Troppo Top 20 rock/pop poll

I feel a deep urge to vent my spleen. Despite being a babyboomer whose personal tastes in rock/pop music coincide to some extent with the voters in the Normblog poll that Sophie Masson blogged about immediately below, I find myself getting mightily irritated by the extraordinary “oldies but goldies” focus of Norm Geras’ readers’ top 100 list. As I rather sourly commented:

It resembles a playlist from one of those 60s/70s “golden hits” nostalgia radio stations. There’s almost nothing from the last decade, and very little from the decade before that. Did good pop songs really stop being made in the early 1980s, or did Norm’s readers’ tastes just start to ossify then?

But rather than just bitch about it, I’ve decided to take the bit between the teeth and run a poll of my own. I’m now taking nominations for readers’ Top 20 pop/rock list of the last 20 years. That is, all your nominations must have been released for the first time in 1985 or later. So that pretty much leaves out the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eagles and most of the others who dominated Norm’s list. Of course, Dylan and the Strolling Bones continued releasing albums after 1985, but I’d be fairly surprised if anyone nominated anything they’ve done in that time.

Please nominate only your top 3 10 song choices in the comment box, otherwise it’s probably going to be too hard to collate and weight your votes. Also note that although I’m calling it a pop/rock poll, that includes rap, hip hop, house etc. Moreover, given that some of these genres commonly involve remixes containing sampled riffs from older works, the fact that samples in a remix may have been released in their original form before 1985 doesn’t disqualify a song from being nominated. On the other hand, mere cover versions of older songs (e.g. that appalling version of “Come on Aussie come on” by the turkey from Australian Idol, if anyone had the audacity to nominate it) are a no no.

Update – midstream rule change – Perusal of nominations so far shows there’s only one song with more than a single vote (Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana, with 3). If it carries on like this, it’s going to be impossible to compile a Top Twenty ranking because we’ll end up with about a zillion songs each with a single vote. It occurs to me that it might actually work better if I allow/encourage readers to nominate up to 10 song selections (not just 3). Anyone who has already voted can feel free to nominate another 7. Moreover, I’ll treat every nomination as having equal weight i.e. I won’t give them different weighting depending on their ranking/order within your nomination, I’ll simply count up the total number of votes for a particular song.

Further update – Another perusal shows that there are very few songs so far nominated that are post-1995. No doubt (like Norm’s blog) it’s a reflection of the reader demographic, but again I severely doubt that good pop/rock songs stopped being written and released a decade ago. I’m not going to run a separate contest, but I think I’ll publish a separate Top 10 Songs of the Last Decade list, so readers might want to focus especially on that period. It probably means that you’ll have to embrace the possibility that rap, hip hop etc can actually be good, a leap that some may find difficult.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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2024 years ago

Smells like teen spirit – Nirvana

2024 years ago

DOh, sorry, didn’t read the instructions…

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Pump up the Volume – MARRS
Coffee and TV – Blur (because I can)

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2024 years ago

Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees
Mercury Rev – Goddess on a Highway
Spain – Untitled #1

I excluded Hunters and Collectors – Talking to a Stranger, as i think it might be over 20 years now.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2024 years ago

” but I’d be fairly surprised if anyone nominated anything they’ve done in that time.”

Tempt not the Dylan Tragic.

1) I’ll Remember You – Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque 1985.

2) Gouge Away – The Pixies – Doolittle 1989

3) A King At Night – Bonnie Prince Billy – 2002
2024 years ago

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under the Bridge
Beastie Boys – Sabotage
Beck – Where It’s At

Stuart M
Stuart M
2024 years ago

Three late eighties wonders:

There is a light that never goes out – The Smiths.
Schizophrenia – Sonic Youth.
Gigantic – The Pixies.

Martin Pike
2024 years ago

Teen Spirit- Nirvana
One- U2
Killing in the name of- Rage against the machine

2024 years ago

Three is a very small number for each person to nominate. I could easily suggest 10 or even 20 that I’d rate approximately equally (depending on my mood). Pop music is a bit like that: there’s kind of a ceiling to just how good a pop song can be.

Anywho, here’s three:

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Don’t Dream it’s Over – Crowded House

Where the Streets Have No Name – U2

I really wanted to say Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, but I googled it and it was released in 1984.

