The 50 Most Rocking Songs About Rocking
If you make your living as a rock star, it's all but inevitable that you will write a song or two about the act of rocking. Or, if you're AC/DC, a couple of dozen.
When writing a song about rocking, the song itself must rock to the highest degree possible. Listen for yourself as we count down the 50 most rocking songs about rocking.
After a decade of honing his craft in a variety of local bands, Sammy Hagar made an explosive debut on the world stage with Montrose's 1973 debut album. "Been a long education, but my homework is done," he declares over a propulsive Ronnie Montrose riff on the opening "Rock the Nation." "Got it in me now, ain't gonna quit until it all comes out." While the album wasn't a huge commercial success at first, Montrose eventually reached platinum status. More importantly, it's been cited as an influence by younger rockers such as Iron Maiden, Motley Crue and Van Halen. (Matthew Wilkening)
"Gunter glieben glauten globen" is the nonsense phrase uttered by album producer Mutt Lange that signals the arrival of one of the best rock 'n' roll moments of the ‘80s. "Rock of Ages" is a rallying cry, led by singer Joe Elliott which gathers the masses in short order – and the instructions are simple. “Rise up, gather round / Rock this place to the ground / Burn it up, let's go for broke / Watch the night go up in smoke.” By the time the gang vocals answer with an emphatic “Yeaaah,” it’s clear that all involved are firmly on board with the mission to rock. (Matt Wardlaw)
48. Ted Nugent, "Motor City Madhouse"
From: Ted Nugent (1975)
Ted Nugent only handled lead vocals on one song from his self-titled debut, wisely deferring to Derek St. Holmes for most of the album. Nugent uses this one turn at the mic to celebrate his Detroit hometown with trademark bravado and enthusiasm. "Welcome to my town, high energy's all around tonight," he begins, before declaring he will "cause a mad-dog rage" once he and the band hit the stage. The fiery guitar work Nugent uses to punctuate nearly every line helps him accomplish that mission. (Wilkening)
With its emphatic power and instantly recognizable guitar line, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” represents everything that made bombastic ‘80s rock great. “‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ became an anthem. I think ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ is a perfect rock anthem, which talks about attitude and sexuality,” Scorpions guitarist Rudolf Schenker told Songfacts. “It's very important to recognize the tension between the verses and the chorus. I think [singer] Klaus [Meine] went over the lyrics around eight or nine times because the first lyrics of the song went something like ‘blah blah blah blah.’ And we said, ‘No! The song is not feeling right.’ But at the ninth or 10th time, it came.” (Corey Irwin)
Night Ranger was in a tough spot by the time they released Midnight Madness. They’d spent the previous year on the road touring their debut, Dawn Patrol, only to discover upon returning home that their record company had folded. Had they sold more than a million albums for no return? Hardly. Night Ranger quickly got down to business and self-financed the recording of Midnight Madness. “(You Can Still) Rock in America” was the powerful first track on the record, pumping the musical fist in favor of rock 'n' roll. Though it failed to crack the Top 40 of the Billboard charts, it became a catalog classic for Night Ranger and set the stage for their monster power ballad, “Sister Christian” as the next single. (Wardlaw)
"Why couldn’t we be the Rolling Stones? Why couldn’t we be Cream? If it was just the color of our skin, that wasn’t going to stop us," Funkadelic bandleader George Clinton vowed in his 2014 memoir. "Not when we had the tightest songs and the loudest guitars and the best singers." Funkadelic's already impressive guitar army grew even stronger when teenage prodigy Michael Hampton joined Eddie Hazel and Garry Shider for their seventh album. Opener "Good to Your Earhole" mashes your brain like Silly Putty with a hip-shaking rhythm, fuzzy guitars and easy-to-follow instructions: "Put your hands together / Come on and stomp your feet / There's a good time waiting for you / Come on and let's get free!" (Wilkening)
44. Huey Lewis and the News, "The Heart of Rock & Roll"
From: Sports (1983)
Looking at “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” you’ll find yet another example of how long the “rock is dead” argument has been going on. Huey Lewis and the News came armed with stats directly from the road to prove otherwise. If their songs sounded like they might have been cultivated on stage, that's because they often were. “We tried to do that as much as possible,” Lewis explained in 2014, “because we instantly realized from our very first record when we went out and played it with the Doobie Brothers, how much better we played the songs than we had when we cut them.” "The Heart of Rock & Roll" was one of five hit singles from Sports, helping give the group their first No. 1 album. (Wardlaw)
