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

60. Black Country Communion - One Last Soul

Given the band members’ lineage in rock music royalty, expectations were sky-high when news broke of this collaboration between Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. And its combination of soaring vocals, fret-scorching guitar heroics and lava-lamp-era sensibilities sure as hell didn’t disappoint. 

Hell, we even broke with protocol to acknowledge BCC as a ‘supergroup’. Classic Rock was happy to describe One Last Soul and its self-titled parent album as “rock with a capital ‘R’ – you either completely buy into it or not at all.”  

From: Black Country Communion, 2010

59. Sum 41 - Fat Lip

Anyone who came of age in the early 00s (or has kids who did) will smile at the shouty, sugary familiarity of Fat Lip. The musical equivalent of skaters, greebos and the American Pie franchise all streamlined into one pogoing, hedgehog-haired growth spurt, it was easily one of the most hummable anthems on the nu metal menu. 

‘Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised,’ declared Deryck Whibley and his band from Ajax, Ontario. They never topped it, but for a moment Sum 41 were the voice of a generation.

From: All Killer No Filler, 2001

58. Soundgarden - Been Away Too Long

It’s been said that your cherries should go on top. That maxim has been adhered to resolutely by AC/DC, and also Soundgarden with this headbanging opening track from King Animal (their first album in 16 years at the time of its release). 

Kim Thayil’s guitars crunched into life with ‘fuck-yeah!’ levels of focused enthusiasm, and when Chris Cornell sang ‘I’ve been away for too long’ everyone agreed wholeheartedly. Sadly it was to be their last. Five years later Cornell passed away, leaving behind a shocked, grieving rock world. 

From: King Animal, 2012

57. Nine Inch Nails - The Hand That Feeds

NIN’s Trent Reznor spent the second half of the 90s locked in a destructive spiral of drugs, depression and self-loathing. His first post-rehab album, 2005’s With Teeth, was more focused and concise than he’d sounded in years, no more so than on its highlight, The Hand That Feeds. At three and a half minutes, it sounded like an update of the NIN of their landmark debut Pretty Hate Machine: a seething dancefloor banger cloaked in distortion and rage. 

When MTV refused to let them play it at a prestigious awards ceremony, in front of a backdrop of then President George W Bush, Reznor told them to screw themselves. Good to know that some things hadn’t changed. 

From: With Teeth, 2005

56. The Black Keys - Lonely Boy

If 2010’s Brothers album was their breakthrough, this lead single from the following year’s El Camino kept the Black Keys’ commercial fires burning (and let’s not forget that this was their seventh studio album, their debut being the far less fanfared The Big Come Up in 2002). 

The intro was seedy as a Vegas peep show, and the verse an addictive strut, its twang redolent of T. Rex’s Get It On. But it was Lonely Boy’s chorus that kept us coming back, with the duo sending in the backing singers for an electrifying wall of ‘whoa-oa’s, and Dan Auerbach’s response ‘I got a love that keeps me waiting’ suggesting a man horny enough to break down his girl’s door. 

From: El Camino, 2011

55. Saxon - Lionheart

Having already covered the subject of crusaders, it seemed logical that the most English of heavy metal bands would turn their attention to the nation’s 12th-century sovereign. Just like Richard The Lionheart, the rejuvenated Saxon have returned to England after an enforced period spent on foreign soil, sworn in a quest to reclaim their crown.

Frontman Biff Byford later chose this six-minute epic – all chugging heavy metal guitars and brooding vocals (apart from a Halford-style shriek midway through) – as one of his all-time Saxon favourites. He explained: “It struck a chord with new and older fans. It’s very British, very steeped in history.” 

From: Lionheart, 2004

54. Steve  Perry - No Erasin' 

It was the comeback that few believed would happen – the return, in 2018, of arguably the greatest rock singer of his generation. Steve Perry had been gone a long time – it had been all of 22 years since Trial By Fire, the last album he made with Journey. But on Traces, his first solo record since ’94, the magic in his voice was still present, and with No Erasin’, its heartfelt standout track, he delivered another AOR classic. 

“These songs are special to me,” Perry said at the time. “I respectfully ask that you please listen to them, and whatever they make you feel, I thank you for listening.” 

From: Traces, 2018

53. Thunder - Wonder Days

"This was an interesting song to write, because it started off with what you hear – the basic guitar riff," Thunder guitarist Luke Morley told us. "And it’s kind of reminiscent of She’s So Fine from our first album. But not too similar, hopefully. So that kind of appealed to me. I thought: ‘We’ve not made an album in what, six and a half years or whatever it is. This could be the start of the album."

It worked. A lot of thought and graft clearly went into making Wonder Days sound so effortless, and it would have probably been a monster hit in the mid-70s. Now, it’s a massive reminder that class is both timeless and incandescent.

From: Wonder Days, 2015

52. Black Star Riders - Finest Hour

As frontman Ricky Warwick said of the band born out of Thin Lizzy: “Black Star Riders has its own identity, but the Lizzy connection is always there.” And in Finest Hour, all hard-rock swagger and teenage-dream nostalgia, the influence of the late, great Phil Lynott was writ large. A song best appreciated, as Classic Rock stated, “blasting from a jukebox in the best spit ’n’ sawdust bar in town.”

From: The Killer Instinct, 2015

51. Europe - War Of Kings

This was the sound of the Swedish rock band being just that – a rock band – as they revelled in their heavier musical roots and audibly recalled the reason they got into this game in the first place – i.e. before The Final Countdown happened and planted them firmly in ‘glossy 80s poodle’ territory. 

With War Of Kings’ toughened layers of classic rock muscle, it felt more Deep Purple than Def Leppard, with keyboard player Mic Michaeli swapping their parping synth sounds of old for a moodier tone. Plus it sounded like the band were having the best time doing it.

From: War Of Kings, 2015

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.