It’s difficult enough to express yourself inside the constraints of a song. Saying it in 2 minutes or less is much more astounding. Below are the Best 25-Track Short Rock n’ Roll:
25. Bob Dylan, “Oxford Town” (1:47)
Much of the strength of Bob Dylan’s “protest” music in the early years was that it merely expressed facts and focused light on injustice in clear words. The folk magazine Broadside approached Dylan in 1962 to create a track on the Ole Miss riot of 1962, which was sparked by the enrolling of Black student James Meredith at the University of Mississippi.
24. The Rolling Stones, “I Wanna Be Your Man” (1:44)
John Lennon and Paul McCartney disliked “I Wanna Be Your Man” so much that they handed it to both their fiercest opponents and their own drummer to perform. The Ringo Starr-led Beatles version (which appeared on their second album, With the Beatles), was issued just weeks after the Rolling Stones launched the track as their second single. When opposed to the Beatles’ more restrained pop rendition, the Stones provide a frenetic rock ‘n’ roll performance, and it makes a huge difference. The song peaked at No. 12 in the United Kingdom. It finally became the B-side to the Stones’ debut US hit, “Not Fade Away.”
23. Radiohead, “I Will” (“No Man’s Land”) (1:59)
Thom Yorke inspired this gloomy lullaby on a tragic real-life image: the Amiriyah shelter explosion, which massacred over 400 civilians during the first Gulf War, demonstrating that the brutality of war transcend era. That ferocity was tied to one of his most beautiful vocal melodies, delivered by a shimmering falsetto — but the tune required time to mellow.
22. Cheap Trick, “Hello There” (1:41)
Whether or not Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen was mindful of it, he was creating a piece whose influence extended beyond its place as the opening track of the band’s second album, 1977’s In Color. They swiftly embraced it as a show-opening theme tune, providing a boisterous fairground welcome to the next circus.
21. The Clash, “Career Opportunities” (1:54)
When the Clash raged through a short but searing condemnation of the dearth of decent jobs accessible to young people in late-’70s England, they didn’t randomly select a target. Before becoming famous, Mick Jones was employed as a clerical assistant in a benefits office for the Department of Health and Social Care. As one of the most young worker, one of his duties was to open mail – and the line “I won’t open letter bombs for you” explicitly mentions the fears of the era. IRA members had been charged with manipulating postal delivery in the continuing conflict known as “The Troubles.”
20. Simon & Garfunkel, “The 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” (1:49)
In 2017, Paul Simon remarked of “The 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” “Oh, I loathe that song.” “It just feels naïve, you know?” he said the next year, performing a rare public performance of the song as self-punishment for mispronouncing the words to another song.
19. The Beatles, “I Will” (1:45)
“I Will” is a welcome breath of fresh air on the crowded White Album, with Paul McCartney declaring his eternal love in a sheared trio arrangement. John Lennon and Ringo Starr offer light beats, while McCartney provides guitars. It sounds like a late-night jam session or a thrown-together demo. Except it was most clearly neither.
18. Pink Floyd, “Pigs on the Wing” (Part One) (1:24)
Even Roger Waters saw that Animals was turning into a protracted “scream of rage.” He’d dedicated the record ranting about the day’s politics and social concerns on a trilogy of long-form tracks largely based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The shortest was a solid ten minutes. He wanted something brief and to the point.
17. The Smiths, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” (1:52)
“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” first featured on the other side of the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing,” became one of the Smiths’ greatest and most covered tunes.
16. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Ain’t No Telling” (1:46)
Jimi Hendrix is synonymous with extended, forceful, dramatic guitar solos – not precisely the type of rock music that gives itself to minimalism. While that impression may be accurate of Hendrix’s performances, he did manage to record many of short-but-sweet singles during his career. “Ain’t No Telling,” from 1967’s Axis: Bold as Love, is one of the beauties.
15. The Beatles, “I’ll Follow the Sun” (1:49)
Paul McCartney began composing this carefree folk song as a youngster in the late 1950s, only to complete it years later for the Beatles’ fourth album. However, “I’ll Follow the Sun” evolved into a distinct work, embodying the band’s developing musical ambitious goals: John Lennon adds a sophisticated low harmony to McCartney’s chorus melody; George Harrison’s quick guitar solo provides a touch of grit; and Ringo Starr produces percussive noises with his body.
14. Paul McCartney, “Junk” (1:54)
“Motorcars, handlebars, bicycles for two,” Paul McCartney cackles on this strumming daydream, illustrating cycles of old and new with junkyard goods. The author penned “Junk” during the Beatles’ 1968 visit to India and subsequently recorded a sample at George Harrison’s house before the track was rejected during the White Album recordings.
