Local spotlight: Top 50 rock songs by Valley bands
Chris Hansen Orf
Get Out Magazine, July , 2005
Rolling Stone magazine recently came up with a list of the greatest rock songs of all time, not surprisingly giving their own publication a plug by selecting Bob Dylan's “Like a Rolling Stone” for the top slot.
We at Get Out put our heads together and — with a little help from our friend, Arizona music historian John Dixon — came up with a list of the Top 50 rock songs by bands that came to fame in the Valley, and a Top 10 list of songs by artists with local ties.
We're sure we probably left out a few that we couldn't think of, but Rolling Stone had some glaring omissions too (what, no Loverboy? No Journey? Come on!).
Without further ado, here's how the voting shook out. And let the debate commence.
50. “Media Control,” by Ember Coast (2005): An incredibly catchy outing from alt-poppers Ember Coast, complete with piano and singer Sean Brennan's Michael Quercio-esque high vocals.
49. “Voices,” by Zubia Brothers (2004): The Pistoleros’ founding siblings Mark and Lawrence Zubia put this gem on their debut disc as a duo. Lawrence's confessional lyrics are stark and haunting, but the music is pure pop.
48. “Don’t Blow Your Mind” by The Spiders (1966): This group was led by a skinny track star from north Phoenix's Cortez High School named Vincent Furnier. After splitting the desert, Furnier and his classmates/bandmates went on to rename the group Alice Cooper, and after the band broke up, the frontman kept the Alice Cooper name as his own.
47. “Work,” by Jimmy Eat World (2004): This wholly underrated hard pop tune on “Futures” features the Mesa band's trademark dynamic shifts, hard-rocking guitar work and the incomparable vocal harmonies of Jim Adkins and Tom Linton.
46. “Cindy Crawford,” by Truckers on Speed (2002): Dave Wolfmeyer has written plenty of hard-rocking country tunes, but this clever bluegrass-on-steroids rant against the supermodel is a standout on the band's “Somebody Somewhere” disc.
45. “Halfway,” by Gloritone (1998): Guitar virtuoso Tim Anthonise was using open tunings before it was commonplace and can write a great pop song, as this gem from power trio Gloritone illustrates.
44. “Underneath the Golden Grain,” by Reubens Accomplice (2004): In a perfect world, Reubens Accomplice would be as big as anybody in rock. This tune, off “The Bull, the Balloon and the Family,” fully illuminates the talents of Jeff Bufano and Chris Corak, with lilting melodies and stunningly clever songcraft.
43. “Same Sad Story,” by Ghetto Cowgirl (2000): A sonic blast of hard pop, led by Marc Norman's snarly vocals and Thomas Laufenberg's power chords, this is the long-running band's most tightly crafted combo of melody and crunch.
42. “Sixteen Year Old Lover,” by Steppchild (2005): Bombastic hard rock from the self-appointed saviors of rock ’n’ roll, this tune manages to be funny, clever, sick, twisted and rockin’ all at the same time — with the hilarious punch line: “You can tell your friends / but don't you tell your dad.”
41. “Mr. S.O.B.,” by Dead Hot Workshop (1995): Dead Hot Workshop was mixing country with their rock long before “alt-country” became an industry buzzword. This loping, literary acoustic tune on the band's major label debut, “1001,” is songwriter Brent Babb at his best.
40. “Hungover With Jenny,” by Beat Angels (1996): Booming guitar hooks and singer Brian Smith's Jim Thompson-meets-Charles Bukowski lyrics give this pop tune some noir flavor.
39. “Not Now Alice,” by The Piersons (1995): An early ’90s snapshot of Tempe discontent, this Patrick Sedillo ballad stands out among The Piersons’ roaring catalog.
38. “Dark and Bloody Ground,” by Trophy Husbands (2000): Led by Dave Insley and Kevin Daly, Trophy Husbands walked the line between punk and country, and this tune about an Arizona land war is their finest.
37. “Friends and Family,” by Trik Turner (2002): This catchy blend of rap and rock gave Trik Turner an alternative hit and broke the band on a national level.
36. “Alcoholin’,” by Flathead (1994): Rockabilly tunes about trucking, Greg Swanholm and Vince Ramirez's tight country harmonies and Swanholm's reverbed Telecaster picking have made Flathead a popular draw for 15 years. “Alcoholin’ ” is the band at their best.
35. “Proventil,” by Before Braille (2003): Mesa indie rockers Before Braille specialize in pop song structure, aggressive, melodic guitar work and stop-on-a-dime time changes, and this tune from “Cattle Punching on a Jackrabbit” is terrific.
34. “The Fool” by Sanford Clark (1956): The first ever hit song to come out of the Valley, this single was produced by Arizona native Lee Hazlewood, who later went on to fame as a songwriter and producer, most notably of ’60s sexpot Nancy Sinatra.
33. “We All Do,” by Adam Panic (2004): Teenage wünderkind Adam Panic has two just EPs to his credit, and this, the title track from his second release, could make the phenom a household name.