Neil Young has always sought liberation, personal or otherwise, through music – and "Rockin' in the Free World" might be the most memorable example. Young's career hit a lull in the '80s but guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro said something while on tour in 1989 that lit a match. The band had been invited to perform in the Soviet Union, but the plans fell through. "Neil was like, 'Damn, I really wanted to go,'" Sampedro told Rolling Stone in 2013. "I said, 'Me too. I guess we'll have to keep on rockin' in the free world.' He was like, 'Wow, that's a cool line.'" Young had the lyrics written the next day and the hard-rocking single would later boost Young's career back to the top. (Allison Rapp)
What happens when bands spend a long time trying to make it big, then have to deal with what happens next? Boston’s “Rock & Roll Band” tells the tale in a tidy three minutes. This song was a catalyst that helped mastermind Tom Scholz secure management for his new project, but Boston’s real rise to glory wasn’t quite as speedy as the lyrics depicted. "Rock & Roll Band" nevertheless relays an incredible rags-to-riches success story – Boston sold millions of albums with their self-titled debut alone – that any rock band would envy. (Wardlaw)
The fresh-faced members of Metallica stuck to what they knew on their landmark debut album: Motorhead-style thrashing and lyrics about rocking the fuck out. “Whiplash” is practically a tour documentary condensed into a four-minute song, a frenzied account of “bang[ing] your head against the stage like you never did before” as a barrage of distorted guitar sludge “kicks your ass [and] kicks your face.” Lars Ulrich holds on for dear life as he bangs his drums as fast as he can muster, while James Hetfield shouts about roughing it in roach-infested motels on the road. “Whiplash” also contains the most important declaration of the band’s career: “We'll never stop, we'll never quit, 'cause we're Metallica.” (Bryan Rolli)
Former bassist Bob Daisley said he wrote “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll” “about being screwed by record companies and being lied to,” but the song also reads as Ozzy Osbourne’s reaction to his critics and the accusations of Satanism that dogged him for years. In lesser hands, the seven-minute mid-tempo rocker would sound hokey, but with Osbourne and guitar wizard Randy Rhoads at the helm, it becomes a genuinely uplifting anthem about the enduring power of rock ‘n’ roll. (Rolli)
After reaching a dizzying new level of success with 1983's synth and drum machine-enhanced Eliminator, ZZ Top understandably attempted to push even further into the digital realm with their next album. The results weren't quite as consistent overall, but Dusty Hill certainly kicks up some dirt with his vocal performance on the raucous side one closer "Can't Stop Rockin'." Briefly freed from lead singer duties, Billy Gibbons instead runs wild with his guitar over a robo-boogie beat that somehow seems to keep building steam. (Wilkening)
38. The Velvet Underground, "Rock and Roll"
From: Loaded (1970)
Rock 'n' roll history is overflowing with songs about the healing nature of music, but few tracks capture the giddy excitement and overwhelming redemption of hearing a favorite song on the radio like the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll." Lou Reed said it's autobiographical; he's the young kid who realized popular music could help make sense of an increasingly confusing world: "Her life was saved by rock 'n' roll." That salvation rings through every note. (Michael Gallucci)
37. Slade, "Cum on Feel the Noize"
From: Single (1973)
Slade was already huge in the U.K. by 1973. Their infectious glam-rock sound had developed a passionate fan base, with crowds regularly going crazy during their concerts. Slade was looking to capture that atmosphere with “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a track that was crafted with the audience’s involvement in mind. Encouraging fans to go “wild, wild, wild” along with the band, “Cum on Feel the Noize” became one of Slade’s seven U.K. chart-toppers. The track didn’t become popular in America until a decade later, however, when Quiet Riot covered “Cum on Feel the Noize” for their 1983 LP Metal Heath. (Irwin)
36. Elvis Presley, "Jailhouse Rock"
From: Jailhouse Rock EP (1957)
