In my 80’s post, I made a lot of specific lists.  I didn’t do a specific list post for the 90’s, so I will address some of those lists here.  Among the 250 songs in this post, you will find songs that would fit the following lists, so there will at least be a #1 for all of these lists, just by going through this list: Best Song Written for a Film, Best One-Hit Wonder (using this list), Best Song by a One-Hit Wonder that Isn’t Their ‘Hit’ (I count seven and in four of those cases their ‘hit’ doesn’t make my list), Best B-Side, Best Cover (every decade from the 50’s through the 90’s has at least one and even the 30’s has one), Best Long Song, Funniest Song, Best Billboard #1 Single (because of changes to how music was sold and tracked, there were a lot fewer #1’s in the 90’s because they stayed on the list longer, but still, there are only 5 #1’s on the list, as opposed to 37 in the 80’s), Best British #1 That Didn’t Hit #1 in the US, Grammy Winner for Song of the Year.  There is no list for Best Cover of a 90’s Song post 1999 because of the songs on the list, only two of them have covers I can honestly recommend and both of those covers were recorded in the 90’s.  There is no Worst Billboard #1 Single because so many of them are so terrible, though the Brits sent “I Wanna Sex You Up”, my second least favorite song of the decade to #1 (thankfully, my least favorite song ever, “Wonderwall” stalled at #2 on the British charts).

Some other ones that aren’t addressed are Best Television Theme (Malcolm in the Middle), Best Song Written for a Stage Musical (“Sunset Boulevard” followed by “The Heat is on in Saigon”), Top Use of a Song in 90’s Movie, Top Video (“Losing My Religion” but other contenders would include “Black or White”, “Right Now”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Tonight Tonight”), Best Recorded Live Performances (in theory, this automatically goes to “About a Girl” because it really technically belonged on the 80’s list but it’s the Unplugged version that I think is so far superior that it ended up on this list, but there are some other live versions on here that are covers and I do want to point out “Throwing It All Away” on The Way We Walk and “Pocahontas” on Unplugged – there are others that will be pointed out because those songs make the list in their original version), Best Christmas Song (“Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Grammy Winner for Record of the Year (“Tears in Heaven” – it was a terrible decade for this category).

#250  –  Gone Again

  • “Hey now, man’s own kin we commend into the wind”
  • Patti Smith
  • Patti Smith
  • 1996
  • single from Gone Again
  • There will be a recurring theme of loss in these songs, specifically, for a lot of these musicians, the loss of Kurt Cobain.  But for Smith, it wasn’t just about the loss of Cobain, as it was for many older rockers.  She had lost, in the eight years since her last album, her husband, her brother, a bandmate and one of her closest friends.  All she had was loss.  All of this ended up focused in her album Gone Again (a very good album that was in serious consideration for my Top 50) and especially into its title track, a haunting rock reverie for those who were gone.

#249  –  All Apologies

  • “What else could I write, I don’t have the right”
  • Nirvana
  • Kurt Cobain
  • 1993
  • single from In Utero  (#32 – U.K.)
  • This will be a recurring theme for alternative bands, the single that was never officially a single in the US in spite of massive airplay.  This was a #1 Alternative Hit and a #4 Mainstream Rock hit on Billboard without ever getting an official release.  This countdown will be all about the #1 Alternative song on Billboard because while only a handful of Billboard #1 Singles make the list, there are an astonishing 36 Alternative #1’s on the list.  The best song off In Utero, this is one of those songs that really pointed the way towards what the Unplugged album would show, in regards to Cobain’s depth in his songwriting.

#248  –  The Old Apartment

  • “Why did you plaster over the hole I punched in the door”
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Steven Page, Ed Robertson
  • 1996; single released in 1997
  • single from Born on a Pirate Ship  (#88)
  • This was the song that helped break the band in America (they’re a Canadian band – it only charted to #88 but it was on Casey Kasem and thus a Top 40 hit in that sense) and has often been interpreted incorrectly.  As explained in the liner notes to their Greatest Hits collection, the singer is still with his girlfriend and isn’t stalking an old girlfriend, but an apartment they used to live in, looking back at a time in their lives that was different.  This began as “a melancholy ballad, maybe a bit like the Smith’s ‘Back to the Old House'” but then it was suggested to Page by Robertson that it should be a rock song.

#247  –  Valerie Loves Me

  • “I would give my whole life to her”
  • Material Issue
  • Jim Ellison
  • 1991
  • single from International Pop Overthrow
  • I had never heard of Material Issue before I bought my tickets to see INXS in early 1994, though my future roommate Jamie had.  That concert was on Monday night, 11 April 1994, the end of a weekend that had begun with the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide (you can see a big description of that concert in the comments section here).  Material Issue were a fantastic opening act for INXS, though the only song I remembered later was “Valerie Loves Me”, which, when my, by then roommate Jamie had bought their first album on tape, I put it on a mix tape and have never looked back.  Jamie would actually see them again just a few months later (right around when he bought the tape) but that story continues on #206.

#246  –  Come to My Window

  • “I would dial the numbers just to listen to your breath”
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from Yes I Am  (#25)
  • Is this song a lesbian love song?  It was the first song released by Etheridge after coming out but when I first started hearing it on Portland’s alternative station in the summer of 94 (yes, this was played on Portland’s alternative station, and yes, it is singular because it wasn’t until 1995 that they added a second one and that one was actually an AM station) I didn’t know who she was and certainly didn’t know her orientation.  To me, it was just a great love song.  It still is.  And it is still the only song by her other than her Oscar winning song from An Inconvenient Truth that I even know.

#245  –  Pain Lies on the Riverside

  • “To wait for a flood is to wait for life”
  • Live
  • Live
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Mental Jewelry
  • Of the bands that rose up on the alternative scene as I was headed off to college there were several that ascended with an album that wasn’t their debut but people acted like it was.  As a result, a lot of their actual debut albums got thrown by the wayside (don’t point out that you could even argue this isn’t Live’s debut album because they had a previous album released under a different name).  For Live, that meant people missing out on a truly fantastic song (my old roommate George would insist on two songs, pointing out “The Beauty of Gray”), the hard rocking “Pain Lies on the Riverside”, the song off their debut album that sounds most like what they would do on Throwing Copper.

#244  –  Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)

  • “Our subject isn’t cool but he fakes it anyway”
  • The Offspring
  • Dexter Holland
  • 1998
  • single from Americana  (#53; #1 – U.K.)
  • The first of several songs on this list that would later be parodied by Weird Al.  I love this song, not just because it has a magnificent rock beat and it’s a fun song but because I knew these guys.  I don’t mean the band.  I mean ridiculous white guys who try to immerse themselves in hip hop culture and act as if they’re fly.  I may be hopelessly white (because of the particulars of my schooling and my jobs, I haven’t known that many blacks in my life), but I totally recognize who I am.  Orange County, where I was raised and where the Offspring sprang from (sorry) is full of these guys and they deserve to be ridiculed like this.

#243  –  The River of Dreams

  • “We all end in the oceans, we all start in the streams”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1993
  • single from River of Dreams  (#3)
  • Yes, it’s not all alternative in the 90’s, even for me.  I have always had a fondness for Billy Joel and his final studio album is one of his best (I gave it serious consideration from my Top 50 and it was one of the last ones I dropped from the list).  It was a hard choice between this song and his more rocking “No Man’s Land” but this song’s sublime melodies help it overcome the terrible art on the sleeve drawn by Joel’s daughter.  While the 80’s list was full of Grammy nominees, this is one of the few on my list to be nominated for Record of the Year (and there won’t be any winners) and Song of the Year (there will be one).

#242  –  No Son of Mine

  • “They say time is a healer and now my wounds are not the same”
  • Genesis
  • Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
  • 1991
  • single from We Can’t Dance  (#12)
  • While I was a U2 fan from a young age and embraced Depeche Mode and R.E.M. early on, in the early 90’s, alternative music didn’t yet own me.  I was all about the new Genesis album We Can’t Dance when it was released (again, a serious contender for my Top 50 – both this and River of Dreams I have listened to in their entirety far more than many albums on my actual Top 50).  It kicked off with this single, released the week before and one that showed that the new album would have more overt social commentary than Invisible Touch.  I do love the distinctive sound created by Tony Banks to kick off the song (see here for an explanation of how he did it).  I had no idea, listening to the album again and again, that this was basically it for one of my favorite musical acts, as they would never again release another studio album with this trio intact.

#241  –  Spoonman

  • “Speak the rhythm on your own”
  • Soundgarden
  • Chris Cornell
  • 1994
  • single from Superunknown  (#20 – U.K.)
  • I never really took to Soundgarden but this single has particular meaning to me.  I don’t remember precisely how it happened, but at some point in mid 1994, around about the time that we decided we were going to be roommates the next year, I started calling Jamie “Spoonman”.  I hadn’t even heard the song that much and I wouldn’t actually get a recording of the song for another five years, when I borrowed a friend’s cd to put it on a mix tape.  But it just seemed right for him and I continue to call him Spoonman or Spoon.

#240  –  Torn

  • “Illusions never changed into something real”
  • Natalie Imbruglia
  • Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, Phil Thornalley
  • 1997
  • single from Left of the Middle  (#42; #2 – U.K.)
  • Among the songs that I love but Veronica hates, with the possible exception of “Brass in Pocket”, none raise her ire as much as “Torn”.  (note: The opposite songs, the ones she loves but I hate, would include “Crash Into Me”, “Sex and Candy” and anything by Ani DiFranco.)  Natalie Imbruglia’s version, though by far the best known, was actually the fourth one recorded.  The song was written in 1993 and Natalie ended up singing it because she worked with Thornalley on her debut album.  This song is a good example of the disconnect between the actual Billboard chart and what was being played by the late 90’s, with this the most played song in the U.S. in 1998 but not even making the actual Billboard Top 40.  The most played song in Australia on the radio post-1990.  A fantastic song of desperation.

#239  –  Black or White

  • “I believe in miracles and a miracle has happened tonight”
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson, Bill Bottrell
  • 1991
  • single from Dangerous  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • It had been four years since Bad but the singles from it had charted for so long it didn’t feel that long.  Still, it was a massive deal when the new single dropped complete with jaw-dropping video that really showed what morphing technology could do.  It had guitar by Slash in the beginning of the song (a weird little intro complete with Macauley Culkin) that was a nice call-back to Eddie Van Halen’s work on “Beat It”.  The single instantly leaped up to the top of the charts everywhere but, while the rest of the album would be successful, it wouldn’t be nearly as good.

#238  –  Radio Song

  • “The world is collapsing around our eyes, I turn up the radio”
  • R.E.M. with KRS-One
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1991
  • single from Out of Time  (#28 – U.K.)
  • The first of a number of songs on this list from one of my favorite albums of all-time.  There has been a long, glorious tradition of songs that talk about how much the songs on the radio sucks, from Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio” through to this and down to Tom Petty’s “The Last D.J.”.  But this song wasn’t just that; it was also a way to show that R.E.M. was adapting in the new decade, bringing in new musical choices and styles, with the use of KRS-One, not just for backing vocals but also for his short rap towards the end.

#237  –  Get Over It

  • “The more I think about old Billy was right, let’s kill all the lawyers, kill ’em tonight”
  • The Eagles
  • Don Henley, Glenn Frey
  • 1994
  • single from Hell Freezes Over  (#31)
  • When the Eagles reunited in 1994 it was a big deal.  I had to stand in line for hours for tickets and then had to do it all over again when our concert was cancelled and later rescheduled because of Glenn Frey’s health problems.  I even ended up on the local news, being interviewed about being at a concert for a band that had broken up when I was just a kid (I explained that I had grown up a fan of Henley’s solo work and had older siblings who liked the Eagles).  They only produced four new songs, two of which could be discarded (especially “Love Will Keep Us Alive” with the horrible Schmiit falsetto).  But the other two, the lovely “Learn to Be Still” and the kick-ass rocking “Get Over It” (with its awesome concluding line “I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass”) were well worth it.

#236  –  I Kissed a Girl

  • “You had guilt in your eyes but it only lasted a little while”
  • Jill Sobule
  • Jill Sobule, Robin Eaton
  • 1995
  • single from Jill Sobule  (#67)
  • Tape singles weren’t great.  They lacked the appeal of a 45 and unlike later cd singles, they couldn’t hold multiple b-sides.  But during the early 90’s, they were just about all there was.  This was the last song I ever bought on tape single, unable to find it on cd single.  It was one of the numerous songs played on our local AM alternative station in the summer of 95 that I heard over and over while painting houses and it was such a sweet, romantic song and was still daring for 1995 in being blatantly lesbian (as opposed to a song like “Come to My Window” which could be interpreted either way).

#235  –  Iris

  • “Well I’d give up forever to touch you”
  • Goo Goo Dolls
  • John Rzeznik
  • 1998
  • single from City of Angels: Music from the Motion Picture  (#9)
  • City of Angels wasn’t the first soundtrack that I bought without having seen the film (that would be Threesome which I have still never seen) but it was one of those rare films that I didn’t really feel the need to see (having seen the brilliant original) and I would only eventually watch it so that I could include the songs from it in my Nighthawk Awards.  While I bought it for “Uninvited”, “Iris” turned out to be a damn good reason to own it.  When I put together a cd to be played in the hour leading up to our wedding (to great those attending), Veronica asked me to include this song on it (especially since, with one exception, our reception was all 80’s music).  One of the biggest crossover hits in history and a song that still resonates with many (with causing others to go into conniption fits).

#234  –  Marilyn

  • “This is not a knock against Arthur Miller”
  • Dan Bern
  • Dan Bern
  • 1997
  • album track from Dan Bern
  • One of the first songs that Veronica introduced to me.  On one level, the song turns me off (because I can’t stand Henry Miller) but it’s really a brilliant song about what Marilyn Monroe means to people in a much different way than “Candle in the Wind”.

#233  –  Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver

  • “I tickled his chin and gave him a pinch and the bastard tried to bite me”
  • Primus
  • Claypool/LaLonde/Alexander
  • 1995
  • single from Tales from the Punchbowl
  • Another of those summer of 95 songs that still, to this day, makes me laugh.  It’s actually quite easy to take this song completely literally and it’s just as easy to take everything in the song as a metaphor and what makes the song so great is that it’s hilarious both ways.  Aside from the lyrics, part of what makes this a great song and not just a joke is the truly fantastic bass line that runs through the song.  This song is what made Primus such a natural choice to do the South Park theme a couple of years later.

#232  –  Space Tractor

  • “I was born in Moscow baby, you could maybe be my girl”
  • Leningrad Cowboys
  • Markku Petander / Richard Johnson
  • 1996
  • album track from Go Space
  • My ex-girlfriend Kelly was a foreign exchange student in Finland one year before I met her.  That exposed her to the Leningrad Cowboys, a band that was formed as a joke on waning Soviet power and after a couple of short films, acclaimed Finish director Aki Kaurismaki (one of the co-founders of the band) made a hilarious movie called Leningrad Cowboys Go America.  I had never heard of them before dating Kelly but she made me a mix tape that included this fantastic and hilarious song from their 1996 live album with the Alexandrov ensemble (the Red Army choir).  It works so well because of the combination of traditional Russian music (and singing), the wacky instrumentation and the wacky lyrics.  A song I have loved from the first minute I listened to the tape.

#231  –  I’m Too Sexy

  • “I shake my little tush on the catwalk”
  • Right Said Fred
  • Fred Fairbrass, Richard Fairbrass, Rob Manzoli
  • 1991
  • single from Up  (#1)
  • This song was released in the summer of 91 in the U.K. but it took a while before it really reached the States and it started to move up in early 1992.  I remember listening to it while driving to school my senior year and I not only thought it was hilarious, but it got more funny when, right around the time of the New Hampshire primary, a local station played a parody of it called “Too Sexy for the White House” that was sung in first person by “Bill Clinton”.  It just showed how much the song had already permeated (it would hit #1 in early February and stay there for three weeks).  Even today, it’s still part of our lives, as Veronica has to walk once a week on the “catwalk” at UMass Boston, prompting me to always ask if she was shaking her little tush on the catwalk (she never does).

#230  –  I Touch Myself

  • “I forget myself, I want you to remind me”
  • The Divinyls
  • Christina Amphlett, Tom Kelly, Mark McEntee, Billy Steinberg
  • 1990
  • single from Divinyls  (#4)
  • Okay, so there’s a bit of mini-theme going right here (there will be another later).  It’s not that I think things should be grouped together on a ranked list but that these three songs are all so similar and I like them all about the same, so it’s hard to decide one over another and they all ended up grouped together.  My roommate George hated this song with a fierce passion.  I once played while driving to California with him and my younger sister and I thought they would both blow a fuse.  But I have always loved this song (to be fair, so did George’s then girlfriend and our other roommate Jonathan who was the one who provided the 45 for me to record it for my tape in the first place).  Songs that about sex and are funny and have a great beat?  They’re perfect for me, as this mini-theme goes to show.

#229  –  People Are Still Having Sex

  • “Lust keeps on lurking”
  • LaTour
  • William LaTour
  • 1991
  • single from LaTour  (#35)
  • The AM alternative station in Portland went on the air in early 95 (with a great ad: “Rock and roll the way it was meant to be heard – pushed down and cranked out through some crappy AM radio”).  Before they actually began their programming, they simply played this song over and over for a couple of days.  It was the first I knew of it and once I actually heard it, I couldn’t stop laughing (especially the line “Lust keeps on lurking”).  The fantastic beat to the song actually appears in I, Tonya as the music for one of her routines and it made me laugh out loud in the theater but I must have been the only person who got it because no one else laughed (they didn’t play any of the lyrics).  I have a great memory of Jamie and I walking on our friend Ryan (just making out, not actually having sex) and Jamie, in a perfect imitation of LaTour, saying “People are still having sex”.  Ah, college.  It does show the downside of mix tapes though.  I know exactly what tape it was on (summer after college) because when the song ends, my brain immediately thinks next will be the version of the Mission: Impossible theme by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.

#228  –  Cold Blooded Old Times

  • “How can I stand and laugh with the man who redefined your body”
  • Smog
  • Bill Callahan
  • 1999
  • single from Knock Knock
  • How can a song with such a simple bit of music (a short guitar riff played, in mostly the same key, throughout the song) be so good?  Is it the poetic way that Bill Callahan moves through the song with heart-breaking lyrics sung in a way that mask the pain?  I would find this song the way I think a lot of people found it, because it was on the High Fidelity soundtrack.

#227  –  Blue Sky Mine

  • “If I yell out at night there’s a reply of bruised silence”
  • Midnight Oil
  • Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, Peter Garrett, Martin Rotsey, Bones Hillman
  • 1990
  • single from Blue Sky Mining  (#47)
  • While Michael Bolton, News Kids on the Block, Mariah Carey and Nelson were all scoring #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990, the Alternative Songs chart was being topped by the likes of Depeche Mode (“Enjoy the Silence”), INXS (“Suicide Blonde”) and Midnight Oil.  This song wouldn’t even hit the Top 40 in the U.S. (which is why Midnight Oil is technically a one-hit wonder and this isn’t their hit) but was #1 on the Alternative Songs chart and with good reason.  They continued to be a band that could perfectly mix social activism with a good beat.

#226  –  One of Us

  • “If God had a name what would it be”
  • Joan Osborne
  • Eric Bazilian
  • 1995
  • single from Relish  (#4)
  • The second this song was released my roommate Jonathan, who is religious, knew that this song would appeal to me precisely because I am not.  He had no idea it would be such a big hit, not only going up the charts and earning nominations for Song of the Year and Record of the Year but even becoming a theme song for a television show.  VH-1 loved the song and would eventually list it as one of the 100 best songs of the decade and the 10th best one-hit wonder of the decade.

