So, really quickly, the ground rules. These aren’t about artists, or albums, or even songs, but rather, moments: that piece of a song that draws you into it; that piece of a song that you wait to happen again; that piece of a song that is running in your head when you can’t sleep; that piece of a song that you find yourself humming at inopportune times.
That piece of a song that you can’t live without.
This is the tenth in a series: The first one had 25; the second one had 24; the third one had 23; the fourth one had 22; the fifth one had 21; the sixth had 20; the seventh had 19; the the eighth had 18 and the ninth had 17.
16 MUSICAL MOMENTS TO DIE FOR
- Angus Young spent the first part of his career leading up to and will spend the rest of his life trying to duplicate the monster glam riff that kickstarts (with kickdrums!) a song that even the haters admire. Brian Johnston sings it like he knows how lucky he is that Bon Scott died. And future superstar overproducer Mutt Lange? He wisely leaves the whole thing alone to stew in its own dirty juice. At 0:15 in You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC.
— From 1980’s reboot as exactly the same thing Back in Black
- If you were born in first half of 1960s, then the turn of the century was pretty much also the bridge between the first half of your life and the second half. Which is why it was so affecting for Matthew Sweet write a bridge about not wanting to cross it — and not leaving what he knew was the best decade of his career — before being inexorably pulled into the 21st century like the rest of us. At 2:04 in Millenium Blues by Matthew Sweet.
— From 1999’s sweet song suite In Reverse
- In one of the few songs that’s ever caused me to burst out in tears, Bob Mould’s secret backing vocals are already telling us that he’s known all along, but Grant Hart needs to fall asleep in his lover’s arms before he realizes — dreams — perhaps the only advice you really need to know at 2:00 in Keep Hangin’ On by Hüsker Dü.
— From 1985’s supersonic Flip Your Wig
- With George’s guitar asking the question, and Ringo’s drums providing the punctuation, John starts to list all of the things she (really he) said. And because he’s as good of a reporter as he is unreliable as a narrator, he remembers not to bury the lede. Meanwhile, Paul’s bass — as always — knows what it’s like to be alive. At 0:00 in She Said She Said by The Beatles.
— From 1966’s mind-blowing Revolver
- Vernon Reid’s obituary is no doubt going to read “one-hit-wonder” focusing on “Cult of Personality,” but his music really didn’t come into focus for me until the follow-up, which incorporated a zillion disparate elements missing from the debut. They all come together in the glorious karmic chant found at 4:30 in Type by Living Colour.
— From 1989’s underrated Time’s Up
- Sick of straining to be heard under layers and layers of Eno-y Frippertronics — or is it Frippery Enotronics? — David Bowie goes to his out pitch, the high and dramatic voice. And just like that,the rest of his gang shows up to respond to his desperate calls. At 4:00 in “Heroes” by David Bowie.
— From 1977’s wall-busting “Heroes”
- So, you’re sitting outside of the Oly Tavern writing “poetry” in your “journal” because you really don’t want to go inside because she’s in there. And she’s totally winning the break-up. But, of course, you’re going to cos you just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her. Idiot. No one is going to believe your official story: you’re going inside to check out the guitar player. Because he’s making noises that sound like Brian Eno has persuaded The Edge to do a “Heroes” remake. At 4:06 in Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event.
— From 2007’s debut The Airborne Toxic Event
- Sounding as big as the moon rising at the beginning of a crisp autumn evening, Ian McCullough knows that fate has given him all night, so he lets his killer melody slowly unfold and unfold against Will Sergeant’s raga army of guitars. At 4:48 in The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen
— From 1984’s transcendent Ocean Rain
- The Breeders’ Last Splash turned out to be too willfully weird to be as influential as it initially seemed like it was going to be. One group who figured out how to incorporate its lessons was Imperial Teen, who kept the drone and amateurishness, but used it in service of druggy boy-boy lovesongs instead of wide-eyed boy-girl fucksongs. Which is why the simple act of grabbing a bite seems both impossibly romantic and absolutely revolutionary. At 1:31 in Pig Latin by Imperial Teen.
— From 1996’s shoulda been a classic debut Seasick
- After an drum-kicked intro featuring horns and flutes lazily circling each other, John Holt cooly croons his Ali Baba dream, slowly expanding the cast of characters, none of which are as important as his guitarist, who has been there all along. At 0:00 in Ali Baba by John Holt.
— From 2001’s anthology The Tide Is High
- One of the reasons that The Cars so resonated in my admittedly addled adolescent brain was that it achieved the neat trick of sounding utterly from the cold icy future while anchoring itself in the warm happy past. Buried amongst all of the sleek shinyness were retro touches like handclaps, stuttered vocals and at the end of the great suite of songs of side two — which to this day is one of the greatest achievements of 1970s popular music — the still surprising Phil Spector drumquote in the bridge. For me, after this album, anything was possible. At 1:40 in All Mixed Up by The Cars.
— From 1978’s gateway drug The Cars
- In what may or may not be the sequel to “Screenwriter’s Blues”, the love that Los Angeles loves has led to to a fucked-up life in a fucked-up city. But there may be redemption. Or maybe not. At 2:34 in No Peace, Los Angeles by Mike Doughty.
— From 2000’s secret solo debut Skittish
- In is one of most cheerful songs ever about the ravages of alcoholism, Lou Reed’s having so much fun he’s actually forgetting that this is supposed to be a dark, cautionary tale. Don’t get used to it. At 1:45 in Underneath the Bottle by Lou Reed.
— From 1982’s harrowing The Blue Mask
- You can pinpoint the exact moment Neil Young went from being “the other guy from Buffalo Springfield” to being a guitar god: When he uncorks a guitar solo so full of unique staccato craziness that you can practically hear it stun Danny Whitten for a millisecond, before he grins and recovers enough to keep Neil somewhat honest for the rest of the song. At 1:54 in Down By The River by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
— From 1969’s eternal Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
- For the second half of the 1990s, seemingly every album that Robert Pollard touched — even the otherwise forgettable ones — had at least one totally and utterly essential song: something that you couldn’t have imagined living without before and something that you’d never want to live without again. Near the end of this one, Pollard even stops spouting his normal gibberish and just sings the crawling Doug Gillard guitar figure that essentializes the song in the first place. At 2:13 in Pop Zeus! by Robert Pollard & Doug Gillard.
— From 1999’s otherwise forgettable Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department
- Did the Marr rule the Morrissey or did the Morrissey rule the Marr? 25 years later, I still dunno. But I’ve never ever gotten tired of the question, proving that there are at least some old dreams worth clinging to. At 0:46 in Still Ill by The Smiths.
— From 1984’s still iconic The Smiths
That’s it! We’re up to 195 moments, all told. Next time: 15 Musical Moments to Die For.
- 17 Musical Moments to Die For
- 18 Musical Moments to Die For
- 19 Musical Moments to Die For
- 20 Musical Moments to Die For
- 21 Musical Moments to Die For
- 22 Musical Moments to Die For
- 23 Musical Moments to Die For
- 24 Musical Moments to Die For
- 25 Musical Moments to Die For
- 207 of The Greatest Indie Rock Songs of All Time