2024 years ago

Now Top Three:

‘No Way Out’ by Love of Diagrams (love this song)
‘Forget Her’ by Jeff Buckley
‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast

Then Top Three:

‘Sympathy for The Devil’
‘Voodoo Chile’
‘Like a Rolling Stone’

I really want to put another 20 in my top three but I’m tangled up in few.

With a Lovely Gal Top Three:

‘Heaven’ by the Rolling Stones
‘Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole
‘Laura’ by Frank Sinatra

2024 years ago

Good idea, Ken.
Here;s mine:
It’s a Mad, Mad World–Tears for Fears
Hallelujah–Jeff Buckley
Paranoid android–Radiohead

2024 years ago

The Ship Song – Nick Cave
Easy Like a Sunday Morning – Faith No More
If I saw you in heavan – Eric Clapton

I think what distinguishes these from others like RadioHead’s Paranoid Android, is that these are are beautifully crafted popular songs (as per the recent BBC series) as opposed to brilliant but ultimately completely tricked up soundscapes. There is a difference, and I think it matters in this context.

Andrew Frazer
Andrew Frazer
2024 years ago

I could happily list 3 Dylan songs from post 85, but I’ll content myself with one.

Series of Dreams – Bob Dylan (recorded in 89 for Oh Mercy, released in 91 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)

There She Goes My Beautiful World – Nick Cave

Chocolate Jesus – Tom Waits

Jason Soon
2024 years ago

Never challenge a Dylan fan, Ken:

1) High Water – Bob Dylan (2001)

2) Love Sick- Bob Dylan (1997)

3) Standing in the Doorway – Bob Dylan (1997)

2024 years ago

Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
In the Valley – Midnight Oil
Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2024 years ago

Hi Rex

Easy like Sunday Morning will not pass the scrutineers. It is a cover song – originally recored (and written?) by Lionel Ritchie in the seventies.

2024 years ago

I feel loved – Depeche Mode (2001)
What you waiting for – Gwen Stefani (2004)
Wade in the water – Eva Cassidy (1997)

christopher sheil
2024 years ago

1) ‘Locomotion’ (K. Minogue)
2) ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ (B.R. Cyrus)
3) ‘Wannabe’ (Spice Girls)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

Chris, you’re disqualified.

2024 years ago

1) ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (Survivor)
2) ‘Boney Moroney’ (Hush)
3) ‘Bye Bye Baby’ (Bay City Rollers)
4) ‘It’s Not Unusual’ (T. Jones)

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2024 years ago

Chris you omitted

Ice, Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
Can’t Touch This – M. C. Hammer
Barbie Girl – can’t remember who did this crap

Now I’m sure this is what is being played at Guantunamo Bay as we speak.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

You’re a rare genius, Homer. Your first choice was released in 1982, your second and third in 1975 and the fourth one in 1965. You’re also disqualified.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

The Barbie song was by Aqua, and I quite liked it personally. You’re also disqualified Stephen.

2024 years ago

In Homer’s case, I’m really not sure whether he’s joking a la CS (you were joking Chris? right?)or not.

My current list (but it’d change hourly)

“Slip Inside This House” – Primal Scream
“The Storm” – World of Twist
“This Is Hardcore” – Pulp

2024 years ago

“No Aphrodisiac” – The Whitlams
“Nothing Compares” – Sinead O’Connor
“I’m Too Sexy” – whatever those pommy wankers called themselves (trusting their rip-off from “3rd Stone from the Sun” wont disqualify me – if, so any of 10 from Crowded House, say “4 Seasons in 1 Day”)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

Right Said Fred?

2024 years ago

Smiths – There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Radiohead – No Surprises

2024 years ago

Enjoy the Silence – Depeche Mode

How soon is Now – The Smiths

Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers

2024 years ago

That’s a difficult one because it changes depending on my mood, and brother do I change my mood.

Ummm, Bob Dylan – It Ain’t Me, Babe.
Joni Mitchell – I Had a King
Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

Arrggh, I am a bloody hippy.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago


You’re also a hippy who doesn’t read the rules (it’s probably part of the syndrome). It Ain’t Me, Babe was released in 1964; I Had a King in 1967 and Famous Blue Raincoat in 1971. You’re disqualified. (I feel a bit like Donald Trump).

