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In 2010, we ran down one thousand of the finest tracks ever recorded, as chosen by listeners, presenters and a team of experts.
"We get some rules to follow / That and this / These and those / No one knows."
"Don't want to hear about it / Every single one's got a story to tell / Everyone knows about it / From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell".
"This is my generation, baby". Pete Townshend has offered many differing anecdotes to explain My Generation's genesis. One of the best (if not the most likely) is that it was written after the Queen Mother had his car, a hearse, towed away from his Belgravia home for being unsightly.
"I'm on my knees looking for the answer."
"Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio". Bassist Peter Hook realised that Transmission was Joy Division's "first great song" when everyone stopped to listen during a soundcheck
"We'll have Halloween on Christmas / And in the night we'll wish this never ends."
"Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses". Killing In The Name Of won a legendary Christmas chart battle in 2009 when it toppled the offering of X Factor Joe McElderry, to claim the number 1 spot. Rage crowned their unexpected chart success with a free show on June 6th, 2010 at London's Finsbury Park - 40,000 revellers attended the victory party.
"By the way, I tried to say, I'd be there."
"'Cause nothin' lasts forever / And we both know hearts can change / And it's hard to hold a candle / In the cold November rain."
"On a flat roof, there's a boy leaning against the wall of rain / Aerial held high, calling "come on thunder, come on thunder.""
"Wait in the fire."
"If I could start again / A million miles away / I would keep myself / I would find a way." Dying only a year after its release, Hurt became Cash's epitaph. Trent Reznor, who originally wrote the song with Nine Inch Nails, acknowledged that - despite his fears that the song might be seen as a gimmick - Cash's cover has now become the definitive version.
"Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?"
"I've been standing at the station / In need of education in the rain."
"I am an anti-Christ / I am an anarchist, / Don't know what I want / But I know how to get it."
"Today is the greatest / Day I've ever known / Can't live for tomorrow, / Tomorrow's much too long."
"Even if you cannot hear my voice / I'll be right beside you, dear."
"Sharia don't like it / Rockin' the Casbah."
"When we collide we come together / If we don't we'll always be apart."
"'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life / Trying to make ends meet / You're a slave to money then you die." The leading track from The Verve's iconic Urban Hymns ran into trouble by sampling Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham's orchestral cover of the Jagger/Richards track The Last Time. It was claimed that the track used a significant proportion of the original arrangement and awarded a partial songwriting credit to the two Stones.
"Oh that boy's a slag / The best you ever had."
"We don't talk about love / We only want to get drunk".
"We're off to never never-land." Before the release of Enter Sandman, Metallica were kings of the underground. The Black Album (on which Enter Sandman was the leading single) took the band out of the clubs and into the stadiums, creating a sound that could cross into the mainstream.
"As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts / Oh the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms."
"I see a red door and I want it painted black."
"Sent to me from heaven / Sally cinnamon / You are my world."
"Oh, people they don't understand / No, girlfriends, they won't understand / In spaceships, they won't understand."
"Better stop dreaming of the quiet life / 'Cos it's the one we'll never know." A Town Called Malice is a rebel cry from Weller written about the tough times for families in his hometown of Woking under the Thatcher government of the time.
"There's a hole in my neighborhood down which of late I cannot help but fall." Grounds For Divorce is about the period shortly after the death of Elbow's good friend and fellow Mancunian musician Bryan Glancy (the titular Seldom Seen Kid), which was - as frontman Guy Garvey explained in 2008 - "a horrible time when everyone was drinking themselves half to death". The "hole in my neighborhood" is one of elbow's favourite Manchester pubs: the Temple of Convenience on Great Bridgewater Street.
"She turns and says "are you alright?" / I said "I must be fine cause my heart's still beating.""
"I don't care what they say about us anyway."
"What a scummy man / Just give him half a chance / I bet he'll rob you if he can." Originally titled Scummy, the band's follow up single to I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor confirmed the hype around the Sheffield four-piece and went straight to number 1 in the UK chart.
"This machine will, will not communicate / These thoughts and the strain I am under."
"Some day you will find me / Caught beneath the landslide / In a champagne supernova in the sky."
"I won't let you murder it."
"There are many here among us / Who feel that life is but a joke." One of the rare occasions where a cover version eclipses the original, Jimi Hendrix's take on Bob Dylan's classic was an apocalyptic re-telling of an already haunting allegory.
"Let me be the one that shines with you / In the morning we don't know what to do."
"All we want from you are the kicks you've given us."