#225  –  The Freshmen

  • “What made us think that we were wise and never compromise”
  • The Verve Pipe
  • Brian Vander Ark
  • 1996; single released in 1997
  • single from Villains  (#5)
  • The Verve Pipe is now a kids band and they are not the only act on this chart to turn their music in that direction.  This song would be their big hit and it would take a while and several different versions before that happened and I almost missed it entirely.  When I moved to Phoenix in 1997, I was totally off the radio and I basically only listened to tapes in my car.  But my car broke down and I had a rental for a few days that had no tape deck and I suddenly was forced to listen to the radio and this was one of a couple of songs that I really noticed (“Brick” was another).  I didn’t know then that it had been originally recorded in 1992, then re-recorded for their 1996 album, then recorded yet again for a single release (and that third version would replace the second version on later printings of the album).  All of them have similar tones (slow, moody, dark).  Yet, this version broke through, reaching the Top 10 and topping the Alternative Songs chart.

#224  –  Round Here

  • “She parks her car outside of my house and takes her clothes off, says she’s close to understanding Jesus”
  • Counting Crows
  • Steve Bowman, David Bryson, Adam Duritz, Charlie Gillingham, Matt Malley, Dave Janusko, Dan Jewett, Chris Roldan
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from August and Everything After
  • People came to the Crows because of “Mr. Jones” but they would stay because of “Round Here”.  This was the more emblematic song from the album, the slow and moody one that really showed what kind of band the Crows were.  Yet, this could have been a very different song.  Adam Duritz wrote it originally when he was still in The Himalayans (his band-mates in that band are the last three listed songwriters) and that version has a great deep bass line and more of a rock beat.  But this song so perfectly embodies the care-free style of the Counting Crows.

#223  –  Amish Paradise

  • “Well I know I’m a million times as humble as thou art”
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • Artis Ivey, Jr., Larry Sanders, Doug Rasheed, Stevie Wonder, “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • 1996
  • single from Bad Hair Day  (#53)
  • The song that pissed Coolio off which was so much bullshit since, first, Weird Al had permission to do the song, second, he doesn’t even need permission but asks it out of respect and third, because the song was all samples anyway (thus the Stevie Wonder song-writing credit) and so there wasn’t really anything to ask Coolio about anyway.  One of the funniest Weird Al songs (“my homies agree I really look good in black, fool”) and the brilliant Stevie Wonder music from “Pastime Paradise” really works perfectly with the lyrics.  One of the funnier videos from this decade.

#222  –  Walking in Memphis

  • “Tell me are you a Christian child and I said ‘Ma’am, I am tonight'”
  • Marc Cohn
  • Marc Cohn
  • 1991
  • single from Marc Cohn  (#13)
  • This song peaked during those years where I watched a lot of VH-1 because MTV seemed to have given up on showing videos.  It was a great piano driven song and I especially loved the line quoted above (something Jonathan would later say of ‘of course you love that line’).  For years though, in the pre-internet era, I had no idea about Beale Street and didn’t know he was saying “Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale”.  I spent a long time trying to figure out what the hell he was saying.  With a lot of Tori Amos on the list, there is no shortage of piano driven songs but this song is more of a rock song than most of the piano driven songs on this list.  This song has more covers than almost any other song on this list.

#221  –  The Flame Still Burns

  • “I live a life that’s surreal”
  • Strange Fruit
  • Jones / Frederiksen / Difford
  • 1998
  • album track from Still Crazy
  • I first heard of this song and the film it came from when both were nominated for Golden Globes.  When I would later watch the film, I would come to love it, not the least because of this magnificent song that closes the film.  It is first heard briefly early in the film and discussed because it was important to the band but was a controversy in the band over how to play it.  It then provides not only a great musical moment but a great emotional moment with which to close the film.  If you have never seen the film or heard the song, you definitely should.

#220  –  Stupid Thing

  • “Speaking of course as your dear departed”
  • Aimee Mann
  • Aimee Mann, Jon Brion
  • 1993
  • album track from Whatever
  • For years I would think of Aimee Mann, if I thought of her at all, as the singer from Til Tuesday that embarrasses her boyfriend at the end of “Voices Carry”.  It would only be after Magnolia that I would realize that she was one of the best singer-songwriters working in music today.  Working back through her catalog in the years after that, I would discover “Stupid Thing”, a haunting, mournful song about a broken relationship and one of her absolute best songs.

#219  –  String of Pearls

  • “Death was one thing but women made him nervous”
  • Soul Asylum
  • David Pirner
  • 1995
  • album track from Let Your Dim Light Shine
  • As the follow-up to Grave Dancers Union, whatever single Soul Asylum released first from their new album would get a lot of airplay and sure enough, “Misery” did.  But if you listen to more of the album what you discover is “String of Pearls”.  This is a story song, in that it has no chorus but instead tells a continuous story throughout the song, though with the ironic twist that it brings the story back around to the beginning.  It’s a great and moving song with a lot of clever lines (“And the sack breaks and out come the Siamese Twins / Who grow up to become the first President / With two heads / Are better than one”) and Soul Asylum must have realized it was one of their best songs because, even though it wasn’t a single, they would include it on Black Gold, their first best-of collection.

#218  –  Sabotage

  • “Your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear”
  • Beastie Boys
  • Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch
  • 1994
  • single from Ill Communication  (#115; U.K. – #19)
  • Some might complain about finding this song so far down this list.  But I think the song is a very good one and it has grown on me over the years, especially the opening instrumental.  But what really made it such a success was its brilliant video.  I still remember the first time I saw it, house-sitting for my brother while he was in Southern California in May of 1994 and just loving it even if I didn’t yet love the song.  Clearly the producers of the new Star Trek films think this song is great enough to still be popular several hundred years from now.  Astoundingly, the single never even made the Billboard Top 100.

#217  –  Policy of Truth

  • “It’s just time to pay the price for not listening to advice”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1990
  • single from Violator  (#15)
  • A song that I could not escape in 1990 and as a result it took me a while to really warm up to it.  But in college, when I got really into Depeche Mode, this song emerged as one the strengths of their best album, both in terms of its instrumentation and its lyrics.  It has the unique distinction of being the only Depeche Mode song to chart higher in the U.S. than in the U.K. (where it peaked at #16).

#216  –  Away

  • “Wrapped up inside another place”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan
  • 1994
  • b-side to “Zombie”
  • Because I actually bought the album No Need to Argue, I didn’t buy the single to “Zombie” originally.  It wouldn’t be until after seeing Clueless and wondering what the hell that brilliant Cranberries song was that was playing in that scene with the creepy guy.  After that, I did get the single to “Zombie” and realized that this was one of their best songs and what the hell was it doing as a b-side?  But, it’s not the only b-side on this list.  A slow, beautifully moving song in spite of fairly simply lyrics.

#215  –  She Don’t Use Jelly

  • “She likes her hair to be real orange”
  • Flaming Lips
  • Ronald Jones, Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd
  • 1993
  • single from Transmissions from the Satellite Heart  (#55)
  • Although this song was released on an album in June of 1993 and as a single in October of 1993, it wouldn’t even hit the Billboard charts until December of 1994, peaking in February of 1995 (chart information comes from here and if you ever want to know about charting, it’s clearly the place to go – he has done amazing work to digitize all of this).  Because of that, it was one of the songs that the new AM station in Portland featured a lot in the summer of 1995 and that was when I consequently started hearing it and bought the single.  This song has always made me think of my friend Kari because of an unfortunate hair dye experiment that ended up what I termed “hideouscornyellow” although it should really make me think of my sister Stacy who tried to dye her hair red one summer and came home with orange hair (it was so funny, I literally couldn’t stand up on the tarmac when she got off the plane because I was laughing so hard).

#214  –  Pretty Good Year

  • “Hold on to nothing as fast as you can”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1994
  • single from Under the Pink  (#7 – U.K.)
  • This song, the gorgeous opening track from Under the Pink that helped win me over as a Tori fan almost instantly was only released as a single in Europe.  Perhaps it’s too soft and piano driven for the American audiences was the thought?  I can’t understand that because it’s one of her best songs but then again, I’m not a music exec.

#213  –  El Matador

  • “¿Dónde estás, matador?”
  • Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
  • Flavio Cianciarulo
  • 1993
  • album track from Vasios Vacíos
  • How ironic that one of the songs on my 90’s list should come from a film that almost entirely filled with 80’s songs.  But this is a fantastic song (that I don’t know what they’re singing because my Spanish is so out of practice).  I just know that I love the beat and it’s clear from Grosse Pointe Blank that you can really dance to it.

#212  –  Sleeps with Angels

  • “He’s always on someone’s mind”
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  • Neil Young
  • 1994
  • album track from Sleeps with Angels
  • Another song about Kurt Cobain.  This time it’s Neil Young chiming in, the man who was actually quoted in Cobain’s suicide note, and we get a song that I already talked about a bit on the albums countdown.  It manages to be both a dirge for him and a deep, grooving rock song at the same time, the kind of thing that it seems like only Neil Young can do.

#211  –  E-Bow the Letter

  • “Dreaming of Maria Callas, whoever she is”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1996
  • single from New Adventures in Hi-Fi  (#49; U.K. – #4)
  • After two softer albums and an album with a whole lot of noise, people were wondering what R.E.M. was going to do next, especially since it was known before the album’s release at the end of the summer of 96 that the album had been mostly recorded on tour.  This song, the first single, released before the album, was the first hint and it was something in between.  Musically, it was a bit adventurous (as the album’s title promised) with that fascinating sound created by the Ebow of the title and lyrically it was a bit of a mystery, but this was R.E.M. after all.  I took to the single immediately, especially with Patti Smith’s moody backing vocals.  While Monster had been dedicated to River Phoenix, this song, off the next album, was actually about him.  Coming when it did in the band’s career, I always felt the album never got its due appreciation but it was quite close to my Top 50.

#210  –  Everything is Everything

  • “What is meant to be will be”
  • Lauryn Hill
  • Lauryn Hill, Johari Newton
  • 1998; single released in 1999
  • single from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill  (#35)
  • The third single off the hit the album but to me, it’s the best song on the album.  It is the song that best combines the hip hop aspects of the album with the older more funk, rhythm and blues background that was also infusing her album.

#209  –  I’ll Stand By You

  • “Nothing you confess could make me love you less”
  • The Pretenders
  • Chrissie Hynde, Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg
  • 1994
  • single from The Last of the Independents  (#16)
  • When I was writing the second part of in your most frail gesture in early 1998, I needed a great love song that I could have someone sing to someone else after a bad night of drinking.  After sorting through a number of “fake” love songs (sound romantic, aren’t when you listen to the lyrics).  Then I got to the line “Nothing you confess could make me love you less” and I knew I had my song.  To my mind, the most beautiful Pretenders song.

#208  –  Dry the Rain

  • “This is the definition of my life”
  • The Beta Band
  • The Beta Band
  • 1997
  • e.p. track from Champion Versions
  • I don’t think I’m alone in saying I had never heard of The Beta Band before seeing High Fidelity.  But, like the crowd in Championship Vinyl, I was totally song on this song the second Rob started playing it at top volume.  It’s a brilliant song, though, if you only know if from that scene, if takes a while before you get to that part of the song.

#207  –  MFC

  • “There’s a lot to be said for nowhere”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1998
  • album track from Yield
  • Pretty much every Pearl Jam album has an album track that leaps out to me on the first listen.  This song leaped out at me so much that I instantly started using the quote “They said that timing was everything / Made him want to be everywhere / There’s a lot to be said for nowhere” as an epigraph for multiple things.  The best version of this song is actually the one on Live on Two Legs because the previous song “Untitled” really is a companion song and the two should be listened to together as one song.

#206  –  Buddy Holly

  • “I don’t care what they say about us anyway”
  • Weezer
  • Rivers Cuomo
  • 1994
  • single from Weezer  (#12 – U.K.)
  • As mentioned in #247, Jamie and I saw Material Issue in April of 1994.  That summer, back home in Phoenix, he saw them again, this time as the headliner (the only person I have ever known to see a band as an opening act and as a headliner in the same year) and he met the opening act after the show in the parking lot.  They gave him a poster and signed it and gave him a guitar pick.  The next week “Undone – The Sweater Song” started climbing the charts and he longer had to explain to people who that band was and the signed poster adorned our dorm room that fall.  Now, I hated “Undone” so I wasn’t thrilled about it until he played me the whole album and I heard great songs like “My Name is Jonas”, “Surf Wax America” (which came really close to making this list) and, most especially, “Buddy Holly” (the album was a contender for the Top 50).  My love for this song only grew after the hilarious video that made use of Happy Days.  From the first time I heard the album (most especially because of “Surf Wax America”), I have contended that Weezer is what happens if the Beach Boys had been a grunge band.

#205  –  Slow Dancing

  • “She steals the sun and shuts out the light”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1993
  • b-side from “Stay (Faraway, So Close)”
  • The band wrote this song for Willie Nelson (which confused some bootleg companies as my bootleg copy of their 1990 Rotterdam concert lists Willie Nelson as the songwriter) but eventually turned it into one of the most beautiful b-sides instead.  A few years later they would actually get Willie to sing the song and that version would also appear as a b-side to “If God Will Send His Angels”.

#204  –  Tennessee

  • “I know you’re supposed to be the steering wheel, not just my spare tire”
  • Arrested Development
  • Thomas Todd, Aerle Taree
  • 1992
  • single from 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of…  (#6)
  • How did I even hear this song?  I wasn’t watching much in the way of videos in the spring of 1992 (and MTV barely played any anyway).  Was KROQ playing this song, thinking of it as alternative rather than hip-hop which they didn’t really play?  This is one of only two #1 R&B singles to make the list (the other one is farther down the list) which shows where my musical tastes lie.

#203  –  Ring the Bells

  • “I no longer feel like god is watching over me”
  • James
  • Tim Booth, Larry Gott and Jim Glennie
  • 1992
  • single from Seven  (#37 – U.K.)
  • The first time I heard this song, it was actually the slow alternative NRG version on the Greenpeace charity album.  I liked the song when I first heard it, but later, when I heard the original version, with its great pounding beat, I loved it.  That I missed this song for a long time even though Jamie had a copy of the album when we were roommates is because of #152.

#202  –  Loser

  • “Time is a piece of wax falling on a termite who’s choking on the splinters”
  • Beck
  • Beck, Karl Stephenson
  • 1993
  • single  (#10)
  • That I can even tolerate the existence of this song speaks to its brilliant beat.  Do you know what it was like to have this song come on, or worse, to see it in stores and have people say “Hey Beck, you’re a loser.”  Stupid Beck Hansen couldn’t have gone by Hansen and both prevented all that crap from befalling me and from a worse musical fate happening to the name Hansen?  This song was originally released as a single with 500 copies pressed before Beck had a recording contract and its unexpected radio success lead to his signing to Geffen and re-releasing the single (and putting it on his album Mellow Gold).  It took several years before I could bring myself to buy it.

#201  –  The Mummers’ Dance

  • “Who will go down to those shady groves and summon the shadows there”
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • 1997
  • single from The Book of Secrets  (#18)
  • A beautiful, ethereal song that I started hearing on the radio after I returned from Phoenix at the end of 1997 (and which ended up on my Year in Rock 1998 tape even though it was released in September of 1997).  A very surprise Top 20 hit in the U.S. that pushed her celtic music album to double platinum.

#200  –  Sell Out

  • “Tell the singer not to sing his song, tell the poet that she’s wrong”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1991
  • album track from Levelling the Land
  • By the time this post goes up, the album post will have already been up for a while so hopefully I don’t have to explain who the Levellers are but this the first of eight songs of their on the list.  This song was the first song on the second side of Levelling the Land, their brilliant 1991 album (which account for five of those eight songs) and it showed how political the band were willing to be.

#199  –  Ordinary World

  • “I won’t cry for yesterday”
  • Duran Duran
  • Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, James Bates, Warren Cuccurullo
  • 1992; album released in 1993
  • single from Duran Duran  (#3)
  • By 1993, it had been a while since Duran Duran had done anything and even longer since they had done anything really worth listening to.  Then came their self-titled album and though the album as a whole wasn’t great, it did have two magnificent singles (the other, “Come Undone” just barely missed the list).  This was the first (actually landing just before the end of 1992 in the U.S.) and it had a more mature, more interesting sound than what the band had been doing in the 80’s.  It would be the band’s biggest hit in the U.S. in seven years and they would never have another one this big.

#198  –  Rain

  • “I’ll wait for the light, I’ll wait for the sun”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Shep Pettibone
  • 1992; single released in 1993
  • single from Erotica  (#14)
  • Apparently Erotica made people lose their minds because the lesser singles (“Erotica”, “Deeper and Deeper”) were Top 10 hits and the best songs on the album didn’t nearly as well with this song only reaching #14 and “Bad Girl” barely making the Top 40, the lowest charting Madonna single in a decade (I should point out that both songs were Top 10 hits in the U.K.).  Though there is a lyrical simplicity to this song, the music is far more interesting than most of what Madonna would do at this time and indeed, through the decade until Ray of Light.

#197  –  Red Mosquito

  • “If I had known then what I know now”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Pearl Jam
  • 1996
  • album track from No Code
  • Another song that I would appreciate more when Pearl Jam released Live on Two Legs in 1998, this album track is one of the strongest songs on No Code, an album that has never really gotten it’s due appreciation.  This song was written on the infamous day when Eddie started puking in Golden Gate Park during the show.  According to Eddie, the unique guitar sound was created by Mike McCready playing with Eddie’s grandfather’s Zippo lighter.

#196  –  God

  • “God sometimes you’re just stone cold through”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1994
  • single from Under the Pink  (#72)
  • If you ever needed proof that Tori Amos is more than just a little wisp of a woman sitting at her piano, listen to this song.  Its percussion and musical instrumentation is far different than anything else she’s done.

#195  –  Yellow Ledbetter

  • “And on the sand I wanna leave her again”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder
  • 1992
  • b-side to “Jeremy”
  • The fan favorite b-side that eventually achieved a considerable amount of radio play (forcing people to try and find it, since it was on “Jeremy”, which hadn’t been commercially released in the U.S. and wouldn’t be for another few years).  This is possibly the most debated Pearl Jam song and certainly the most incomprehensible (in fact, much of the debate centers not around interpreting the lyrics but in figuring out what the hell they are).

#194  –  Today

  • “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”
  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Billy Corgan
  • 1993
  • single from Siamese Dream  (#103; #44 – U.K.)
  • My mind groups this with Radiohead’s “Creep” in that both songs were big hits on the radio and neither worked to get me into the band and in both cases I went back and learned to really appreciate the song later (it wasn’t until 1995 that I really got into the Pumpkins).  This might be the most emblematic Pumpkins songs, though, the one that most defines their sound.  The rare alternative hit when I was in college to officially have a single (and thus be eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart) but not actually make the chart (it reached #3 on the Bubbling Under).

#193  –  When I Come Around

  • “I’m a loser and a user so I don’t need no accuser”
  • Green Day
  • Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool
  • 1994; single released in 1995
  • single from Dookie  (#27 – U.K.)
  • A perfect example of what I just wrote about.  Never officially released as a single in the U.S. (as was often the case with alternative songs in the era) but it made it to #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart (their third such hit on the album).  By the time this single got released in early 1995 all the people who bought the album already knew it was one of the best songs on the album with a fantastic guitar riff.

#192  –  Locked Out

  • “I wait so long for the walls to crack”
  • Crowded House
  • Neil Finn
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from Together Alone  (#120; #12 – U.K.)
  • I don’t think I heard this song until Reality Bites actually got released and it pains me to associate such a brilliant song with such a stupid movie but that will happen again later on the list as well.  I had gotten really into Crowded House’s debut album in 1993 after finally figuring out who song “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (and what it was called) and was stoked to have another great single from them.

