The 100 greatest rock songs of the century... so far

90. Anathema - Untouchable (Pt I & II)

Anathema, for some people the 21st century’s answer to Pink Floyd, hit a peak with this stirring, stunning epic, all 11 or so minutes of which is still extremely popular when the band play live. The fact that the Liverpudlian brothers (and their lifelong mates who make up the band) managed to make something this sweeping and grandiose feel so intimate is quite remarkable. Heartbreaking but ultimately rousing stuff.

From: Weather Systems, 2012 (opens in new tab)

89. Alice Cooper - What Do You Want From Me?

After two more industrial metal-geared records, Vincent Furnier returned to hard rock with 2003’s The Eyes Of Alice Cooper. On stand-out track What Do You Want From Me?, a punchy, stick-it-to-the-man (or rather, woman) shit-kicker, he sounded like the Alice Cooper we all knew and loved. ‘Woke’ by Gen-Z standards? Hell no (‘I burned all my porno, you say it offends you/ Disconnected my XBox’ he snarled). Filthy, fun and fired up. 

From: The Eyes Of Alice Cooper, 2003 (opens in new tab)

88. Jeff Lynne's ELO - When I Was A Boy

Following the spectacular rebirth of the Electric Light Orchestra in Hyde Park in 2014, a disbelieving Jeff Lynne hunkered down pretty much alone to create his first album of all-new material in almost 15 years. Its charming lead-off single presented the autobiographical tale of Lynne as a young boy in his bedroom and setting his sights on stardom: ‘Don’t want to work on the milk or the bread/Just want to play my guitar instead.’ 

From: Alone In The Universe, 2015 (opens in new tab)

87. Stereophonics - Dakota

Classic Rock said Dakota (one of only two songs in our countdown to make the UK No.1 spot) was “a breathtaking anthem whose cutting-edge production belies a depth of feeling that Kelly Jones has rarely shown before”. The singer was no less enthusiastic about his band’s return to full-throttle rock after a couple of albums dominated by laid-back acoustics. He told us he strove to write a song “that sounded great when you were driving or dancing or in bed with someone. I wanted it to sound sexy and dark and spacy.” And it is. 

From: Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, 2005 (opens in new tab)

86. The Temperance Movement - Only Friend

The opening track of their debut album, this catchy, classy cocktail of Rolling Stones swagger and Faces-via-southern gospel passion set The Temperance Movement’s bar very high. Put simply, it made them the modern-day classic rock band to beat. With singer Phil Campbell’s departure it’s unclear what the future holds, but with gems like this they already occupy a special place in rock’n’roll’s latter-day renaissance. 

From: The Temperance Movement, 2013 (opens in new tab)

85. Chickenfoot - Soap On A Rope

He might be a technically eye-popping guitarist, but Joe Satriani is a classic rock guy at heart. So when he joined with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith in this supergroup it was no surprise that the results, of which this is the pinnacle, were nothing short of joyous. Chunky, loose-limbed and enormous fun. 

From: Chickenfoot, 2009 (opens in new tab)

84. The Strokes - New York City Cops

The Strokes’ debut album Is This It was the perfect marriage of new-millennium cool and vintage attitude, and everything great about them was bottled in New York City Cops, a song that could easily have been wrenched straight from the CBGB stage circa 1975. 

From: Is This It, 2001 (opens in new tab)

83. Jane’s Addiction - Just Because

The freak-rock visionaries’ much-anticipated reunion album Strays might have been a damp squib, but it did offer one flash of genius in its title track. Swapping out the smack-addled chaos of old for gleaming arena rock, this was the sound of a bunch of ex-junkies hitting the gym. But there was enough weirdness in guitarist Dave Navarro’s psychedelia-on-steroids riff and Perry Farrell’s dog-whistle urgings to ensure that Just Because sounded like absolutely no one else. 

From: Strays, 2003 (opens in new tab)

82. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Please Read The Letter

They made an odd couple: Plant, the grizzled rock warhorse, and Krauss, the glamorous, fiddle-playing bluegrass star 23 years his junior. But their voices were perfectly matched on an album that gave Plant the biggest hit of his post-Zep career. Their duets ranged from blues to folk, country to rock’n’roll. Some songs dated from the 50s and 60s. Others merely sounded old, such as standout Please Read The Letter, originally written and recorded for Page & Plant’s album Walking Into Clarksdale. Plant, in harmony with Krauss, has rarely sung better.

From: Raising Sand, 2007 (opens in new tab)

81. Massive Wagons - Tokyo

The business of nailing a genuinely lovable rock banger, when so many have already been written, can feel like a tall order even for the best songwriters. With Tokyo, Massive Wagons proved that it really doesn’t have to be. The ingredients are simple: big ol’ lip-smacking guitars, va-va-voom by the caseload and a tune the size of Texas. Thought they didn’t make ’em like this any more? Au contraire. 

From: Full Nelson, 2018 (opens in new tab)

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”