Two New Kindle Books Count Down 100 Greatest Metal Tunes And 100 Greatest Punk Tunes
April 28, 2023, a month ago
Over the years, journalists and authors have attempted to compile lists of the greatest metal songs of all-time. And now, it’s time for yours truly to offer his own list. As the first-ever release of the ‘Greg Prato Presents’ Kindle series, I present to you The 100 Greatest Songs of Heavy Metal. The set-up is simple – each entry contains background about the song (and what makes it stand out from the pack), a quote from either the artist or a renowned admirer, a recommendation of three other standout tunes from the artist, and a link to listen to the song. Below are 5 excerpts from the book, as well as a sneak peek into the second entry in the ‘Greg Prato Presents’ Kindle series – The 100 Greatest Songs of Punk Rock.
Blue Öyster Cult - "Godzilla" (Spectres, 1977)
Along with King Kong, Godzilla was one of the heaviest and most mammoth beasts in cinema for many years. So…what better subject to be immortalized in song by Blue Öyster Cult! Although BÖC had been known to get quite poetic with their lyrics up this point (due to affiliations with Patti Smith, Richard Meltzer, and Sandy Pearlman), the song’s author – singer/guitarist Buck Dharma – goes the satirical route. But I bet David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel were still jealous…
“The original idea for the song came from Patti Smith. She wrote a poem where the ending had the words, ‘Zilla god Zilla god.’ Don Roeser [aka Buck Dharma] called her up and they planned on writing a track together based on that idea. However, Patti was just about to go out on a small tour so it would have to wait a month or so before she could help him with it. Don couldn’t wait and wrote the track all by himself. When we were recording it, Don suggested the beat that I used for most of the song. It was extremely syncopated with beats falling in strange and goofy ways. Maybe because of the lighthearted approach to the subject it was never used in any of the many Godzilla movies that came out until 2019 – when Bear McCreary used a new version during the ending credits of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Although quite popular with the fans and critics, it was never a hit. It was released four separate times by Columbia but failed each time to make the charts.” --Albert Bouchard
Dig Deeper: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll,” “Burnin’ For You”
Riot - "Swords And Tequila" (Fire Down Under, 1981)
Although they hailed from New York City, Riot (no, not Quiet Riot) could have passed for a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band if you were to compare their 1981 offering, Fire Down Under, with the then-current releases by Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Diamond Head. On their third album overall, Fire Down Under, the lead-off track “Swords and Tequila” (I know, a peculiar title…but then again, this is a band who chose a bloody baby seal face as their mascot on album covers early on!) matched up well to the aforementioned bands’ top tunes – with a similar lean and mean metal attack. Unfortunately, the band was dealt a significant blow when singer Guy Speranza opted to jump ship after this album (and sadly passing away in 2003 at the age of 47).
“Riot’s album Fire Down Under remains one of the great ‘under the radar’ hard rock classics of all-time. Those that know, know. It is a top to bottom masterpiece. The playing, the songs, the very live sound of the album. Just amazing and still holds up. ‘Swords and Tequila’ is very much the centerpiece of the album and it’s an opener that sets the tone. It always sounds amazing and sets the table for a pretty much perfect album.” --Eddie Trunk
Dig Deeper: “Fire Down Under,” “Outlaw,” “Restless Breed”
Iron Maiden - "Phantom Of The Opera" (Iron Maiden, 1980)
For the most part, Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut reflected the same lean n’ mean approach of fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. But there was at least one instance where we were clued in on the path the band would soon pursue on a regular basis – prog metal. And that “instance” was the 7:02 epic, “Phantom of the Opera,” that closed the first side of vinyl/cassette version.
“‘Phantom of the Opera’ would be my favorite song on the album. This epic, with all the different parts. It was one of those songs as kids, it was like this challenge to see who could learn ‘Phantom of the Opera’ – learn the whole thing and play all the parts, and wear that as a badge of honor, to be able to play that whole song. At the time, I liked Rush, but I wasn’t a crazy, crazy Rush fan back in the day. So for me, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ kind of touched on that almost – almost in a prog sense. And then of course, years later, I learn that [Steve] Harris was influenced by a lot of bands like that, so it started to make a little bit more sense to me. But ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ for me, still would be in the top three Maiden songs of all-time. It’s just such an epic, and it works from part to part to part – it all just works.” --Scott Ian
Dig Deeper: “Killers,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Powerslave”
Motörhead - Overkill (Overkill, 1979)
Similarly to Ministry’s “Thieves” and the birth of industrial metal, you can pinpoint the arrival of thrash metal to a single song – the title track from Motörhead’s sophomore effort. In fact, a valid argument can be made that Metallica borrowed quite a few elements from this song while creating their own brand of thrash (shouted vocals, double bass drums, merging punk and metal, etc.).
“And he [a chap who worked at Kirk’s favorite record store as a youngster, Rather Ripped Records] held up a couple of albums – one of them was Motörhead’s Overkill, and another was the Scorpions’ Tokyo Tapes. He put on Overkill, and I was blown away by the speed of it and the heaviness and the punch it had, and the energy and aggression. I was like, ‘Great! I’ll take this’.” --Kirk Hammett
Dig Deeper: “Bomber,” “(We Are) The Roadcrew,” “Stay Clean”
Queen - "Ogre Battle" (Queen II, 1974)
I previously crowned Motörhead’s “Overkill” as a tune that can be pinpointed to as the birth of thrash metal. But there were certainly a few sneak peeks or stepping stones to what would eventually be lovingly referred to as “thrash” – including this early tune by Freddie and co. And although he’s probably best known for Queen’s more pop-minded material (“Killer Queen,” “Bicycle Race,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” etc.), it was the singer who penned this tune entirely by himself – arguably Queen’s heaviest number.
“Actually, the first-ever thrash song I ever heard was Queen – ‘Ogre Battle.’ The riff on ‘Ogre Battle,’ my God, that’s probably the first-ever thrash song, really.” --Paul Di’Anno
“The other thing that really impressed me about Queen was ‘Ogre Battle.’ It was so fast for the time. Now, it’s not fast at all, but when it came on with the high harmonies, I lost my mind when I heard ‘Ogre Battle,’ because it was so heavy and so melodic, and so beautiful at the same time.” --Doug Pinnick
Dig Deeper: “Father To Son,” “The March Of The Black Queen,” “Liar”
…and here’s a sneak peek into another ‘Greg Prato Presents’ book, entitled The 100 Greatest Songs of Punk Rock:
Bad Brains - "Sailin’ On" (Bad Brains, 1982)
One of the Bad Brains’ best – and most explosive – punk thrashers was undoubtedly “Sailin’ On,” which like many of their earlier compositions was recorded/released more than once. But the definitive version kicks off one of the best hardcore punk (and don’t forget the reggae) albums of all-time – their self-titled offering, aka The Yellow Tape.
“The ROIR cassette to me is fucking great, and that just proves right there that you can have a crappy sounding recording that’s still better than almost anything else – because of the songs. They were dangerous, they were good players, they had good songs. What more do you want in a punk rock band?” --Buzz Osborne
Dig Deeper: “Attitude,” “The Regulator,” “Big Takeover”
The Kindle-only titles The 100 Greatest Songs of Heavy Metal and The 100 Greatest Songs of Punk Rock are both available for purchase (a mere $2.99 each!).