2024 years ago

Ten you say? Here goes:

There is a light that never goes out – Smiths
Cannonball – Breeders
This is Hardcore – Pulp
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Birthday – Sugarcubes
24 Hour Party People – Happy Mondays
She Bangs the Drums – Stone Roses
Since I left you – Avalanches
Last night – Strokes
Babies – Pulp

2024 years ago

My list has been deemed totally objective by a closed inquiry chaired by our kitten. She knows her stuff.

Husker Du

2024 years ago

Ken, my extra modern seven:

4. ‘Close to Me’ (The Cure :)
5. ‘Continental Drift’ (Rolling Stones)
6. ‘Teen Spirit’ (Nirvana)
7. ‘One’ (U2)
8. ‘Real Thing’ (U2)
9. ‘My Happiness’ (Powderfinger)

10. That Rocket Science song (film clip on beach) ???

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2024 years ago

Actually Ken is making it too easy for us by setting the limit at 1985. I am enrolling students born in 1987. The Smiths and New Order are not modern groups.

He was well within his rights to set the limit for post 2000.

2024 years ago

Blackfella/ White Fella – the Warumpi Band
There She Goes – The LA’s
Bell Bottoms – John Spencer Blues Explosion
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Wave of Mutilation – The Pixies
How Soon is Now – The Smiths
Bring the Noise – Public Enemy
In The Name of the Father – Black Grape
From Her to Eternity – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
Cinnamon – Piggies

the only true cs
2024 years ago

Currency, you’re a disgrace.

Might have to get back on this one, but have to immediately come in behind Rex on:

Series of Dreams – Dylan (’89)

I guess while I’m here I could also add:

Every Grain of Sand (Dylan) – Emmylou Harris version (’95)
My Back Pages (Dylan) – Dylan, McQuinn, Petty, Young, Clapton, Harrison verion (’93)
Desolation Row – Dylan unplugged version (’95)
Blind Willie McTell – Dylan recorded it in ’80 but not released until ’91

And now, while I was typing that, I’ve thought of:

Running Too Deep – Keith Richards (’92)
Brand New Car – Rolling Stones (’94)

Heck, seeing as I can have 10:

Me and the Eagle – Steve Earle (’98)
Cooksferry Queen – Richard Thompson (’99)
Daring Night – Van Morrison (’89) (for Zoe)

Bugger it, if I could have had 12, I would have also listed:
Walk On – U2 (’00)
Tear Stained Eye – Son Volt (’95)

2024 years ago

Lose Yourself – Eminem (2002)
Where It’s At – Beck (1996)
Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine (1993)
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (1991)
Enter Sandman – Metallica (1991)
Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues (1987)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2 (1987)
Sweet Child o’Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses (1897)
Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna (1986)
Throw Your Arms Around Me – Hunters And Collectors (1985)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago


They’re devious bastards, those RWDBs. Consider yourself reinstated (and good choices too)!

2024 years ago

My $0.02

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
Ship Song – Nick Cave
Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House
Great Southern Land – Icehouse
All I Want Is You – U2
Better Man – John Butler Trio
Treaty – Yothu Yindi
Glory Box – Portishead
Two Step – Dave Matthews Band
Buy Me A Pony – Spiderbait

2024 years ago

Death of the European – The Three Johns (1985)

Memphis, Egypt – Mekons (1989)

That’s How Grateful We Are – Chumbawamba (1990)

My Sister’s Tiny Hands – Handsome Family (1998)

I Wish I Was the Moon – Neko Case (2002)

See Willy Fly By – Waco Brothers (1997)

War on War – Wilco (2002)

There is a Light – The Smiths

Fairytale of New York – Pogues


2024 years ago

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
Grace – Jeff Buckley
Lightning Crashes – Live
Mohammed – Dandy Warhols
Orange Crush – REM
Paranoid Android – Radiohead
Parklife – Blur
True Faith – New Order
Truly – Something for Kate

2024 years ago

When do we get to have a good bitch about others choices? Itchy fingers.

and scratch “How Soon is Now” and replace with “This Charming Man” disregard all further attempts to change my list by me.

2024 years ago

Pop? 1984? I think that’s about the time I stopped listening to it.