"We all want to change the world." Written while The Beatles were in India studying meditation with the Maharishi, Revolution ponders the turbulent events of 1968, which saw anti-war demonstrations and student riots across the world.
"For a minute there, I lost myself." Karma Police was based on an in-joke the band had about "the karma police" coming to get you if you did anything bad.
"What turns you on, on, on, now your animal's gone?" Although the original video for Animal Nitrate was banned for showing a man-on-man kiss, the track still managed to land at number 7 in the UK chart.
"Saw Cinderella in a party dress / But she was looking for a nightgown".
"I used to think that the day would never come / That my life would depend on the morning sun". During a writing session where New Order were first trying to nail down True Faith, singer Bernard Sumner went back to the band's communal flat to work on the lyrics. He found himself locked in until late evening when the others returned. He was a tad annoyed, but had managed to crack the song's lyrics.
"Don't cry / Don't raise your eye / It's only teenage wasteland". Baba O'Riley's stadium rock style was partially offset by Townshend's use of 'In C' by minimalist composer Terry Riley as inspiration for the song. Riley is there in the title, the other half being a reference to Meher Baba, Townshend's spiritual guru at the time.
"The bartender and the thief are lovers / Steal what they need like sisters and brothers". Channeling the metal fury of band faves' AC/DC, The Bartender And The Thief details the exploits of two drunken girls in Neil Finn's Auckland bar.
"But I crumble completely when you cry, / It seems like once again you've had to greet me with goodbye".
"London calling, yes, I was there, too / And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true"
"It's not confidential, I've got potential".
"Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know / He's in the best selling show."
"It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right, / I hope you had the time of your life".
"I've got another confession to make, I'm your fool".
"She's got a smile that it seems to me / Reminds me of childhood memories / Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky".
"I've seen your flag on the marble arch / And love is not a victory march / It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah". Incredibly, Jeff Buckley's only UK hit came when Hallelujah occupied numbers one and two in the 2009 Christmas chart. Following an Internet campaign to keep Alexandra Burke's histrionic version from the top spot, Buckley lost out to the X Factor winner. It was, however, quite the payday for Leonard Cohen, who penned the original.
"You spurn my natural emotions / You make me feel I'm dirt". This classic punk anthem was inspired by the star-crossed lovers in the musical Guys And Dolls, with a little personal experience thrown in.
"Glaciers melting in the dead of night / And the superstars sucked into the supermassive".
"I got my head checked, by a jumbo jet". Song 2 was one of Blur's most successful and iconic singles. It was written in just ten minutes!
"Oh, a storm is threat'ning / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter /Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away". This brooding, apocalyptic salvo was unheard of in 1960s songwriting. Keith Richards had been toying with the riff while Mick Jagger was acting in the film Performance.
"You're so fucking special / I wish I was special".
"Sleeping is giving in, / No matter what the time is."
"Over there there's broken bones / There's only music, so that there's new ringtones". A Certain Romance is perhaps the best example of the way in which Arctic Monkeys fused rock, punk, and ska alongside Alex Turner's witty lyrics to create their unique sound.
"And then you whisper in my ear / I know what you're doing here".
"The distant echo of faraway voices boarding faraway trains". Down In The Tube Station is arguably one one of Weller's most accomplished songs, telling the story of a vicious mugging that takes place in a London tube station.
"She'll carry on through it all".
"He seemed impressed by the way you came in." Taken from The Strokes’ second album Room On Fire, Reptilia quickly became a live favourite with fans following its release in 2003.
"Let's dance to Joy Division, and celebrate the irony,." Joy Division fans were apparently up in arms about The Wombats’ ironic tribute to dancing to sad songs, until legendary bassist Peter Hook gave his approval.
"Look outside the raincoats coming…" New York’s Vampire Weekend attracted a lot of attention on the release of their debut album in 2008, and A-Punk quickly became the stand out single from the record.
"I've been roaming around, I was looking down at all I see." After listening to it for the first time, guitarist Matthew Followill claimed that Use Somebody was the best song that Kings Of Leon had recorded in their entire career.
"She had something to confess to / But you don’t have the time so / Look the other way"
"Please don't put your life in the hands / of a rock and roll band / who'll throw it all away". Taken from the monster album What’s The Story Morning Glory, Don’t Look Back In Anger was one of the tracks that awarded them the mantle of Britain’s favourite band and winners in the Britpop wars.
