Top 10 Songs That Changed The World

Hearing this playlist is like taking a class in rock music genetics. See what UG readers voted as the most influential songs ever.

Ultimate Guitar

On Wednesday we asked you to nominate and vote for the top 10 songs that changed the world.

Music has a fascinating genetic history. With a keen ear and a little research, you can often trace a song's history back through genres to particular point in time. Sometimes, you can trace entire scenes of music back to the same artists and songs.

You did a great job of voting for the most influential songs ever, because the artists in this playlist are an authentic set of musical forefathers. But it makes you wonder: who could all these artists artists trace back to?

10. Deep Purple "Smoke On The Water" (1973)

A great song by a great band, but its real influence is that so many beginner guitarists start out with its unmistakable opening riff. On the original it's actually doubled up by the late Jon Lord on a keyboard running through a guitar amp. Guitarist Richie Blackmore says most beginners play it wrong; he says it should be played with "all forths," but to newbies it's still liberating to pull it off as regular power chords.

See the "Smoke On The Water" guitar tab.

9. Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1976)

While their British punk cousins were raging against the establishment, The Ramones were onto something far more fun and accessible. This song became and the anthemic "Hay! Ho! Let's Go!" became something of a trademark. Whether you like pop punk or not, the genre has become a rite of passage for teens in the western world, and can be traced back to this very song. Modern acts still pay tribute to it, with covers from the likes of The Misfits, Green Day, New Found Glory and Pennywise.

See the "Blitzkrieg Bop" guitar tab.

8. The Who "My Generation" (1965)

"'My Generation' was very much about trying to find a place in society," said guitarist Pete Townshend. The rest of his generation agreed with its hedonistic attitude. The stuttering lyrics were particularly original and showed how you could experiment with the style of a performance, though the band insist it was just an accident they decided to keep.

See the "My Generation" guitar tab.

7. John Lennon "Imagine" (1971)

Some see it as an atheist anthem, others as an anti-capitalist mantra. Whichever way you read into it, the core message to simply fantasise about how a world that coexists in peace inspires millions of people to this day.

See the "Imagine" guitar tab.

6. Black Sabbath "Black Sabbath" (1970)

At its launch, rock music was already well established and relatively heavy compared to pop at the time. That is, until this song showed the world how dark music could be. The resulting metal genre has since fragmented into thousands of offshoots, but you can trace all of them back to this satanic hit.

See the "Black Sabbath" guitar tab.

5. Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)

The sepia-toned video for this single exploded like a bomb in the early 90s. Its sudden success forced the major labels to rethink everything they knew about popular music, and turned their attention to underground bands in a bid to find "the next Nirvana". Nowadays, sadly, the so-called "indie" genres don't sound very independent at all.

See the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" guitar tab.

4. Pink Floyd "Another Brick In The Wall" (1979)

Unlike other entries, this song didn't spark off its own revolution. What it did, however, was show how far a creative band could push the limits of their instruments and recording equipment. Every band had the same tools at hand, but few could imagine its potential before this concept song (or album, depending which way you look at it). Perhaps this is the message to the world: up your game, or you're just another brick in the wall.

See the "Another Brick In The Wall" guitar tab.

3. Led Zeppelin "Stairway To Heaven" (1971)

It's most requested song on radio of all time, with over 3 million radio plays logged by the year 2000. It's also the biggest selling piece of sheet music ever, with around 15,000 copies sold every year. Perhaps it's no wonder that so many people are sick of it, including frontman Robert Plant. But we all remember the first time we heard it, and you can ignore the haters because its poetic beauty can never be tarnished.

See the "Stairway To Heaven" guitar tab.

2. Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975)

When Queen wanted to release this 5:55 long track as a single, everyone said it would fail - until it became one of the top selling tracks of all time. Its legacy was cemented in popular culture by the movie "Wayne's World", and a second edition of the official video was released intercutting scenes from the film. Actor Mike Myers was horrified, but the band were said to be grateful for the resurgence in its popularity.

See the "Bohemian Rhapsody" guitar tab.

