Jeff Clutterbuck's 101 Favorite Songs

(More Or Less)

by Jeff Clutterbuck

When Duke originally pitched this concept to the Vault Staff, there were so many ideas that were floating around in my head in terms of the best way to approach it.... as an official ranking? Could I have multiple songs from the same artist? Are we talking guilty pleasures, the “best 100,” my personal favorite....IT WAS TOO MUCH!

So after consulting the oracles, reading the auspices, visiting multiple fortune tellers, and shaking the Magic 8 Ball, I chose a path. This list is my personal favorite songs for a particular artist.... but I did ramp up the difficulty level and only allowed myself to choose the artist once*! Bold choice, I know. But this list would have been heavily skewed towards Elton John and Chicago if I allowed myself that crutch, and that’s not as much fun to read now, is it?

So without further ado, here are Clutterbuck’s 100-ish songs, each rigorously researched and directed by a team of scientists, philosophers, and roadies. Enjoy!

*Yes, I already built in a back door way for me to cheat: there are occasional repetitions of artists, but that’s only if they recorded the song with another artist. So for example, ## SPOILERS ## Queen appears on my list once, and then Queen and David Bowie also appear.

John Denver – “Take Me Home Country Roads”johndenver_prayers_150
John Denver’s homespun, country boy dun’ good act may have overshadowed his incredible talent for songwriting. “Take Me Home” may focus on West Virginia as the specific location, but his passion and way he’s able to describe West Virginia applies to anyone who loves their roots.

Elton John – “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”
Trying to pick my favorite Elton track is like trying to pick the most beautiful flower in a field of them; one cannot do it easily. But I have a personal attachment to “FFAF/LLB.” It was the first track in the first Elton album that I ever bought and Dad convinced me to get Goodbye Yellow Brick Road instead of Electric Ladyland. Oh, and it’s also Elton’s stab at prog rock, greatest concert opener of all time, and the thing just ROCKS when it gets to the “Love Lies Bleeding” portion.

Extreme – “More Than Words”
As a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I would have thought I’d have been more aware of this song, but lo and behold, this wasn’t a favorite of mine until many years later. Extreme is probably better known for absolutely shredding guitars, but what man didn’t try to learn this on acoustic to sing to their lady?

The Beatles – “Hey Jude”
When I think of the Beatles, I think of “Hey Jude.” The song itself is brilliant, written by Paul McCartney, of course. But it’s the four-minute fade out that is longer than the song itself, done so it could fit onto a standard 45, that just shows the creativity and ingenuity of the Fab Four.

The Eagles – “Take It Easy”
Quintessential Eagles: it’s either this or “Hotel California,” and “Take It Easy” is more representative of the country music element that The Eagles attempted to blend in with rock.

Steely Dan – “Bad Sneakers”
There are always so many little details that I appreciate in Steely Dan songs, so for this I’ll just highlight the amazing background vocals Michael McDonald is throwing down. It adds about 10% more soul to just a perfectly produced song.

Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “American Girl”

Both of these Petty tracks are all time karaoke/bar/driving singalongs. If it was a prize fight between the two, I probably would have to choose “American Girl” just because it’s a little rougher around the edges, but it’s still a close decision...

Metallica – “Blackened”
When it comes to Metallica, there are multiple components I had to think about when choosing a song. “Blackened” is taken from their best album, ...And Justice For All, it’s the opener, from a technical perspective it’s brilliant...oh and it’s F*CKING HEAVY. I could make the argument that it’s their best song, straight up, in addition to being my favorite.

Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”
Okay, Scorsese, I get it.

Queen – “Somebody To Love”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is amazing, but “Somebody To Love” better encapsulates what Queen was all about, in my view. It’s definitely not as esoteric lyrically as “Rhapsody” and features a better Mercury lead vocal performance.  Also was covered brilliantly by George Michael and Queen at Mercury’s tribute concert.

Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”
Stevie Wonder’s run of ’70s albums is mind-blowingly brilliant stuff, and while Talking Book isn’t the best album of that run, it has Stevie’s greatest composition in “Superstition.” I defy you to listen to the first thirty seconds of this song and not feel the need to get up and dance.

These four Swedes knew how to write and perform a stellar pop song. They, along with the Swedish Chef, are the greatest contributions to American culture that came from Scandinavia.

