Salfino Top 10 Beatles Songs



Unlike Pianow, I will not tip my hand by sharing my super-secret point allocation.

1. Hey Jude: Hypnotic, sweeping, majestic. So disciplined in its sonic momentum. And lyrically a tonic for a very turbulent time, evoking a shared spirituality that transcends labels and even religion itself.

2. I Am the Walrus: Only the Beatles could perform this song. Lennon’s lyrics are not merely trippy but completely unsettling. And it’s always on the verge of being torn apart by its ambition, yet somehow triumphs.

3. Here, There and Everywhere: The perfect song. A strong case can be made for it being No. 1 but unlike the top two it’s so modest in its performance, not letting anything get in the way of the pure poetry of McCartney’s finest lyric.

4. A Day in the Life: Hypnotic, sweeping, majestic. So disciplined in its sonic momentum. And lyrically a tonic for a very turbulent time, evoking a shared spirituality that transcends labels and even religion itself.

5. Here Comes the Sun: It’s perhaps ironic that Harrison, who spent so much songwriting energy on overt religiousity, would convey happiness and hope through such a simple metaphor with its spot-on musical accompaniment. Ringo somehow keeps seven-and-1/2 time.

6: Strawberry FieldsLennon one-upped McCartney in their nostalgic odes to Liverpool by cleverly not talking about a place really at all, but rather a state of mind. The song sounds like it’s coming from inside your head.

7. For No OneMcCartney really owns Revolver, quite a feat given how amazing Lennon’s songs are, too. Far more musically ambitious than Here, There and Everywhere. Delicate and poignant but also so self-possessed. And ultimately that’s what really gets you, its resignation.

8. Dear Prudence: Lennon is rarely so charming. The song also has one of the most thrilling finishing kicks in rock history, due mostly to McCartney’s incredible drumming filling in for the AWOL Ringo, whose misfortune is being a musical genius in a band with three bigger geniuses.

9. Happiness is a Warm Gun: One of rock’s great singers really belts it out without the voice alterations he often insisted upon. Both McCartney and Harrison have said this is their favorite song on The White Album. Seeming to thread together different songs, perhaps it planted the seed in McCartney for the Abbey Road medley.

10. Long, Long, Long: Ringo again is the hero and I love the mix with its almost whispering lyrics. The music is so good that it’s immediately clear you should be straining to listen. This is the moment, for me, when George’s became far more than some third wheel.

Salfino Top 10 Stones Songs



I found this much easier than the Beatles list. Not that it was easy though. Rather than link all the songs via YouTube, let’s try a Spotify playlist. 

1. Gimme Shelter: What is that opening guitar? A riff? A lead? Whatever it is, it’s unforgettable. Everything comes together almost magically; the backup singer woken up from sleep with no notice and too hoarse to sing somehow leads to rock’s greatest mistake.

2. Moonlight Mile: Jagger steps out of character and the result is a warm intimacy that feels perfect whether he’s coming down from a cocaine high or a long, cold and lonely night on the road.

3. Tumbling Dice: Odd that something so laid back and groovy could be the product of 150 takes. The way Richards and Mick Taylor play off each other just slays me. There’s a fever in the funk house, alright.

4. Sway: Like “Moonlight Mile,” rumored to be actually a Jagger-Taylor composition. Taylor’s guitars shine regardless. Has anyone ever played better than on Taylor’s solo outro? Doubtful. That’s the sex, but the intro riff is what first seduces.

5. Miss You: Maybe the most bad-ass thing the Stones ever did was record a “disco” song when their fans were busy rioting over its sudden prominence. Of course, Miss You isn’t a disco song at all, whatever that even is. But it’s damn fine on the dance floor.

6. No Expectations: Much of Beggar’s Banquet seems posey to me: satanic (Sympathy for the Devil), salacious (Stray Cat Blues), revolutionary (Street Fighting Man), Dylanesque (Jigsaw Puzzle), blue collar (Salt of the Earth). But this seems very real and a fitting, beautiful swang song for Brian Jones.

7. Under My Thumb: Sounds as cool as the narrarator suggests he is as the winner of this sexual power struggle, a hallmark of all post-adolescent relationships. Accusations of misogyny are just lazy. The marimba riff works. And Marc Bolan made a career out of mimicing Jagger’s use of his breath as an instrument.

8. Memory Motel: One of the few (only?) songs where Jagger and Richards alternate lead vocals. Love the piano and the sha-la-las. I like the songs where Jagger as principle lyricist seems like an actual person.

9. Let It Bleed: For all its tongue-in-cheek perversion, it’s really a song about needing someone and being willing and even eager to reciprocate in kind. In other words, nice. They backed into it.

10. Ventilator Blues: You feel like you’re doing something wrong when you listen to this song. It’s one of their nastier riffs, fittingly: Your woman’s cussing/you can hear her scream/You feel like murder/in the first degree….

Just in case you skipped the intro, you can listen to this album, of sorts, right here via Spotify.



My radio and me in 1972-73

photo IS-1bsg6ix8j644d

Just traveled to California and drove up and down Laurel Canyon and thought not only about Joni Mitchell, who has been such a source of controversy here, mostly backstage, but my love of music very generally and where it began.

In 1972, my mother moved us (parents were divorced) to the Mojave Desert — Yucca Valley, CA.  Geologically and geographically different from Laurel Canyon, yet sharing that same artsy vibe (only the poor artists live in the desert).

The people we hung with, the new friends and relatives, aunts and uncles I hardly knew, were mostly listening to that Canyon music — Mitchell, Carole King, Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Seals and Crofts and, of course, some non-California acts like the Rolling Stones. images-1(I especially remember the hours I spent staring at Goats Head Soup’s cover and how horrified I was of the image of that soup where, now, what’s truly horrifying about that album is how it marked the beginning of the end of the greatest Rock and Roll Band in the world.)

