“Name That Tune,” the popular quiz show that got its start on radio in 1952 and has had several lives on TV, is being revived yet again in January on the Fox network.
Clearly, they got the idea from seeing how readers here at Hack’s Back Pages enjoy our periodic Rock Lyrics Quiz!
I’m publishing a day early this week because I thought it might be a fun Thanksgiving activity to quiz each other on our knowledge of the words to classic rock songs.
I have selected 25 songs for which I am very thankful. To me, they’re among the truly outstanding tunes that made a big impact on me, came along at important times in my life and still make me sing along when I hear them.
I suggest you grab a pencil and paper and write down your answers as you peruse the listed lyrics, and then check out the answers to see how well you did.
Despite the crummy circumstances in which we find ourselves this holiday season, I trust you’ll find ways to stay safe and have some fun either on Zoom or in socially responsible distance. Let’s adopt an attitude of gratitude, just for today. Day after day.
1. “I was born in Li’l Rock, /Had a childhood sweetheart, /We were always hand in hand…”
2. “Mama don’t understand it, she wants to know where I’ve been, /I’d have to be some kind of natural born fool to want to pass that way again…
3. “So I turned myself to face me, /But I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker, /I’m much too fast to take that test…”
4. “If you should ever leave me, /Well, life would still go on, believe me, /The world could show nothing to me, /So what good would living do me?…”
5. “And I don’t own the clothes I’m wearing, /And the road goes on forever, /And I’ve got one more silver dollar…”
6. “Looking towards the future, I see changes coming near, /People smiling, laughing, joking, disregarding fear…”
7. “And the seasons, they go round and round, /And the painted ponies go up and down, /We’re captive on the carousel of time…”
8. “Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, /I know I’ll often stop and think about them…”
9. “I’ll sing my song to the wide open spaces, /I’ll sing my heart out to the infinite sea, /I’ll sing my visions to the sky high mountains…”
10. “Mother, mother, /There’s too many of you crying, /Brother, brother, brother, /There’s far too many of you dying…”
11. “I’m worn as a toothbrush hanging in the stand, yeah, /My face ain’t looking any younger, /Now I can see love’s taken a toll on me…”
12. “I tell you, love, sister, /It’s just a kiss away, /It’s just a kiss away, kiss away, kiss away…”
13. “Yes, and when I’m feelin’ down and blue, /Then all I do is think of you, /And all my foolish problems seem to fade away…”
14. “Leaves are falling all around, time I was on my way, /Thanks to you, I’m much obliged, /Such a pleasant stay…”
15. “Now if you feel that you can’t go on because all of your hope is gone, /And your life is filled with much confusion until happiness is just an illusion…”
16. “People, what have you done? /Locked Him in His golden cage,/Made Him bend to your religion, Him resurrected from the grave…”
17. “It seems to me a crime that we should age, /These fragile times should never slip us by, /A time you never can or shall erase…”
18. “Lacy lilting lady, losing love lamenting, /Change my life, make it right, be my lady…”
19. “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind, /You could have done better, but I don’t mind, /You just sorta wasted my precious time…”
20. “The weekend at the college didn’t turn out like you planned, /The things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand…”
21. “Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got, /For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not…”
22. “Oh, someday, girl, I don’t know when, /We’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, /And we’ll walk in the sun…”
23. “It’s the same kind of story that seems to come down from long ago, /Two friends having coffee together when something flies by their window…”
24. “Set me free, why don’t you, babe? /Get out of my life, why don’t you, babe…”
25. “Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly, /How terribly strange to be seventy…”
1. “I Was Made to Love Her,” Stevie Wonder, 1967
Listen to that bass line! Marvel at Stevie’s impassioned vocals. Notice how the arrangement builds and builds, and how you want the song to keep going and going well past its 2:36 duration. To me, it’s the most extraordinary Motown recording of all, and that’s really saying something.
2. “Country Road,” James Taylor, 1971
I feel as Taylor and I are kindred spirits somehow. Although I enjoy his entire catalog, the songs on his first three LPs are so special to me, especially this wonderful one from “Sweet Baby James,” which became my favorite to sing and play on guitar.
3. “Changes,” David Bowie, 1971
The older I get, the more I appreciate the excellence of this amazing track from Bowie’s fine “Hunky Dory” album. The words are so profound in the way they address the subject of change and how we tend to resist it at every turn. The sax riff at the end offers the icing on the cake.
4. “God Only Knows,” The Beach Boys, 1966
The brilliance of Brian Wilson comes shining through in this magnificent track from the group’s “Pet Sounds” LP. The challenging melody line, the earnest lyrics and the marvelous vocals combine to create one of The Beach Boys’ very finest moments.
5. “Midnight Rider,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1970
At the beginning, this band was loaded with instrumental talent on guitars, drums and bass, and then Duane Allman got his younger brother Gregg to join the lineup. In addition to his keyboards and the best blues voice of any white man around, Gregg wrote compelling songs like this beauty.
6. “Can You See Him,” Batdorf and Rodney, 1971
Such a crime that this fantastic duo of acoustic guitars and voices didn’t find more commercial success. John Batdorf’s songs on their “Off the Shelf” debut album, especially “Can You See Him,” shone with overwhelmingly positive vibes. You can’t help but smile from ear to ear when this one’s on.