Elvis Presley's third movie is the first one in which he pretty much just plays himself - or at least a criminal version of himself. As Vince Everett, the King accidentally kills a drunken man in a fight and is sentenced to prison. He doesn't let the sentence get him down. Instead, Everett uses the opportunity to learn the guitar and, upon his release from prison, becomes a star. "Jailhouse Rock" is the highlight of the film, a set piece constructed for a TV show. It's all shaking hips, sweaty rock 'n' roll and tribute to making the best of a bad situation with music. (Gallucci)
"You ask, do we play heavy music?" bassist C.F. Turner bellows in the opening moments of B.T.O.'s third album. He answers with another question and then a vow: "Well, are thunderheads just another cloud? And we do! Not fragile, straight at you." He and his bandmates spend four solid minutes delivering on this promise to rock. In between singing about how much he's sacrificed for the chance to perform on stages across the world, Turner's rumbling bass offers the perfect foundation for a kick-ass mid-song guitar duel between Randy Bachman and Blair Thornton. "Then we vanish in the night," Turner concludes, "still in your ears, but out of sight." (Wilkening)
This Is Spinal Tap is ostensibly a mockumentary about the titular rock band’s rise, fall and rise again, but its creators might have parodied too close to the sun, as real-life rock stars like Steven Tyler and Rob Halford found the pitch-perfect satire disturbingly accurate. Adding to the legitimacy was the fact that Spinal Tap had damn good songs, such as the Thin Lizzy-style anthem “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight.” David St. Hubbins (aka Michael McKean) also pillories the rock world’s rampant sexual misconduct in the song’s second verse: “You're sweet but you're just four feet / And you still got your baby teeth.” Don’t worry: It's a parody, so you’re allowed to bang your head without feeling slimy. (Rolli)
33. Chuck Berry, "Rock and Roll Music"
From: Single (1957)
As John Lennon famously put it: "If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." Berry wrote one of the first tributes to rock 'n' roll's infectious identity in 1957 with the aptly titled "Rock and Roll Music," which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. "I was heavy into rock 'n' roll and had to create something that hit the spot without question," Berry wrote in his 2001 autobiography. "I wanted the lyrics to define every aspect of its being." Seven years later, the Beatles recorded a cover for their 1964 album, Beatles for Sale. The Beach Boys followed suit in 1976, including it on 15 Big Ones and also reaching the Top 10. (Rapp)
Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore were at the peak of their collective powers on the title track to Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, the last Rainbow album to feature the elven singer. It’s a rollicking, straight-ahead rocker that eschews the fantastical, neoclassical metal sound of Rainbow’s earlier work, a shift that consequently expedited Dio’s departure. Still, "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" remained a live staple for his solo band and a highlight of Dio’s discography. “[Blackmore] gave me the riff, and I wrote it. It was easy and, amazingly, came out as an anthem of sorts,” Dio reflected in the liner notes for 2003’s Stand Up and Shout: The Dio Anthology. “You don’t plan that stuff.” (Rolli)
31. Metallica, "Hit the Lights"
From: Kill 'Em All (1983)
Metallica makes their rocking intentions clear with the first verse from the opening song of their debut album: "No life 'til leather, we're gonna kick some ass tonight / We got the metal madness / When our fans start screaming it's right." Fellow Kill 'Em All track "Whiplash" serves as a fast-paced "life on the road" saga, but "Hit the Lights" stays laser-focused on the rush the band feels the moment they hit the stage. "You know our fans are insane / We're gonna blow this place away / With volume higher than anything today." (Wilkening)
“Long Live Rock” is an anthem from Pete Townshend that’s both a worthy dedication to the survival of the genre and a tribute to all of its best parts. Starting as part of a planned album called Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock, the track thankfully wasn’t sidelined permanently when Townshend shifted his attention to what became Quadrophenia. “Long Live Rock” found an eventual home on Odds & Sods and by then, Townshend had no shortage of “self-conscious hymns” on the subject. Yet, it remained extremely authentic: “We were the first band to vomit at the bar / And find the distance to the stage too far,” he bragged. This sturdy sentiment was still holding up well in 2021 when Halestorm delivered their take on the rock classic – with an extra snarl. (Wardlaw)
