When I am driving with Michelle and listening to the radio it’s almost exclusively the classic rock station here in town. We’ll occasionally debate whether the song playing is “real” classic rock or not. It’s lead to some fun conversations. Since I hate commercials (as well as a handful of bands/songs that always seem to be in heavy rotation) I wanted to do an Andy-from-WKRP impression and program my own station. Besides songs that are obvious choices (i.e. any Zeppelin or AC/DC) I have pet songs that I love and others that I do not. I swear, if I could listen to the goddamn radio for 20 minutes without hearing Pink Floyd it would be a minor miracle.
I started a Classic Rock playlist on Spotify to solve my Classic Rock Radio problem. The list was good, but it wasn’t as long I wanted it to be so I started thinking and talking (and talking) about what makes a classic rock song “classic rock” in an effort to dig up more examples and to find songs I had forgotten.
I started with some firm rules about what I don’t want to hear:
- No Pink Floyd.
- No Rush (except Tom Sawyer)
- No Boston.
- No Who (except for “A Quick One While He’s Away” (this is the Rushmore soundtrack exception)). I could do with not hearing Baba O’Riley ever again.
- No post-Run DMC Aerosmith.
- No Ted Nugent
- No Kiss
In the current playlist version (101 songs, 7hr 21mins) there are a few common denominators:
- songs need a guitar solo (“Gimme Three Steps“)
- bands harmonizing in the chorus (“Juke Box Hero“)
- My list seems to really be skewing Southern Rock, which makes sense since I grew up in Virginia. (“Black Water“)
- I think I might have an anti-ballad bias.
One thing that kept coming up was the age of the song determining it’s “classic” credentials. I disagree because there are definitely modern (non-60’s/70’s) songs that I think qualify. “The Bucket” by Kings of Leon is what started this whole thing. Michelle and I were practically impressed that a song from the 21st century was such a great Classic Rock example.
Bands and songs that didn’t make the cut:
- “She’s A Beauty” by The Tubes.
It’s got some of the classic features (guitar solo, band harmonizing in the chorus) but there is a lot of 80’s radio influence (synths, mid-tempo softness), too.
- “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers.
This one crosses over into Yacht Rock for me. I think it’s all of the Michael McDonald. There are some great pop songs in that vein, but I don’t know that they’re classic rock. I feel like there needs to be at least 2 degrees of separation from Toto.
- “Peg” by Steely Dan.
It’s a great song and a terrific example of what I meant when I was wondering if my list was too Southern Rock influenced. Peg sounds almost like Disco. It does get major bonus points for being a 3 Feet High and Rising sample.
- “Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses. Great song, but this is metal. (“Paradise City” is 100% classic rock, though, and is 100% in that playlist. Go figure.)
- I don’t have any Metallica in there. I think everything before the Black Album is way more metal than classic rock so I don’t know that any of it fits.
- I struggle with the Eagles, too. Don Henley is such a twat that it’s made it hard for me to enjoy them. “Life In the Fast Lane” and “Witchy Woman” are on the list. I like those songs more than I dislike Don Henley.
Funnily enough, after spending momths talking about it and weeks building the playlist, I had satisfied my appetite for Classic Rock so I didn’t spend much time listening to the playlist I built. It’s there for me when I want it now, which is really all I wanted in the first place.