#191  –  San Diego Zoo

  • “To Interstate 5 which goes right to the San Diego Zoo”
  • The 6ths
  • Stephin Merritt
  • 1995
  • album track from Wasps’ Nests
  • My 80’s list had a lot of songs that I first heard from my sister.  This list is dominated by college songs.  If I were to make a 00’s list (which I won’t), much of it would involve music that I first heard among my co-workers at Powells in bands like the Shins, Decembrists, Long Winters and Modest Mouse.  The 6ths also come from that list when my friend Jill played it when we were working one day and I absolutely loved it.  Living in Boston, I’ve had my pick of songs to think of my city, most of them by the Dropkicks but come June, I guess my new home theme song is going to be this beautiful little song about one of my favorite places to go.

#190  –  Drive

  • “Maybe you’re crazy in the head baby”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1992
  • single from Automatic for the People  (#28; #11 – U.K.)
  • As mentioned in the albums post, I bought the album at midnight the day it was released.  But it took me at least a full day before I ever got more than three songs in because in those pre-cd days (for me, anyway), I kept listening to the first three songs and then rewinding and listening to them over and over again.  As a result, it was “Drive” that most affected me when I got the album, with its slow beat.  Later, when they would release a live version, it was easy to see how you could also brilliantly re-interpret the song.  The Brits loved it more than we did and it ended up the second highest charting single for the band in the U.K..

#189  –  Jupiter Crash

  • “I try to explain irresistible attraction and orbital plane”
  • The Cure
  • Bamonte, Cooper, Gallup, O’Donnell and Smith
  • 1996
  • album track from Wild Mood Swings
  • I have often felt that Wild Mood Sings is the most under-appreciated of the Cure’s albums.  It delivers on what it promises, with swings between melancholy and darkness and sheer poppy happiness (it was perhaps, a mistake for “The 13th” to be the lead single) and it has some of the band’s best songs with “This is a Lie”, “Want”, “Treasure” (with its haunting line “It’s better to forget than to remember me with tears”).  From the first time I listened to, the day it was released, I have always felt this was the best song, a beautiful love song hidden in the middle of the album.

#188  –  Poison

  • “Let’s cure it cause we’re running out of time”
  • Bel Biv DeVoe
  • Elliot Straite
  • 1990
  • single from Poison  (#3)
  • This is the other R&B #1 Hit on my list (joining “Tennessee”).  This song is problematic if you listen closely to it because it really is pretty misogynistic.  But every time I watch “My Half-Acre”, one of my absolute favorite Scrubs episodes and Turk starts to do his routine to this song I remember what an amazing beat it has and how much fun it is.  Just don’t listen too closely.

#187  –  Electric Barbarella

  • “I plug you in”
  • Duran Duran
  • Nick Rhodes, Warren Cuccurullo, Simon Le Bon
  • 1997
  • single from Medazzaland  (#52; #23 – U.K.)
  • Barbarella is a terrible film with a performance from Jane Fonda that is so ridiculous that it is only overcome by her being just about the sexiest thing to ever appear on film.  But it did give us sexy Fonda and it gave us the name Duran Duran.  So how did it take the band well over a decade to come up with a song that referenced the film directly?  And why is it that it might be their best song with its great beat?

#186  –  Dizz Knee Land

  • “I just flipped off President George”
  • Dada
  • Joie Calio / Michael Gurley
  • 1992
  • single from Puzzle
  • A song that’s not really about what it sounds like it’s about and that works just fine.  In the few years before this song came out, you couldn’t escape that phrase “I’m going to Disneyland” (especially if, like me, you lived within walking distance of Disneyland) and it was even mocked in the first Hot Shots film.  I have to wonder if this song came back in vogue a bit from 2000 to 2008 when the great line quoted above worked even better than it did the first time.

#185  –  Rain King

  • “When I think of heaven deliver me in a black-winged bird”
  • Counting Crows
  • Steve Bowman, David Bryson, Adam Duritz, Charlie Gillingham, Matt Malley
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from August and Everything After  (#49 – U.K.)
  • When I first started listening to the album a lot, this was the song that leapt out to me.  It helped that my friend Brett also loved this song, but then Brett had loved Henderson the Rain King, the Saul Bellow novel that it’s derived from while I have always thought that novel didn’t hold up nearly as well as some of Bellow’s other novels.  Either way, it’s rare for a great song to be inspired by first-rate literature.

#184  –  New Test Leper

  • “I can’t say that I love Jesus”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1996
  • album track from New Adventures in Hi-Fi
  • It became obvious if you listened to Michael Stipe in concert after the release of the album that this was the song on the album that meant the most to him.  He wanted to write a song to go with Patti Smith’s “Gloria” and he was worried that he had stolen the line “What a sad parade” from Vic Chesnutt (turns out he hadn’t).  A great story song that isn’t about what you think it is at first but when you listen to it again you kind of get it.

#183  –  The Obvious Child

  • “Some have died, some have fled from themselves”
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul Simon
  • 1990
  • single from The Rhythm of the Saints  (#92; #15 – U.K.)
  • The fantastic lead single from Simon’s great 1990 album it was also the first song on his live Concert in the Park album and that version is even better than the original studio version.  From the great drum beat that opens the song to the lyrics that seem to have a measure of universality while they also tell a specific story about its characters (something Simon is really great at) this song barely even made the charts in the U.S. while it was a Top 20 hit in Britain.

#182  –  It Must Have Been Love

  • “Well it’s a hot winter’s day”
  • Roxette
  • Per Gessle
  • 1990
  • single from Pretty Woman Soundtrack  (#1)
  • I technically shouldn’t even count this song as it was originally recorded by the band in 1987.  But they re-recorded it in 1990 (with some lyrical alterations) for Pretty Woman and that was the version that went to #1.  I had already seen the video a lot before I ever got around the seeing the film and it was this song that made me go back and get Look Sharp which turned out to be a good move.  I can’t count how many females have gotten mix tapes from me with this song on it which might say something since it’s clearly not a real love song.

#181  –  Acrobat

  • “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991
  • album track from Achtung Baby
  • You may notice that the U2 songs on this list don’t correspond to my original Top 100 list but all of my lists are fluid and ever-changing.  I already commented on my U2 list that this song is unlikely to appear this high on anyone else’s list but it has always stuck with me, from the first time I ever listened to the whole album.

#180  –  Putting the Damage On

  • “I’m trying not to move, it’s just your ghost passing through”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1996
  • album track from Boys for Pele
  • I was really into Tori Amos when Boys for Pele came out and I was a little disappointed.  The album as a whole didn’t hold up (too many weak songs) but it had some absolutely brilliant songs including this one.  I was listening to it one day and that line above just struck me harder than I expected.  I would later use it in a story in the same manner.  A sparse, beautiful song.

#179  –  No Surprises

  • “A heart that’s full up like a landfill”
  • Radiohead
  • Radiohead
  • 1997; single released in 1998
  • single from OK Computer  (#4 – U.K.)
  • The first song recorded for OK Computer, written when they were touring with R.E.M. in 1995, Thom Yorke would later say that it would set the stage for the entire album.  The single best song on OK Computer and one of their best songs off any album.

#178  –  Linger

  • “Don’t let it burn, don’t let it fade”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan, Noel Hogan
  • 1993
  • single from Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?  (#8)
  • The very first single released by the band.  It sets the stage for what will come from the band, with its nice guitar sound, O’Riordan’s distinctive Irish vocals (the single was a huge hit in Ireland, going to #3) and a melody that, like the lyrics suggest, really does linger.  It also seems to be a lighter song that it is when you listen closely to the lyrics, something else that would return time and time again with the band’s songs.

#177  –  Afternoons & Coffespoons

  • “Time when the day is like a play by Sartre”
  • Crash Test Dummies
  • Brad Roberts
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from God Shuffled His Feet (#66; #23 – U.K.)
  • I was one of those who found “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” rather annoying, so when my friend Chris Dillon gave me a mix tape of his favorite songs, I was stunned to see a song by the Crash Test Dummies.  But he explained that song was specifically on there for me because of my love for T.S. Eliot (he knew Eliot was my favorite poet).  And sure enough, once I listened to the song and realized how it had grabbed its title from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (guaranteeing that Veronica would never like it since she HATES that poem), I absolutely loved it from that day forward.

#176  –  Bizarre Love Triangle

  • “Every time I think of you I feel a shot right through with a bolt of blue”
  • Frente!
  • Gillian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
  • 1994
  • single from Marvin the Album  (#76 – U.K.)
  • This is the second themed part of the list.  I don’t generally do themes when it comes to a ranked list but all of these songs, as you will see, are covers and it was hard for me to decide which ones I loved best.  Some of them are rather famous and some of them are much more obscure but they are all really great (and rather unique) versions.  This is an acoustic version of the great New Order song, miles away from their synth version.  Peter Hook likes this version of the song (and I know that, because I asked him).

#175  –  Hallelujah

  • “All I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you”
  • John Cale
  • Leonard Cohen
  • 1991
  • album track from I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • I first heard about Leonard Cohen when I bought the 1995 tribute album to him (see #169).  Later, I would look at him like Dylan (and Tom Waits), better for what he wrote than what he sang.  Most people would list Jeff Buckley’s cover of this song but I honestly think it’s kind of bland and Cale’s piano driven version is beautiful.  I first heard it in the brilliant Scrubs episode where it is used.  That episode, one of my favorites, really made me see how moving the song could be.  This version was on the 1991 tribute album to Cohen which also featured R.E.M.’s great version of “First We’ll Take Manhattan”.  The line quoted above was written by Cohen but was not in his original studio recording of the song.

#174  –  Because the Night

  • “Love is an angel disguised as lust”
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Bruce Springsteen / Patti Smith
  • 1993
  • single from MTV Unplugged  (#11)
  • This song was released around the same time that I first bought Springsteen’s live box set which features his own live version of the song.  Just having a version sung by Natalie Merchant, with her rather distinctive voice was interesting enough, but to also have it be on an Unplugged album (which inspired the band to also use strings in the song) also made it a fascinating, unique version of the song, one that absolutely can stand up to the Smith and Springsteen versions.

#173  –  Somebody to Love

  • “Can anybody find me somebody to love”
  • George Michael and Queen
  • Freddie Mercury
  • 1993
  • single from Five Live  (#30; #1 – U.K.)
  • This song, one of Queen’s staples, was one of George Michael’s very favorites and we know that because it’s the first thing he says on the recording.  You always wonder if a band can go on after someone has died, especially the singer.  Eddie Vedder proved that he could have fronted the Doors and George Michael absolutely could have been the lead singer of Queen.  I think I actually like the version sung by Michael more than I like the original recording by Queen.

#172  –  Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon

  • “I love you so much I can’t count all the ways”
  • Urge Overkill
  • Neil Diamond
  • 1992; single released in 1994
  • album track from the e.p. Stull; single from Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction  (#59; #37 – U.K.)
  • I’m not sure I even knew the original Neil Diamond version (and the vocals of Urge Overkill singer Eddie Roeser sound amazingly like Diamond) and I certainly didn’t know this cover before Pulp Fiction was released in October of 1994.  But, like everyone else, I was blown away by this cover and how well it worked in the film.

#171  –  Take a Chance on Me

  • “If you change your mind, I’m the first in line”
  • Erasure
  • Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
  • 1992
  • single from the e.p. Abbaesque  (#1 – U.K.)
  • I don’t like Abba.  That becomes more and more clear every time I have to see a trailer for the new Mamma Mia film.  But good lord do I love this cover.  I think this version does everything Abba wants to do (fun, danceable, a bit goofy) but it does with the brilliant synths of Vince Clarke and vocals of Andy Bell.

#170  –  I Will Survive

  • “I should have changed my fucking lock, I would have made you leave the key”
  • Cake
  • Freddie Perren, Dino Fekaris
  • 1996
  • single from Fashion Nugget
  • This is as good a place as any to mention that I hate the original version of this song.  But I like R.E.M.’s version (a b-side), the version by the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (a perfect band for songs that I don’t like the original version of) and I love this version, a version that really applies the right amount of sardonic humor to the song and a harder guitar beat than the original.  This is Gloria Gaynor’s least favorite version of the song because of the profanity and I don’t fucking care.

#169  –  Famous Blue Raincoat

  • “I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you, I’m glad that you stood in my way”
  • Tori Amos
  • Leonard Cohen
  • 1995
  • album track from Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • This was the first I really knew of Leonard Cohen.  This tribute album came out in 1995 filled with several of my favorite artists (Bono, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Martin Gore).  I realized, listening to the lyrics, that Cohen wasn’t just a songwriter but also a poet (the following semester I took a Studies in Poetry class and we read “Suzanne Takes You Down” which is in my Norton Anthology).  This Tori cover is absolutely brilliant, a perfect haunting voice and piano beat to go along with the lyrics.  It was a bit disappointing to learn, years later (upon reading Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief) to learn that the lines about going clear were a reference to Scientology.  I prefer to think of it as Cohen being poetic.  Not every song on the album is a winner but I also definitely recommend Gabriel’s version of “Suzanne”, Don Henley “Everybody Knows”, Suzanne Vega’s “The Story of Isaac” and Martin Gore’s “Coming Back to You”.

#168  –  F*!#in’ Up

  • “Why do I keep fuckin’ up?”
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  • Neil Young
  • 1990
  • album track from Ragged Glory
  • Freedom, Neil Young’s fantastic 1989 album was the beginning of a career revival.  The next year, re-teamed with Crazy Horse he delivered Ragged Glory, the album that really helped to usher in grunge.  The album runs over 62 minutes with just ten songs and not every one is a classic but the best is “F*!#in’ Up”, a profane self-deprecating song that is great to hear in concert and that Pearl Jam would later make a staple of their live shows.

#167  –  Fall Down

  • “You got to jump back”
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Todd Nichols, Glen Phillips
  • 1994
  • single from Dulcinea  (#33)
  • Yet another song that hit #1 on the Alternative Charts (between “Longview” and “Come Out and Play”).  This song I had etched into me by my roommate George who saw Toad in concert and told me this long detailed story about how he was holding the hips of the girl in front of him and every time they would sing the line “You got to jump back”, every one in the audience would jump back and she would leap almost into George’s lap.  A truly great rock song.

#166  –  When You’re Gone

  • “And in the night I could be helpless”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan
  • 1996
  • single from To the Faithful Departed  (#22)
  • “Salvation” was the song off this album that I listened to at the start.  Then someone very close to me actually dedicated this song on the radio to me and it made me start listening to it closer and realize how heart-breaking it is.  Over 20 years later and I still think of her every single time the song plays.

#165  –  Something to Believe In

  • “Forgive me for what I done there because I never meant the things I did”
  • Poison
  • Michaels; DeVille; Dall; Rockett
  • 1990
  • single from Flesh and Blood  (#4)
  • Poison wasn’t my thing (hair metal wasn’t my thing – it was Veronica’s).  But this song got a lot of airplay on stations I listened to in 1990 when I first got my license (and I saw the video a lot) and I think this song was the first time I realized that such bands do ballads as well.  Some good social commentary from a band that usually wasn’t doing a whole lot of deep thinking.

#164  –  Canción del Mariachi

  • “Mariachi me acompaña cuando canto mi canción”
  • Los Lobos and Antonio Banderas
  • Los Lobos
  • 1995
  • album track from Desperado: The Soundtrack
  • I had avoided the film Desperado when it first came out because it looked dumb and Banderas was making a lot of bad films back then.  I would catch up to it later when I started watching Robert Rodriguez’s films.  The film isn’t great but damn the opening song is, with Banderas playing the guitar and singing while also taking out some armed thugs.  In fact, this song is probably my favorite scene in any one of Rodriguez’s films.  The Nighthawk winner for Best Original Song in 1995.

#163  –  Precious Things

  • “So you can make me cum that doesn’t make you Jesus”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1992
  • album track from Little Earthquakes
  • The hardest rocking song on Little Earthquakes is also one of the most vicious attacks on male dominance.  This was the song on the album that made me realize how good Tori was singing about sexuality.

#162  –  Kiss Me

  • “Kiss me beneath the milky twilight”
  • Sixpence None the Richer
  • Matt Slocum
  • 1997; single released in 1998
  • single from Sixpence None the Richer
  • A nice beautiful little love song that came along in 1998 and suddenly found everybody singing it and unable to stop.  It soared all the way up to #2 on the Billboard charts, hit #1 in Australia and Canada and made the Top 10 in ten other countries.  It was the sixth biggest single in the U.S. in 1998 in spite of not reaching #1.  The band itself flitted into my world and back out so quickly that it wasn’t until just now I discovered that they’re actually an alternative Christian band (Veronica didn’t know that either).

#161  –  Regret

  • “Maybe I’ve forgotten the name and the address”
  • New Order
  • Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Stephen Hague
  • 1993
  • single from Republic  (#28; #4 – U.K.)
  • Peter Hook is on record as saying that this was the last good New Order song and I’m inclined to agree with him.  Republic was a decent album but this was the only single that earned a place alongside the great 80’s singles.  This was the last Top 5 hit for the band in the U.K. and is actually their highest charting single in the U.S..  A great dance song with a great guitar riff to lead it off.

#160  –  Smells Like Nirvana

  • “A garage band from Seattle, well it sure beats raising cattle”
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • 1992
  • single from Off the Deep End  (#35)
  • Weird Al’s biggest hit on the U.S. charts since “Eat It”.  He was able to get hold of Kurt Cobain because Al was friends with Victoria Jackson (from making UHF) and she connected him to Cobain when Nirvana was on SNL.  When told about the parody idea, Cobain asked him if it was going to be about food but when Weird Al explained it would be about how no one could understand Cobain’s singing, he loved the idea.  Has one of my favorite non-musical parts of any Weird Al song (when the cattle come in after the line quoted above).

#159  –  Disarm

  • “The killer in me is the killer in you”
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Billy Corgan
  • 1993; single released in 1994
  • single from Siamese Dream  (#11 – U.K.)
  • While it was “Today” that was the big hit that really helped break the Pumpkins, this, to me, is the best song on Siamese Dream.  It’s not just the lyrics (which I do prefer) but the music itself.  It’s very different than most of the Pumpkins hits, not only with the strings but also whatever the bell is that resounds through the song.  Not my favorite Pumpkins song, though, as you’ll see way below.

#158  –  Hail, Hail

  • “I sometimes realize I could only be as good as you’ll let me”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready
  • 1996
  • single from No Code
  • One of the hardest rocking songs on No Code.  When I first bought No Code, I already had the single for “Who You Are” and it had already won me over.  But it wouldn’t be too long before I realized that one of the best songs on the album was the one that sounded the least like “Who You Are”.  The studio version is great but this is a song that really comes alive when you hear it played in concert.

#157  –  Always

  • “Hold on to the night, there will be no shame”
  • Erasure
  • Vince Clarke, Andy Bell
  • 1994
  • single from I Say I Say I Say  (#20; #4 – U.K.)
  • The mix tapes I would eventually inherit from my sister were a bit light on Erasure so I came to them backwards.  This was actually the first Erasure song I owned and while the rest of the album wasn’t that great, it did move me backwards towards their 80’s and early 90’s singles which are among the most danceable songs ever released.  I would eventually learn, of course that this was the final step in the Vince Clarke evolution, moving from the first Depeche Mode album to Yaz and ending up here.  A beautiful song that makes great use of Bell’s high pitched melodic vocals.

#156  –  Mr. Jones

  • “I want to be Bob Dylan”
  • Counting Crows
  • David Bryson, Adam Duritz, Charlie Gillingham, Matt Malley, Ben Mize, Dan Vickrey
  • 1993
  • single from August and Everything After  (#28 – U.K.)
  • Never on the Billboard Hot 100 because it was one of those 90’s alternative songs that wasn’t officially released as a single but a massive radio hit (#5 on their Hot 100 Airplay chart).  This was the first single off the album and the song that helped break the Crows.  It was also the one that broke a lot of people and there were a lot of people who viciously hated this song (which is what lead me to using them as a band that Kayce could make fun of in sleep now the angels).  The song that first attracted me to the band though it would eventually be eclipsed (see below).

