1. The Turtles, “Elenore”
An absolute joy of a song, The Turtles’ “Elenore” was written as a parody of all of the “happy-go-lucky” songs the band was sick of hearing. With catchy simplistic lyrics like “you’re my pride and joy, etcetera,” The Turtles’ accidentally recorded a hit song they intended as a joke, and the rest is history. It made an appearance in the 2009 film Pirate Radio, and its resurgence deserves all of the attention it was never supposed to have in the first place.
2. Patti Smith, “Gloria”
One of the greatest artists to walk the earth, Patti Smith took the Van Morrison rock standard “Gloria” and morphed it into one of the fledgling punk rock songs that would define the genre. Beginning with the lyrics, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” Smith blew minds and burnt convention to the ground, leaving behind a song that still makes Gloria one of the coolest names to have.
3. Fleetwoood Mac, “Rhiannon”
Sing it for us, Stevie. I would make a bet that anyone you know who is named Rhiannon was named after this song. Many have tried to imitate the original, but nothing comes close to hearing it sung by Queen Stevie herself.
4. Arctic Monkeys, “Arabella”
A more recent ode to a rad ass chick, the lyrics to “Arabella” detail a girl with a Barbarella swim suit and lips like the galaxy’s edge. The Arctic Monkeys have made a name for themselves steadily and surely in the last several years, and a song like “Arabella” reminds you why. An absolute jam and surely a source of secret pride for all of the Arabellas out there.
5. The Beatles, “Michelle”
One of the most beautiful Beatles songs and a glorious collaboration of Lennon/McCartney brainpower, you can make the pilgrimage to the British Library in London to see the original lyrics scrawled on the back of an envelope. Honestly, it’s worth dating a Michelle just so you can sing this to her.
6. Simon and Garfunkel, “Cecilia”
One of the best songs to sing in a car full of people who love to harmonize and drum on things, “Cecilia” is a song about a fair-weather lover who has the singer wrapped around her finger. While some songwriters choose to pen bitter songs about their partners who replace them on a whim, Simon and Garfunkel tell the story in a way only they can: in a damn catchy tune.
7. Crosby, Stills and Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
Written about songwriter Stephen Stills’ breakup with his then-girlfriend Judy Collins, this seven minute song is lyrically moving and melodically beautiful. Featuring lyrics like, “Fear is the lock, and laughter the key to your heart,” this is the sort of masterpiece song that will live on for decades to come. I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are.
8. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
Only two chords and lyrics that tell the story of the titular Jane, the inspiration for the band’s name and the name of the song itself. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, this is a song unlike any other that remains culturally timeless decades after it was written.
9. The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1”
I don’t personally know any Yoshimis, but I sure wish I did. A song about a robot ass-kicking karate warrior, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” is an ode to one hell of a woman — in a way that only The Flaming Lips can pull off.
10. Fountains of Wayne, “Hey Julie”
With lyrics like, “Sometimes I catch myself staring into space / counting down the hours til I get to see your face,” this is a love song that transcends the awful reality of mundane office work keeping us away from the people we love. “Hey Julie” is a tribute to the people we can’t wait to see when we leave our jobs and come home — the people who make it all worth it.