1. Chuck Berry "Johnny B Goode"

This post has given credit to some truly great artists, but none of them could exist without the founding father of rock n' roll. This song is so highly regarded that it was included in the Voyager spacecraft to represent rock n' roll as a highlight of human culture. Rolling Stone rightly named it the greatest guitar song of all time, and so did you.

See the "Johnny B Goode" guitar tab.

That's the end of the UG reader's top 10 songs that changed the world. But how would you personally stack it up? Let us know in the comments.

261 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Breaking news: some people can't tell the difference between popular and something that changed the world! More at 11. #1 is more than deserved though.
    agreed Where the **** are Robert Johnson, countless classical pieces, Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, Kraftwerk, Grandmaster Flash, Rock around the Clock by Bill Haley AND THE FUCKING BEATLES etc. Oh wait I forgot this was UG, where if it isn't rock/metal/punk then it hasn't contributed anything to music history.
    Well, what can we expect from UGers, Dethklok was actually being upvoted on the wednesday article...
    It is funny, I would of thought that a website made up of primarily musicians would appreciate all kinds of music instead of just rock and metal, since y'know we have a better understanding of music concepts usually than non-musicians. Shame that isn't the case. I feel as though this question was made to frustrate me though as I wrote a 100 page essay on the history of music as part of my university application.
    We're not just musicians, we're guitarists, and because rock, punk, and metal focus on the guitar more than other genres, it's no surprise that we favor them.
    That's what I thought when I started coming to the news articles on a daily basis, too... Insane mistake...
    Surprised no Robert Johnson ,AC/DC,or any classical/folk song made list.Surely music is more than classic rock
    John Lennon is on the list though to be fair. I actually think songs 7 and higher all had a legitimate reason to be on there, besides Pink Floyd (just because I don't think ABITW Part II had the same impact as some of the others), but 8-10 aren't terrible choices. I do agree that Robert Johnson would be good
    Man I was screaming the same thing!! How can you not have guys that like on this list. Do people on this site even know about Django in Nazi-invaded France? Do people not know of Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson? What about Muddy Waters? What about the people who came right from Africa singing "Wade in the Water"? Rock/Metal acts have not change the world in the least. How about Dylan, or Guthrie? God the ignorance of so-called music-lovers on this site pisses me off
    Yeah, I was led to believe that this article was a dissertation on the development of popular music.
    Chuck Berry is hot as hell! Would certainly interracial bang him. Would not bang Roger Waters, although Pink Floyd is also good!!
    My Last Words
    Someone please enlighten me why this is upvoted and my comment is downvoted while we say essentially the same thing.
    Don't blame me, I upvoted you! I think that it is because your comment is closer to the top and you responded to a comment that agreed with the article. Really does show you the musical appreciation of some UG users though.
    Knowing UG readers and voters I'm rather surprised not to see any Metallica in the list... Good thing that there are people that actually read the question and answer to it so we can see the metal fanboys fighting here for Pink Floyd and Chuck Berry being in the list.
    YES!!!!! You're absolutely correct man. No jazz, no classical, no delta blues, just sad. It's an ok list, but I wish UG would listen to some of these other genres too.
    It's about those who changed the world , not just the lives of music hipsters/snobs.
    I love Johnny B. Goode, and I agree that it does deserve the top spot in this list, but calling it "the greatest guitar song of all time" is way too much imo.
    No one is calling it the greatest song of all time. We're calling it the song that changed the world the most
    He isn't calling it the greatest song of all time as well, but the greatest guitar song. Which the article literally says
    Rolling Stone regarded it the greatest guitar song of all time, not UG. But this is due probably more to it's social importance (both in music and society) than to it's complexity.
    I don't understand why you were downvoted, schirripar and apparently other people misread the article and the comment.
    I think the article's meant as, 'songs that changed the world, that have guitar in them.'
    well the article is on Ultimate Guitar, so I think you're supposed to assume that the list is going to be guitar driven songs...
    "Rolling Stone rightly named it the greatest guitar song of all time, and so did you." By using the word "rightly", UG is in fact agreeing with Rolling Stone...