The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
If there’s a song that lyrically captures the vibe The Band had, it’s this one.

The Beach Boys – “Don’t Worry Baby”
The greatest 45 single of all time is “Don’t Worry Baby/I Get Around.” Fight me.

Chicago – “Beginnings”
I had a very hard time with Chicago: they were my first favorite band and I know all 123 of their albums extraordinarily well (okay, I may have exaggerated the number). But “Beginnings” is from their debut album, which remains their best. It happens to be an amazing love song, it’s a Robert Lamm composition, and it doesn’t play into the group’s “children of the revolution” that was a weakness of their earlier work.

Credence Clearwater Revival – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”
Critically, CCR is definitely not underrated. But my God, when I listen to a CCR album, I’m still blown away at how great their work was. Those singles from that run of albums are just perfection.

The Who – “Bargain”thewho_next
There’s something about “Bargain” coming on the heels of “Baba O’Reilly” that has always endeared it to me. Daltrey and Townshend both have strong vocal tracks, and Entwistle absolutely crushes it.

Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”
For all the talent that this band included, the moment where this song becomes a classic is when John McVie plays that simple bass line over Mick Fleetwood slowly bringing the tempo and energy back up to close it out.

Billy Joel – “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”
It’s the Long Island version of “American Pie.”

Genesis – “Turn It On Again”
I don’t know if there are any other songs on this list that were A. a pop hit, and B. in 13/4 time.

Fountains Of Wayne – “Hey Julie”
The Wonders – “All My Only Dreams”
(from the That Thing You Do soundtrack)
Adam Schlesinger was a genius, and the music world is much lesser for his loss in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eric Clapton – “My Father’s Eyes”
There are just some songs that are on this list that I can’t necessarily justify from a critical perspective. I mean, there are “better” songs that feature Clapton, but truth be told, I’m not the hugest fan of his solo output. This has just been a track that has stuck with me ever since I used to hear it on the radio in the ‘90s.

Yes – “South Side Of The Sky”
I love how heavy parts of this song gets. Fragile remains my favorite of the Yes albums, and their storytelling capabilities were in fine form on “South Side.” There was a penchant in later Yes to get really existential, in ways that weren’t necessarily the wisest choice for them. Here, it’s a relatively simple story backed up by some stellar musicianship.

Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here”
It was hard to select a song from Pink Floyd because this is easily one of their most commercial offerings and it’s not really representative of their oeuvre. But with that being said, it’s a stunning piece of songwriting from Roger Waters: “Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

Tenacious  D – “Beezelboss”
It’s not really their funniest song, but it’s their apex mountain from a D fan’s perspective. Big shoutout to the contributions from Dave Grohl as well.

Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog”
Another entry in the “Greatest Opening to a Rock Song” competition.

Meat Loaf – “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”
A song more famous for being performed by Celine Dion, a version off Bat Out Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, an aged Meat Loaf trying to recapture the magic…the list of why this song shouldn’t work goes on and on. But it does, damn it! Nobody can sing Steinman like Meat Loaf.

Green Day – “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”
There’s one Green Day album I have listened to multiple times and that would be American Idiot. It’s ironic, because if memory serves, their ‘90s output are traditional, half hour length punk rock albums. Yet I chose the probably a song or two too long record as their standard bearer. “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” is a gentler side to Green Day, slightly more sedated than their average output, and Billie Joe Armstrong delivers a wonderful lead vocal that I find myself humming randomly.

Matthew Sweet – “I’ve Been Waiting”
One of the forgotten albums of the ‘90s, and it’s a horrible shame because there are few power pop records better than this one.

Dixie Chicks – “Landslide“
Beautiful rendition of a Fleetwood Mac classic. I actually prefer it to the original; those Dixie Chicks harmonies can’t be topped.

Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel”
A cover of a cover of a reworking of a classic-era Dylan track. Hootie was made to sing country music!

Jeff Buckley - “Hallelujah”
Heartwrenching, soulful, sparse; Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah” may be played to death these days, but that shouldn’t take away from its beauty and Buckley’s gut-wrenching performance.

Lady Gaga - “You and I”
Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper - “Shallow”

Gaga is the modern-day Madonna, and while I don’t want to cast aspersions on Madge’s talent, she’s probably the better songwriter as well.

Peter Gabriel – “Sledgehammer”petergabriel_so
One of the oddest songs to ever be a hit; it also had a pretty unique music video back in the day when music videos were actually a thing!