Rock stardom often comes with material excess, and that can be enviable for those who don't already have it. Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" makes the point, by inhabiting the voice of an everyman critic: "Money for nothin', chicks for free," Mark Knopfler sings. He wrote the song after visiting an appliance store in New York City, where an employee gave him lines like "what are those, Hawaiian noises? ... That ain't workin'." "Money for Nothing" wound up as Dire Straits' most commercially successful single, peaking at No. 1 and winning a gold statue at the 1986 Grammy ceremony — fitting for a song about the wealth rock can usher in. (Rapp)
A&R legend John Kalodner once issued a challenge to Sammy Hagar. “Go in the studio and lock the door and I don’t want you to come out until you play me 30 fuckin’ songs,” Hagar told UCR. The experience produced Standing Hampton and one of the cornerstone songs of his solo catalog. “There’s Only One Way to Rock” would become a high-octane fuel injector that pumped up Hagar set lists, both solo and later with Van Halen. The song quickly became a fan favorite, while also teaching Hagar an important lesson. “I learned, ‘Hey, you go in and write good songs, your records sell.’” (Wardlaw)
From wild parties to massive success and tabloid headlines, there’s no doubt the Gallagher brothers embraced the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Cliche? Perhaps, but Oasis was never shy about their goals of world domination. They embraced loud, brash rocking right out of the gate with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” the opening song on their debut album. The track is an ode to rock fantasies, envisioning a life where one casts off the monotony of buttoned-down city life to embrace the glory and chaos of stardom. (Irwin)
Originally released to middling success in 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" became a worldwide sensation and the first rock song to top the pop charts in both the United States and the U.K. after appearing in the movie Blackboard Jungle a year later. The song then re-entered popular culture in the early '70s as the theme for George Lucas' hit 1973 movie American Graffiti and the first two seasons of the TV series Happy Days. Dick Clark once labeled "Rock Around the Clock" the "National Anthem of Rock 'n' Roll," and decades later the song hasn't lost an ounce of its immediate appeal or relevance. (Wilkening)
25. Sweet, "The Ballroom Blitz"
From: Single (1973)
“This is a rock 'n' roll band, not a fucking army,” Sweet vocalist Brian Connolly once told writer Cameron Crowe. Even still, “The Ballroom Blitz” continues to storm the castle, popping up all over the pop culture landscape. The track's good-time vibes made it a natural fit for countless movies and television shows, from Wayne’s World to The Umbrella Academy. “The Ballroom Blitz” even helped provide a payoff punch when the Beastie Boys lifted a line, “She thinks she’s the passionate one,” from the song and used it in “Hey Ladies.” Once again, they showed how hard it is to stay in a bad mood when you hear “The Ballroom Blitz.” (Wardlaw)
There's an undeniable attitude of cynicism in "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," which bitterly warns wannabe rock musicians about the price one pays for success. Roger McGuinn would later clarify that he and Chris Hillman did not intend to come across as disgruntled. Instead, this was a simple observation of the way fame seemed to float around so easily in the mid-'60s. "We were thumbing through a teen magazine," he told ZigZag in 1973, "and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn't help thinking: 'Wow, what's happening ... all of a sudden here is everyone and his brother and his sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock 'n' roll.'" (Rapp)
If you’ve gone to see a Cheap Trick concert, chances are good that you’ve heard “Hello There.” This track was Rick Nielsen’s attempt to take care of an ongoing problem in a practical way. The band often didn’t get a soundcheck before their concerts. “Hello There” gave them nearly two minutes to fire up the crowd in a high-energy fashion, while also offering the sound person an opportunity to get a handle on the unbridled rock 'n' roll machine that is Cheap Trick in the live setting. (Wardlaw)
22. AC/DC, "Rock and Ain't Noise Pollution"
From: Back in Black (1980)
Considering the depth of amazing songs on this album, it’s easy to understand why “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” is sometimes overlooked. The track begins with a calm yet catchy riff from Angus Young, before exploding with the meaty power chords that AC/DC is known for. The song was crafted in just 15 minutes, with defiant lyrics inspired by the efforts of local businessmen to shut down London’s famed Marquee Club. “It was in a built-up area and there was this whole thing about noise pollution in the news, the environmental-health thing that you couldn’t have your stereo up loud after 11 at night,” Malcolm Young would later recall. “It all came from that.” (Irwin)