13. Elvis Presley, “Blue Suede Shoes” (1:59)
Fewer tunes in rock ‘n’ roll annals are as legendary as “Blue Suede Shoes,” which was written by Carl Perkins and first published in 1956, not by Elvis Presley. That rendition was a smash, selling over a million copies and reaching the R&B and country charts. However, Presley’s interpretation may be more significant. Presley’s rendition, issued nine months after Perkins’, was quicker and more guitar-heavy.
12. The White Stripes, “Fell in Love With a Girl” (1:50)
While “Seven Nation Army” made a huge difference the White Stripes become one of the greatest groups of the new century, it was “Fell in Love With a Girl” that originally placed them on several music lovers’ radar. The single is a bombardment of garage-rock intensity, with furious guitar riffs and Jack White’s unrelenting vocal delivery.
11. The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe” (1:41)
People who go on about their automobiles may be really irritating. Mike Love, on the other hand, reaches the point about his beloved vehicle in under two minutes, even firing off a few specifics in the way. Still, the coupe’s pep comes at a cost: “I get pushed out of shape/ And it’s hard to steer/ When I get rubber in all four gears.”
10. The Rolling Stones, “Not Fade Away” (1:48)
Seven years after it was issued as the B-side to Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ “Oh, Boy!” as a B-side, the Rolling Stones resurrected the quasi treasure and boosted their reputation in the effort. They cut almost 30 seconds from Holly’s version while maintaining the Bo Diddley-inspired rhythm and infusing strength and aggression.
9. David Bowie, “Breaking Glass” (1:51)
Low, Bowie’s seminal record, is most recognized for its blend of ambient music, craft, and technological experimentation, ushering in a new radical era for the musician after a drug-fueled phase of synthetic soul. “Breaking Glass” is among the few tracks on the album that seems like a holdover from a previous era.
8. Elvis Costello, “Welcome to the Working Week” (1:23)
Elvis Costello was still working his day career as a computer operator at Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetics company he made reference to as a “vanity factory” in another one of the album’s tunes, “I’m Not Angry,” when he recorded his newest album, 1977’s My Aim Is True. He expresses a lot of disappointment in the 83-second “Welcome to the Working Week,” simply expressing his disdain for bog standard day-job tedium but ending
7. Ray Charles, “Hit the Road Jack” (2:00)
Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” is a very simple quick tune, falling into an aggressive stride from the first second. Even Charles’ backup vocalists, the Raelettes, who appear after barely five seconds of musical entrance, appear rushed. However, Charles’ easygoing voice lends the track an unexpectedly laid-back atmosphere.
6. Elvis Presley, “All Shook Up” (1:57)
Elvis Presley was a great rock ‘n’ roll innovator and an electrifying entertainer. But he wasn’t a poet. So how did he wind up as a songwriter on the multiplatinum tune “All Shook Up”? It depends on who you ask. Otis Blackwell, Presley’s writing partner, stated that he was motivated by a time when he was tossing a Coke up and down. The name was suggested by David Hess, who recorded the first version, but Presley refused to record a cover unless his name was included.
5. Ramones, “Judy Is a Punk” (1:32)
The Ramones are a group created to provide a whirlwind of rock ‘n’ roll in a short period of time. No track on their self-titled debut is more than 2:35, and 6 of the 14 songs are under two minutes in length. The finest of these is “Judy Is a Punk,” a raucous tale of two ladies, Judy and Jackie, who perhaps join the Ice Capades or the Symbionese Liberation Army.
4. The Beatles, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (1:41)
“Why Don’t We Do It on the Road?” is a 101-second hard rocker driven by lusty monkeys that is hidden at the conclusion of The Beatles’ b side. It’s only McCartney, while Ringo Starr on drums, and two lines are looped over a basic, melancholy groove. But, nestled between Starr’s twangy “Don’t Pass Me By” and McCartney’s rustic love song “I Will,” it leaves very much an impact.
3. The Clash, “White Riot” (1:58)
The Clash’s debut song has two official renditions, both of which are less than two minutes long. Although the first single was produced in 1977, the version issued on the Clash’s self-titled record the same year was based on a 1976 demo. Both are powerful introductions to the groundbreaking punk band. Despite its controversial moniker, “White Riot” is a protest song against poverty and racial issues.
2. The Box Tops, “The Letter” (1:55)
As brief as “The Letter” is, this track took an eternity to complete. The Box Tops, formerly known as the DeVilles, reportedly recorded the song in 30 takes for producer Dan Penn at American Sound in Memphis. The plan was to replicate writer Wayne Carson’s demo. Isn’t it simple? They’d never made a record, though. The composer had never created a string chart before. Penn, too, was inexperienced.
1. The Beatles, “From Me to You” (1:56)
“From Me to You” is noteworthy for what it represents instead of what it is. The Beatles’ third single was their first to hit number one in the United Kingdom. Also, in an indirect manner, the first occasion a Beatles song peaked in the United States: Del Shannon’s rendition reached No. 77 (Lennon and McCartney’s chart début in the United States), causing the group’s original to fall below the Hot 100 for three weeks.