Original Broadway Cast Recording – “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop Of Horrors
There’s a huge soft spot in my heart for Broadway musicals, my favorite being Little Shop Of Horrors. I’d be lying if I said my wife and I haven’t belted this out in the car for years, with me of course taking the Seymour parts and Mrs. Clutterbuck rocking the Audrey lines (and NAILING them, for the record).

Kermit – “Rainbow Connection”
Jim Henson was a genius, no ifs ands, or buts. One of my favorite lines in music is “The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” God bless The Muppets.

Michael Jackson – “Way You Make Me Feel”
Michael’s mom wanted him to write a song that she could dance to; I’d say he accomplished that feat.

Zac Brown – “Colder Weather”
These guys are far more talented than one would suspect. Stylistically, they can play and pull off anything they set their minds to. Listen to the “Jekyll + Hyde” album and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Boston – “Peace Of Mind”
Want to fight me again? “Peace Of Mind” is the best song off the Boston album. Come at me, broseph!

Journey – “Loving Touching Squeezing”
Steve Perry was a great vocalist, and this might be one of his most underrated performances. This was still before Journey completely succumbed to the sheen of ‘80s production styles.

Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk”
Bruno Mars – “Locked Out Of Heaven”

When it comes to modern day songwriters and performers, Bruno Mars deserves to be included in that list. He has taken elements from Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown and modernized them in concise, three minute bites.

Glen Campbell – “Good Riddance”
Glen Campbell released an album of covers over a decade ago called Meet Glen Campbell. Its goal was to reintroduce modern audiences to one of rock’s greatest voices. Mission accomplished, Glen!

Katy Perry – “Use Your Love”
Who doesn’t love The Outfield’s “Lose Your Love?” Katy Perry took it and made it her own;, and this was before she was the huge star that she is now.

Justin Timberlake/Chris Stapleton – “Say Something”
Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”

There’s a distinct lack of mainstream country on this list because I find the formulaic presentation and lyrical content to be...well, too formulaic. I have a hard time identifying the differences between the superstar country artists because IT ALL SOUNDS THE SAME. But Stapleton is part of that new movement that seeks to return to the roots of country music, and his songwriting chops and voice are top-notch. Cannot recommend him enough!

Jonathan Edwards – “Sunshine Go Away”
“It’s so damn hot...Milk was a bad choice.”

Bee Gees – “To Love Somebody”
This is the song my wife and I danced to at our wedding. It’s early Bee Gees, but that hasn’t stopped it from having been covered a million times since then.

Scissor Sisters – “Don’t Feel Like Dancing”
It saddens me every day that Scissor Sisters aren’t making new music. Their debut album was my second favorite of the year it was released, and their follow-up was of the same level of quality. And of course, “Don’t Feel Like Dancing” features a certain Rocket Man providing support on the ivories.

Paul Simon – “Slip Slidin’ Away”
Simon & Garfunkel – “The Boxer”

There’s really nothing I can say about Paul Simon that hasn’t been said a thousand times by others. “The Boxer” is the culmination of SImon & Garfunkel artistic endeavors, and “Slip Slidin’ Away” shows that he hadn’t lost his fastball after going solo in the ’70s.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
It’s one of the most legendary songs ever written, and I wouldn’t have thought it could be reinterpreted in a meaningful way. But now, when I hear someone mention “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” I don’t think of Judy Garland, I think of the 600 pound Hawaiian man with the voice of an angel. It’s a beautiful cover that, regardless of how many TV shows or movies use it, I find just as breath taking each time it comes on.

Crosby Stills Nash & Young – “Carry On”csny_deja
One of the first supergroups in rock, and to be honest, they probably never truly lived up to the expectations that came with that title. However, that doesn’t mean there still weren’t moments where it seemed those heights could be scaled, and “Carry On” is one of those moments.

Sabotage - “Beastie Boys”

Paul McCartney - “Let Me Roll It”
McCartney has received a lot of flak over the years for being too sweet, too saccharine, too “pretty.” I’m not going to sit here and completely defend him on all those counts, but the moments when he stripped his sound down resulted in some brilliant songs that reminded us why he was in the greatest band of all time.

