top of page

Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs Post 1960

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs of All time

Pictured - Black Sabbath, Billboard Magazine 1970

We at Melophobe have made the bold statement that rock music is perhaps the greatest artistic gift given to the world in the 20th century, and continue to stand by it wholeheartedly. Through a mixture of R&B, electric blues, doo-wop, and jazz, rock and roll emerged in the early 1950s. Throughout the '50s, artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and more crafted the sound into a well-established, progressive style of creative music by the year 1960. For the purposes of our list of the top 200 rock songs of all time, our criteria for eligible songs will begin on January 1, 1960. Although there were iconic rock tracks of the '50s like Johnny B. Goode, Rock Around the Clock, Bye Bye Love, and many more, the sonic differences before and after 1960 are simply apples and oranges, although those songs from the '50s are heavily influential and noteworthy in their own regard. Any offshoot subgenre of rock such as punk rock, hard rock, metal, alternative rock, country rock, southern rock, folk rock, psychedelic rock, surf rock, or grunge are eligible for this list, again as long as the song was released after 1960. Genres distinctively separate from rock such as blues, soul, country, or pop have been excluded to keep the list centered around rock. This means that popstars such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston have been excluded alongside the heavy hitters of soul like Wilson Pickett and Marvin Gaye. Songs with substantial rock undertones have been included, even if they are also attached to a separate genre, as long as they are considered rock above anything else. We are by no means the first to dive into a task like this, but it sure was quite a treat to assort our picks for the Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs of all Time. For a broader look at rock music, be sure to check our rankings of The Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums and The Top 100 Greatest Rock Artists/Bands.

1. Hey Jude - Beatles

The task of selecting the greatest rock song of all time was no easy feat, but from a sea of fantastic songs, the one that stood above the rest was The Beatles' 1968 non-album single, Hey Jude. Hey Jude is one of the few rock songs nearly instantly recognizable to listeners all across the globe. Alongside being instantly recognizable, Hey Jude is also one of the most, if not the most, singalong-friendly rock songs of all time. Hey Jude has stood the test of time, remaining one of the most beautiful recordings of all time, deeply introspective and emotional while bearing an ability to cause listeners to reflect not only on their pasts but their futures as well. Paul McCartney's pristine, eight-track recorded words are a true musical serenade, beginning as somber poetry before building up into a symphonic, dopamine-releasing outro. The Beatles were a massive gift to the musical world, and Hey Jude stands as a monument to the incredible legacy of one of the finest four-piece rock outfits of all time.

2. Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin

Going toe-to-toe with Hey Jude was Led Zeppelin's 1971 rock epic, Stairway to Heaven. Released off Led Zeppelin's untitled LP (known to listeners as Led Zeppelin IV), the track is perfectly placed in the middle of the album, between the Celtic-inspired progressive rock track The Battle of Evermore and the hard rock, yet subtly rockabilly track Misty Mountain Hop. Beginning with a beautiful, traditional English-folk sound, the song undergoes a transformation once the drums kick in around the four-minute mark, marking the start of a crescendo that leaves listeners in awe. Stairway to Heaven features one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, guitar solos of all time, backed by the simplistic, yet heavy and perfect drumming of John Bonham. Stairway to Heaven is the quintessential multi-segmented rock song, resulting in a sonically pleasing, complex, eight-minute-long rock masterpiece.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody has since become another rock anthem for generations, featuring the unparalleled vocal prowess of frontman Freddie Mercury. The song was a symphonic take on the popular mid-‘70s progressive rock style, venturing in a direction few progressive rockers of the time dared to explore. Written by Freddie Mercury, the song is divided into six distinct segments: an intro, a ballad, a guitar solo, an operatic section, a hard rock break, and a somber outro. With its structure more akin to a classical music suite than a traditional rock song, Queen took a significant risk. With great risk comes great reward and in this case, the outcome was one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Bohemian Rhapsody, which also performed well on the charts, revolutionized radio music, a boundary Queen continued to push throughout the '70s and into the '80s.

4. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's 1965 cynical masterpiece, Like a Rolling Stone, has been immortalized as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It is noted primarily for its resentful lyrical content, depicting a loss of innocence alongside the harshness of existence, as described by Bob Dylan's biographer Robert Shelton. Apart from its iconic lyrics, the song is a brilliant fusion of guitar and organ, making it instantly recognizable and incredibly catchy. The legacy of Bob Dylan is a long and winding road, but Like a Rolling Stone stands as his most esteemed sonic accomplishment. The song has been acknowledged as deeply influential to Bruce Springsteen and is said to have puzzled John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles upon its release. According to McCartney, "It seemed to go on and on forever. It was just beautiful... He showed all of us that it was possible to go a little further."

5. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

No song has connected with a generation of young people to a larger extent than Nirvana's 1991 single Smells Like Teen Spirit. By the late '80s, the seeds of grunge had been sown and were starting to sprout, with groups like Sonic Youth, Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr. exploring the new excitement surrounding sludgy yet melodic guitar playing. When Nirvana released their second album Nevermind in 1991, the gloves were off, and grunge began to dominate underground and alternative music circles. Since its release, Smells Like Teen Spirit has influenced countless up-and-coming bands, both in its lyrical and musical matter. Kurt Cobain's guitar crafted one of the most classic guitar riffs of all time, and the anthem for a youthful, outcast generation was unleashed upon the world.

6. Sympathy For the Devil - Rolling Stones

Topping a massive collection of great rock songs written by the Jagger-Richards duo throughout the '60s and '70s was Sympathy For the Devil. Released on The Rolling Stones' 1968 album Beggars Banquet, Sympathy For the Devil was the opening track of the album, immediately setting the band's sonic sights in a new direction, vastly different from most of their '60s releases. The course for the band was now clearly set towards roots rock and blues rock, which the band executed perfectly on its following records. Regarding the track specifically, the band crafted a brilliant rock track with dramatic African and samba influences, complemented by Mick Jagger's expert vocal delivery. The Stones unlocked a darker side of rock, touching on black magic and Lucifer in Sympathy for the Devil. For a 1968 release, this was incredibly impactful for the direction rock music was heading.

7. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

By the mid-'70s, Pink Floyd had confidently established themselves as the top dogs in the world of progressive rock, especially after their 1973 release The Dark Side of the Moon, which we scored as the greatest rock album of all time. Pink Floyd faced quite a task in following up The Dark Side of the Moon, but fortunately, they again hit it out of the park. The five-song LP, Wish You Were Here, was composed of what are arguably five of the greatest rock songs of all time, with the album's title track standing above the rest. This deeply emotional song equally showcases the guitar prowess of David Gilmour. Although it has never been explicitly stated that the song was a tribute to former bandmate Syd Barrett (as was Shine On You Crazy Diamond), Gilmour claims he never plays it live without remembering Barrett.

8. Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears For Fears

Although the impact of Tears for Fears may be considered a tier below the other artists in our top 10, Everybody Wants to Rule the World stands as an aurally brilliant piece of music. It was recorded to complete perfection, with every sound precisely in place. Everybody Wants to Rule the World represents the pinnacle of what recorded music could achieve in 1985, receiving near-universal acclaim upon its release and in retrospective analysis. Tears for Fears built upon the increasingly progressive and complex landscape of new wave music and synth-pop, achieving a level that has yet to be surpassed. Everybody Wants to Rule the World can be remembered in history as a genuinely perfect song and is about as recognizable as one could imagine.

9. War Pigs - Black Sabbath

Released off Black Sabbath's second studio album Paranoid, War Pigs is as much an in-your-face aggressive protest song as it is one of the earliest heavy metal tracks. Its significance lies not only in its hard-hitting, heavy guitar riffs, masterfully executed by Tony Iommi, but also in its profound lyrics, poignantly delivered by Ozzy Osbourne. The track's ability to blend the dark, foreboding essence of Black Sabbath's signature sound with a strong anti-war message has resonated with generations of fans. The legacy of War Pigs is evident in its widespread influence on numerous bands and its revered status among both critics and fans, solidifying Black Sabbath's role as pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock.

10. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant - Billy Joel

The New York charm of Billy Joel has been prominent for over 50 years, mixing old school jazz and blues with rock. The musical legacy of Billy Joel is second to very few, and within that vast legacy, the song that stands above the others is Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, released from his 1977 masterpiece The Stranger. At about seven and a half minutes long, not only is it Billy Joel's longest song, but it's also his most progressive and complex. This intricate track consists of multiple sections, featuring plenty of horns and showcasing Billy Joel's piano prowess. If there were ever a rock song that embodied a jazz-influenced rock spirit better than any other, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant would be that song.

11. London Calling - The Clash

12. Superstition - Stevie Wonder

13. Heart of Gold - Neil Young

14. Have You Ever Seen the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival

15. The Weight - The Band

16. Jungleland - Bruce Springsteen

17. Let it Be - Beatles

18. Satisfaction - Rolling Stones

19. Hotel California - Eagles

20. All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan (Made famous by Jimi Hendrix)

21. Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix

22. Midnight Rider - The Allman Brothers Band

23. Walk This Way - Aerosmith & Run DMC

24. American Pie - Don McLean

25. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin

26. How Soon is Now? - The Smiths

27. Riders on the Storm - The Doors

28. Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel

29. Bennie and the Jets - Elton John

30. Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

31. Good Vibrations - Beach Boys

32. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd

33. Another Brick in The Wall, Pt. 2 - Pink Floyd

34. Purple Rain - Prince

35. Take Me Home, Country Roads - John Denver

36. Come Together - Beatles

37. Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin

38. Light My Fire - The Doors

39. Losing My Religion - R.E.M

40. Where is My Mind? - Pixies

41. Wouldn't It Be Nice - Beach Boys

42. Mr Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan

43. Wonderwall - Oasis

44. Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones

45. November Rain - Guns N' Roses

46. Lover You Should've Come Over - Jeff Buckley

47. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

48. A Day in the Life - Beatles

49. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) - Bruce Springsteen

50. Africa - Toto

51. This Charming Man - The Smiths

52. Imagine - John Lennon

53. Every Breath You Take - The Police

54. Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who

55. Don't You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds

56. Tiny Dancer - Elton John

57. Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills and Nash

58. Blowin' In the Wind - Bob Dylan

59. Blitzkrieg Bop - Ramones

60. Rock and Roll - Velvet Underground

61. Back in Black - AC/DC

62. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac

63. Everlong - Foo Fighters

64. Once in a Lifetime - Talking Heads

65. With Or Without You - U2

66. Under Pressure - David Bowie & Queen

67. Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton

68. Last Nite - The Strokes

69. Layla - Derek & The Dominos

70. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits

71. When Doves Cry - Prince

72. Super Freak - Rick James

73. Even Flow - Pearl Jam

74. Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine

75. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot

76. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman

77. I Am the Resurrection - The Stone Roses

78. Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix

79. Friday I'm in Love - The Cure

80. Paranoid Android - Radiohead

81. Anarchy in the UK - The Sex Pistols

82. California Dreamin' - The Mamas and the Papas

83. Tangled Up in Blue - Bob Dylan

84. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division

85. Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd

86. Pride and Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughn

87. Heroes - David Bowie

88. Ramblin' Man - The Allman Brothers Band

89. Roxanne - The Police

90. Jump - Van Halen

91. Bigmouth Strikes Again - The Smiths

92. Money - Pink Floyd

93. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

94. Piano Man - Billy Joel

95. Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel

96. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival

97. Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac

98. Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin

99. Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding - Elton John

100. Bad Reputation - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts


2000's alternative & indie rock playlist cover 2.JPEG
bottom of page