Ask five friends to name 10 classic rock love songs and chances are there won’t be any duplicates. These 10 tracks span the rock scene from the ’60s drift of “Under the Boardwalk” and Joe Cocker and Elton John favorites to the ’80s funky of “Come On Eileen” to the perennial cleanliness of “Someone Like You” by Van Morrison.
10) “Under the Walk” by Bruce Springsteen & Friends
Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler and other Bruce friends become nostalgic for this Drifters classic that Bruce appropriated back in the days of Asbury Park. This version was performed during the 2012 Hurricane Sandy benefit telethon. How’s that a love song? I’ll tell you how – from personal experience. I scored pretty well as this song played on a transistor radio “on a blanket with my baby” under that splintering wooden building in Far Rockaway on a hot, muggy summer in Brooklyn. And while Fallon has a lot of balls to sing with these guys, Tyler has his back and it’s a jam. Notice that Bruce doesn’t sing a note, unfortunately.
9) “Your Song” by Elton John
People hear this and it takes them on a journey to the Stations of the Cross that they had to bear for a lost love, a deceased husband, a friend. Because if it’s subjectively their song, as the title suggests, it’s “Your Song”. And while the original recorded version is probably better than this one live from the Royal Opera House some 20 years later, it takes me into my love song soap opera zone.
8) “I Want You” by Bob Dylan
Probably – and typically, for Dylan – the most over-analyzed love song by literary critics of the modern era. For example, this scholarly analysis by Andy Gill: He observed that the song’s tension is achieved through the balance between the “direct address” of the chorus, the repeated phrase “I want you” and an odd distribution of characters “too numerous to comfortably inhabit the three minutes of the song”, including a guilty undertaker, a lonely organ grinder, weeping fathers, sleeping mothers, saviors, the queen of spades and “a child dancing with his Chinese costume”. Around 2:40, “…because time is on its side and because I…” has a whole new meaning to listen to it 50 years later, with the benefit of Mr. Gill’s speculation that “the dancing child” has been interpreted as a reference to Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg. Another dylanologist, Clinton Heylin, admits it may make sense because the dancing child’s quote ‘time was on his side’ is a reference to ‘Time is on my side’, the Stones’ first American hit. . As always, Dylan has the final say over Mr. Jones (and Mr. Gill and Mr. Hevlin). He said in 1966: “It’s not just pretty words to a tune or putting tunes to words… (It’s) the words and the music (together) – I can hear the sound of whatever I want to say.
7) “Crying” by Roy Orbison
On this version from a date called Roy Orbison and Friends, A Night in Black and White in 1988, the great be-focused crooner was supported by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, James Burton and Johnny Cash. Kris Kristofferson watches approvingly as The Big O sings his heart out. And if a rock voice could express the many emotions of falling in love, Orbison’s was the one.
6) “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners
The jumpsuit! A fairy tale working-class British scene – even though it was over 30 years ago, it’s a real scene from Romeo and Juliet. And with arrangement and tempo changes, and Brixton’s blue-jean choreography, this original clip of the ultimate ’80s tune – complete with banjos and accordions to boot – is quite the production. The song says, “you in that dress, my thoughts I admit… borderline dirt!” But you have to apply the cultural context to appreciate what a love song it is. As for who is Johnny Ray? If you have to ask….
It’s time to order some flowers?
5) “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall – in falsetto – acoustic guitars, John Oates slappin’ that six string, T-Bone Wolk on bass, what else can you say? “I’ve said owww!! many times before.” And the West Hollywood crowd eats it. Indeed, this performance at Troubadour is a very moving iteration of this jazzy and heartfelt tribute to love.
4) “I want to know what love is” by Foreigner
This powerful ballad went No. 1 for Foreigner in the UK and US, and is their most successful single. So if you ask the same question as me, the answer is, you bet your booties they know what it is. But seriously, the power of the ballad is love.
3) “You’re so beautiful” by Joe Cocker
This 1983 version by a not too drugged Joe of rockpalast, the German TV show, is simple, yet profound, full of emotion and sadness. Isn’t that the definition of a love song?
2) “Live With Me” by The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards on bass? Mick Taylor in the lead? Nicky Hopkins and Leon Russell tinkling the ivories, and the late Bobby Keys on sax? And that’s not all. Lots of firsts here: This was one of the first contributions recorded by guitarist Taylor, who joined the band in June 1969; the first time the Stones would record with tenor saxophonist Keys; and it was the first song on which Richards is credited as playing bass. After the sax solo, Keefers comes in with the main “intro” bass riff, just one more time, then stays on the A chord for the rest of the song. CoolMotown.
1) “Someone Like You” by Van Morrison
This song is played at many weddings and there is a reason for that. In fact, I can think of more than a few wedding videos where this was chosen as the soundtrack. That’s also why this video version of Van’s classic romantic tune is used in the video to Bridget Jones Diary – Not only does it play a huge role in the mood of this girly flick, but it’s the soundtrack to many a date as well as many trips down the aisle.