#155  –  Little Earthquakes

  • “Doesn’t take too much to rip us into pieces”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1992
  • album track from Little Earthquakes
  • It would take a long time of listening to the album all the way through before I would really realize how great this song is.  It’s a great album closer, because at 6:51 it allows you to gradually fade out though, as I said in my piece in the albums post, it also works well other places on the album.  It’s the line “Doesn’t take too much to rip us into pieces” that really gets to me.  In the last decade, it’s one of the songs on the album I have listened to the most.

#154  –  Dreams

  • “You have my heart so don’t hurt me”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan, Noel Hogan
  • 1993
  • single from Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?  (#42)
  • It took me a while before I could get around to buying (and then appreciating what a really good album it is and it came close to my Top 50) Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We not because it isn’t good (clearly I think it is) but because the guy in the dorm room next door had this tendency to play “Dreams” and “Linger” and then play them again and again and again.  So, the next year, when I had some relief, I was able to listen to the songs again on their own and realize just how great both songs are.

#153  –  Verse Chorus Verse  (Sappy)

  • “And if you save yourself you will make him happy
  • Nirvana
  • Kurt Cobain
  • 1993
  • hidden track on No Alternative
  • I complained in my albums post about hidden tracks on Jagged Little Pill and Dookie because they were unnamed (and you couldn’t isolate them on a cd player).  Well how about this track, which was hidden on No Alternative and thus had no credits listed (including no title).  It soon got a lot of airplay (and confused people who couldn’t find it).  A great song (and, obviously, to my mind, better than anything on In Utero).  When it was re-released on With the Lights Out, the Nirvana box set, it was retitled from “Verse Chorus Verse” (which it was known as originally) because there was another Nirvana song by that name on the box set and went back to its original name of “Sappy” from when it was first written, back in 1987.

#152  –  Born of Frustration

  • “Don’t need a shrink or an exorcist”
  • James
  • Jim Glennie, Larry Gott, Tim Booth
  • 1992
  • single from Seven  (#13 – U.K.)
  • When “Laid” (see below) became a big hit, my roommate Jamie responded by buying James’ previous album.  Most of the album was okay, but there was also “Born of Frustration”, an absolutely amazing song that won me over from the first time I heard it.  The song is perfectly suited for the lower range of singer Tim Booth’s vocals.

#151  –  Jackie’s Strength

  • “All the bridesmaids getting laid”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1998
  • single from From the Choirgirl Hotel  (#33)
  • There have been singers that I have found attractive but there has never been someone who intrigued me as intensely in the combination of their looks and music as Tori Amos.  In 1998, when her fourth studio album was coming out, I was not only getting it the day it was released, but I was grabbing up all the singles as soon as they were released and I even reviewed the album itself for my college newspaper in spite of the fact that I was now a grad student there (that I was dating one of the paper’s editors and their managing editor was one of my best friends also had something to do with it).  The album itself doesn’t hold up all that well but the first two singles, “Spark” and “Jackie’s Strength” still hold up very well in their different ways of embracing Tori’s different musical sides (“Spark” has a much harder rock sound while this is much more piano based).  So what exactly is this song about?  Is it really about Jackie Kennedy?  Who really knows.  It is Tori after all.

#150  –  The Riverflow

  • “You’d clip the wings off any rising god”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1991
  • album track from Levelling the Land
  • A kick ass, quick song that sounds even shorter than its 3:06 running time because of the speed at which they play guitar and fiddle.  It has fun with its lyrics (“You’d set the table for the barber Sweeney Todd”) and is one of the songs that makes best use of the fiddle.

#149  –  We 3

  • “I do believe anger is offset by sorrow, what you destroy today you might regret tomorrow”
  • Soul Asylum
  • Dave Pirner
  • 1990
  • album track from And the Horse They Rode In On
  • This is an album track that I might have never noticed, first listening to Soul Asylum with Grave Dancers Union except, first, it was brilliantly used for the conclusion of Chasing Amy and it immediately made me sit up and notice it and then it was included on their greatest hits collection, Black Gold: The Very Best of Soul Asylum.  A lyrically poignant song that perfectly fits its use in Chasing Amy.

#148  –  Country Feedback

  • “This flower is scorched, this film is on”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1991
  • album track from Out of Time
  • Michael Stipe’s favorite song from Out of Time, as he has pointed out many times.  The line quoted above would give R.E.M. the title for one of their video collections.  Of all the songs on Out of Time, this is the one that took the longest for me to fully appreciate.

#147  –  Expectations

  • “Making life size models of the Velvet Underground in clay”
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Stuart Murdoch
  • 1996
  • album track from Tigermilk
  • I came to Belle and Sebastian the really long way around.  I actually like their melodic beat which Rob was ignoring in High Fidelity.  My friend Julia (a big fan) was supposed to make me a tape but never did and so they got forgotten for a while.  That was, until Juno came out, which had both “Expectations” and “Piazza, New York Catcher”, two of their most brilliant songs.  That sent me to listen to their full albums.  Tigermilk, their debut album, didn’t quite make it to my Top 50, though it came close.  But “Expectations”, with its hypnotic beat and utterly bizarre lyrics (I always have to remember not to sing the lyrics about the character of Veronica to my wife Veronica since the song’s Veronica is a “fat girl with a lisp”) had no problem making this list.

#146  –  Low

  • “Don’t you want to go down like some junky cosmonaut”
  • Cracker
  • David Lowery, Johnny Hickman, Davey Faragher
  • 1993
  • single from Kerosene Hat  (#64)
  • Though it hasn’t ended up high enough on this list to merit the same consideration, back at the end of 1994, when I was a Rolling Stone subscriber and sending in my votes for its year end reader awards, I gave some serious consideration to giving this “Song of the Year”.  I was supposed to see Cracker with Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms back in 1994 but then the concert got cancelled.

#145  –  Streets of Philadelphia

  • “I’ve walked 1000 miles just to slip this skin”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1994
  • single from Philadelphia: The Official Soundtrack  (#9)
  • Not only the only Oscar winner on this list but, because I don’t really think of Disney songs in the context of such lists, the only Oscar winner from this decade that I even considered for this list (and there are very few nominees on the list as well).  A nice steady beat keeps the song moving, though it’s a bit mellow for Bruce.  Songs like this always give me pause with my OCD because the film was released in 1993 so it really should be 1993 in my mind but the soundtrack wasn’t released until 1994 (and to be fair, the film didn’t get a wide release until mid January 1994).

#144  –  Cornflake Girl

  • “She’s puttin’ on her string bean love”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1994
  • single from Under the Pink  (#107; #4 – U.K.)
  • What a shock that the song that first won me over to Tori Amos was so different than so much of her music.  Yes, there is a great piano beat in the middle of it, but this is also much more of a rock song than most of the songs on Little Earthquakes that would really make me a die hard Tori fan.  In typical Tori fashion, there is a lot more to this song than you realize (it’s about female genital mutilation).  In also typical fashion of the difference between U.S and U.K. charts this was her first chart appearance on the U.S. charts (reaching #7 on the Bubbling Under) and her first Top 10 hit in the U.K..

#143  –  Dance Before the Storm

  • “It’s dangerous times we live in I heard a man once say”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1992
  • b-side on 15 Years e.p.
  • The first cd single I ever found for the Levellers was actually the 15 Years e.p. from before that song made it on to the album Levelling the Land.  It had an absolutely brilliant b-side called “Dance Before the Storm” with not only a great fiddle section but two contrasting singing styles that really made the song click, with spoken word verses and a sung chorus.  It still stands up as one my favorite b-sides from any band and it’s easier to find now since it was included on the remastered two disc version of Levelling the Land.

#142  –  Suicide Blonde

  • “Love devastation, suicide blonde”
  • INXS
  • Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence
  • 1990
  • single from X  (#9)
  • This was a new INXS.  In some ways, it wasn’t so different from the old one that had turned, it seemed, every song on Kick into a hit single.  But this song, the opening track from their first album in three years, had a great blues riff to open the song and one hell of a chorus.  Hell, just the title, “Suicide Blonde” was pure gold.  Like all the singles from Kick, it somehow didn’t hit #1 in their native Australia (their only #1 hit there is “Original Sin”) but it was a Top 10 hit all around the world except the U.K. where it peaked at #11.

#141  –  Another Man’s Cause

  • “And your brother he was killed in the last war”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1991
  • album track from Levelling the Land
  • When I first bought Levelling the Land after hearing a friend play it at Brandeis, it was the one-two punch of political songs on the second side of the tape that I kept listening to over and over, the punch of “Sell Out” and “Another Man’s Cause”.  This was what had always made me such a fan of U2 and here was another band doing the same thing but with such a distinctly different sound while not really being all that different, both of them post-punk bands blazing their own trails.

#140  –  Bob

  • “The ladies won’t go out with you because your name is Bob”
  • Ed’s Redeeming Qualities
  • Dom Leone
  • 1990
  • album track from More Bad Times
  • The first of consecutive funny really funny songs and the second of three songs from bands that I first learned about at Brandeis.  Ed’s Redeeming Qualities were a very small indie band that somehow managed to end up in a feature film in the mid-90’s (Ed’s Next Move, worth seeing).  Their first full album, More Bad Times, is uneven but parts of it are very, very funny.  I’ve gotten people to listen to various songs over the years but there’s no question the one that has had the most success among my friends is “Bob”.  My friend Kari actually taped it off me to play for her dad, who is, of course, named Bob.  Just a short (1:59) funny song about how it sucks to be named Bob.

#139  –  Jesus Was Way Cool

  • “Jesus could have baked the most delicious cake in the world”
  • King Missile
  • Hall, Xefos
  • 1990
  • album track from Mystical Shit
  • King Missile had a minor hit later in the decade with “Detachable Penis” but I first learned about them at Brandeis because, well, because I had very weird friends at Brandeis.  The band’s best album is Mystical Shit, with such hilarious songs as “Gary & Melissa”, “The Sandbox” and “Cheesecake Truck”.  But there’s no question that this song that makes everyone laugh the hardest, a song that is hilarious but doesn’t make fun of Jesus in any real way, instead just mentioning how cool he was and ending with “No wonder there are so many Christians”.

#138  –  Brian Wilson

  • “Drove downtown in the rain, 9:30 on a Tuesday night”
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Steven Page
  • 1992
  • single from Gordon  (#68)
  • Why did they even need to make a film like Love & Mercy, or at least the parts set in the 80’s, when you can just listen to this fantastic song and get an idea of what the messed up things that were going on in Brian Wilson’s head.  The song has been recorded numerous times, including twice on small little indie releases before Gordon and a live version that was later used on their Greatest Hits (which is the version I have).  Wilson himself likes the song so much that he later recorded his own version.

#137  –  Who You Are

  • “Transcendental consequences to transcend where we are”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Stone Gossard, Jack Irons, Eddie Vedder
  • 1996
  • single from No Code  (#31)
  • On their first two albums, Pearl Jam hadn’t officially released singles in the U.S..  They did for Vitalogy but that wasn’t the song that radio stations ended up playing.  But for No Code, they actually got a Top 40 single out of “Who You Are”, released before the album was.  For a lot of people, it was very different Pearl Jam, but for me, it was a slice of esoterica, a nice groove with mellow lyrics that are hard to comprehend (both in terms of their meaning and understanding Eddie).  Not a big hit among die hard Pearl Jam fans but it’s always been a favorite of mine.  I have a great live version from Berlin where Eddie begins with “I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just say, I am a donut” which is a joke on the notion that JFK mispronounced his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” remarks.

#136  –  The Fly

  • “I gotta go, yeah, I’m running out of change, there’s a lot of things if I could I’d rearrange”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991
  • single from Achtung Baby  (#61; #1 – U.K.)
  • Radio stations didn’t know how the hell to respond to this.  After the hit singles from Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum and now U2 was finally back and this was what they were promoting?  What were these sounds?  What was Bono doing with that falsetto?  It took me, admittedly, a long time to really get into this song and like many American audiences (where this was not a hit), it was “Mysterious Ways” and “One” that really won me over, though once I started really listening to the album, this fit in so perfectly.  That even fits today, where this song has moved up from where it appeared (at #50) on my Top 100 U2 Songs.

#135  –  Blaze of Glory

  • “Call me young gun”
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • 1990
  • single from Blaze of Glory  (#1)
  • When Jon Bon Jovi went solo with this song and the subsequent album, it was a huge hit (it was part of the reason my sister so badly wanted to see Young Guns II, one of the very few Westerns I have ever seen in the theater), partially because it sounded so much like his earlier work.  In fact, my friend John commented “I preferred it the first time when he called it ‘Wanted Dead or Alive'”.  But audiences loved it, as it went to #1 in the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand and even earned him an Oscar nomination, a rare rock song at a time when most rock songs were still getting ignored.

#134  –  Your Ghost

  • “I think last night you were driving circles around me”
  • Kristin Hersh with Michael Stipe
  • Kristin Hersh
  • 1994
  • single from Hips & Makers  (#45 – U.K.)
  • I first heard this working at Powells played by either Tavis (huge R.E.M. fan) or Jill (huge Throwing Muses fan).  It would eventually lead me to listening to a lot more Throwing Muses and becoming a fan.  This song is, in my opinion, the best work Hersh has ever done, partially because her haunting singing is perfectly counter-balanced by Stipe’s vocals.  Supposedly they weren’t even in the same place when it was recorded but that Stipe recorded his vocals around hers.

#133  –  Why Should I Cry For You

  • “What would it mean to say I loved you in my fashion”
  • Sting
  • Sting
  • 1991
  • single from The Soul Cages
  • I don’t know if this song only charted in France or if that’s actually the only place it was released as a single.  I remember being asked once if I considered Sting a rock singer and I described him as a pop star as a solo artist and a rock star with The Police.  When he was with The Police it didn’t seem like he could have ever done a hauntingly beautiful song like this one.  Is this the best song off The Soul Cages, a very good album that was considered for my Top 50?  Well, not to me, in spite of its beauty, so see #63 down below.

#132  –  Beautiful Girl

  • “Where did you find her among the neon lights”
  • INXS
  • Andrew Farriss
  • 1992
  • single from Welcome to Wherever You Are  (#46)
  • “Aunt Sarah, that’s song’s about a prostitute” Kayce tells her aunt.  Now, as it turns out, that’s not true.  I guess the lesson to be learned there, Andrew Farriss, is that if you want to write a song about the birth of your baby daughter maybe you shouldn’t include lines like “Street corner to corner” that could be interpreted in a much more adult way.  Either way, it’s a great song, one of the best from the band and I think the multiple possible interpretations actually enhance that.

#131  –  You Get What You Give

  • “Wake up kids, we got the dreamer’s disease”
  • New Radicals
  • Gregg Alexander, Rick Nowels
  • 1998
  • single from Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too  (#36; #5 – U.K.)
  • The song that got famous for the celebrities that it dissed at the end of the song, which was ironic, because apparently those were put in there by songwriter Gregg Alexander deliberately to see if the media would harp on it and miss the message in the first two verses.  Yeah, of course, that’s what the media clued in on.  Too bad, because this is a brilliant song with one hell of a beat.

#130  –  Omaha

  • “Somewhere in Middle America”
  • Counting Crows
  • Adam Duritz
  • 1993
  • album track off August and Everything After
  • The official signal call of Peyton Manning.  That’s a joke of course, but those last few years when Peyton used “Omaha” as his call, I would invariably follow it with “somewhere in Middle America”.  I would also use the phrase to let Veronica know that the Broncos were playing.  It would have driven me nuts if not for the fact that I absolutely love this song, one of the best on one of my most listened-to albums of the decade.

#129  –  Baby Got Back

  • “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hon”
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot
  • Anthony Ray
  • 1992
  • single from Mack Daddy  (#1)
  • So this song was missing from the humorous songs about sex a ways back.  That’s because this song is so audacious and hilarious that it kept moving up the list.  I have a great memory of a friend of mine named Danny singing every word of this song while we were driving back from Six Flags Magic Mountain.  It would still be years before I would actually get this song but it always made me smile even if I have different taste in women than Sir Mix-a-Lot.  My favorite line is actually “Uhh, double up uhh uhh” but it looks awkward when written out.

#128  –  Ode to My Family

  • “My father he liked me, does anyone care”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan, Noel Hogan
  • 1994
  • single from No Need to Argue  (#26 – U.K.)
  • Perhaps the single that will let you know what kind of tolerance you have for Dolores and her high pitched vocals.  This was the favorite of my roommate George in the weeks between when he first bought the album and when I did.

#127  –  Waiting for Somebody

  • “I know down deep I made a big decision”
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Paul Westerberg
  • 1992
  • album track from Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  • There are not many contenders in this decade that can stand with the soundtrack to Singles.  Yet, after all those Seattle bands, after the two great Pearl Jam songs comes the end of the film and the great drums and guitars kick in and we get “Waiting for Somebody”, a song that’s as good as anything Paul Westerberg ever did with the Replacements.  One of those great gems that makes for a great ending to a great movie, even if its track 10 out of 13 on the soundtrack.

#126  –  I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You

  • “I search the place for your last face, you’re nowhere to be found”
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Tom Waits
  • 1992
  • b-side to “These Are Days”
  • Before I took to Dylan’s voice after a lot of listening, I treated him as a songwriter for other singers to sing.  That’s how I still treat Tom Waits (best story about Waits – working at Powells, a co-worker was playing the new Waits album and another co-worker walked in and after listening for about two minutes asked “Is this Cookie Monster?”).  I abhor his singing.  A lot of his songwriting is masterful.  I first heard this song actually sung by Hootie & the Blowfish and their version was good (better than most of their actual singles) but then I heard this version on a Waits compilation.  That’s exactly what the song needed – the gender shift that Natalie Merchant’s beautiful vocals give it.  One of several great covers used on b-sides on the Our Time in Eden singles including “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” and “Every Day is Like Sunday”.

#125  –  Laid

  • “The neighbors complain about the noises above but she only cums when she’s on top”
  • James
  • Tim Booth, Larry Gott and Jim Glennie
  • 1993
  • single from Laid  (#61; #25 – U.K.)
  • Another song that is too good to be lumped in with the humorous sex songs.  I remember this song as much for its use of different genders in terms of the lovers (“Basket Case” was the same) as for the lyrics themselves.  “You’re driving me crazy, when you are coming home?”  That line, when I first heard it, probably in early 1994, summed up so much of what I was feeling for a couple of different females in my life.  This was a song I definitely needed to hear when I first heard it and I haven’t stopped listening to it yet.

#124  –  Don’t Speak

  • “If it’s real then I don’t want to know”
  • No Doubt
  • Eric Stefani, Gwen Stefani
  • 1996
  • single from Tragic Kingdom  (#1 – U.K.)
  • A perfect example of why Billboard changed their charting methods, since it wasn’t eligible for their actual Top 100 but hit #1 on their Adult Top 40, Mainstream Top 40 and Radio Songs charts and #2 on their Alternative Songs chart.  Hit #1 in 15 different countries.  I always wanted to like No Doubt more than I did because of the Orange connection (one of the pictures in the sleeve for Tragic Kingdom was taken in front of where one of my favorite comic shops used to be, a block from where my parents worked when I was growing up) and I do like some of their songs but I love this one.

#123  –  All I Want

  • “We wouldn’t be that brave I know”
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from fear  (#15)
  • This wasn’t the first single and it wasn’t their first album (it was actually their third) but this was the first time that Toad the Wet Sprocket meant anything more to me than a nonsense phrase in an obscure Monty Python sketch.  It wasn’t just me, either, as this song went all the way into the Top 20 at a time when lots of alternative bands weren’t making the charts at all.  I was never as big a fan of Toad as my roommate George was but they were a great 90’s alternative band (it helped for George that he went to boarding school near Santa Barbara at the same time that they were making their way through the club scene there).

