it was a major turning point in their American breakthrough since it was the first single to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 list. In 2015, the song was nominated for a Best Rock Performance Grammy Award at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. The song was named third on Guitar World‘s list of the 20 greatest guitar riffs of the decade in December 2019. 

2014: “Take Out the Gunman” – Chevelle

“Take Out the Gunman” is the lead single from American rock group Chevelle’s seventh studio album, La Gárgola. The song was released as an official single the next day after making its debut on the band’s Vevo and YouTube platforms on February 3, 2014.

Sound and Motion Magazine gave the music a positive review, praising all of its components, citing that the song contains the well-known rhythms, vocal delivery, and tones that are typical of Chevelle’s music, but with small adjustments. The critic also said that even with the use of elements from earlier Chevelle tracks, the song nevertheless sounds new and energizing.

2015: “The Less I Know the Better” – Tame Impala

The Australian band Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know the Better” first surfaced as a single on November 29, 2015, as the third and last track off their third studio album, Currents. The accompanying music video, which takes place at a high school, especially in the gym and locker room where a male basketball player goes through a heartbreak, deftly blends live-action scenes with hand-drawn animation.

With positions 23 on the Belgian Flanders singles chart, 66 on the ARIA Singles Chart, and 195 on the French Singles Chart, the song reached a variety of chart places in 2016. Furthermore, the song debuted at number 35 on Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs chart in the United States.

2016: “Take Me Down” – The Pretty Reckless

“Take Me Down” is a track by the American rock band The Pretty Reckless, featured on their third studio album, Who You Selling For in 2016. Released as the album’s debut single on July 15th, the song accomplished the amazing accomplishment of becoming the number one song on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart that same year. 

Who You Selling For had unique artwork—a human hand shaking hands with a crimson demonic hand was depicted in the artwork—that carried on the band’s trend of making religious and demonic references. Later, on September 29, 2016, a music video for “Take Me Down” was released, delving even more into the concept of references to a demonic nature.

2017: “Highway Tune” – Greta Van Fleet

The rock song “Highway Tune” is by Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet released as the debut single from their debut EP Black Smoke Rising. In September 2017, it reached number one on the Billboard Active Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. The song is also included in the band’s double EP From the Fires.

This song was the first composition the band Greta Van Fleet had ever written and recorded together. Guitarist Jake Kiszka claimed that the song’s original guitar riff was written as early as 2010—seven years before it was released as a single and two years before the band was even formed.

2018: “Jumpsuit” – twenty one pilots

“Jumpsuit” is a song written and recorded by the American rock duo twenty one pilots. The song was released on July 11, 2018, and it was nominated for a Best Rock Song at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. It is the first of the lead singles off their fifth studio album, Trench, along with “Nico and the Niners”.

The song was first written by the band in 2016 while they were on the Emotional Roadshow World Tour. During that period, frontman Tyler Joseph came up with the bass riff, which he would play during sound checks before performances. Joseph stated in an NME interview that the album was supposed to be a “lighter sounding and softer record,” but “then he wrote ‘Jumpsuit’ which ruined that.”

2019: “Ready to Let Go” – Cage the Elephant

“Ready to Let Go” is a song by American alternative rockers Cage the Elephant, the lead single from the band’s fifth studio album, Social Cues. It was released on January 31, 2019, and was produced by John Hill, peaking at number five on the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

Distinctively, the album represents the band’s first to include a title track. At the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Social Cues was named Best Rock Record. This was the band’s second Grammy Award-winning record, the first being Tell Me I’m Pretty.

2020: “A Little Bit Off” – Five Finger Death Punch

“A Little Bit Off” is a track by the American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch from their eighth studio album F8. The song, which was released as the second single, reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in June 2020.

A matching music video was released on June 8, 2020. Interestingly, the film tells a self-referential story about the difficulties encountered in making the film. The band faced difficulties making the music video despite the song’s rise in the rock music charts, which they blamed on COVID-19-related issues.

2021: “Waiting on a War” – Foo Fighters

The third entry by Foo Fighters on this list, “Waiting on a War” was released as the third single from their tenth album, Medicine at Midnight. Lyrically, the song is described as Foo Fighters’ modern interpretation of a peace-oriented hymn, similar to John Lennon’s anti-war song “Give Peace a Chance”.

Dave Grohl explores these themes, considering the possibility of a gloomy future. The song’s lyrics were inspired by heartfelt discussions that Grohl had with his daughter Harper Grohl in 2019 which brought up his own worries about the status of the world.

2022: “Patient Number 9” – Ozzy Osbourne

“Patient Number 9” is the lead single and title track of the thirteenth studio album of the same name by English heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. It features one of the last recorded works of the legendary guitarist Jeff Beck, who died on January 10, 2023.

This track made a significant impact upon its release, entering the music scene by debuting at the top spot on Billboard‘s Hot Hard Rock Songs chart. Simultaneously, it secured notable rankings, landing at No. 17 on Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs and No. 22 on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs. The accompanying album garnered praise from music critics, earning the Best Rock Album accolade at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.

2023: “Gossip” – Måneskin

“Gossip” is the fourth single from the Italian rock band Måneskin’s third studio album, Rush! featuring a noteworthy collaboration with rock guitarist Tom Morello. The song, which was released on January 13, 2023, has received favorable reviews from music critics who value the band’s transition to hard rock sounds and Tom Morello’s musical contribution.

Italian critics have emphasized the lyrics of “Gossip” as a criticism of the flimsiness of American gossip culture. Vanity Fair Italia’s Mario Manca went on to explain that the song addresses the dangers of gossip, emphasizing how it can ruin the lives of public figures by fabricating news and fostering suspicion and fear.