"Little boy kicked out at the world, the world kicked back a lot fucking harder". Can't Stand Me Now became The Libertines signature tune when it was released in 2004, perfectly illustrarting Pete and Karl's complicated relationship.
"You made me feel like the one." Following the departure of original drummer Stuart Cable, Stereophonics bounced back with this triumphant single, which became their first UK number one.
"I read the news today, oh boy..."
"Ambition makes you look pretty ugly".
"Punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate…"
"I'm no clown, I won't back down."
I'm free to be whatever I choose and I'll sing the blues if I want…"
"I will be king/ And you / You will be queen". Heros was actually recorded in Berlin after Bowie's relocation to the then West Germany.
"If everything could ever feel this real forever…" Written for the 1997 album The Colour And The Shape, this is a highlight of Dave Grohl’s songwriting career. The whispering during the breakdown is actually Grohl reciting a technical manual!
"Find Earth And Reap" Former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown had his most memorable solo hit to date with this philosophical song that uses acronyms based around the letters F…E…A…R…
"But it was not your fault but mine, and it was your heart on the line." One of the main bands of the British new folk revival, Mumford And Sons’ music travelled the world – as Little Lion Man was voted the best song in Australian radio station Triple J’s hottest 100 in 2009.
"Today is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you." The best known Oasis song of all, despite Liam Gallagher claiming it initially sounded like a reggae song. While rumoured to be about Noel’s girlfriend Meg Matthews, the real meaning of the song remains obscure.
"She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge." Taken from Pulp’s second major label album Different Class, Common People became one of the key Britpop singles of 1995. An attack on “class tourism”, the song made number 2 in the UK charts.
"Throw those curtains wide…" Elbow’s biggest hit, taken from the conceptual album The Seldom Seen Kid, which details the life of a late friend of the band and the kid of the title.
"I don't have to sell my soul, he's already in me."
"Stop making the eyes at me, I'll stop making the eyes at you…" The debut single from the Sheffield band, this was the world’s first taste of AlexTurner’s down to earth lyrical style. It tells the tale of young men in Northern towns and their, er, mating habits.
"Lay where you're laying, don't make a sound." Bassist Jared Followill described Sex On Fire as sounding like 1980s post-punkers Gang Of Four, until the addition of brother Caleb’s vocals made this Kings Of Leon’s biggest anthem yet.
"I want you now I'll feel my heart implode…"
"I pull up to the front of your driveway / With magic soaking my spine".
"And they'll never forgive you but they wont let you go, oh no." The Libertines’ fourth single, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun, was produced by none other than Bernard Butler, former guitarist with Britpop heroes Suede.
"I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar." Picture: Clare Muller/Getty
"I've got soul but I'm not a soldier…" Taken from The Killers’ debut album Hot Fuss, the epic All These Things I’ve Done was heard on a global scale when the band played it at Live 8 in 2005.
"We're changing our ways / Taking different roads". Constant touring was exacerbating Ian Curtis' epilepsy, while his marriage was running into trouble. By the time Love With Tear Us Apart made it to number 13 in the UK charts during the June of 1980, Ian Curtis was already dead. This devastatingly beautiful song literally became his epitaph.
"My plug in baby / Crucifies my enemies / When I'm tired of giving".
"To die by your side / Is such a heavenly way to die". By 1985, the Marr-Morrissey songwriting partnership was at its peak and, as an example of the form they were in, this was written during the same sessions as 'Bigmouth Strikes Again'.
"With the lights out, it's less dangerous / Here we are now, entertain us". Regardless of the fact that Kurt Cobain claimed he was just trying to rip off the Pixies with Smells Like Teen Spirit, the grunge anthem ushered in a new era of serious, emotional and raw rock.
"Don't waste your words I don't need anything from you / I don't care where you've been or what you plan to do."
"The devil's water ain't so sweet, you don't have to drink right now". After touring the world off the back of Hot Fuss, Brandon Flowers wanted to write something that represented where he was from. When You Were Young displays a departure from the band's English influences and draws on the observatory styles of Springsteen, Petty, and Waits.
"No one's gonna take me alive… the time has come to make things right."
"Maybe I don't really want to know how your garden grows… I just want to fly." Conceived as a response to the angst of grunge, this celebration of life was the song Noel Gallagher played to brother Liam as an audition piece.
This is it! The greatest song of all time, as voted by you. "Open up my eager eyes." Inspired by seeing Oasis play in Las Vegas, a young Brandon Flowers decided to join a band and wrote a lyric based on the “all time low” he felt after the break up of a relationship. The result was an instant classic.