#122  –  Hey Jupiter

  • “And this little masochist, she’s ready to confess”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1996
  • single from Boys for Pele  (#20 – U.K.)
  • When I first bought Boys for Pele, the day it was released, at the height of my Tori craze, this was one of the songs that I first really noticed (along with “Muhammed My Friend” and “Putting the Damage On”).  It was a nice soft song, a beautiful piano driven song.  So imagine my surprise seven months later when this was released on its own E.P. and suddenly the song had been completely transformed, with a driving beat in the background.  I couldn’t have been more surprised than at how much I also loved this version, perhaps even preferred it.  It’s always great when an artist can reimagine their own song and make it just as great and new (also see #1).

#121  –  Mysterious Ways

  • “You’ve been running away from what you don’t understand”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991
  • single from Achtung Baby  (#9)
  • For whatever reason, in spite of being a massive U2 fan, I had to wait a month before getting Achtung Baby for Christmas.  By that time, “Mysterious Ways” had been released as the second single on the album and had eclipsed “The Fly” in airplay and pretty much helped win over all the fans who were uneasy about the new album.  It landed at #43 on my Top 100 U2 songs but it was in the Top 10 for Veronica and my brother John.  Unlike the previous song, I don’t think the numerous remixes on the cd single add much to this song.  But the live versions do, especially the 1993 Dublin performance.

#120  –  In Bloom

  • “He don’t know what it means”
  • Nirvana
  • Kurt Cobain
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Nevermind  (#28 – U.K.)
  • Is this a diss at anyone who would dare to like Nirvana?  In a sense they are, but attacking those who were just then finding the band in the club scene.  This song works as a hit on anyone who suddenly flocked to the band with Nevermind, which was millions, while this song was part of what allowed them to get the contract with DGC so that they could record the album in the first place.

#119  –  1979

  • “The street heats the urgency of now, as you can see there’s no one around”
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Billy Corgan
  • 1995; single released in 1996
  • single from Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness  (#16)
  • Not only by far the most radio friendly song on Melon Collie, but perhaps the most radio friendly song that the Pumpkins would ever record.  It certainly didn’t hurt that it was accompanied by a video that really brought out the song’s playful side.  Not the best song on the album but the most successful Pumpkins single in the States, their only Top 20 hit and a #1 Alternative hit, coming in the middle of “Wonderwall”, the single worst song of the decade ruling that chart in two separate stints.

#118  –  Lightning Crashes

  • “The angel opens her eyes”
  • Live
  • Live
  • 1994
  • single from Throwing Copper
  • This hit #1 on the Modern Rock charts at a much better time, in between “When I Come Around” and “Good”.  It took me a while to really become a big fan of this song, partially because there was such a fan influx of it at the time and that annoyed me and because I felt that “Selling the Drama”, which I still think is, by far, the best song on the album, was getting short thrift.  But this is a brilliant, slow building song that really pays off.

#117  –  South Side

  • “Here we are going to the east side”
  • Moby featuring Gwen Stefani
  • Moby
  • 1999; single released in 2000
  • single from Play  (#14)
  • You could make a good argument that this song shouldn’t be included.  Yes, the song was released on the album Play which came out in May of 1999.  But, because of production problems, the version of the song with Stefani’s vocals wasn’t included on the album.  They were included on the single, but that wasn’t released until November of 2000.  And it’s the version with Stefani that really belongs here because her vocals add a different level to the song and make it so much better than anything else Moby has ever recorded.  But, anyway, it’s here on my list.

#116  –  Go West

  • “Life is peaceful there”
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Morali, Belolo, Willis, Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe
  • 1993
  • single from Very  (#2 – U.K.)
  • I remember how five of us drove to Seattle for a weekend in May of 1994.  Jamie had made a mix tape for the trip and was driving.  When this song came on, it suddenly lit both of us up.  Jamie would sing “Go West!” at the top of his voice and I would add in the “Life is peaceful there”.  It made me realize that not only was it a brilliant song, in spite of originally being a Village People song and that it was perhaps my favorite Pet Shop Boys song.  If it wasn’t a gay anthem when the Village People wrote it, it became one with the lines “Now if we make a stand we’ll find our promised land”, lines added on by the Pet Shop Boys (and thus the writing credits for Tennant and Lowe).

#115  –  Galileo

  • “How long before my soul gets it right, can any human being ever reach that kind of light”
  • Indigo Girls
  • Emily Saliers
  • 1992
  • single from Rites of Passage  (#89)
  • “Closer to Fine” has been my favorite Indigo Girls since the second I heard it and it landed in my Top 20 for the 80’s.  But “Galileo” was more of a slow burn, slowly moving up over the years and by now it is probably my second favorite song by the duo.  Like “Closer to Fine”, it has some beautiful acoustic guitar work and absolutely brilliant, deep, meaningful lyrics.  Ironically, there is another song called “Galileo” from the 90’s that I like but Amy Grant’s song is a distant second to this one.

#114  –  Babylon II

  • “The love that I was giving you was never in doubt”
  • David Gray
  • David Gray
  • 1998; single released in 1999
  • single from White Ladder  (#5 – U.K.)
  • Now, some of the information isn’t technically accurate.  This song isn’t really a single, isn’t really on White Ladder and that isn’t really the sleeve for the single on the right.  That’s for the original version, simply titled “Babylon”.  But this song, which I think is a bit better, is the remix that was included on the U.S. version of the album as the final track.  This is one of those very rare songs that I actually got from my younger sister because she got the album for Christmas one year (I think maybe it was 2000).

#113  –  Be My Downfall

  • “When faced with temptation you know a man should stand and fight”
  • Del Amitri
  • Justin Currie
  • 1992
  • single from Change Everything
  • My roommate Jonathan, who has every 80’s Top 40 hit on vinyl was a big fan of Del Amitri.  It was to his great delight that “Roll to Me” became a Top 10 hit while we were roommates.  I never took to that song but he also played me this one and it floored me.  In the aftermath of a bad breakup that scarred me for quite a while (“But I’m not bitter,” would be my constant sarcastic refrain all year) this song seemed to say a lot about the relationship that had just ended.

#112  –  Wise Up

  • “It’s not going to stop until you wise up”
  • Aimee Mann
  • Aimee Mann
  • 1996
  • album track from Jerry Maguire: Music from the Motion Picture
  • Sometimes you find things by accident.  When I saw Magnolia on opening day, I was blown away by the use of Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”, with each character singing the song in turn.  It was a daring moment and it worked perfectly.  So naturally I wanted to hear the song with just her.  And it turned out I already owned it and had for a couple of years because it was on the Jerry Maguire soundtrack and I just hadn’t paid attention to it.  Oscars.org didn’t list it as eligible so it didn’t earn a Nighthawk nomination from me and it actually wouldn’t have won anyway because of #106.

#111  –  Immortality

  • “Some die just to live”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1994
  • single from Vitalogy
  • When Vitalogy first came out, there were several songs that struck me right away.  One, of course, was “Better Man” which was already getting played on the radio.  Another was “Nothingman”.  But a third was “Immortality” and I figured that, like “Nothingman”, there was no way this would be destined for the radio, that it would just be a gem for those who owned the album.  I was stunned the next summer then when it became an official single.  Of course, radio station ignored it just as they had the official single release of “Spin the Black Circle”, opting to play “Better Man” instead and over the summer you could occasionally hear this song played on the radio, much to my delight, but usually it was “Corduroy” that you could hear instead.

#110  –  Smalltown

  • “If art is the tip of the iceberg I’m the part sinking below”
  • Lou Reed and John Cale
  • Lou Reed and John Cale
  • 1990
  • album track from Songs for Drella
  • The best tracks off Songs for Drella, which did make my Top 50 Albums for the decade, are the opening and closing numbers.  The final number “Hello It’s Me” is a touching tribute to Andy Warhol while this, the piano driven short opening number is a humorous take on Warhol and where he came from.

#109  –  Right Here, Right Now

  • “I saw the decade in when the world could change in the blink of an eye”
  • Jesus Jones
  • Mike Edwards
  • 1990
  • single from Doubt  (#2)
  • I wonder if I would have wanted iTunes when I was in college.  It’s true that then I wouldn’t have to wait three years from when I first heard this song constantly played on the radio until I met someone who had the cd so I could record the song on a mixtape.  On the other hand, trips to record stores through college were a huge part of my bonding experience with Kari and Jonathan and I don’t know that I would think the trade off was worth it.  A great song that still makes me think of first having my driver’s license.

#108  –  Breath

  • “Oh tonight began with anything”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard
  • 1992
  • album track from Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  • The Nighthawk Award winner for Best Original Song in 1992.  It isn’t used much in Singles but it’s the best song on one of the best soundtracks of the decade.  It’s always a rare treat when they play this in concert and I’ve never been lucky enough though I do have recordings of it.

#107  –  Under the Bridge

  • “Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in, the City of Angels”
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, Chad Smith
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Blood Sugar Sex Magik  (#2)
  • Not exactly a rocking ode to L.A. like “I Love L.A.” but nonetheless, a song about my city.  I wasn’t much of a fan of the Peppers when I was growing up (and if you believe the views on The Good Place, that’s a way to avoid the bad place) and it took me a long time to really appreciate this song (possibly it took the Weird Al version that parodied this and “Give It Away” in the same song).  But eventually it did grow on me and today I would rank it as one my top three songs by the band.

#106  –  Walls

  • “Some doors are open, some roads are blocked”
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • Tom Petty
  • 1996
  • single from Songs and Music from She’s the One  (#69)
  • This is the Nighthawk Award winner for Best Original Song for 1996.  What’s so brilliant about this song is that there are two very distinct versions of the song and they both work.  The first, “Walls (Circus)” is the opening number to the film, slowly bringing us into the action.  The other, my more preferred version is “Walls (No. 3)” and it’s a faster moving number that brings on the end credits.  That the film itself doesn’t really merit two such great versions of a song is neither here nor there.

#105  –  World in My Eyes

  • “Let me take you on a trip around the world and back”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1990
  • single from Violator  (#52; #17 – U.K.)
  • When I ran the school literary magazine my junior year in college, I quoted this song three times in my introductory piece.  It was to me, the perfect song for such an introduction as those creative pieces where showing you the world through our eyes.  Just one of several great singles on this album which is why its the band’s best album.

#104  –  He Got Game

  • “I don’t freestyle much but I write ’em like such”
  • Public Enemy
  • Stephen Stills, Chuck D
  • 1998
  • single from He Got Game  (#16 – U.K.)
  • In 1997, Puff Daddy arose by sampling Led Zeppelin and Sting and I couldn’t stand it.  But then came this song and I suddenly had a different view of sampling, of how it could take a great melody and bring in some new lyrics (and even use some of the old ones) and really make a song that sounded both classic and new at the same time.  Probably my favorite P.E. song.

#103  –  Once

  • “Indian summer and I hate the heat, I got a backseat lover in the passenger seat”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard
  • 1991
  • album track from Ten
  • Because it’s the side of the album with “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Black” and “Jeremy”, the opening side has always been highly lauded and deservedly so.  But the opening number of the album belongs on that list as well.  The slow build to the great guitar riff really sets the stage for the album.  One of the original songs that Eddie wrote lyrics for and sent back to the band that helped set the stage for him being their lyricist and singer.

#102  –  Numb

  • “Don’t grieve without leave”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1993
  • album track from Zooropa
  • You can see this listed as a single but it’s not really true.  It was the first song to get radio airplay when the album was released but the band was adamant that they weren’t releasing it as a single even if they did do a video for it.  It’s one of those rare songs that feature Edge on lead vocals.  It’s one of the standout songs on Zooropa and ended up at #33 on my Top 100 U2 songs list.  It’s one of the rare times when a falsetto in a song doesn’t bother me.

#101  –  Send Me an Angel

  • “Close your eyes and you will find passage out of the dark”
  • Scorpions
  • Rudolf Schenker, Klaus Meine
  • 1990
  • single from Crazy World  (#44)
  • If you were listening to the Scorpions in the 80’s, could you ever have imagined what would come in 1990?  That they would release an album with not one but two ballads that would become big hits.  I never would have thought I would be that interested in the Scorpions and thought “Wind of Change” was it for me until it turned out the album also had this beautiful song.  This to me, says way too much about chart success.  The same week this song peaked, way down at #44, the #1 song was “All 4 Love”, one of my most hated songs ever.

#100  –  The Last Song

  • “I never dreamed I’d feel this fire beneath my skin”
  • Elton John
  • Elton John, Bernie Taupin
  • 1993
  • single from The One  (#23)
  • The best Elton song from a rather mixed decade of work.  This is perhaps the less subtle little brother to U2’s “One” which is also about a father dealing with a song who has AIDS but is less obvious about it.  The proceeds from this single went to Elton’s AIDS Foundation and I seem to remember it being about Ryan White (whom John was friends with) but I can’t find anything to support that.  A beautiful song that was used at the end of HBO’s And the Band Played On.

#99  –  Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

  • “You killed it because I wanted revenge”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Achtung Baby  (#35; #14 – U.K.)
  • The fifth and final single from Achtung.  By the time it was released, pretty much everyone who had the album already loved the song but it was nice that it got a single release.  The actual version released on the single was the Temple Bar Edit which was a short version which dropped the “turn around” coda towards the end of the song but is still a great version.  It was #28 on my Top 100 U2 list and made my brother Kelly’s Top 10.

#98  –  Good Intentions

  • “Seems I usually get things right but I can’t understand what I did last night”
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Glen Phillips
  • 1995
  • single from Friends Original TV Soundtrack
  • I always thought Friends was a dumb show but the soundtrack that was released at the start of the show’s second season was actually quite good, from the Pretenders cover of “Angel of the Morning” to the actual theme song and because of rare songs by R.E.M. and Toad the Wet Sprocket.  This song was actually recorded for fear, their hit 1991 album but, like with the Counting Crows and “Einstein on the Beach” they dropped it from the album because it was too catchy.  It only ended up being one of the best songs they would ever record.

#97  –  Insanity

  • “White folks think they’re at the top ask any proud white male, one million years of evolution we get Danny Quayle”
  • Boingo
  • Danny Elfman
  • 1993
  • single from Boingo
  • After doing a lot film work, Danny Elfman decided that Oingo Boingo needed a new direction so, three years after that last studio album, he changed the band, changed the sound, changed the name and released one final album.  The album is actually quite good and the highlight is the 7:59 single that opens the album, a song that just keeps building and building with fascinating instrumentation, lyrics that say a lot (“Let’s imitate reality”, “Let’s strive for mediocrity”) and even a chorus of children.  Not the longest song on the list (see #40) but it never outstays its welcome and is one of the best songs the band would ever record.

#96  –  American Music

  • “You were born too late, I was born too soon”
  • Violent Femmes
  • Gordon Gano
  • 1991
  • single from Why Do Birds Sing?
  • This has been my favorite Violent Femmes song from pretty much the first time I ever heard it on an episode of MTV’s 120 Minutes.  In fact, I kept watching the show for a while after that in the hopes of hearing it again.  I wouldn’t actually get a recording of it until Violent Femmes released their best of Add It Up in 1993.

#95  –  The Unforgiven

  • “What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown”
  • Metallica
  • James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich
  • 1991
  • single from Metallica  (#35; #15 – U.K.)
  • In 1991, Metallica suddenly entered the mainstream.  Of the seven Top 40 singles they’ve had in their career, almost half of them came from this one album.  While it was “Enter Sandman” that ended up charting the highest, this was the song that won me over the most.  It was fascinating that it seemed like a ballad but the guitar was so dark and heavy that it also just sounded like a rock song.  Still my favorite Metallica song.

#94  –  Come Out and Play

  • “If you’re under 18 you won’t be doing any time”
  • The Offspring
  • Dexter Holland
  • 1994
  • single from Smash  (#98 – U.K.)
  • This was the song that really helped break The Offspring.  When I first heard it, I figured it was by a band that had grown up in the inner city and seen a lot of crime when they were growing up, not that they were from Garden Grove.  But knowing they were from just a few miles where I had grown up made me enjoy the band all the more.  Smash was a great album and a lot of fun and just barely missed my Top 50 (their later album, Americana, did make it).  Weird Al used to insert the “you gotta keep ’em separated” line into a medley but he was singing about laundry.

#93  –  Hunger Strike

  • “But I’m going hungry”
  • Temple of the Dog
  • Chris Cornell
  • 1991
  • single from Temple of the Dog  (#51 – U.K.)
  • My roommate Jamie remembered lambasting his brother for complaining “If the guy’s so hungry, he should eat”, prompting Jamie to go “The song’s called ‘Hunger Strike’ you idiot.”  I remember a debate once as to how important Eddie Vedder was to Pearl Jam.  It would come back to this album and how the only really worthwhile song on it is the one where Eddie is the lead vocalist.  I imagine that most people, like me, forget that this album was released well before Ten because the song didn’t chart until well after Ten was already popular.

#92  –  Belong

  • “Sit and whispered to her child, ‘belong'”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1991
  • album track from Out of Time
  • When people first started buying Out of Time, it seemed that everyone agreed what was the best album track (see #54).  But it wasn’t as easy for people to agree what was the second best.  Eventually I settled on “Belong”.  I don’t know if it’s the backing vocals, the way Mike Mills so perfectly counterpoints Stipe’s spoken lyrics, or the way Stipe calmly speaks his way through the song, or just Peter Buck’s guitar or even Bill Berry’s drumming.  Just a wonderful treasure on one of the best albums of the decade.

#91  –  1000 Oceans

  • “These tears I’ve cried, I’ve cried a thousand oceans”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1999
  • single from To Venus and Back
  • My Tori mania was starting to wind down in 1999 when she released To Venus and Back partially because it just wasn’t that good an album with, a lot of, what sounded to me, like filler.  But anchoring the album was two of Tori’s best songs, the opening (see #45) and this one, the fantastic closing song on the album (and one I often use to close tapes or cd’s).  This is one of her most simple and beautiful songs, not only in the lyrics, but in the instrumentation as well.  At least one of my Tori collections I titled “These Tears I’ve Cried”.

#90  –  Friday I’m in Love

  • “I don’t care if Monday’s blue”
  • The Cure
  • Perry Bamonte, Boris Williams, Simon Gallup, Robert Smith, Porl Thompson
  • 1992
  • single from Wish  (#18)
  • In the 80’s, The Cure released seven (or eight, depending on where you were) albums.  In the 90’s, they released two.  Both of them were a bit of a mixed bag.  Wish isn’t good enough to make my Top 50 though I at least gave it some consideration.  It gave us “Friday I’m in Love”, the second (and last) U.S. Top 40 hit for the band and their last U.K. Top 10.  It’s a great nice poppy song, very different than what they normally delivered.  It also had a remixed version on the single that was perhaps even better than the original release.

#89  –  Possession

  • “You speak to me in riddles and you speak to me in rhymes”
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • 1993
  • single from Fumbling Towards Ecstasy  (#73)
  • Veronica and I don’t always agree.  She finds the songs “Crimson and Clover” and “Crash Into Me” to be sexy and I can’t stand them.  She, on the other hand, is not a big fan of this song, which I think is just about the sexiest song ever recorded.  It’s true this song was inspired by a number of stalkers that McLachlan had.  But it doesn’t change the lyrics, doesn’t change the haunting ethereal sexuality of her voice or that it comes from an album titled Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

#88  –  Here in My Heart

  • “There’s a beautiful song since you came along here in my heart”
  • The 6ths
  • Stephin Merritt
  • 1995
  • album track from Wasps’ Nests
  • This songs was actually featured in a commercial a few years ago and it floored me.  I discovered it thanks to my friend Jill playing it at Powells one day and I couldn’t decide if I loved the instrumentation or the vocals more.