    At least Rolling Stone got it right. If it was any radio station, they would've picked stairway to heaven as they always do...for any top 10 list.
    Yeah this is a pretty bad list, even by UG List standards. "Johnny B. Goode" and "Black Sabbath" are the only real world changers on it.
    Those things can be pretty close though. Things change the world by affecting a whole lot of people, which means they are popular. Yes, UG is full of hipsters, but the truth is the songs that really change things do tend to be popular ones.
    well eruption changed music so i guess that isn't the world..?
    I just recalled a quote that says, "Elvis got not soul, Chuck Berry is real Rock n' Roll". Johhny B. Goode has truly revolutionized music as it is.
    It's so good UG actually for about the year stamp on the title in their hurry to get listening to it. PS.If they've put it on by now then please don't dislike.
    There are a few songs on there that I would call epochal in that they signified a new of thinking about rock music.
    The description for Another Brick In The Wall (Part II) is absolutely dreadful. The real reason why the song was so important at the time it was released as a single was Margaret Thatcher being England's Prime Minister and what came with her. When it came out, people associated (wrongly, but still relevant) the song as a protest against Thatcher's government policies. Also, despite #1 being spot on, I wouldn't call most of the other songs "world-changing". Like most lists, this was pretty much a popularity contest.
    Bohemian was the first video clip, which in this world is probably more important than whatever did chuck berry, since videos became the norm for every modern music gender
    I'm not sure if that's true. What I know is that music through video formats already existed even before The Beatles, which were pionneers on this (Help! and Yellow Submarine are great examples). From the 40's throught the 50's, musicals were some of the most profitable films in the movie industry.
    That is a good point. Reminds me how ridiculous it is that the Beatles are nowhere to be found on this list.
    Songs don't change the world, people and events do. Shite idea for a poll - all you were ever going to get is a list of the most popular rock songs. The Beatles changed the world. Black Sabbath changed the world. Metallica changed the world. Not just because of a single song, but an ethos, a new idea, whatever... you can't condense it into a single song.
    My generation should be higher. Nice list though.
    no it shouldn't teen spirit should. this list is songs that changed the world, not songs that changed music. With Smells like teen spirit a whole new generation brought on a whole new kind of sound. Chuck berry as well. But i wouldn't include the Who or even pink floyd on this list. or most of whats on here. Bands that changed the world? Nirvana, Berry, Hendrix, Beatles, although i like the ramones i think sex pistols made a bigger splash in terms of changing the world. i mean what the **** UG. WHAT THE FUCK. FUCKING CLASSIC ROCK WORSHIP NEEDS TO STOP *deep breathe* okay seacrest out. Also FUCK SMOKE ON THE WATER SERIOUSLY.
    you do realize that without classic rock, you wouldn't have modern rock at all?
    nd you do realize that sex pistols wouldn't be around if it wasn't for the ramones? and you do realize that pink floyd with all respect to ( King Crimson, Yes, Supertramp, Jethro Tull...) are considered the fathers of psychedlic/progressive rock. Fuck smoke on the water? dude... i'm just not gonna comment on this one... *facepalm*
    OK UG! We get it! Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, The Beetles, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath...for everything...
    Oooh, a list! I hate lists! One item is ranked too high! Another is ranked too low! One item should be on the list instead of one of the items already on the list! Damn it all!
    I know it was so low on the Wednesday poll, but Crossroads by Robert Johnson is more than deserving. The list is great though, you can't really argue against any of them.
    Maybe Video Killed the Radio Star? Not necessarily the song itself, but the video that came with it. Representing the entire MTV revolution as a whole?
    I don't know how the Beatles are missing from this list...
    because popular and influential are two different things, BUT i do have to agree i figured at least one of their songs would end up on this list
    Are you trying to say that the Beatles aren't influential?
    not completely, i always thought they were over hyped.
    I think they've way overhyped too, but I'd be lying to myself if I didn't say their releases changed a lot about music, recorded music, and the music industry.
    The Beatles are just as influential as they are popular, if not more so.
    If you are gonna talk about Prog rock there are way more deserving bands than Rush. King Crimson Can Frank Zappa Pink Floyd (PATGOD era) The entire Canterbury Scene ELO To name a few.
    Captain Beefheart John Coltrane Little Walter Velvet Underground The Pop Group Green River Muddy Waters Kraftwerk Alan parsons Project To name a few more.
