1. The Clash, "Safe European Home." In the great tradition of so many terrific Clash songs, I barely understood the words the first thousand times I heard it, and I didn't care a bit. The Clash has as many classics as any band ever, and I suppose this isn't one of them to most people, but the opening power chords are a blast that I've never gotten tired of.
2. Albert Collins, "Ice Pick." If you find yourself in one of those "I'm bored, what can I find online" moods, search around for stories about Collins' live performances. I saw him ... it was the 80s, I guess, maybe later, I don't know. He played at Slim's, the small club run by Boz Scaggs. And yes, he did his trademark, wandering off the stage into the crowd, solos rolling out of his guitar, until he had walked right out the front door and onto the streets, still wailing away ... and when he'd had enough, back into the club he came, never stopping with the solos.
3. Ashford & Simpson, "Is It Still Good to Ya." Back in the day, they made mature married love interesting and cool. How odd to realize that they were only in their 30s at the time. The video adds Johnny Gill to the vocal mix.
4. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "You're the One That I Want." Let's get something out of the way: Grease sux. Let's get something else out of the way: this song roolz.
5. David Johansen, "Frenchette." Without Johnny Thunders, David was never going to capture the spirit of the Dolls. But if his solo albums were never as good as Doll albums, they were better than Johnny's solo albums. Come in my kitchen and not my kitchenette, indeed.
6. Bruce Springsteen, "Racing in the Street." Bruce made better albums ... OK, I know some will disagree, but I think Darkness is a hair under Born to Run, Nebraska, and Tunnel of Love ... it's an album made for live versions, as "Prove It All Night" demonstrates. But the highlights of this album are canonical. And I never connected on a personal level with any other Bruce album the way I did with this one, which came in the middle of my decade as a steelworker. And let's not forget the tour, his greatest and thus, by definition, one of the greatest tours in rock and roll history.
7. Hot Chocolate, "Every 1's a Winner." You want a hook? The synth that kicks this off is a hook of the highest order, and every time it returns, it gets you all over again.
8. Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone." If I'm being all intellectual and donning my Dr. Critic cap, I have to note that Parallel Lines is more polished than Blondie's debut, and that polish isn't always good. But whenever I play the album, the first thing I lose is the Critic cap ... it just sounds too good to complain.
9. Little Roger and the Goosebumps, "Stairway to Gilligan's Island." Ah, irony. Led Zeppelin is one of the titans of rock, but sometimes they "borrowed" songs from sources without remembering to cite the originals. You know, plagiarizing. But when this goof got some airplay, Led Zep's lawyers threatened to sue them.
10. Cheap Trick, "Surrender." I have no idea why this song is better than any other Cheap Trick song, why it's just about better than any other song, period. But fuckin' A, this is great. Power chords and perfect and quotable lyrics. Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird, as they make out on the couch and get high while listening to Kiss records. Surrender, but don't give yourself away.