Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs List – A Quasi-scientific Study

Rolling Stone magazine set off a flurry of discussion with its recent list of the top 500 rock songs of all time, as determined by an impartial group of voters. The top two songs on the list were:
1. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
2. Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
Many people were surprised by the top choices and the list inspired a great number of other efforts to create versions of the same list from other points of view. For example, I was surprised that a classic song from my youth, “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, didn’t rank much, much higher on Rolling Stone’s list.
When I started to put together my own list, however, I quickly saw how difficult it was to reach a final ranking because there are so many great songs. In my case, the top two choices were easy, but then the job got too difficult. Here are Dennis Kennedy’s top two songs for a top 500 list:
1. Denis, Denis – Blondie
2. Captain Kennedy – Neil Young
I then decided to try to find some of the other Top 500 songs lists and see if I could find any consistent winners or other patterns. Here’s my decidedly unscientific list of findings of the top two songs on the lists I found:
Time Magazine
1. Time is on My Side – The Rolling Stones
2. This Time It’s for Real – Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
New York Times
1. Times They Are A-changin’ – Bob Dylan
2. Groovy Times – The Clash
Washington Post
1. Whipping Post – Allman Brothers
2. The Poster – Monkees
Saturday Night Live
1. Saturday Night’s All Right – Elton John
2. S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night – Bay City Rollers
High Times
1. Eight Miles High – The Byrds
2. The Tide is High – Blondie
Life Magazine
1. It’s My Life – The Animals
2. Life in the Fast Lane – Joe Walsh
Spin Magazine
1. Spin the Black Circle – Pearl Jam
2. Could it Be I’m Falling in Love – The Spinners
Money Magazine
1. Money – Pink Floyd
2. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits
Wall Street Journal
1. Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd
2. Wall – Living Colour
TV Guide
1. The Sun Always Shines on TV – A-Ha
2. Tune In – Psychic TV

Popular Mechanics

1. Female Mechanic Now on Duty – Sonic Youth
2. All I Need is a Miracle – Mike & the Mechanics
Obviously, this is not a complete list and probably is not a large enough sample to see any patterns or draw any conclusions, at least not with any certainty.
For what it’s worth, I consider Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made the best place to begin if you want to start compiling your own top 500 list.