Are you stuck rocking at home alone? Great news: David Lee Roth is ready, willing and able to join the fun. "Turn your radios on / I'll appear right there, yes I will ... Throw your headphones on / I'm in your heads" he promises on the closing track of Van Halen's celebrated debut album. "On Fire" comes across like a highly caffeinated update of Rick Derringer's "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo," with Eddie Van Halen cramming a tackle box full of riffs and licks into the song's three-minute runtime. (Wilkening)
20. The Rolling Stones, "Rip This Joint"
From: Exile on Main St. (1972)
As one of the fastest songs in the Stones' catalog, "Rip This Joint" tears through several cities in its lyrics, from San Jose to Little Rock and a whole lot of America in between. Mick Jagger spits out the words in rapid-fire succession — a literal embodiment of unbridled rock 'n' roll energy: "Come on baby, won't you let it rock?" Recorded at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at the Villa Nellcote in France — where much of 1971's Exile on Main St. was laid down — the track features two blistering saxophone solos from Bobby Keys. Keep up, if you can. (Rapp)
19. Ramones, "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?"
From: End of the Century (1980)
After four classic albums, the Ramones started the '80s with a new producer and a revised approach to record-making. Phil Spector's Wall of Sound pop may seem at odds with the Ramones' three-chord punk, and it sorta is on End of the Century. But one of the undisputed highlights is the opening track "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?", a nostalgic tribute to the past (Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon and T. Rex are name-checked) where Spector's big, full production collides head-on with a classic hook that sounds great on the radio, no matter the era. (Gallucci)
18. The Who, "Join Together"
From: Single (1972)
"Join Together" was penned by Pete Townshend to be included on Lifehouse, a science fiction-themed rock opera that never came to be, but was instead issued as a non-album single. Though he's best known for smashing guitars and generally holding a position of brashness, Townshend offers surprisingly all-embracing lyrics: "You don't have to play / You can follow or lead the way." Then again, Townshend has said that the Who's music was always meant to inspire solidarity. "Some of us, many of us, didn't get into this business to be millionaires or billionaires," he told The Dallas Morning News in 2019. "We just wanted to connect, to raise the bar, make people dance, join together." (Rapp)
Dee Snider was firing on all cylinders when Twisted Sister made Stay Hungry, writing the bulk of their breakthrough album “in 45 minutes,” according to a Songfacts interview. Just like its preceding single “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “I Wanna Rock” is a thundering, defiant mission statement, with Snider spitting in the face of the band’s haters, corporate stiffs and the nascent Parents Music Resource Center – against whom he would soon wage war. “I thought that if I could combine the drive of a Maiden song with the anthemic quality of an AC/DC song, I'd have a fucking huge hit,” Snider told Songfacts, “and I was right.” (Rolli)
16. Queen, 'We Will Rock You"
From: News of the World (1977)
There's not much to "We Will Rock You": It barely clocks in at two minutes, there's no real melody to speak of and the song pretty much serves as the intro to the more substantive "We Are the Champions" (which was the A-side of a shared single). But it's become one of the most recognizable songs in rock history with its stomping and clapping beat and easily chant-along chorus. It serves a purpose, too, doubling as Queen's simple mission statement. (Gallucci)
Bob Seger knew a thing or two about setting a good rockin’ mood, but he had a few parameters: “Just take those old records off the shelf / I’ll sit and listen to ‘em by myself / Today’s music ain’t got the same soul / I like the old time rock 'n' roll.” It's a favorite now, but “Old Time Rock & Roll” sat dormant while Seger racked up three straight Top 20 hits from 1978’s Stranger in Town. “Old Time Rock & Roll” finally got its moment more than a year after the album had been released. (Wardlaw)
14. Rick Derringer, "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo"
From: All American Boy (1973)
We’ll give you three guesses as to what “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” is about and the first two don’t count. The Rick Derringer-penned song first appeared on Johnny Winter’s Johnny Winter And before Derringer scored a Top 30 hit when he cut his version three years later for his debut album. With its percussive riffs, shout-along hooks and red-hot guitar solo, this song epitomizes the excesses of ‘70s arena rock. “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” still supplied the same contact high when it appeared in Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age stoner comedy Dazed and Confused 20 years later. (Rolli)