#87  –  Born Slippy.NUXX

  • “Dirty numb angel boy”
  • Underworld
  • Rick Smith, Karl Hyde, Darren Emerson
  • 1995; single released in 1996
  • b-side to “Born Slippy”, single from Trainspotting: Music from the Motion Picture
  • A brilliant bit of electronica.  It originally appeared in early 1995 as the b-side to the instrumental “Born Slippy” but it really took off after it was featured over the final scene in Trainspotting.  It’s use in one of the best scenes to ever feature a song in film history is certainly what helped it get released as a single in its own right.

#86  –  Jesus He Knows Me

  • “Do you believe in God, because that is what I’m selling”
  • Genesis
  • Anthony Banks, Philip Collins, Michael Rutherford
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from We Can’t Dance  (#23)
  • I think there are a lot of people who view Phil Collins as pompous and humourless.  They really need to listen to this song.  As funny as it is, it gets even better and funnier when you listen to the live version on The Way We Walk when Phil continues with his 1st person Christian televangelist narrative by saying “God came to me and said give me $18 million by the weekend.  So that I can build my theme parks . . . for the Lord.”  A great keyboard bit to go with it as well, as that was how the song began (as a bit of keyboard playing by Tony Banks).  Genesis as they had existed through the 80’s only released one studio album in the 90’s and this was the best song on it.

#85  –  Particle Man

  • “Triangle Man hates Particle Man”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Linnell / John Flansburgh
  • 1990
  • album track from Flood
  • One of the favorite songs for just about every big TMBG fan.  A nice silly little nonsensical song that could also be about prejudice.  Used brilliantly at one point on Tiny Toons.  It was also recorded by a group of schoolchildren, the recording of which appears on Then, the collection of early TMBG work.

#84  –  If I Had $1000000

  • “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Steven Page, Ed Robertson
  • 1992
  • single from Gordon
  • In some ways, one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.  It’s even more lovely for all the little humorous asides (“They have little pre-wrapped sausages but they don’t have pre-wrapped bacon.”) and jokey lines (“I’d buy some art, a Picasso or a Garfunkel”).  Is there any song in rock history which so perfectly combines a sweet romantic notion and such considerable amounts of humor?  This was also released in a live version which is actually a bit better than the original studio recording because of their interactions with the crowd (and the lady who doesn’t want the Fruit Roll-Up).

#83  –  Californication

  • “Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement”
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Kiedis, Smith, Flea, Frusciante
  • 1999
  • single from Californication  (#69; #16 – U.K.)
  • The Good Place may hate the band and the U.S. charts might not have done much with the song but it’s my favorite song by the band.  The Peppers seem to know how great it is because even though it came well into their career it’s apparently their third most played song ever in concert and has been played at every concert since its release.  I love the California concepts, love the bass line, love everything about it.

#82  –  Stay (I Missed You)

  • “I think that I’m throwing, but I’m thrown”
  • Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
  • Lisa Loeb
  • 1994
  • single from Reality Bites Soundtrack  (#1)
  • To be fair, I already really liked the song before I ever saw the video.  But good lord, once I saw the video, there was no way I was not going to like the song.  A beautiful little acoustic song sung by this really cute girl with glasses in a short black dress?  I was even willing to overlook that it was on the soundtrack to Reality Bites, a film I had viciously hated or that the video was directed by Ethan Hawke, who was a major reason I hated the film (though, to give credit where it’s due, the video is a really good single take).  The first song to ever hit #1 without the artist being signed to a label.  Not technically eligible for the Oscar or the Nighthawk because it wasn’t written for the film.

#81  –  Silent All These Years

  • “Boy you best pray that I bleed real soon”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1991; single re-released in 1997
  • single from Little Earthquakes  (#65 (re-release); #26 – U.K.)
  • So, no, just because this comes right after Lisa Loeb and soon after Sarah McLachlan, this is not a mini-theme of singer-songwriters that I had massive crushes on in college but thanks for asking.  This is a lyrically brilliant song with one of the single best lines I have ever heard in a song.  This song has a complicated release history.  It was the b-side to Tori’s first single in the U.K., “Me and a Gun” where it reached #51.  But then it started to get play on its own and was released as the final single from the album and reached #26 in the U.K..  In the U.S., it was the first single but met with less success (#27 on the Modern Rock chart).  Then, in 1997, it was re-released as a benefit for RAINN which is ironic since “Me and a Gun” is the song about her being raped, and at that point it made the actual Billboard chart and went up to #65.  I remember buying the original promo version of that single even though it was just a one sing cd that I already had just because the money was going to RAINN.

#80  –  The Ghost of Tom Joad

  • “The highway is alive tonight”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1995
  • single from The Ghost of Tom Joad  (#26 – U.K.)
  • When Bruce Springsteen re-united with The E Street Band for his Greatest Hits in the spring of 1995 it was assumed that he would work with the band again.  So what a surprise it was when his next album, that fall, was an acoustic, sparse album much more like Nebraska.  Yet, it would be his best album in the decade and would produce one of his most haunting, poetic songs.  Springsteen had already shown the influence of John Steinbeck back on Darkness at the Edge of Town so it’s not surprising he would go full-force into Steinbeck land and write this ode to Steinbeck’s most memorable character.  This song would later be reimagined by Springsteen and Tom Morello but I still prefer the stark, original recording.

#79  –  Don’t Cry

  • “Talk to me softly there’s something in your eyes”
  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin
  • 1991
  • single from Use Your Illusion I  (#10)
  • Many songs on this list have been reimagined, sometimes by being remixed, sometimes by involving other artists.  But Guns N’ Roses seemed to know that they had a great melody when they wrote “Don’t Cry” because they included it on both Use Your Illusion albums with different lyrics for each of the recordings.  They would also include both versions on the single, with the alternate lyrics version being the b-side.  A fantastic power ballad from the hard rock group.  It was a nice contrast to the hard rock of “You Could Be Mine” and showed the depth of the albums.

#78  –  About a Girl

  • “I can’t see you every night”
  • Nirvana
  • Kurt Cobain
  • 1994
  • single from MTV Unplugged in New York
  • Technically this song shouldn’t be on the list.  As Cobain points out, “This is off of our first album, most people don’t know it.”  It should have been on the 80’s list.  But it was the Unplugged version that showed really how great a song it is, how great a band Nirvana was.  When Cobain first wrote the song he didn’t have a title but when asked by his bandmates what it was about he replied “it’s about a girl.”

#77  –  Army

  • “Grew a moustache and a mullet got a job at Chick-Fil-A, citing artistic differences the band broke up in May”
  • Ben Folds Five
  • Ben Folds
  • 1999
  • single from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner  (#28 – U.K.)
  • I first heard this in 2000 when a friend of mine (and I use that term loosely) made me a mix tape that had this song on it.  At the time, I really only knew Ben Folds for “Brick” and wasn’t much interested in him aside from that.  This song, with its great piano work and considerable humor showed me that there was a lot more to him than I had realized.

#76  –  Disappear

  • “Saying I’m crying looking at what’s on tv”
  • INXS
  • Michael Hutchence, Jon Farriss
  • 1990
  • single from X  (#8)
  • I remember driving around on New Year’s Eve of 1990.  I had my license (had just gotten it a couple of days before) and KEZY was playing a countdown of their Top 100 songs of the year.  “Disappear” came on and I thought to myself, yeah, I really need to get that song.  It would be almost a year before I would record it off my brother’s copy of X and another year before he would give me my own copy of the brilliant album for Christmas.  But the song never faded from my mind and still hasn’t.  KEZY had it way down on the list.  It belonged much higher.

#75  –  Cubs in Five

  • “The Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league and the Tampa Bay Bucs will make it all the way to January”
  • The Mountain Goats
  • John Darnielle
  • 1995
  • album track from Nine Black Poppies
  • When I first saw The Mountain Goats at a show it was in late 2003 and the Cubs were in the NLCS and the Bucs had won the Super Bowl the year before.  It seemed like impossible things were happening though Bill Gates still hasn’t spearheaded the Heaven 17 revival and The Canterbury Tales still haven’t gone to the top of the Best Seller lists.  A hilarious song with a refrain that makes it all worth it.

#74  –  Self Esteem

  • “I know I should say no but it’s kind of hard when she’s ready to go”
  • Offspring
  • Dexter Holland
  • 1994
  • single from Smash  (#37 – U.K.)
  • This song was hilarious and perfectly timed for my life.  In one sense, I was the singer of this song, in a relationship with someone that I wanted so desperately that I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure she would stay by my side.  On the other hand, on days when she was ignoring me, I was dating her roommate and I was actually the subject of the song.  Neither thing makes me proud but the song at least allowed me to laugh about a situation that was a mess for everyone involved.

#73  –  Come Talk to Me

  • “Whatever fear invents I swear it makes no sense”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1992
  • album track from Us
  • One of the best songs from Peter Gabriel.  This is the very long (7:06) opening track to his brilliant 1992 album Us.  Yet, it never feels long.  The live version from Secret World Live is even better.  It had to be a risky move to put a song this long as the opening track but it absolutely works.

#72  –  Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

  • “Why did Constantinople get the works?  That’s nobody’s business but the Turks”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Nat Simon  /  Jimmy Kennedy
  • 1990
  • single from Flood  (#61 – U.K.)
  • When I promised that there would be covers from every decade from the 50’s to the 80’s, I am fairly certain this isn’t the 50’s song you thought would be appearing.  You might, like Veronica, have not even realized it was a cover, let alone from the 50’s because it is such the perfect epitome of a They Might Be Giants song.  This was the first TMBG song I knew, from a birthday party in 1990.  I thought it was kind of silly on first listen but would later grow to absolutely love it.  The original version of this song by The Four Lads actually peaked at #10 back in 1953 (the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople).

#71  –  Walk on the Ocean

  • “Back at the homestead where the air makes you choke”
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols
  • 1992
  • single from fear  (#18)
  • My favorite Toad the Wet Sprocket song.  For a long time, I was confused about the ending of the song because my recording is from the album (which has a cold close) and it doesn’t have the long repeated chorus fade out that was featured on the single.  A beautiful song and one that I think of as the under-appreciated little brother to “All I Want” but it was actually almost as successful on the charts.

#70  –  Fifteen Years

  • “He’s never been kept waiting because he pays the landlord’s wage”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1991
  • non-album single, later added to Levelling the Land  (#11 – U.K.)
  • The Fifteen Years e.p. was a rare find for me in that I was actually able to find it in a record shop in the States and didn’t have to resort to going to England.  It would be years (decades, really) before I realized that it was an e.p. because the original version of Levelling the Land didn’t end with this brilliant song, a slice of social commentary that also works as a fast moving rock song.

#69  –  Zooropa

  • “She’s gonna dream up the world she wants to live in, she’s gonna dream out loud”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1993
  • album track from Zooropa
  • The ethereal, slow-building title track from U2’s most under-appreciated album is also the brilliant opening track that is itself under-appreciated.  As I mentioned in the Top 100 U2 post,  (where this song ranked at #26) those lines up above actually came from something Bono said at their famous New Year’s Eve concert of 1989 going into 1990 (I won’t repeat it but you can find it at the link).  I love the way this song gradually builds, making it a perfect opening song to an album (or a mix tape).

#68  –  Building a Mystery

  • “Can you look out the window without your shadow getting in the way”
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Sarah McLachlan, Pierre Marchand
  • 1997
  • single from Surfacing  (#13)
  • I remember greeting my sister at the airport once, when this song was quite popular on the radio and saying “Welcome to Portland International Airport, Stac, or, as Sarah McLachlan put it, building a mystery”.  At the time, it was in the middle of a confusing construction project putting in a new parking garage.  This song is beautiful and brilliant and I don’t really know a lot of what she is singing about but the title is so imaginative that it can be used for so many different things.  Definitely one of my all-time favorite song titles.

#67  –  Hope St.

  • “Rain come pouring down, clean the dirt off this old town”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1995
  • single from Zeitgeist  (#12 – U.K.)
  • As I have mentioned before, I love how songs can be reinterpreted in different ways.  Take for album, “Hope St.”, the brilliant rock song that is, like so many Levellers songs, also a social commentary.  It was the opening track on Zeitgeist, their 1995 album and it kicked off the album with some post-punk rocking that was the hallmark of the band.  But, on the successful U.K. single (which I bought in London), there was another version called “Busking on Hope St.”.  Back then, with only a few months in Boston on the T and a couple of days on the Underground in London, I didn’t even know what busking was.  So, that version, a quiet acoustic version with background noises that clearly sounds like it was recorded with them busking on the Underground that brilliantly reimagined the song, also introduced to me a new word.

#66  –  Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World

  • “Someday I wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far behind me”
  • Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
  • Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg / Bob Thiele, George David Weiss
  • 1990
  • single from Ka ‘Ano’i
  • “Over the Rainbow” may be the most beautiful song ever written.  It is certainly, when sung by Judy Garland, one of the most enjoyable moments in film history.  When Iz recorded it in 1988, as a whim, he brought a new version to it that would eventually be embraced the world over.  Moreover, he combined it with yet another of the most beautiful songs ever written, “What a Wonderful World”.  While the song would become popular in Hawaii, the version without “What a Wonderful World” would start to be embraced in popular American culture after Iz’s death in 1997.  I wouldn’t know it myself until after I was working at Borders in 2005 and we used to play it in the overhead and it wasn’t even for another year after that before I would hear this version.  Just like the way that the Jimi Hendrix version of “All Along the Watchtower” would become the standard version of how to play the song, this seems to be the way that people now approach “Over the Rainbow” which is a testament to how wonderful this version is.

#65  –  Can’t Even Tell

  • “I’m outta here, outta here, outta here”
  • Soul Asylum
  • Dave Pirner
  • 1994
  • album track from Clerks: Music from the Motion Picture
  • This is the song that brings Dante’s day from hell to a close, with the line “You’re closed” and the drums and guitars kicking in and then it’s all good.  This is an anthem for the end of a day and there was a stretch in the late 90’s when I would play this song every day upon leaving work.  Like all the great songs from the Clerks soundtrack, totally ignored by the Oscars.  When leaving work, the line quoted above should be sung at top volume.

#64  –  Try Not to Breathe

  • “These are the eyes that I want you to remember”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1992
  • album track from Automatic for the People
  • For some reason I always think of this as a classic second song.  It’s not just because it’s the second song on one of the greatest albums ever recorded although that certainly doesn’t hurt.  But, like a great second song, it kicks things up a notch and yet wouldn’t overpower a great opening song.  This song is a primary reason why it took me quite a while to actually listen to the whole album because I kept rewinding and listening to this and “Drive” over and over again even though it would be years before I realized how high on the album I rank this song.

#63  –  All This Time

  • “If Jesus exists how come he never lived here”
  • Sting
  • Sting
  • 1990; album released in 1991
  • single from The Soul Cages  (#5)
  • I got my driver’s license on the 2nd of January in 1991.  This song was released as a single in the U.S. six days later.  Driving on my own opened up the radio to me (my car didn’t have a tape deck).  I had always loved the Police but I was a bit more mixed on Sting’s solo work and there wasn’t a specific Sting song that I could point to and be, “yeah, that one”.  Until this one.  This song, a meditation both on the death of his father and on the history of London itself is probably still my favorite solo Sting song and when that absolutely wouldn’t be out of place on a Police album.

#62  –  If God Will Send His Angels

  • “God’s got his phone off the hook”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1997
  • single from Pop  (#12 – U.K.)
  • I have had mixed feelings about Pop since the day it was released.  The first couple of songs were so weak and the rest of the album balanced some truly great songs like this one, “Please” and “Wake Up Dead Man” with weaker filler like “Miami”.  There was never any question that this was the best song on the album.  With U2 always having explicit faith and that being something I have never had, this song was a nice one for me in that it showed them actually questioning that faith and that was something I could relate to.  The song itself also stretches an interesting period of time because the album came out when I still lived in Oregon, then I moved to Phoenix and this song was released as a single just as I moved back.

#61  –  Good

  • “Maybe I’m just too frightened by the sound of it”
  • Better Than Ezra
  • Kevin Griffin
  • 1993 / 1995
  • single from Deluxe  (#30)
  • Deluxe was released in 1993 on the band’s own indie label then they were signed to Elektra Records and Elektra simply re-released the album in 1995.  “Good” began to get radio airplay (I remember noticing it for the first time in May when my friend John pointed it out to me on the radio while we were driving to San Diego).  For a long time, it was one of only two songs I knew by them (the other was the b-side, the live version of “Circle of Friends”) before I would know songs like “Closer” and “Desperately Wanting”.  Still by far their best song but at least they are no longer a one-hit wonder in my head.

#60  –  Longview

  • “I’ve got no motivation, where is my motivation”
  • Green Day
  • Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool
  • 1993
  • single from Dookie  (#30 – U.K.)
  • Yet another great alternative single that was never officially released in the U.S. but went to #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Chart, between two other songs on this list, “Selling the Drama” and “Fall Down”.  This song and the album itself was a big part of my summer in 1994.  When I got back to school, I distinctly remember my roommate Jamie and I lying on the floor of our room, sometime in the first week of school, singing “I’ve not motivation, where is my motivation.”  We really did wonder where it had gone and it wasn’t so surprising that we should feel like that since we weren’t that much younger than the band itself.  The first Green Day song I ever knew.

#59  –  (You Made Me) Thief of Your Heart

  • “I hope you’re happy now, I could never make you so”
  • Sinead O’Connor
  • Bono, Gavin Friday, Maurice Seezer
  • 1994
  • single from In the Name of the Father: Original Soundtrack  (#42 – U.K.)
  • The original trailer for the film had been built around the song “Pride” so I was expecting to hear U2.  Instead, Bono did a solo song and wrote this song for Sinead O’Connor.  It’s an interesting grouping since she and the band often weren’t on friendly terms.  It had taken me a while to appreciate Sinead, not really liking “Nothing Compares 2 U” at the start but I had already loved her backing work on “Blood of Eden” and the combination of Bono writing the song, her vocals and the way it is used so brilliantly at the end of the film with that moving line “I’m a free man and I’m going out the front door” had me already loving it before I even left the theater and bought the soundtrack.

#58  –  One Week

  • “Like Kurosawa I make mad films, okay I don’t make films but if I did they’d have a samurai”
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Ed Robertson
  • 1998
  • single from Stunt  (#1)
  • In late 1998, after moving back to Portland from Phoenix, I decided, for research on a scene I wanted to include in a story, that I needed to go to a karaoke bar.  So I grabbed some friends and we went and we sang and it was fun.  But it was also 1998 and a group of females who clearly loved “One Week” decided that they would give it a try.  Do not make this mistake.  You don’t know the lyrics well enough and you can’t read the lines fast enough.  This song is a great one, fast-moving, fun, funny, but under no conditions, especially if you have been drinking, should you attempt to perform this song at a karaoke bar.

#57  –  Even Flow

  • “Dark grin he can’t help when he’s happy he looks insane”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Ten  (#27 – U.K.)
  • For those people who discovered Pearl Jam in the early days of the band (before their second album was released), it was mostly “Jeremy” that won them over after it started getting significant radio play.  But I somehow heard “Even Flow” in late 1991 around the same time that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” first showed up on my television as a Buzz Clip.  It was clear that these two bands belonged together (I didn’t yet know that they were both Seattle bands) even before grunge was appearing as a word to describe them both.  It was the way the guitar sounded, the almost incomprehensible way the singer punctuated the lyrics.  This, of course, would become of the band’s staples and is still one of their most beloved songs.