32. “Nada,” by The Refreshments (1996): There are better-known tunes on The Refreshments’ major label debut, “Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy,” but “Nada,” the album's closing cut, is the soul of the album, a gorgeous acoustic ballad of “storms down in Mexico.”
31. “Scottsdale,” by Chronic Future (1996): Not even old enough to drive cars when they dropped this classic on the Valley airwaves, the youngsters of Chronic Future are all grown up now, but “Scottsdale” remains their most fun tune.
30. “Going Down to Buckeye,” by Phunk Junkeez (1992): An early Phunk Junkeez tune, this hilarious, funky ode to the sleepy west-side farming community is a rap/rock blast.
29. “Green and Dumb,” by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers (1999): This gem, from the band's first album, “Honky Tonk Union,” finds Roger Clyne at his most wistful, telling a tale of a woman so beautiful that “even the dust devils pray / that they'll catch her eye.” The best love song penned by an Arizonan.
28. “The Hardest Part,” by Pistoleros (1997): Wicked guitar runs from Thomas Laufenberg, Lawrence Zubia's incomparable voice and a hummable chorus easily make this one of the best tunes from the Tempe legends.
27. “Light at the End of the Bottle,” by The Revenants (1998): Bruce Connole led Billy Clone and The Same and The Jetzons, both wildly popular new wave bands in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but found his dark honky-tonk voice with The Revenants in the ’90s.
26. “Sydney,” by The Pastry Heros (1998): After helping found the Valley's early ’90s “Beautiful Noise” movement in the band Alisons Halo, Adam and Catherine Cooper turned to pure pop as The Pastry Heros. The husband-and-wife team simply does not know how to craft a tune without gorgeous vocals, lush melodies and oh, those hooks!
25. “Tie the Rope,” by The Format (2003): Just one of a host of great songs from their major label debut “Static + Lullabies,” this bittersweet pop tune has hooks aplenty, Nate Ruess’ stellar vocals and Sam Means’ whip-smart chord changes.
24. “Radio Noise” by Billy Clone & The Same (1979): Before he went on to form The Jetzons, The Strand and The Revenants, guitarist/songwriter Bruce Connole played in this ill-fated unit that was destroyed by heroin addiction while reaching the precipice of fame.
23. “Out Out!” by Tone Set (1982): Synth duo Tone Set was made up of Galen Herod and Greg Horn, who met while working at KAET-TV (Channel 8) in Tempe. This cut features a groovy electronic beat set to a tape loop of Sgt. Carter chewing out Gomer Pyle from the TV series named for the incompetent Marine. Hilarious, clever and catchy.
22. “Better,” by Blue Shoes (1980): This proto new-wave tune featured a chunky bar chord progression and Cars-esque keyboards. A big local hit back when Phoenix radio would toss unsigned bands into regular rotation.
21. “One More Minute,” by Authority Zero (2002): Authority Zero's patented ska/punk/reggae blend gets the full monty here, with Bill Marcks’ roaring guitar work, Jason Devore's growling vocals and a chorus as catchy as anything on this list.
20. “A,” by Dead Hot Workshop (1995): The lead-off track to Dead Hot's major label debut, “1001,” this is the closest the eclectic band ever got to power pop. A catchy chorus, songwriter Brent Babb's trademark high-IQ lyrics and drummer Curtis Grippe and bassist G. Brian Scott's tight syncopation make this a Dead Hot classic.
19. “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage,” by Killer Pussy (1982): This early punk gem would easily top a list of best song titles ever.
18. “Finally” by CeCe Peniston (1992): A huge smash by the Phoenix singer that went all the way to the Billboard Top Ten. “Finally” stands as the best dance track ever created by an Arizona artist.
17. “Just Call Me Lonesome,” by Dave Insley (2005): One of the founders of country punk in the Valley, Insley has been playing this wry nugget for years, finally giving it the perfect home on his first solo release, “Call Me Lonesome.”
16. “Tune Out,” by The Format (2003): The best cut from The Format's debut disc, “Tune Out” begins as a beautiful, Beatle-esque piano and acoustic guitar dirge before pumping up the tempo with a stunning chorus.
15.“Funky Broadway Pts. 1 & 2” by Dyke and The Blazers (1966): There have been plenty of songs written about New York City's Broadway, but this smash hit was written about the Broadway Road in south Phoenix. The tune was later covered by R&B great Wilson Pickett.
14. “Backwater,” by Meat Puppets (1994): Curt Kirkwood's swirling Les Paul guitar lines dominate this, the first Meat Puppets tune that was radio accessible in the alt-rock early ’90s. As catchy as anything the band ever wrote, yet manages to retain the group's hippie/punk cred.
13. “Lost Horizons,” by Gin Blossoms (1992): The kickoff track to the Gin Blossoms’ starmaking “New Miserable Experience” album, this Doug Hopkins-penned classic features all the earmarks of his best writing: Melancholy lyrics (“she had nothing left to say / so she said she loved me / I stood there grateful for the lie”) wrapped up in an utterly beautiful, melodic pop song.