Subtitled "A Salute to 60's Rock," the third single from John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow celebrated a generation of rock pioneers who set out to conquer concert stages across the world "with the pipe dreams in their heads / And very little money in their hands." Frankie Lyman, Bobby Fuller, Mitch Ryder, Jackie Wilson, Martha Reeves and James Brown are among the legends to get shout-outs on a song that was almost left off the album. "I was only including it on the cassette and CD copies as a bonus party track," Mellencamp told Illinois Entertainer in 1986, "but my manager loved the energy of it and I thought, 'Yeah! What the hell?' The last minute-decision was rewarded, as the song hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Wilkening)
12. AC/DC, "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)"
From: For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
“Stand up and be counted / For what you are about to receive / We are the dealers / We’ll give you everything you need.” For nearly six minutes, armed with cannon fire inside the song, AC/DC kept their promise as the self-proclaimed “dealers” with “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” The cannons came from an interesting moment of inspiration. As they were working on the song, they had a TV on in the next room that was tuned to Princess Diana’s wedding. Cannons were going off during the ceremony just as they hit the familiar moment in the track as we know it. “What’s more masculine than a cannon?” Angus Young noted in the book High Voltage. “I mean, it gets loaded, it fires and it destroys.” (Wardlaw)
11. The Rolling Stones, "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)"
From: It's Only Rock 'n Roll (1974)
Two decades after country and R&B gave birth to rock 'n' roll, there were still skeptics. Even with prestigious "art" records like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and increasing respect from even the stodgiest of listeners, rock 'n' roll was considered a fad and music for kids in some circles. It didn't help that the biggest artists were either fading away or measured by past successes. The Rolling Stones shrug off the critics in their 1974 classic, a kiss-off to writers sounding the band's death knell and a defiant statement of purpose. (Gallucci)
Inspired by the classic ’50s rock songs he loved as a kid, “Crocodile Rock” became a chart-topping hit and remains one of Elton John’s most popular songs – even if he’s grown tired of it. “The last time I have to sing ‘Crocodile Rock,’ I will probably throw a party,” he admitted in 2021, “but people love to hear it. It was written as a kind of joke, as a pastiche, and it became a big hit and people love to sing along with it.” Songwriting partner Bernie Taupin felt similarly. "I don't want people to remember me for 'Crocodile Rock,'" Taupin told Music Connection. “I'd much rather they remember me for songs like 'Candle in the Wind' and 'Empty Garden,' songs that convey a message ... a feeling. But there are things like 'Crocodile Rock,' which was fun at the time, but it was pop fluff.” (Irwin)
“Let the Music Do the Talking” originated as the title track off the Joe Perry Project’s 1980 debut album and got revamped with fresh lyrics when Perry rejoined Aerosmith for 1985’s Done With Mirrors. The title was equally applicable in both cases, as Perry sought refuge from the drama of his main band and had no desire to re-litigate their past debauchery upon his return. Original Project singer Ralph Morman is no slouch, but Steven Tyler’s fiery, sneering vocal remains unmatched. Then there's Aerosmith’s leaner, more muscular arrangement, all of which makes this version of “Let the Music Do the Talking” the definitive one. (Rolli)
8. Def Leppard, "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)"
From: Pyromania (1983)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher album opener than this one from Def Leppard’s star-making Pyromania. Their third album bridged the gap between their NWOBHM roots and the uber-slick stadium-rock of Hysteria. “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)” confirmed they hadn’t yet lost an ounce of muscle while setting the tone for the rest of Pyromania with Joe Elliott's larynx-shredding vocals and a solo from newly recruited guitarist Phil Collen that’s equal parts melodic and blistering. It also perfected a template that would take Def Leppard to stratospheric heights with the album’s lead single, “Photograph.” (Rolli)