#56  –  Right Now

  • “Don’t want to wait till tomorrow, why put it off another day”
  • Van Halen
  • Van Halen
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge  (#55)
  • It’s strange to look back now and realize that this was the fourth single from the album when it’s probably the best song that Van Halen ever recorded.  It’s also ironic that two of the very best Van Halen songs, while they do feature Eddie’s guitar, make considerable use of the fact that Eddie was a piano virtuoso before he ever picked up a guitar.  Thus, we get those brilliant use of the synthesizer on “Jump” and we get the brilliant piano solo that opens this song, the piano solo that made me a huge fan of it before I even realized who was playing it.  It didn’t hurt that I loved the video, didn’t mind that it totally lacked any subtlety because I happened to agree with its politics.

#55  –  Human Touch

  • “I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain, but hell, a little touch-up and a little paint”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1992
  • single from Human Touch  (#16)
  • If you look at my datebook from 1992, you will see, written quite large on 31 March 1992, “new Springsteen!”  But I didn’t have a lot of money and so I had to decide between the two new albums that were being released on the same day.  I went with Human Touch and in one sense, I made the wrong choice, because I actually think Lucky Town is the better album.  But Human Touch had the new single, the title track that was already playing on the radio and I went with that one and in one sense I made the right choice because the more I listen to the song, over 25 years on now, the more I love it.

#54  –  Half a World Away

  • “This could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1991
  • album track from Out of Time
  • “Losing My Religion” was the big song on the album even before it was released.  But, from the day I bought the album (the day it was released, a first) and listened to it in its entirety, this was the song that caught my ear.  You can tell because it’s on the first mix tape I made after buying the tape, E’s Songs XIII.  The band must have realized what they had on their hands as well because when they made an appearance on The Unplugged Collection Vol. 1, this was the song that was on there.  It’s a haunting beautiful song, one of the most beautiful they would ever record.  I must admit, that I accidentally typed “This could be the saddest duck I’ve ever seen” the first time up above.  That would be a very different song, “Half a Pond Away” perhaps by Weird Al.  But more on him and what he could have done below.

#53  –  Given to Fly

  • “Sometimes you see a strange spot in the sky, a human being that was given to fly”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder
  • 1997; album released in 1998
  • single from Yield  (#21)
  • Yield wouldn’t come out until February but this song was released as single in December and I was off to the races with the new album before I had heard more than two songs off it (“Pilate” is an album track that’s a b-side but the other b-side was the amusing “Leatherman”, one of their best b-sides).  Pearl Jam wasn’t just grunge anymore.  This song, with music written by Mike McCready, had an amazing guitar solo that really hearkened back to the notion that Eddie Vedder has always wanted to be in The Who.

#52  –  Wind of Change

  • “The world is closing in and did you ever think that we could be so close, like brothers”
  • Scorpions
  • Klaus Meine
  • 1990; single released in 1991
  • single from Crazy World  (#4)
  • I am an American who speaks English so most of what I listen to are American or British bands because they speak my language (literally).  But an American or a Brit (or an Australian, or what have you) is singing about a changing world is very different than a German band in 1990 singing about the changing world because their world is changing a hell of lot more than ours is.  So we get this, a power ballad from a hard rock band that really speaks to the world that is changing (and it happened to peak on the charts right after the attempted Soviet coup in the summer of 91).  It’s great to own on 45 because the flip side is actually the same song, but sung in Russian and that’s really amazing to hear.

#51  –  Corduroy

  • “I would rather starve than eat your bread”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1994
  • album track from Vitalogy
  • Wait a minute, you’re thinking (if you’re old enough to have been listening to the radio in the summer of 95), how can this be an album track?  This song was played on the radio.  It was played on the radio a lot.  That’s right but that’s just how Pearl Jam rolls.  The official singles from Vitalogy were “Spin the Black Circle” and “Not for You” but it was “Betterman” and “Corduroy” that got all the radio airplay.  I remember liking this song when I first got the album, enjoying it on the radio but really loving it when I first heard it in concert and then even more after Pearl Jam finally released their first live album in 1998.  Because this is a song that really gets much better when played live, in fact, while it might not sound like it at first listen, it’s a great album opener when you use the live version because it really kicks things off with a bang.

#50  –  Series of Dreams

  • “Everything stays down where it’s wounded”
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan
  • 1991
  • single from The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991
  • Talk about missing the boat.  This song was recorded for Oh Mercy, one of Dylan’s best albums and then wasn’t included.  I first heard it in 1995 when I got his Greatest Hits Volume 3 and then later again on The Bootleg Series, where it flows directly out of “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky”.  This was the song that made me realize how much difference a producer can make, since working with Daniel Lanois, Dylan suddenly has a sound that is similar to U2.  I ranked this as the third greatest Dylan song on my Dylan post though don’t try to make my lists correspond to each other.  I can’t believe this was left off the album.  The original version recorded for the album can be found on the eighth volume of the Bootleg Series.

#49  –  Two Princes

  • “I know what a prince and lover ought to be”
  • Spin Doctors
  • Mark White, Eric Schenkman, Chris Barron, Aaron Comess
  • 1991; single released in 1993
  • single from Pocket Full of Kryptonite  (#7)
  • When, in sleep now the angels, I gave Kayce the job of making fun of the Counting Crows, it would have been a lot easier for her to make fun of the Spin Doctors, a band that really divides people (Blender ranked this at the 21st worst song ever).  Moreover, the Counting Crows were successful for a lot longer as the Spin Doctors faded quite badly (they went from 5x platinum on this album to platinum on the next one to not even making the charts for the one after that).  But I love that opening guitar riff and I really wanted the idea of Kayce dancing crazily to this song, urged on by the beat and the idea of her signing to her uncle that “one, two princes stand before her”.  I’ve loved this song unashamedly since the first time I heard it and I think the album itself is quite strong and it was considered for my Top 50 for the decade.  The first concert I ever went to had the Spin Doctors as the first of a two band set and between this and “What Time is It”, “Jimmy Olson’s Blues” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”, I had a hell of a good time.  More on the rest of the concert below.

#48  –  Praying for Time

  • “It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate”
  • George Michael
  • George Michael
  • 1990
  • single from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1  (#1)
  • The fact is, I could have included almost any lyric from this song above.  It’s not a song with a couple of great lines to choose from but is a song about the world in which we live and every line is true to life.  But I included the line above because it seems to sum up much of the album.  It is hard to love when there’s so much to hate but if you can listen without prejudice, then a whole world will open in front of you.  This was the first song off the album and it was a revelation for me and a sign that I was going to love this album.  It was also Michael’s last #1 single in the U.S. which may surprise listeners when you realize that “Freedom ’90” was released after this.

#47  –  Bullet with Butterfly Wings

  • “The world is a vampire”
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Billy Corgan
  • 1995
  • single from Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness  (#22)
  • For those of you who have trouble with titles (my wife included), this is the song in which the refrain is “Despite all my rage / I’m still just a rat in a cage”.  This song was released on my 21st birthday but I wasn’t listening because I was trying to find someone to go get a drink with (all my friends were still 20).  But this was one of the two songs that lead me to Blockbuster Music (yes, that used to exist) to listen to the album (“1979” was the other) so I could decide if I wanted to buy it (obviously I did, since it ended up at #20 for the decade).  A great driving rock song.

#46  –  I Alone

  • “I sank into Eden with you”
  • Live
  • Live
  • 1994
  • single from Throwing Copper  (#38)
  • In the summer of 95, I spent the night in San Diego with my friends John and Sean.  John was having some personal issues in his life and he was writing a letter to the female in his life and he quoted the lines “I’ll read to you here, save your eyes”.  That started a debate about this song and whether you should be quoting a song that’s not really a love song when you’re trying to convey a message of love.  Because that line is a beautiful notion and it was what John wanted to convey but the song is deeper than that (thus a line like “The greatest of teachers won’t hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate”).  A great rock song that has a lot more to say than you might think just by listening to the chorus.  John knew that, by the way, but it was the feeling of that one line that he wanted to convey.

#45  –  Bliss

  • “Steady as it comes, right down to you”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1999
  • single from To Venus and Back  (#91)
  • As I wrote in #91, by 1999, I wasn’t necessarily cooling on Tori Amos but I simply felt that the music she was releasing just wasn’t as good as it had been earlier in the decade.  But To Venus and Back was anchored at either end by two incredible songs.  This was the opening song, a song that has always had a noir feel to me in the driving beat at the beginning of it (which makes it such a great album or mix tape opener) and I always envisioned a detective looking for clues with the song in the background.  If you, like many, had moved away from Tori by the late 90’s, then revisit this song and give it another listen.

#44  –  Black

  • “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be the sun in somebody else’s sky”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard
  • 1991
  • album track from Ten
  • When I first started listening to Pearl Jam, I focused on “Even Flow”, “Alive” and “Jeremy”.  It was my cousin Sarah who first pointed me towards this beautiful ballad in a letter that included the entire lyrics for the song.  It was the end, the lines quoted above, that really stuck with me and continue to haunt me.  This is another Pearl Jam song that was a big hit on the radio in spite of never being released as a single.  This song, alone with “Alive” is the best proof of how much the album had been formed by Stone Gossard’s writing before Eddie Vedder got hold of the demo and found the perfect words to match the beat.

#43  –  Sleep the Clock Around

  • “But it takes more than this to make sense of the day”
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Stuart Murdoch
  • 1998
  • album track from The Boy with the Arab Strap
  • I very slowly came around to Belle and Sebastian, not because they were an acquired taste but because I was very slowly being exposed to them.  There were small bursts here and there (a friend who was a fan, the scene in High Fidelity) and then larger tastes (the soundtrack to Storytelling, getting a promo copy of one of their albums while working at Borders, the two songs on the Juno soundtrack).  This song was one of the early small bursts, included on a mix cd that two of Veronica’s friends from college sent to her.  I ended up listening to it more than she did and this song was one of the reasons why.  I must admit, I also have a weirdly specific taste for songs that hold the title under the end of the song.

#42  –  Winter

  • “Skating around the truth who I am but I knew the ice is getting thin”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1992
  • single from Little Earthquakes  (#25 – U.K.)
  • This was another song from the mix tape that Chris Dillon gave to me of his favorite songs and one of the ones that struck me the hardest.  Once I started listening to Little Earthquakes (not long afterwards), this was one of the songs that I listened to the most.  It occured to me that this was the companion song to “Mother”, the song about her father.  This song has some of the most beautiful piano playing of Amos’ work and given her oeuvre, that’s saying quite a bit.

#41  –  World Freak Show

  • “In front of my tv circus a freak show in disguise”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1990
  • single from A Weapon Called the Word
  • When I first became a Levellers fan, while still at Brandeis, they only had two albums.  I decided if the second album was so brilliant then the first album must also be really good.  Well, it’s a mixed bag at best but it did have a few good tracks and one absolutely fantastic song, a song I actually preferred over any of the songs on the second album (although you can see that’s not still the case, although that’s because the other song moved up, not this one moving down).  This is, like so many Levellers songs, a bit of social commentary put to a rock beat.  But it really kicks up a notch if you can get hold of the live version that was a b-side to “Far From Home” because that one really kicks it up a notch.

#40  –  November Rain

  • “When I look into your eyes I can see a love restrained”
  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Axl Rose
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Use Your Illusion I  (#3)
  • It was just before I was starting Brandeis and I was driving around with a girl that I had a desperate crush on.  This song came on the radio and we were on the edge of our seats wondering what version it would be.  While it’s true that only one version was ever released for sale and it is the longest song to ever reach the Billboard Top 10, there was a version edited for radio that ran about three or four minutes less.  But when we reached the bridge and it became apparent that we were getting the full version, we both rejoiced.  It is a moment that clearly I am not about to forget.  This was a brilliant song, just hitting its peak as I was headed off to college and it was one the last mix tape I made before leaving home.  It is widely embraced as one of the best, if not the best song in the band’s history.

#39  –  Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • “Well that’s one thing we got”
  • Deep Blue Something
  • Todd Pipes
  • 1994; single released in 1995
  • single from Home  (#5; #1 – U.K.)
  • This song was originally recorded for the band’s debut album, it was then re-recorded again for the second album, then, a year after that album was released, this single was released and suddenly got a crapload of airplay.  I would say it’s the only song I know by the band but because I had the tape single and the tape single had a really good b-side (“A Water Prayer”), I can’t really say that.  I remember this playing on a mix tape of mine when I had friends visiting Oregon in 1996 for a wedding and having to explain to one of them why this song is so desperately sad.  If you don’t understand, I strongly suggest listening to the lyrics closely.

#38  –  Uninvited

  • “Like anyone would be I am flattered by your fascination with me”
  • Alanis Morissette
  • Alanis Morissette
  • 1998
  • single from City of Angels: Music from the Motion Picture
  • The soundtrack to City of Angels sold five million copies.  True, that’s half of what the Titanic soundtrack sold (which was released just a couple of months earlier) but City of Angels made less than 1/7 at the box office what Titanic made.  It sold all those copies on the strength, really, of two singles, both of which are on this list (“Iris” is way up towards the top).  I, like so many others, was desperate for a new Alanis song, almost three years after the release of Jagged Little Pill and this song did not disappoint though the Academy did when they ignored the song in favor of rewarding some dopey song from The Prince of Egypt.  I do wish this had been on her second album instead of some of the songs that did make it.  One key thing about this song was that Alanis wrote it on her own, proving that she didn’t need Glen Ballard as a co-writer in order to succeed.

#37  –  Closer

  • “My whole existence is flawed”
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Trent Reznor
  • 1994
  • single from The Downward Spiral  (#41)
  • What do I have to say about this song?  While I decry radio stations not being able to play the uncensored version, Veronica actually thinks the censored version has an appeal to it.  One of the most brilliant techno songs ever recorded and one which Reznor continued to tinker with (the single has six different versions, none of which are the exact version that appeared on the album).  It is certainly the most well-known song by the band, helped in part by the brilliant video.  It was a good thing my mother never heard the song because if the song itself didn’t cause her to freak it, the video would have melted her brain.

#36  –  Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

  • “Can not find a candle of thought to light your name”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1993
  • album track from Vs.
  • Once the radio stations had finished playing out “Daughter”, they began in on this song, which is often shortened, even on Pearl Jam official bootlegs, to “Small Town”.  A slow ballad from a great rock band, it’s one of the fan favorites for the band.  Eddie often introduces it by pointing out that it’s the longest titled song in the band’s catalog although the song two down on this list is even longer.

#35  –  Tear in Your Hand

  • “If you need me, me and Neil will be hanging out with the Dream King”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1992
  • album track from Little Earthquakes
  • As mentioned in my albums post, I accidentally played Little Earthquakes on random once and decided that the album really should end with “Me and a Gun” and its heavy soft-spoken lyrics followed by the raucous piano of “Tear in Your Hand”.  I think this is a great album closer.  It’s also a total Tori song.  I titled my first Tori collection “Hanging Out with the Dream King”.  At the time, I only had a vague notion of who Neil Gaiman was and it wasn’t until later that I realized what the line meant but it was still a perfect Tori line because I can imagine her hanging out with the Dream King.

#34  –  Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand

  • “We sit outside and argue all night long about a God we’ve never seen but always seems to side with me”
  • Primitive Radio Gods
  • Chris O’Connor, Leonard Father
  • 1996
  • single from Rocket  (#74 – U.K.)
  • Yet another song that was a #1 on the Alternative Charts but never even charted on the official Billboard chart.  Veronica would argue having this song so low given that she loves it so much that it was the ringtone on her original cellphone.  Of course, that always made it hilarious when it would play on a cd in the car because she would think her phone was ringing.  A brilliant bit of sampling in this song from B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get” and ironically that was the only part of the song that would play on her phone before it would go to voicemail.  I don’t think I heard this song until at least a couple of years after it was popular and didn’t have it on a tape until 1999.  The third highest song on the list for a band where I own no other songs by them.

#33  –  Bitter Sweet Symphony

  • “I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down”
  • The Verve
  • Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Richard Ashcroft
  • 1997
  • single from Urban Hymns  (#12; #2 – U.K.)
  • In some ways, a similar song to the one up above.  It makes brilliant use of sampling, though in this case, it’s too brilliant because the Stones manager not only took it to court but was able to then sell the song to Nike (that will be relevant).  I thought about listing Ashcroft first but I really think it’s the strings that make the song so brilliant, so I’m crediting Mick and Keith first.  I mention the Nike commercial because that was actually how I first heard the song and in fact my first recording of the song was just the first minute of the song, recorded off television when the Nike commercial aired.  The second highest song on the list for a band where I own no other songs by them.

#32  –  Stay (Faraway, So Close)

  • “Just a bang and a clatter as an angel hits the ground”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1993
  • single from Zooropa  (#61; #4 – U.K.)
  • My #13 U2 song on my Top 100 list.  From the day I bought Zooropa and first listened to it, my favorite song on the album and I was stoked when it was released as the first official single from the album a few months later.  I didn’t realize at the time that it was actually written for a film (Faraway, So Close, the sequel to Wings of Desire and thus the subtitle to the song) and was thrilled when the Golden Globes nominated it.  Of course the Oscars passed it over for some crap from Beethoven’s 2nd.  The best of some very brilliant songs that were eligible that year.  I especially love that last little bit on the drums as the angel hits the ground.  The video is brilliant as well for the way it makes use of black-and-white and color just like the film.

#31  –  Zombie

  • “It’s the same old thing since 1916”
  • The Cranberries
  • Dolores O’Riordan
  • 1994
  • single from No Need to Argue  (#14 – U.K.)
  • How do you make a band a bit more alternative?  Take that distinctive Irish sound of Dolores O’Riordan’s voice and a bit of grunge to the guitar work.  Also, you can mix in some politics (it’s an anti-IRA song which should be obvious from the line quoted above and my feelings on the IRA were cemented back when Rattle & Hum was released and I heard Bono’s angry declaration during “Sunday Bloody Sunday”).  A truly brilliant song and if you don’t want it ruined, stop reading.  Okay, this is the song I always felt Weird Al missed the boat on although maybe he tried it and was rejected (because of the political nature of the song) or didn’t ask for this reason.  This could have been a brilliant parody right in his wheelhouse, bringing the song to food.  “In your sandwich, with some mayonnaise, salami, salami, salami”.  You’re welcome.  I did warn you to stop reading.

#30  –  You Oughta Know

  • “Would she go down on you in a theater”
  • Alanis Morissette
  • Alanis Morissette, Glenn Ballard
  • 1995
  • single from Jagged Little Pill  (#6)
  • We were painting houses that summer, my last two college roommate and myself.  We would put out a radio and listen to our local AM alternative station and crank it up.  And then one day came this new rock song from a female singer we had never heard of because we weren’t Canadian and because I couldn’t remember all the kids I had watched on You Can’t Do That on Television.  Then came that line “Would she go down on you in a theater” and we realized this was something new, an angry new voice, a sexually liberated voice.  It was a revelation and I knew I had found a singer I wanted to hear more from.  It’s not my favorite single from the album (see below) but it was definitely the mind-blowing one.

#29  –  The Great Beyond

  • “I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs”
  • R.E.M.
  • Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1999
  • single from Man on the Moon (Music from the Motion Picture)  (#57; #3 – U.K.)
  • I have never been a fan of Courtney Love in any form but she has her moments.  Like in January of 2000 when she was giving out the award for Best Song at the Golden Globes and she went up the microphone singing “I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs” and then laughed and said “Oh yeah, not nominated.”  Good for her, not just because it was her friends and because she was in the film but because it belonged up there, a better song than any of the nominees or any of the Oscar nominees where it was also missing.  R.E.M. had already provided the brilliant title track for the film (see below); they didn’t need to write another new song.  But they did and it was brilliant.  For people who hadn’t been won over by Up, this was a sign that the band was still great even without Bill Berry.

