We all know that parent / grandparent / senior citizen who is convinced that music peaked decades ago (probably in the 70s) when classic rock was king. They aren’t necessarily right, but there are certainly some classic rock songs that are as timeless as the music itself.
Here are 10 classic rock songs that would hold up just as well today as they did then.
10. “Lola” – The Kinks
When “Lola” came out in 1970, maybe the world wasn’t ready for a love song centered on a trans woman. It might not be the most politically correct song in history, but it would make a splash for one of today’s trans (or LGBT) musicians. Subject matter aside, the song has just enough of a catchy vintage rock vibe without sounding too dated. It’s a perfect storm for a little hipster pop rock.
9. “All the way from Memphis” – Mott the Hoople
Decades before Brand New (among many others) complained about life on tour with “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light”, Ian Hunter and his crew wrote a song about losing your guitar while on tour. . While it probably wouldn’t take a month to find your guitar after a shipping error in 2015, material loss is something that happens all too often and is rarely written down. There are enough piano-led rock bands these days that any number of them could release the song tomorrow and it would be a hit. You can even take a different direction and let someone like Kings of Leon or Mumford and Sons do it.
8. “Rock & Roll” – The Velvet Underground
If songs about rock ‘n’ roll issues never get old, then songs about the incredible power of music will never be cool. Everyone has had that moment when you hear a song for the first time and it changes your life, and Lou Reed’s story of his first experience hearing rock music on the radio is as good as any. Besides, the song wouldn’t even have to remain a rock song, it could be converted to hip hop or whatever just as easily. Come to think of it, a lot of Velvet Underground / Lou Reed stuff would probably work well as rap songs.
7. “Should I stay or should I go” – The Clash
Of all the old punk bands, the Clash would probably be the best-received in 2015. Of course, there would still be places for bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, but it is highly unlikely that the music of either the other has a lot of cross-calling right now (aside from “Blitzkrieg Bop” being immediately on every commercial). The Clash, with their more intelligently politicized lyrics and more refined musicality, would fit quite well into today’s punk / alternative scene. As soon as one of today’s young bands (The Interrupters or White Lung would be cool, if you wanted to mix it up with a singer) hit that first guitar hit, that would be the kind of song that would take them to the next level.
6. “Instant Karma” – John Lennon
It’s safe to say that the comments section of this list will be littered with people complaining about the lack of a Beatles song (spoiler alert: The Beatles don’t appear on this list), but the truth is that Beatles sound old. The Beatles sound probably wouldn’t work for a new band (or an old, aging punk band, um, Green Day) because it’s so basic and basic that a lot of fans would get bored with it. What makes The Beatles stand out from all bands after The Beatles is that they practically did it first and did it well. While his band’s vibes might not match the modern music scene, can you imagine if one of today’s male vocalists / songwriters put out a tune like “Instant Karma”? It would instantly kick someone like Sam Smith or that redhead kid who hangs out with Taylor Swift into music history.
5. “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” – T. Rex
Over the past few years there has been a re-emergence of bands in the limelight with vintage electro / keyboard / rock sound. Before most of these bands were born, T. Rex released his big song, which could easily be the only rock song on the Radio Top 40 today. Between the chorus of the choir, the overall funky / dancing feel of the song, and that same balance of timeless freshness with just the right amount of retro sound, “Bang a Gong” could easily be played by anyone, from Black Keys to Fitz and the Tantrums, and would probably be the best single from an album.
4. “Fame” – David Bowie
Imagine Saint-Vincent playing “Fame”. Really, you can replace almost any “weird” musician and almost any Bowie song, but St. Vincent doing “Fame” would be really perfect.
3. “Gloria” – Patti Smith
Yes, we realize that “Gloria” was not written by Smith. Frankly, it doesn’t matter because his version is what we would like to hear today. As long as there is music, there will be room for artist-souled rockers, and any number of them could make Smith’s rendition of the song a huge success. Van Morrison. Also, the line “Jesus died for someone’s sins, but not mine” is about as punky as it gets.
2. “Like a rolling stone” – Bob Dylan
At least once a year, a slightly folk but seemingly intelligent male singer / songwriter shows up and is hailed for his ability to tell musical stories. Inevitably, someone compares them to Bob Dylan, and they are almost always wrong. However, if any of them came out “Like a Rolling Stone” that would be much more appropriate. Which of today’s folk heroes would love to see one of the greatest of all time come out? Conor Oberst, because he seems like the right combination of endearing, emotionally destructive, and a little picky.
1. “Gimme Shelter” – Rolling Stones
Extend that to just about any Stones song, and it’s still absolutely true. Old-school blues rock is what cool kids listen to (see: Alabama Shakes), and no one does blues rock like Mick and Keith. Seriously, for all the “originality” of some of these new bands coming in and winning hearts and accolades, a lot of them just dive into what the Stones have been doing for over half a century.