7. “The Circle Game,” Joni Mitchell, 1970
My introduction to the high priestess of poetic rock was her “Ladies of the Canyon” album, with “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock” and “For Free.” Her music became more challenging (and satisfying) as she progressed, but simple folk songs like “The Circle Game” still capture my heart.
8. “In My Life,” The Beatles, 1965
I wonder if Lennon and McCartney knew that this song would have such staying power when they wrote it as just another album track to fill their “Rubber Soul” LP in late 1965. The words so succinctly distill the importance of love in our lives that I’ve heard it at weddings and funerals.
9. “The Song is Over,” The Who, 1971
The Who hit a majestic peak with this song, which I think is the best track on their unparalleled “Who’s Next” album. Roger Daltrey never sounded better, and producer Glyn Johns reached his own professional apex when he captured The Who’s instrumental power. Still gives me chills every time.
10. “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye, 1971
There are so many fine tunes about love and heartbreak in Gaye’s early Motown catalog, but as the Seventies arrived, he wanted to feature songs that spoke of world conditions, injustice and civil unrest. This track did exactly that while maintaining the musical beauty we expected from him.
11. “She’s Gone,” Hall and Oates, 1973
This exceptional song from the duo’s early “Abandoned Luncheonette” album is arguably their best in a long career. It starts slowly, sensually, with the narrator trying to face the fact that his girl has left him, eventually building to painful anguish at the thrilling climax.
12. “Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones, 1969
Everyone talks about the violence and dread that anchor this masterpiece from The Stones’ “Let It Bleed” LP, but if you listen closely, at the end, Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton are no longer singing about war being “a shot away,” but love being “a kiss away.” There’s hope mixed in with the despair.
13. “South City Midnight Lady,” The Doobie Brothers, 1973
The rocking boogie of Tom Johnston’s early Doobies hits and the smoky funk of Michael McDonald’s latter-day tunes got all the attention, but for my money, there’s no better song in The Doobies’ repertoire than this sweet, satisfying ballad by Patrick Simmons on their “The Captain and Me” LP.
14. “Ramble On,” Led Zeppelin, 1969
The multiple acoustic-based tracks on “Led Zeppelin III” were considered a huge departure for the blues-rock champs, but if you listen to “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” from the first album and “Ramble On” from “II,” you’ll see they were already masters of the light/dark shading. Outstanding!
15. “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops, 1966
The Motown producers wrote this incredible song in a higher key than usual in order to push lead singer Levi Stubbs to reach for higher notes. The result was a plaintive vocal delivery that became The Four Tops’ signature tune, and one of my all-time favorites of the Sixties.
16. “My God,” Jethro Tull, 1971
When critics called Tull’s “Aqualung” a concept album, they were referring to “Wind Up” and this astonishing track, which excoriated organized religion as phony and malevolent. The flute solo in the middle break, perhaps Ian Anderson’s finest, never fails to stop me in my tracks.
17. “Friends,” Elton John, 1971
It’s the title song on a little-known soundtrack album to a slight little French film that Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin agreed to do before they had much commercial success. But to me, it brings back vivid memories of first love, carried by a wise lyric about the importance of keeping friends close.
18. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969
They say heartbreak has inspired more great songs than anything else, and for Stephen Stills, his breakup with paramour Judy Collins was fodder for this gorgeous tour de force. It proved to be the perfect opening track for Crosby, Stills & Nash’s spine-tingling three-part harmonies.
19. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Bob Dylan, 1963
I first heard this perceptive tune as sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, who had a Top Five hit with it. Dylan was just getting started on his game-changing songwriting about social issues, but he also showed an uncanny knack for writing a gently sarcastic kiss-off song like this one.
20. “Reelin’ in the Years,” Steely Dan, 1972
“Can’t Buy a Thrill” was such an amazingly fresh album of intriguing pop rock when Steely Dan made their debut. “Do It Again” was first, with its salsa beat and mysterious lyrics, but it was the solid rock of “Reelin’ in the Years” that still perks up ears today.
21. “Father and Son,” Cat Stevens, 1970
If there’s a more perceptive song about the generation gap between parents and their children, I’m not aware of it. Stevens hit a home run with his “Tea For the Tillerman” album, and this lovely tune is probably the highlight. It’s one of my favorites to play on guitar.
22. “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen, 1975
The anthem of the decade, and the song that made many people pay attention to this super talent from the Jersey shore. Springsteen said, “I wanted to craft a record that sounded like the last record on Earth, the last one you’d ever need to hear.” I’d say he succeeded.
23. “Hypnotized,” Fleetwood Mac, 1973
Such a sensual groove, with a smooth guitar and soft-edged voice from Bob Welch, who wrote the song. He is credited with saving Fleetwood Mac from extinction during the years between Peter Green’s blues and the sunny pop of Buckingham and Nicks, and “Hypnotized” is a big reason why.
24. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” The Supremes, 1966
The producers wanted to mimic the sound of a telegraph machine in the intro, followed by a rollicking 4/4 beat for Diana Ross and The Supremes to lay down some of their very best vocal chops. This song captures the frustration of still being teased after the relationship is over.
25. “Old Friends/Bookends,” Simon and Garfunkel, 1968
This two-song medley perfectly summarizes the importance of clinging to long-time friends and youthful memories as we get older. With songs like “America” and “Old Friends/Bookends,” Simon took a quantum leap forward in his songwriting skills for the duo’s 1968 album “Bookends.”