1. Stagolee – Jesse Fuller, 1958
This says something about the way I feel. There is a mixture of music in him: ragtime, blues, folk and country. And he’s a one-man band.
2. When Did You Leave Heaven – Big Bill Broonzy, 1951
He was the best-known American blues player in England in the Fifties. There’s footage of him singing that song, in a barroom in Belgium or something. Check it out.
3. It Hurts Me too – Elmore James, 1957
Brian Jones introduced me to Elmore. His voice is so compelling, and that seemingly effortless slide playing was unusual. What struck me was how Elmore James looked a bit like a school teacher, very respectable.
4. Blues Hangover – Slim Harpo, 1960
The sheer swampiness of this – it had the be here, especially because he puts the whole band through a hangover at the same time.
5. Key to the Highway – Little Walter, 1958
It’s the sheer sound, the way the band is right behind Walter. It’s the best version of the song ever.
6. Piece of My Heart – Erma Franklin, 1967
Janis Joplin did a good job covering this. But Erma’s got the stuff. She was Aretha’s sister. Erma is rougher. Aretha’s voice was more pure.
7. In a Dis Ya Time – The Itals, 1998
The Itals are in reggae’s harmony tradition. It is the pinnacle of how reggae can sound.
8. Innocent People Cry – Gregory Isaacs, 1974
Isaacs has written some incredible songs. It took me months to find this in Jamaica. I was asking around for “Chookie No Lookie” [the chorus]. Everybody’s giving me a blank stare. Thein it was, “Oh, you mean ‘Innocent People Cry’. How did he come up with that title?
9. Memphis, Tennessee – Chuck Berry, 1958
I think he’s playing everything except the drums and a little piano. There is something about the way the guitars mesh together. I have to doff the old hat. The greatest.
10. 32-20 – Robert Johnson, 1936
Hey, it’s about guns.
“When you’re asked to do these sorts of lists, you don’t want to come up with the obvious stuff. We know the classics. We’ve seen thousands of those lists. I was trying to think of stuff that’s slipped between the cracks. This list is a mixture, some of the essences that appeal to me. I look at this and think, ‘That’s a pretty good list. I can live with it.'”
The Playlist Issue
Rolling Stone, December 9, 2010