Guster - “One Man Wrecking Machine”
Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Wet Sand”

Early ‘00s rock here that I’m grouping together because in my mind, they are from one very specific era of my life. Stadium Arcadium was THE album during sophomore year of college; I’ll go to bat for it for the rest of my life as the RHCP’s best album. And Guster is one of those bands who many probably don’t remember (not even sure if they are still an active group), but who had a few decent to great albums during their time, with some catchy singles to boot.

Al Green – “Let’s Stay Together”
“That’s pride f*cking with you.”

The Four Seasons – “Let’s Hang On”
The Four Seasons were a huge influence on The Beach Boys, and Frankie Valli has one of the most recognizable voices in music history. This particular song was a little more “rock” than their previous efforts, and it’s stayed in my musical consciousness ever since I was little.

Big Star - “Thirteen”
Big Star beautifully encapsulates adolescence in two minutes and 18 seconds. These guys were amazing, and remain underrated amongst the classic rock loving audience.

Sam Cooke - “That’s Where It’s At”
Sam Cooke was another artist we lost far too early. James Brown once said, and I paraphrase, “If I had a voice like his, I wouldn’t have to dance.” When The Godfather Of Soul says something like that about you, you’ve earned your place in the pantheon.

Jay-Z - “Heart Of The City”
Probably a “mainstream” selection here, but I always have respected Jay-Z for incorporating the ‘70s Philly sound (And credit to Kanye, who produced and co-wrote the track).

Kanye West - “All Of The Lights”
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, even though it was released in 2010, still made A LOT of the Best of the 2010s decade lists, and with good reason. It is Kanye’s greatest work, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s likely he will ever be able to top it.

Cheap Trick - “I Want You To Want Me“
One of my favorite refrains of all time; the pure joy with which Cheap Trick performs this song is inspiring. But it has to be the LIVE version; the studio version doesn’t bring the same level of energy as its live cousin.

The Offspring - “The Kids Aren’t Alright“
I don’t know why there isn’t more ‘90s music on this list; my wife is sometimes shocked at my lack of knowledge of the subject. But the Offspring has broken through that artificial barrier and entered the Clutterbuck zeitgeist. This is a brilliant, brilliant song that plays as a ‘90s response to the single of a similar name in the ‘60s from The Who.

Don McLean - “American Pie”
Tim Rice once said in an interview that there aren’t many songs that “make it” on the basis of the lyrics alone... with “American Pie” being the exception.

Prince - “Kiss”
Prince was the master. It’s amazing to me this particular song was a hit simply because there’s not “that” much to it. But that beat… oof, it remains a tragedy that we lost him so young.

The Temptations - “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”temptations_gettinready_150
Pretty much everything that came out of Motown during the ‘50s and ‘60s was gold: the sheer amount can be overwhelming when you sit down and try to read the whole list. That drum fill that kicks things off is such a stroke of genius, and it’s just about a second long. And there aren’t many opening lines better than “I know you wanna leave me...”

Ringo Starr - “Photograph”
Ringo’s solo career had some great singles, but let’s be honest...how many of us believe he was the one writing them? In this case, the Quiet Beatle has co-writing credits, and it’s easily Ringo’s best output of his time after the Fab Four.

Queen/David Bowie - “Under Pressure“
Freddie Mercury duets with David Bowie. What else do I have to tell you?

Three Dog Night - “Shambala”
The selling point for Three Dog Night were those harmonies, and my favorite performance of theirs in that regard is on “Shambala.”

Huey Lewis - “Do You Believe In Love”
Sure, you could go with one of the singles off Sports, but you’d be wrong.

James Taylor - “Fire And Rain”
Sweet baby James may get derided by Homer Simpson for being at the forefront of “wuss rock,” but we know better, don’t we...

Elvin Bishop - “Fooled Around And Fell in Love“
When there were still normal commercials back in the day, I loved seeing those 10 minutes promos for collections of singles from the ‘70s. There were all sorts of different themes to them, and the four seconds they played of each song were tantalizing; I wanted to hear more! This is one of those that stuck with me over the years from those ads.

Jefferson Starship - “We Built This City”
The 8th grade me does not apologize for including this song in my favorites list, even though many consider it a desecration of Jefferson Airplane and rock music in general. It’s a damn catchy song, written by Bernie Taupin, so it can’t be that bad...right?