12. “Lucky Denver Mint,” by Jimmy Eat World (1999): The band's best, straightforward pop tune — released before the band exploded nationally — pads lush guitar work upon an electronic foundation and delivers a chorus that sticks in the brain.
11. “Beach Blanket Bongout,” by JFA (1982): Skate rock hard-core punk pioneers Jodie Foster's Army ushered in a change from Led Zeppelin at the empty pools to JFA at the empty pools. “Beach Blanket Bongout,” about skating and smoking, is a classic.
10. “Burger Christ,” by Dead Hot Workshop (1995): Brent Babb's lyrically complex ode to the “Burger King monolith” is delivered in perhaps Dead Hot's catchiest riff, a two-and-a-half-minute shot of melody infused with Steve Larson's driving guitar work.
9. “My Guardian Angel,” by Pistoleros (1997): Penned by Doug Hopkins and Mark Zubia, the chorus of this tune is taken from a Spanish prayer about a guardian angel watching over a troubled soul. Lawrence Zubia sings it with the perfect mixture of strength and longing.
8. “Banditos,” by The Refreshments (1996): The tune that broke The Refreshments nationally is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a prankster robbery south of the border replete with fake IDs and cars stopped by sugar in the gas tank; but the music, led by Brian Blush's booming guitar work, is serious rock ’n’ roll.
7. “The First Single,” by The Format (2003): First heard on the band's locally produced “E.P.,” “The First Single” helped land The Format their national record deal and leads off their major label debut, “Static + Lullabies,” with “I can't stand to think about / a heart so big it hurts like hell” amid ringing acoustic guitars and hand-claps.
6. “Hey Jealousy,” by Gin Blossoms (1992): This driving rocker turned the Gin Blossoms into a national powerhouse — a sleeper that caught on nearly a year and a half after the band's debut album dropped in 1992. And why not? A great hook, great lyrics and a classic Doug Hopkins octave-laden guitar solo.
5. “Lake of Fire,” by Meat Puppets (1983): Psychedelic country punk heroes Meat Puppets put this trudging, power chord masterpiece on “Meat Puppets II” in 1983, and Kurt Cobain resurrected it for Nirvana's “Unplugged,” giving the Tempe brothers Kirkwood a career boost. A perfect example of the band's “Grateful-Dead-meets-Black-Flag” sound.
4. “The Middle,” by Jimmy Eat World (2001): This alt-rock smash made the boys from Mesa an MTV staple, put emo on the mainstream map as a genre and elevated the group to national headliner status. The stop/start chorus, the simple, engaging verses and a monster guitar solo make this one of the best rock tunes ever penned by a local band.
3. “Rebel Rouser,” by Duane Eddy (1958): Created at Audio Recorders in Phoenix in the late ’50s, it's said that this reverb-soaked guitar instrumental inspired a young Liverpudlian named George Harrison to pick up a guitar. It also introduced “twang” into the rock lexicon.
2. “Ho Ho, Ha Ha, Hee Hee, Ha Ha” by Commodore Condello’s Salt River Navy Band (1968): Anybody who grew up in the Valley from the late ’60s into the ’90s remembers this classic as the theme of the legendary “Wallace and Ladmo Show” — a TV program generations of Arizona kids watched — and most of them could still whistle the song to you today.
1. “Found Out About You,” by Gin Blossoms (1992): The best song by the best songwriter the Valley ever produced. Doug Hopkins’ aching tune of getting cheated on and finding out the hard way, with heartbreaking lyrics: “You know it’s all I think about, I write your name drive past your house / your boyfriend’s over I watch your light go out.” Robin Wilson sings the hell out of the song, his voice awash in pain, and it features another great Hopkins guitar solo.
“Hey Sister,” by The Feedbags (1991),
“Halo,” by Fivespeed (2001),
“Grey Balloon,” by Spinning Jenny (1995),
“Hands to the Roof,” by Bionic Jive (2001), “Crystal Clear” by Mike Condello (1968),
“Who Are You Now Victoria,” by Serene Dominic & The Semi-Detached (1995),
“Step to the Floor,” by Illegal Substance (2003),
“I Am a Young Man” by Eddie & Ernie (1965),
“Turbo Teen,” by Sugar High (1997),
“Lovin’ Just My Style” by The Caravelles (1966),
“We Rock Harder Than You Ever Do," by Fine China (2002),
“As Long As It Matters,” by Gin Blossoms (1996),
“Pink Dress,” by The Piersons, (1996),
“Sore Eyes,” by Ticker Tape Parade (2003),
“Eclipse,” by Half String (1993),
“Renegade,” by Loosely Tight (1978),
“Black Dress” by The Nervous (1980),
“Monster Stomp” by Grant and the Geezers (1981),
“Michelle” by The Ladmo Trio (1966),
“Low Rider Street Cleaner” by Cosmo Topper (1979),
“Follow You Down,” by Gin Blossoms (1996),
“Okie’s in the Pokie” by Jimmie Patton (1960),
“Oh Mary” by Sky Harbor (1979),
“Rough and Tough” by Loosely Tight (1978),
and “Ramrod” by Frantic Johnny Rogers (1958).