The Five Top Singles of All Time – Paul Zahl

My friend Ray Ortlund sent me a mix of 957 rock ‘n roll singles. I […]

Mockingbird / 8.28.09

My friend Ray Ortlund sent me a mix of 957 rock ‘n roll singles.

I listen to it every morning when I run. Ray’s inspired mix seems to cover just about every top-forty hit that was ever made.
Today I got to number 957. Then it hit me!
Here are the top five singles of all time.
I know you’re going to have your b-list, everyone is going to have their own b-list.
You’re going to definitely protest and say, ‘What about “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)” by the Bobby Fuller Four, and “Ninety-Six Tears” by ? and the Mysterians, and “She’s About a Mover” by the Sir Douglas Quintet?’
You’ll be absolutely right.
But here’s the list, as I see it, on the basis of Ray’s amazing compilation of almost 1000 hits, and there’s just one little word, of interpretation, at the end.
The list is in reverse order.
Number Five: Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles)
Number Four: Have I the Right (The Honeycombs/Joe Meek)
Number Three: I Can’t Explain (The Who)
Number Two: Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen)
Number One: Don’t Bring Me Down (The Animals)

What makes a Top Five Single:
It’s got to be short, sincere, and funny.
It’s got to have a good tune, and you have to want to dance to it.
Like a good sermon.
Wilder wrote three-minute plays, to suit his chosen style of compression. Kerouac couldn’t get publishers to publish his novels because they were ‘too short’. Like The Subterraneans and Visions of Gerard. Tolstoy’s ‘gospel parables’ were almost never more than five pages, and one of the very best of them, “Esarhaddon, King of Assyria”, is just three pages. Joe Meek the Genius compressed everything!
Compression and quality is what we are looking for. Fichte said there are so many words out there that there ought to be a tax on them, to diminish their number by statute.
These Top Five Pop Songs fit the bill. They are sermons in sound.
Oh, and finally:
Please any pleasure you receive from listening to these songs, please take it, convert it into a blessing — a ‘seed’ as the television evangelists like to say — and send it to Mockingbird. These guys are the sweetest voice on the web, and they are… drowning for lack of help. They need you. They need us. Don’t bring them down.