Let’s get this straight right off the bat: I love way more than five classic rock songs. Not “oh yeah, that’s a good track” love, either. So before you all get offended that Song X should have been on this list, consider the idea that I agree with you. Five is a cruel, cruel number.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
You know Freddie Mercury had something of a hard time getting this one past the band, right? And I don’t really blame them. ‘Rhapsody’ is operatic as much as it is rock n’ roll, mixing soprano warbling in with Brian May’s no-nonsense guitar. It was a risk, and it was either going to get buried amid great shame or take off like a rocket. We know which outcome prevailed. It’s a wonder such a long song got airplay at all, let alone after all these years. But get played it does, and I – for one – always turn it up. (Want to hear other versions of “Bohemian Rhapsody?)
2. Imagine – John Lennon
That the Beatles (or one of its members, as is the case) would be on this list is a no-brainer; it’s the song that’s a little harder to pin down. I chose “Imagine” because it takes serious moxie to say “Imagine there’s no heaven” and be singing about the world being a better place, rather than a worse one, if there really were none: “Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.” Not that religion is wrong, inherently, but history has shown that people – not all, but some – have used it to justify awful, awful things. Every song has a message, but John Lennon’s here needs hearing, really hearing, more than most.
3. Faithfully – Journey
Yes, I know, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is a great song. But I think “Faithfully” is better. There’s just something about a song specifically about a rock star that promises faith and loyalty to his lover in his absence. After all, we are – when it comes to music – surrounded otherwise by rock songs that glorify one-night stands and infidelity. And come on, just listen to that guitar after “forever yours – faithfully.”
4. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf
This was really hard, because I appreciate “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” a whole lot. But in the end, the fast-paced drama of piano and electric guitar in “Bat Out of Hell” won me over. Here is another song that, by the three-minute rule, should not be on the radio. Yet, there it is. Meat Loaf has a background in theatre (Don’t get me started on my fierce love of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which he played Eddie on both stage and screen.), and his expressiveness contends with the melodrama of the instrumentation so, so well.
5. Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas
I am a sucker for a cappella singing at the beginning and end of tracks. Either the song opens with nothing but a chorus, or at the end all of the instruments drop out with no warning, leaving the singers to trudge on full-force in the silence. “Wayward Son” opens this way, and add to that the thread that runs through the entire song linking ship-on-stormy-sea metaphors together seamlessly until the song might have been penned by an atypically regretful Jack Sparrow.
Sorry – Captain Jack Sparrow.
Undoubtedly, you have a bone or five to pick with my list. Bring on the replacements – I’m ready for you.