Dobie Gray - “Drift Away”
I literally know nothing about Dobie Gray. I also always assumed this song was written and performed in the ‘90s, mostly due to those opening guitar licks, which feel very ‘90s. I continue to know nothing about Dobie Gray, but the one thing that I DO know is that this is a great, great song.

CeeLo Green - “F**k You”
This was the song of the summer in 2010, which few would have predicted from one half of Gnarls Barkley.

Ben Folds - “Not The Same”
Ben Folds Five - “Army”

Whether it was his work with the Five, or on his own, Ben Folds was the piano man for my generation. And more importantly, he didn’t sound like a clone of an Elton or a Joel. He was decidedly his own man, influenced by alternative and punk/ska more than the ‘70s pop that Elton and Joel had mastered.

AC/DC - “Thunderstuck”
If you need to pump up a 20,000 person crowd, is there a better way to do it than playing the first minute or so of this song?

Aerosmith - “Back In The Saddle”
There are not too many Aerosmith songs that I would categorize as “threatening” in terms of its sound, but this one reaches that level. Tyler shreds his vocals chords in service of rock and roll.

Alan Parsons Project - “The Turn Of A Friendly Card Pts. 1+2”alanparsons_toafc
This is definitely one of my more esoteric choices for this list, but hey, I can’t help it if the song is amazing, right? This is my favorite Project album; there are really no weak points, and “Turn Of A Friendly...” ties the whole thing together at the open and close of the record.

T. Rex - “20th Century Boy”
Another entry in the “One of the Greatest Opening Riffs of All Time.”

Pure Prairie League - “Amie”
See my synopsis for “Fooled Around And Fell in Love.”

Ram Jam - “Black Betty”
Anyone a Friday Night Lights fan? If you are, you know what I’m talking about.

Quincy Jones - “Ai No Corrida”
Oh, Quincy, you beautiful man, We have so much to thank you for in your brilliant career! The bass line in this song simply slaps.

Rush - “The Spirit Of Radio”
This may not be representative of Rush in terms of what they most often stood for in the prog rock game, but when they shortened their focus to single-length, the results speak for themselves.

Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
It would be wrong to create this list and not have at least one selection from the greatest rock and roll movie ever, Almost Famous. This song in particular takes place when the fictional band Stillwater is selling its soul while Kate Hudson’s character dances silently in an empty arena, representing all that’s good and pure still in rock. Just an outstanding movie and if you have the chance to view the extended cut, I would highly recommend that as well.

Toto – “Africa”
It was either this or “Rosanna.” A regular Sophie’s Choice, he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Trans Siberian Orchestra - “Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24”
When it comes to Christmas time, this is the standard bearer for when you want to let your inner metal head out. It’s so great that if you see TSO live, they play it twice!

Van Halen - “Jamie’s Cryin’"
Van Halen still sounds unique and different decades later, so I can’t imagine what it was like for someone to actually walk into a record shop, buy a copy, and spin that for the first time at home. It must have been truly mind blowing!

Weezer - “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”
Say what you will about Weezer’s later work, Rivers Cuomo knows how to write a pop song with a hell of a hook. In terms of ear worms, this has always stood out for me from an album that featured the abomination that is “Can’t Stop Partying.”

Yonder Mountain String Band – “Complicated”
Bluegrass makes it’s one and only appearance on the list! This doesn’t really sound similar to the regular sound Yonder would employ, but it’s an amazing bluegrass inspired pop song.

ELO – “Roll Over Beethoven”
If there’s a song that truly demonstrates what the idea behind ELO was, it’s this one. Jeff Lynne, you are my hero!

Finger Eleven - “One Thing”
Colin Hay - “Overkill”

These two songs are on the list because of their use in Scrubs. When it came to soundtrack choices, Scrubs was definitely top three all time.

Foo Fighters - “The Pretender”
Dave Grohl is a national treasure. Remember his words of wisdom: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”police_regatta_150

The Police - “Message In A Bottle”
They never should have broken up, let’s just put it that way. I love “Fields of Gold” and all, but this was definitely a case of stronger together than apart.

Semisonic - “Closing Time”
I hated when The Office made Andy the boss after Steve Carrell left. He ended up being a despicable character, who was cruel for the sake of being cruel. But his one redeeming moment from that run was playing Semisonic’s “Closing Time” every day when it was time to go home (And it was worth it to hear Stanley sing a few bars before).

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