What’s my Scene: Hoodoo Gurus.
Dont Dream its Over: Crowded House
(give us a break here I know(Ken),I checked, it was released in 1987)
The Weeping Song- Nick Cave.
Mad World (Donnie Darko version) If you count me out on Crowded House.
U2 : One (not sure if that makes it either)

The Hoodoo Gurus write shit-hot ‘pop’ (I reckon) Or did – or something. I think I’m too old for this.

backword dave
2024 years ago

“There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out” – The Smiths (IMO, “This Charming Man” and “How soon is now” are 1983/4.)
“Creep” Radiohead
“Come As You Are” Nirvana
“Common People” (Pulp or Shatner — the latter if the performer matters, not the song)
“Losing My Religion” REM
“Do You Realize?” The Flaming Lips
“Cruisers Creek” The Fall

Lisa Rullsenberg
2024 years ago

Pulp – Common People
Pixies – Monkey Gone to Heaven
Stone Roses – She Bangs the Drums
The Wedding Present – Kennedy
Sugarcubes – Birthday
Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees
Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
REM – Bad Day
PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
Nick Cave – God is in the House

I could come up with more… and I could come up with more obscure tracks, but that would overlap with my own blogging efforts :)

2024 years ago

Maybe not the ten “best” songs, but certainly ten for which I have very fond memories.

Pearl Jam — Black
Stone Temple Pilots — Plush
Nirvana — Smells Like Teen Spirit
The Strokes — The Modern Age
Rage Against the Machine — Killing in the Name
Ween — Voodoo Lady
You Am I — Damage
Frenzal Rhomb — Punch in the Face
Radiohead — Paranoid Android

…and my “plug your mate’s band” pick:

Fascist Fair Go Party — Disco Fascism

2024 years ago

Well, if we are allowed the other seven…

4. Throw your arms around me – Hunters and Collectors
5. The Christmas Song – Dave Matthews Band
6. Wicked Game – Chris Isaac
7. Under the milky way – The church
8. Excuse me Mister – Ben Harper
9. Kick – INXS
10. Take on Me – Aha (Ok, this is tragic, but totally non negotiable)

Robert Merkel
2024 years ago

Some suggestions from the past few years (had to scan the Triple J hottest 100 to remind myself):

Take me out – Franz Ferdinand
Coin-operated boy – The Dresden Dolls
No One Knows – Queens of the Stone Age
Stan – Eminem
Hey Ya – Outkast
What You Waitin For – Gwen Stefani
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Hello – The Cat Empire
The Rockefeller Skank – Fatboy Slim

Amongst dozens of other excellent pop songs. Current favourite “undergraduate humor joke pop song” is “Lachlan” by “Your Wedding Night”, at least for the next five minutes. They haven’t stopped making the stuff just because you’ve collectively stopped listening…

Oh, and Michael Franti and Spearhead live are an experience not to be missed, even if the more conservative amongst you will probably puke at the politics.

2024 years ago

Christ, would I like to unload on some of those choices? Yes. Yes I would. But I’m too polite for that.

A Top 10 for today.

New Mistake – Jellyfish (1993)
Hotel Illness – The Black Crowes (1992)
Let’s Get Killed – David Holmes (1997)
High On A Hilltop – Nick Lowe (1998)
Wayfarin’ Stranger – Spearhead (1997)
Monkey With A Gun – The Yayhoos (2001)
Now It’s On – Grandaddy (2004)
White City Fighting – Peter Townshend (1985)
Swallowed By The Cracks – David & David (1986)
Spring Rain – The Go-Betweens (1985)

2024 years ago

Here’s my list (was ’85 really that long ago? I must be older than I thought!)
1. Shellshock – New Order
2. There is a Light – The Smiths (would’ve preferred Hand in Glove, but that was too early)
3. Like a Prayer – Madonna
4. Pagan Poetry – Bjork
5. Hell is Round the Corner – Tricky
6. Garbage Man – Hole
7. Being Boring – Pet Shop Boys
8. Hit the North – The Fall
9. Salt Fare North Sea – Chumbawamba
10. Dirty Epic – Underworld

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2024 years ago

Ok, Ken – all post 1995 (most post 2000).

1. Beth Orton – “Touch Me with Your Love”
2. M. Ward – “Sad, Sad Song”
3. The White Stripes – “There’s No Home For You Here”
4. Deborah Conway – “I Love You But”
5. Massive Attack – “Angel”.
6. Autour de Lucie – “Immobile”
7. Beth Orton – “Devil Song”
8. Little Birdie – “Message to God”
9. Sia – “Drink to Get Drunk”
10. Beth Orton – “Stars All Seem to Weep”

(everyone knows I’m a Beth O fan!)