#28  –  Freedom! ’90

  • “When you shake your ass they notice fast and some mistakes were built to last”
  • George Michael
  • George Michael
  • 1990
  • single from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1  (#8)
  • When I first bought the album, not long after it came out, it was “Praying for Time” and “Waiting for That Day” that really caught my ear.  It was “Freedom! ’90” that eventually got the real airplay (even if it wasn’t actually the biggest single).  I thought of it at the time as the more poppy single.  But as the years have gone by I have found myself drawn to this song over and over again.  It’s not the famous video.  It’s not the way this song plays on the original Wham song.  It’s the fact that there might not be another song in rock history that is both this good, this deep (when you actually listen to the lyrics) and this danceable.

#27  –  Runaway Train

  • “Here I am just drowning in the rain”
  • Soul Asylum
  • Dave Pirner
  • 1992; single released in 1993
  • single from Grave Dancers Union  (#5)
  • I remember finding this once described as “the best single Tom Petty didn’t write”.  It was a very odd statement and I’m still not sure quite what the writer meant by that.  But it is a reminder that this is a truly great single.  Even though Soul Asylum had released several albums already, had one of the greatest band names ever and this was the third single off the album I had never heard of them before this song started getting serious radio play in the summer of 93.  I wasn’t likely to ever forget who they were after this.

#26  –  Daughter

  • “The picture kept will remind me”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard
  • 1993
  • single from Vs.  (#97; #18 – U.K.)
  • As will be made clearer below at #20, this was not the first song I ever heard on the radio off Vs.  But very quickly, the various radio stations seemed to decided that this was the song they were going to play.  Indeed, within two months after the album’s release this song, without an official single release in the U.S. had become the band’s first Alternative #1.  It is still, 25 years later, one of the band’s most popular songs and with good reason.  Between this and “Elderly Woman”, Pearl Jam had suddenly shown that they could be a great acoustic band as well as the best rock band around.  The low ranking on the U.S. chart is because of the 1996 official release of several older Pearl Jam singles and their subsequent charting.

#25  –  Head Over Feet

  • “You’ve already won me over in spite of me”
  • Alanis Morissette
  • Alanis Morissette, Glen Ballard
  • 1995
  • single from Jagged Little Pill  (#7 – U.K.)
  • Like many writers, I write from experience.  So when Bruce writes about the Alanis letter, that was mine.  This album didn’t come out until the summer and by then she was already gone, the girl who had left me to go to art school.  But the more I listened to the album and especially the more I listened to this song it became a haunting reminder of our relationship and I really did send it in a letter.  It was never officially released as a single in the U.S. so it couldn’t make the Hot 100 but it was a #1 hit on both the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 charts.

#24  –  Man on the Moon

  • “I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1992
  • single from Automatic for the People  (#30)
  • I was too young for Taxi when it originally aired and never watched it in reruns.  Andy Kaufmann died when I was still just a kid so my only experience with him was Saturday Night Live retrospectives in which he would “sing” the Mighty Mouse theme.  But like so many others, I would be more intrigued after hearing this song.  It might really surprise you to learn that this wasn’t even as big a hit as “Drive”, the first single off the album but that’s just the way R.E.M. has performed on Billboard.  If “Losing My Religion” was easily the definitive song from Out of Time, it seemed a lot of people adopted this one as the definitive one from Automatic.

#23  –  Somebody to Shove

  • “You’re a dream for insomniacs”
  • Soul Asylum
  • Dave Pirner
  • 1992
  • single from Grave Dancers Union
  • Great songs can be re-interpreted and survive the attempt.  For one thing, this song obviously owes a debt to Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” which shows the strength of that song.  But this brilliant song, driven by an intense guitar riff would eventually be featured on The Unplugged Collection Vol. 1.  So how do you do take a blistering electric guitar solo and do it properly unplugged?  You substitute strings and make a completely different and just as brilliant version of the song.  Somehow “You’re a dream for insomniacs” got missed when I did my 100 great lines post but it belonged there.  Amazingly, in spite of being at #23, this is the only third highest song on my list to be a #1 Billboard Alternative single in 1992.

#22  –  Nightswimming

  • “They can not see me naked”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1992; single released in 1993
  • single from Automatic from the People  (#27 – U.K.)
  • Released as a single overseas but not in the States which was a key difference.  If “Man on the Moon” seemed to be the definitive song off Automatic, it was also a line to help you see which people had the album.  Because almost every person I knew who owned the actual album thought “Nightswimming” was the best song on the album.  Very possibly the most beautiful song R.E.M. ever recorded (this or “You are the Everything”).

#21  –  So Cruel

  • “Between the horses of love and lust we are trampled underfoot”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991
  • album track from Achtung Baby
  • There was less agreement on “So Cruel” than there seemed to be on “Nightswimming” but it was similar.  Both were haunting, beautiful songs.  Neither were singles.  And both were loved by just about everyone who owned the album.  The rhythm of this song is so perfect that I once used to show someone exactly what rhythm is but its the lyrics that are really the best part of the song.  Ranked at #6 on my U2 list.  Their best 90’s album track.

#20  –  Rearviewmirror

  • “I’m not about to give thanks or apologize”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1993
  • album track from Vs.
  • “Even Flow” was the first Pearl Jam song I ever heard and I knew it was brilliant and I would love the band.  Then came Vs.  Radio stations got it a couple of weeks before it was on sale and of course Pearl Jam didn’t release a single so it was up to stations to decide what to play.  I was listening the first time the alternative station in Portland played a song from it and this was the song they chose.  Good lord did I love it, such a brilliant beat and dark, disturbing lyrics.  Before long, they would decide that “Daughter” was the preferred song and I almost never heard this song on the radio again but that was okay because two weeks later I owned the album and haven’t stopped listening to this song since.

#19  –  I’m Alive

  • “I’m rolling down California 5 with your laughter in my head”
  • Jackson Browne
  • Jackson Browne
  • 1993
  • single from I’m Alive  (#118)
  • I didn’t really have much of an idea who Jackson Browne was the first time I heard this song.  I remembered a Bloom County reference and Bob Costas once asking an olympian (perhaps Janet Evans) what it was like to have their life put to a Jackson Browne song.  But then came this song on the radio and it just floored me.  The specific reference to California (I think I have lived the lyrics “I’m rolling down California 5 with your laughter in my head / I’m gonna have to drown it out to survive / Because those dreams are dead and I’m alive”), the brilliant guitar work, the haunting lyrics.  I thought this would be a massive hit and it never reached the actual Hot 100.  This song lead me first to the album itself (very good and probably my actual #51 for the decade with other haunting songs like “Sky Blue and Black” and “Two of Me, Two of You”), then to Running on Empty and Browne’s other great songs.  This song actually didn’t appear on his 1997 greatest hits album which just floored me.

#18  –  The Stairs

  • “There are reasons here to give your life”
  • INXS
  • Michael Hutchence / Andrew Farriss
  • 1990; single released in 1991
  • single from X
  • Only released as a single in the Netherlands so I didn’t hear this song for the first time until my brother, ignoring the fact that I didn’t own a cd player, gave me the cd for Christmas in 1992.  In May I spent a whole week at my parents house listening to X and Crowded House (I had finally figured out the name of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and who sang it and got the cd from the library) and had made me first few cd purchases on my own (Dark Side of the Moon, Pet Sounds, Pocket Full of Kryptonite) and the songs from those albums all go together in my brain (along with the book It which I was re-reading at the time).  Hands down, my favorite INXS song.  A perfect example of a song that builds with the layering of multiple instruments and thus a perfect opening song for a mix tape even if it wasn’t the opening song on the album.

#17  –  Basket Case

  • “Do you have the time to listen to me whine”
  • Green Day
  • Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool
  • 1994
  • single from Dookie  (#7 – U.K.)
  • Yet another song that wasn’t officially released as a single in the U.S. so it never entered the official Hot 100 but did go all the way to #1 on the Alternative chart.  This was established early on as my favorite song on Dookie even before the video.  But what the video made you realize was how amazing the drumming is in this song, among the best of the decade.  When you see Tré Cool go nuts at the drums in the video you really feel how good it is.  The opening line of the song, quoted above, seemed a perfect summation of a band that was aware of how it could be perceived.

#16  –  One Way

  • “The noise we thought would never stop died a death as the punks grew up”
  • Levellers
  • Levellers
  • 1991
  • single from Levelling the Land  (#51 – U.K.)
  • This was the first single from Levelling the Land and the first single from the band to ever make the British charts, beginning a very impressive run that lasted over a decade without ever making a dent in the U.S. charts.  It was the perfect opening song to the album, one that showed their musical maturity while showing that they were also a band that was trying to say something.  Yet, with the brilliant line captured above which helped inspire an entire (unfinished) novel about the British music scene in the late 70’s, it showed that the band was also aware of their musical forbears.

#15  –  Am I Wrong

  • “Goodbye, lay the blame on luck”
  • Love Spit Love
  • Richard Butler, Tim Butler
  • 1994
  • single from Love Spit Love  (#83)
  • Now we have the winner for highest song on my list for a band where I own no other music by them.  Or do I?  I have this song on a burned cd, notably a burned cd that is my best of the Psychedelic Furs.  Yes, I know it’s not the Furs, but it’s the same singer, same songwriter, even the same bass player, because this was the Butler side project while the Furs were on hiatus.  In fact, this was the song that lead me to the Furs because this song blew me away when it was first released (though the rest of the album was underwhelming).  In those days when the internet was not yet the source for all the answers there was a lot of debate over whether the chorus was “lay the blame on luck” or “lay the blame on love”.  Works brilliantly either way.

#14  –  Hey Jealousy

  • “Tell me do you think it’d be all right if I could just crash here tonight”
  • Gin Blossoms
  • Doug Hopkins
  • 1992; single released in 1993
  • single from New Miserable Experience  (#25)
  • A single I knew was brilliant from the first time I heard it even if my sister Alison and I couldn’t agree what the title was.  She thought it was “Hey Chelsea” while I thought it was “Hate and Jealousy”.  The Gin Blossoms would never even come close to equalling this song again perhaps because they fired Doug Hopkins and then he killed himself.  Technically it shouldn’t even be on the list because it was originally released on Dusted in 1989 but then it was re-recorded for New Miserable Experience and so I’m counting it because it really is a 90’s song.

#13  –  Jeremy

  • “Seemed a harmless little fuck”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Ten  (#79; #15 – U.K.)
  • Well, we’re all the way up at #13 and this is still only the third highest Pearl Jam song on the chart.  This was the song that really won a lot of people over to Pearl Jam, especially given the massive success of the video even if the video was censored and if this wasn’t even the best song on the album.  Of course it is a brilliant video (especially Eddie’s crazed look) and a brilliant song.  Unlike most of the well-known songs on Ten this was not part of the original demo that Eddie Vedder added lyrics to.  For the reason behind the low chart success in the U.S. see #26.  The single to this became a big seller in the U.S. as an import because it was where you could get “Yellow Ledbetter” as the b-side.

#12  –  Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

  • “It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time”
  • Green Day
  • Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool
  • 1997
  • single from Nimrod  (#11 – U.K.)
  • A song that has often been misinterpreted because people wouldn’t look at the title.  This song was originally written by Armstrong in 1990 as a kiss-off note to a girlfriend who had left him, was recorded for Dookie and deemed too different to be included on the album and then included as by far the best song on Nimrod.  It immediately became a song to be played at a farewell event (it was played over a montage for Seinfeld just before the last episode aired) and has continued that way (it was played over a montage of photos at Thomas’ 5th grade graduation with almost all the kids singing along).  I always wonder when people do that if they even know what the song is called.  A brilliant song that can mean two completely different things.

#11  –  Tonight, Tonight

  • “And the embers never fade in your city by the lake”
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Billy Corgan
  • 1995; single released in 1996
  • single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness  (#36; #7 – U.K.)
  • It was “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” that made me listen to Melon Collie and decide if I wanted to buy it.  But it was the 1-2 punch that opened the album of the instrumental title track and this song that made me know I absolutely had to buy it.  In fact, when I put this song on mix tape (or mix cds now), I almost always include the instrumental before it because they feel like one song (there are melodic similarities that make the songs go together).  By far the best song the Pumpkins would ever record that also had the benefit of being one of the very best videos of the decade.

#10  –  Better Man

  • “She dreams in colors, she dreams in red”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder
  • 1994
  • album track from Vitalogy
  • Wait, you say, how can this possibly be an album track if I heard it on the radio a gazillion times?  Well, with Vs., Pearl Jam didn’t release any singles in the States. and so it seemed radio stations decide to play “Daughter” on their own.  With Vitalogy, the band did release a single, “Spin the Black Circle” but very quickly radio stations decided that rather than play that, they would do better with the brilliant ballad “Better Man” (a song that Eddie once dedicated the song to “the bastard that married my mama” on a bootleg I have).  So this became a massive radio hit (9 weeks atop the Mainstream chart, #2 on the Alternative chart) without ever being released as a single.

#9  –  Selling the Drama

  • “And to love a god and the fear a flame and to burn a crowd that has a name”
  • Live
  • Live
  • 1994
  • single from Throwing Copper  (#43)
  • Some songs grow on me over the years.  Some songs don’t have to.  I loved this song from the second I first heard it and I think I got the album very soon afterwards.  I was a subscriber to Rolling Stone at the time and in spite of songs like “Basket Case” and “Better Man”, this was the song I chose as my Song of the Year in their year-end poll for 1994 (my vote for Worst Song of the Year, by the way, was “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow).  In some ways, the most important thing about the song was the title, which I thought was a brilliant phrase and have continued to use to this day.

#8  –  Thank U

  • “How about how good it feels to finally forgive you”
  • Alanis Morissette
  • Alanis Morissette, Glen Ballard
  • 1998
  • single from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie  (#17; #5 – U.K.)
  • There are few phrases from rock songs that have hit me as hard as “How about how good it feels to finally forgive you”.  I was already loving the song on first listen and was going nuts waiting the extra couple of weeks before the album would be released.  I was a bit disappointed in the album after loving Jagged Little Pill so much and though it has some very strong moments and came quite close to my Top 50 for the decade, there are simply too many songs that weren’t strong enough (and she really should have included “Uninvited” which would have fit in perfectly – cut three or four weaker songs (there are 17 so there’s room to cut) and throw on “Uninvited” and this could have made the Top 30 for the decade.  Aside from the lyrics of this song which haunt me so much they basically inspired an entire story, there is also the piano work which was actually the first thing I loved the first time I heard it even before any of the lyrics began.

#7  –  Smells Like Teen Spirit

  • “With the lights out it’s less dangerous”
  • Nirvana
  • Nirvana
  • 1991
  • single from Nevermind  (#6)
  • That’s right, the most well known song of the decade never even hit the Top 5 let alone #1.  I have already mentioned how I first saw the video as a Buzz Clip on MTV and was blown away, not only by the brilliant video but by the guitar playing and the song in general.  Of course, I had no idea what he was singing (thus the brilliant parody by Weird Al).  In fact, I don’t think I knew all the lyrics to this song until I first heard Tori Amos’ brilliant cover of it three years later, after Kurt had killed himself.  Tori’s cover really makes you see how deep the song is and not just powerful (the same way the Unplugged album did that for Cobain’s songwriting in general).  A song that has continued to hold up.  There are multiple versions but my favorite is actually the live version from From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.

#6  –  These are Days

  • “These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face”
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Robert Buck, Natalie Merchant
  • 1992
  • single from Our Time in Eden  (#66)
  • Another #1 Alternative song from 1992 although still not the highest #1 from that year on this list.  I came to this song a bit late, really only embracing after the Unplugged album and after they had basically broken up and then working my way backwards.  I had really liked the Unplugged version of the song but I absolutely loved the original version from the first listen.  It’s that brilliant instrumental opening that really does it for me as the song bursts forth with life instantaneously, almost the opposite of a slow-building song like “The Stairs”.

#5  –  Alive

  • “You’re still alive she said, but oh do I deserve to be”
  • Pearl Jam
  • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard
  • 1991
  • single from Ten  (#16 – U.K.)
  • When I originally wrote in your most frail gesture, I had a line where “Jeremy” was playing while the narrator was ordering in a Taco Bell and he decided that it wasn’t grunge that defined his generation (if you try to tell him or me that our generation is defined by the 24th letter of the alphabet I will slap the crap out of you) but my friend John pointed out (correctly) that it was really “Alive” that was the anthem for our generation (although, it really is eating at Taco Bell).  That was the point where this song started actually passing “Jeremy” on my own chart and it has stayed there ever since, for over 20 years now.  One of the most brilliant examples of a band finding the right singer / lyricist because Stone’s brilliant music for this essentially remains unchanged from the original demo but Eddie’s lyrics are so perfectly in synch with it you would think that they were written in conjunction with each other.

#4  –  Crucify

  • “I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets, looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets”
  • Tori Amos
  • Tori Amos
  • 1992
  • single from Little Earthquakes  (#15 – U.K.)
  • One of the most brilliantly lyrical rock and roll songs ever written, on a par with Cohen, Dylan and Smith.  Whether it’s lines that totally show the hypocrisy of religion (“Just what God needs, one more victim”) to the ones that show a more aggressive side, whether it be on the physical side (“I’ve got a kick for a dog begging for love”) or of a sexual nature (the line quoted above, one of my absolute favorite rock lines), Tori’s lyrics brilliantly play against her piano beat.  There is not a whole lot of difference between the version that appeared on the album and the remix that would head up her brilliant e.p. (with covers of “Thank You” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that really showed her range) but I prefer the latter.

#3  –  Losing My Religion

  • “I think I thought I saw you try”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1991
  • single from Out of Time  (#4)
  • “This song is beloved around the world,” Stipe said on Storytellers.  “It is.  It’s not our fault, it just kind of happened but we’re very proud.”  He also goes on to explain for the 10,000th time that the song is not about religion but about having a crush.  If you hate this song because it was the most over-played song of the decade, I can at least understand that.  But it not only has what might be the greatest video ever made (and it should make you read the brilliant short story “The Very Old Men with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), it is one of the most brilliant songs ever recorded.  How many other rock songs even use a mandolin, let alone so brilliantly?

#2  –  One

  • “Have you come here for forgiveness, have you come to raise the dead, have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1991; single released in 1992
  • single from Achtung Baby  (#10)
  • I have tried not to repeat myself with lyrics but this is the third time I have quoted the lyric above, first on my 100 great Rock lines post, then again when this song ended up at #3 on my U2 post (since the #2 song was “Bad” which was my #7 in my eighties post, you can kind of do a crossover, but I’d rather you didn’t).  That’s because those lines are so brilliant.  As mentioned in the U2 post, KROQ declared the line the best rock line of the year right after they started playing the single.  One of U2’s most enduring songs (their 8th most played song, four years newer than the other seven and by the end of the current tour will likely be 6th).  While “Losing My Religion” had a brilliant video, this song actually had three different really good videos.

#1  –  Enjoy the Silence

  • “All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1990
  • single from Violator  (#8; #6 – U.K.)
  • When I was finally writing the last few stories of sleep now the angels, I needed a song that would provide a kick.  I had a character whose favorite game was to quote song lyrics and expect to have them quoted back to her.  I needed to give her a favorite song, one that worked for the time period (she was in high school from 1989 to 1993) and one that could allow her husband, who did not play the game, to quote it to her at a key moment.  And then it hit me, knowing exactly the song and the line and I knew it because it was absolutely one of my all-time favorite songs.  It was an example of how a song can be layered, with instruments being added one by one instead of all at once and an example of how a song can be brilliantly re-imagined with a remix (see the video at the top).  In fact, I remember the first time I saw the video for the remix (it was on the dvd that came with Singles 86-98) and how perfectly it culminated with the rose from the album cover.  I knew it was always this song that I was working towards because I have always been hearing it, absolutely my favorite song from one of my favorite bands.  And so I gave that brilliant line to a character in a moment that broke my heart to write and I think that was when I knew that this was the song that would top this chart.