Paul McCartney fleshed out the Wings trio that made Band on the Run for the follow-up album with another guitarist and drummer. They introduced themselves on the joined opening tracks, the 75-second acoustic prelude "Venus and Mars" and the plugged-in "Rock Show," one of the toughest songs of McCartney's career. It's a celebration of the concert stage, with mentions of Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl and Jimmy Page. It's self-aware arena rock with a wink. All this plus New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint on piano. (Gallucci)
6. Chuck Berry, "Johnny B. Goode"
From: Single (1958)
Chuck Berry was not only one of rock 'n' roll's earliest champions, but he was also a big supporter of its potential. That's probably why so many of his greatest songs are about rock 'n' roll. In his most popular track, he relates the story of a guitar-slinging kid who plays his instrument "like ringing a bell." That the boy's mom is behind him – "His mother told him, 'Someday you will be a man / And you will be the leader of a big old band'" – says a lot about his appeal. Was "Johnny B. Goode" autobiographical? Partly, at least. One of the first songs about rock 'n' roll stardom made Berry a star. (Gallucci)
5. Grand Funk Railroad, "We're an American Band"
From: We're an American Band (1973)
Grand Funk Railroad wrote their share of songs about the grind of the road, but none of them were better than “We’re An American Band.” Set to the sound of that ever-present cowbell, the song boldly announces their arrival: “We’re comin’ to your town / We’ll help you party it down.” Who's going to argue with that invite? The album artwork memorably featured a nude photo of the band sitting on bales of hay, and as you might imagine, it was “not a comfortable shoot,” as the drummer and “American Band” author Don Brewer admitted UCR in 2021. But “you were constantly striving to do something that nobody else had done. That’s what it was about.” (Wardlaw)
4. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n Roll"
From: I Love Rock 'n Roll (1981)
The highest-ranked female-fronted song on our list took a few tries to become a hit. A British band called the Arrows originally released “I Love Rock N’ Roll” in 1975, four years before Jett took her first pass at the song. Her definitive rendition wouldn't arrive until 1981, with Jett's band the Blackhearts in tow. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” became a No. 1 hit, with a famous chorus that remains a rallying cry for music fans around the world. "I think most people who love some kind of rock 'n' roll can relate to it," Jett told Mojo in 2008. "Everyone knows a song that just makes them feel amazing and want to jump up and down. I quickly realized this song is gonna follow you. So you're either gonna let it bother you or you gotta make peace with it, and feel blessed that you were involved with something that touched so many people." (Irwin)
3. AC/DC, "Let There Be Rock"
From: Let There Be Rock (1977)
According to legend, AC/DC’s amp exploded when they were recording their 1977 single “Let There Be Rock.” Regardless of whether that’s true or merely a rock 'n' roll myth, there’s no denying its fiery nature. Angus Young powers the track through a frenzy of guitar sounds, while Bon Scott delivers a liturgy on the origins of rock music, alluding to such early pioneers as Chuck Berry and Bill Haley. “Let There Be Rock” was somehow not a huge hit upon its release, but the song established its place among AC/DC’s most distinctive tracks. It's since become a staple of their set lists, reportedly played at every AC/DC concert since 1977. (Irwin)
Here's proof you don't need to drink or smoke to rock: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are two of rock 'n' roll's most famous teetotalers, but they still crafted one of the genre's most enduring party anthems with "Rock and Roll All Nite." Kiss' label president challenged them to create this galvanizing anthem after the band established a reputation as a must-see live act while record sales remained stalled. Simmons and Stanley combined parts of two different songs to rise to the challenge, releasing "Rock and Roll All Nite" on Dressed to Kill before the live version from Alive! took off on the radio. (Wilkening)
1. Led Zeppelin, "Rock and Roll"
From: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Led Zeppelin's classic "Rock and Roll" works on a few levels. Firstly, they were coming off their third album, a stripped-down acoustic record that steered away some fans who wanted something harder from the band. But the song is also a celebration of rock 'n' roll itself, born from a jam session in which John Bonham pounded away at a Little Richard-like rhythm while Jimmy Page struck a Chuck Berry riff. "It's been a long time since I rock and rolled," Robert Plant sings over the track's locomotive drive as Ian Stewart hammers away on the piano. Led Zeppelin sounds like they're making up for much lost time. (Gallucci)
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