The Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' Tops New List of Greatest Songs Ever



UPDATED: Madonna makes the list, but Elvis doesn't as Consequence of Sound ranks -- and rankles with -- its top 100 of all time. Talking Heads and The Velvet Underground are among only eight acts with multiple entries.

Itching to start an argument with that annoying hipster in the office? Or at the bar late Saturday night? Or with a stranger on the street? Look no further than … a fresh list of the best songs ever.

Chicago-based website Consequence of Sound is marking its fifth anniversary with an all-genre ranking of the Top 100 Greatest Songs of All Time. The list spans six decades of popular music (sorry, 1940s and 2010s) and features something for everyone — along with something missing to piss everyone off.

The best song of all time? Hard to argue with The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” in which Brian Wilson one-ups The Beatles Revolver with a singular melody, divine harmonies and the undisputed best French horn hook in rock history.

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The track from Pet Sounds -- which was No. 2 on CoS’ list of the Top 100 Albums Ever two years ago -- leads six songs in the top 10 from the 1960s. The Big '80s boasts two, with one each from the '70s, '90s and '00s.

At No. 2 is Talking Heads’ 1980 stunner “Once in a Lifetime,” followed by Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Dylan is the only act to score three songs on the hottest 100 (“Shelter From the Storm” at No. 18 and “The Times They Are A-Changin’ " at 55), but Jackson sings on three: His biggest solo hit “Billie Jean" ranks No. 42, and The Jackson 5’s debut single “I Want You Back” is 15th.

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Hmm, how about that little combo from Liverpool that had a hit or two in its day? The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” rounds out the top 5. But the band’s only other entry is the Revolver nonsingle “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Note to Beatlemaniacs: Don’t shoot the messenger; the comments section is below.

The rest of the top 10 is a musical melange: The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” and Radiohead’s “Idioteque.”

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"The best in music should move and inform us -- emotionally, physically or spiritually," CoS editor-in-chief Michael Roffman wrote in introducing the list. "The truly memorable stuff influences change. Whether it hits us instantaneously or it takes years to apply, these are tracks worthy of everyone's time and patience. They may not foretell where things are heading next, but they'll undoubtedly offer some context as to what the hell's going on today."

Some fun facts from an admittedly quick scan of this latest blood-pressure-boosting list of the best of the best:

·      Trailing Dylan’s trifecta, seven acts made the list twice: Jackson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads.

·      Speaking of the Fab Four, none made the cut as a solo artist.

·      The oldest song is Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (1958, No. 67) and the most recent is LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” (2007, No. 44).

·      Franklin’s “Respect” is the highest-ranked cover song. It was written by Otis Redding, whose version of the 1930s standard “Try a Little Tenderness” is No. 17. Another O.P. on the list is Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” (No. 62).

·      Among the acts who likely aren’t on the casual pop fan’s iPod are The Knife (“Heartbeats, No. 15), Neutral Milk Hotel (“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” No. 28) and Can (“Halleluhwah,” No. 48).

·      Eleven of the songs hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100: “Respect,” “Juicy,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Billie Jean,” “I Want You Back,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 19), Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” (No. 41), Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” (No. 46), The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” (No. 47), Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” (No. 56) and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” (No. 75).

·      U2 made the list (“Where the Streets Have No Name,” No. 63), but R.E.M. did not. So did Funkadelic (“One Nation Under a Groove,” No. 91), but Parliament did not. Phil Collins is represented (“In the Air Tonight,” No. 100), but Peter Gabriel is not.

·      Note to folks who vote in Top 500 countdown polls on classic rock radio stations: You won’t find “Stairway to Heaven,” “Free Bird, “Layla” or “Hotel California” here. But be placated by the fact that  “Baba O’Riley” is No. 51 and “Comfortably Numb” is No. 54.

·      The jazz cats will note a dearth of Miles, Mingus and The Bird, but Coltrane is at No. 25 with “A Love Supreme Part 1: Acknowledgment.”

·      Most snubbed genre: country. Cash is the only country act on the list, and “Hurt” is from his late-career American Recordings era. Runner-up: folk. Second runner-up: early rock ’n’ roll. “Johnny B. Goode” is there, but no Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Everly Brothers, etc. etc. etc.

Here’s the CoS all-time top 40. While you type your angry comments below, check out a vintage clip of “God Only Knows” at the bottom of the page.

1. “God Only Knows,” The Beach Boys
2. “Once In a Lifetime,” Talking Heads
3. “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
4. “Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson
5. “A Day in the Life,” The Beatles
6. “Sister Ray,” The Velvet Underground
7. “Sympathy for the Devil,” The Rolling Stones
8. “Respect,” Aretha Franklin
9. “Juicy,” The Notorious B.I.G.
10. “Idioteque,” Radiohead
11. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
12. “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye
13. “Dazed and Confused,” Led Zeppelin
14. “Heartbeats,” The Knife
15. “I Want You Back,” The Jackson 5
16. “Jungleland,” Bruce Springsteen
17. “Try a Little Tenderness,” Otis Redding
18. “Shelter from the Storm,” Bob Dylan
19. “When Doves Cry,” Prince
20. “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” Kate Bush
21. “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy
22. “Common People,” Pulp
23. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Beatles
24. “Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones
25. “A Love Supreme Part 1: Acknowledgment,” John Coltrane
26. “Shadrach,” Beastie Boys
27. “My Generation,” The Who
28. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” Neutral Milk Hotel
29. “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Joy Division
30. “All Along The Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix Experience
31. “Rock N Roll Nigger,” Patti Smith Group
32. “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath
33. “London Calling,” The Clash
34. “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” Neil Young & Crazy Horse
35. “One More Time,” Daft Punk
36. “Be My Baby,” The Ronettes
37. “I Will Dare,” The Replacements
38. “A Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke
39. “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody),” Talking Heads
40. “Search and Destroy,” The Stooges