At gatherings, the adults provided the soundtrack. But back home, in my room, lying on my waterbed, the radio was the only free form of entertainment I had. The scoops of ice cream cost $.05 cents at Thrifty’s and I think the occasional drive-in was $5 per car. I was before and am again now a TV junkie. But I never even saw a TV at any adult’s house. Not only was it looked down upon, but there was no reception in the high desert. Yet I still stubbornly spent many hours the first few weeks, maybe even few months, trying to get some signal from the black and white set I badgered my mother into bringing west. Alas, there were only faint ghosts of images, and only at night — nothing remotely watchable or even listenable. (Yes, I would have given anything to even LISTEN to TV.) So all that was left for me was my transistor radio — this model, I swear. images-2

Only the Hits station came in. I can’t say if that period was particularly good for music — that would be like asking the starving man to rate the hamburger you just gave him. But 1972’s top sure seemed good to me. 

I loved “American Pie,” it was the first time I really noticed dramatic changes in sound within one song. And it was the first song where I really paid attention to the lyrics. “Brand New Key” by Melanie was inescapable. I didn’t like it then or now. But another kitschy song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was pure childhood delight for me. I loved “Alone Again (Naturally),” oblivious to how sad it was. My love of soul music was forged here: “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex was most popular but I preferred Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, “I’ll Take You There,” “Backstabbers,” “Oh Girl”…. I heard them all so many times that I may as well have owned the records (which nine year olds don’t buy even if they could afford to, which I couldn’t).

“Rocket Man” by Elton John sounded different from everything else, yet was so catchy and was the first time I heard one of those great Elton choruses that I grew to love so much. 45t_rocket_man_rotten_peaches_belgiqueWhile I really liked more iconic, Rock Remnants-certified rockers like “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies, “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries and “Bang a Gong” by T-Rex, I had ample room in my juvenile musical palate for Cat Stevens’s “Morning Has Broken,” too. That was the first time I really noticed how beautiful a piano could sound. I could hardly afford to hate much when hating required me to turn off the radio and thus my only connection to the outside world. I looked for things I liked in everything I heard and if I really hated something, like Melanie, I had to tolerate it anyway and give it every chance to change my mind (as some songs did — like “Hocus Pocus” by Focus — learned to love the guitar riffs, still hated the yodeling.)

1973’s top 100 gave me “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul, which seemed so grown up and off limits, but man, did I love it on those lonely desert nights while trying not too hard to go to sleep. But I also loved polar opposite songs like “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter (Hocus Pocus without the yodeling!) and “Little Willy” by Sweet, which may as well have been The Archies to my ear. It was pure kid music, barely less silly than “The Monster Mash,” another 1973 hit. And about monsters! “Will It Go Round in Circles” by Billy Preston was a pleasure for me every time, as was “Superstition,” “Stuck in the Middle with You,” “Live and Let Die,” “Daniel,” “Superfly,” “Love Train,” “That Lady” and the also-so-grown-up “Wildflower” by Skylark. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” seemed like it was written just for nine-year-old boys and how could it be that this song inspired Freddie Mercury of all people? Music is such a wonderful chemistry experiment, a fact that comes into sharp relief when you can do nothing else but immerse yourself in it for two, long formative years.

From the Archives: 30 Greatest R&R Guitarists (circa 1980)

How much have about 30 years altered this list that was put together by Dave Marsh in the Book of Rock Lists? We have a few guitarists on the site, so I’m interested to see what they think.

Mickey Baker

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Chuck Berry
3. Mickey “Guitar” Baker (Mickey and Sylvia, sessions)

Steve Cropper

4. James Burton (Elvis)
5. Pete Townshend
6. Keith Richards
7. Scotty Moore (Elvis)
8. Steve Cropper (Booker T. and the MGs)
9. Link Wray
10. Eric Clapton

Other notables when the list was published in 1980/81: Eddie Van Halen (13), Duane Allman (17), Jimmy Page (22), Mick Jones (24), Steve Jones (25), Bruce Springsteen (29).

As much as I love Springsteen and his guitar playing, I wouldn’t have him on this list. I’d put Prince in the top 30, though I don’t know where. I’d have Mick Taylor (29) higher. I’d have Marc Bolan and Mick Ronson on the list. Jimmy Page would be in my top 10 because he wrote so many great riffs but I know that a lot of guitar players think he’s sloppy. I can’t hear it though. I think Tom Morello belongs on the list after seeing him with Springsteen.

I remember talking to Moyer years ago about guitarists and I questioned the extent that leads should influence the rankings and he said that there isn’t a great guitarists who didn’t play great leads. I countered with Keith Richards and Steve had to admit that I had him there. Of course, Richards played, and wrote, many of the greatest riffs in rock history.

Best Rock and Roll Movies (circa 1980)

When I was a kid, the two non-sports books I had with me the most were the Rolling Stone Record Guide and Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein’s Book of Rock Lists.

In the chaos of my early college years, who knows what happened to it. But when my daughter Cara and I were perusing a used book store in Provincetown a couple of summers ago, there before me in the music section was that long-lost book. For $7, who could resist? That was less than the original cover price! I guess they figured no one would possibly want it.

I thought about it today when I read Steve’s post about his favorite rock documentary. Of course, “Best Rock and Roll Movies” was one of the lists. Here they are in order, with links to purchase if you so desire:

King Creole (Elvis)

(Sex Pistols)
4. The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night

(various including The Rolling Stones)

6. The Girl Can’t Help It
(Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and others)
7. (Jimmy Cliff)
(Hendrix, Redding, The Who)

(Paul Jones)