    The about these kinds of lists is...they always suck, this suck ass list being no different.
    And as per usual 'The World' = white suburban America/UK. Notice how they are all in English? A lot of really really good music has been made outside the realm of classic rock, you guys know that right? Maybe four of those songs had any lasting implications outside their already small musical niches. Look outside your own little world for once
    As much as I do agree with you (as the lists always tend to be biased here), this will happen with any website. If this were a classical forum you'd see a lot more of your list. If it were more based on hip hop you'd see a lot Me Against the World/The Chronic/Straight Outta Compton, etc. Electronic music maybe leaning against all sorts of artist from analog and digital age pioneers. I'm sure there's a lot of people that listen to wide varieties of music, but for the most part people on this site are more knowledgeable on the classic rock or metal side of things and that's where most opinions will converge. I know myself as much as I try to listen to all styles there's still a few that lean heavier in my library.
    alright mr "i know all about worldy influential music" i'll bite, list for me 5 songs from bands that arent american or british that "changed the world" and then i'll agree with your comment
    How about works from... Beethoven Mozart Bach Kraftwerk (The most important band to electronic music) Vivaldi
    One of these things is not like the others... one of these things just doesn't belong.
    I believe you are referring to Vivaldi, since he is the only one who wasn't born in a German-speaking country, right?
    im actually really glad you posted classical musicians in that. you reminded me of how biased this site is towards music
    "alright mr "i know all about worldy influential music" i'll bite, list for me 5 songs from bands that arent american or british that "changed the world" and then i'll agree with your comment" Tchaikovsky's Nutcraker Beethoven's 9th Girl From Ipanema - Jobim Wagner's Ring Cycle Stravinsky's Rite of Spring I'll keep going buddy
    I've heard of one of these... not being a retard or being ignorant but the list was compiled from comments from a previous article so what most people vote for is what technically changed the world as the majority of people sight those songs as influential. On another note... hardly anyone plays or listens to classical music anymore, just a thought.
    What about Scandinavia? Dark Tranquility, At the Gates, and In Flames were very influential. Also Varg Vikernes and Mayhem from Norway
    How can you have a "top 10 songs that changed the world" and not include a single Beatles song? I think Chuck Berry at #1 is a great call but I'd put the 1st song The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan "All My Loving" at #2.
    I agree dude. I'm not the biggest Beatles fan alive, but not including them on this list is crazy.
    Well, these are definitely the Top Songs That Changed The MUSICAL World, which I don't think it exactly what UG intended here.... Good list though.
    well, this IS a guitar site after all... so yes, I think it is what they intended
    very happy to see two of the songs that practically started 2 genres of music on this list, "black sabbath" and "johnny b goode". i didnt get a chance to vote on this list so all and all, good job UG, good job.
    The lack of Beatles is troubling... Their musical developments were just as much significant events in culture as they were in music
    very hard to pick just one of this mans songs and maybe none of them "changed" the world but they sure changed mine! when i was a little kid my parents listened to Jim Croce a lot and and i was instantly drawn to music. he is the absolute reason i am a musician today. thanks jim. funny thing is i play rock and metal but i love sitting down and playing these songs when im just kicking it home. hope this turns someone who hasn't heard of him onto his music. most of his songs are so easy to relate to.
    i am a metal head but i think jim is extremely under rated. i might have chosen time in a bottle ahead of this one, but only barely.
    I usually highly disagree with the lists on this site, but this one's not bad. Still, "Black Sabbath" is neither "satanic" not a hit!
    Any song on this list should be something that the masses hadnt really heard before, and after it was done it forever changed music from that point on. Music may not be the same without it. The wall was an amazing album but I dont think it totally changed the way we looked at music. So i'd replace abitw with purple haze. That song changed the way alot of people looked at guitar. How many guitarists picked up a guitar after they 1st heard that? Does anything before purple haze sound anything like that? Even established guitarists like Clapton were blown away. I love sabbath as well, but bluesy heavy rock was already established. Replace that with "You really got me" which introduced distortion to a wide audience. Id replace Imagine with one of the more experimental beatles studio tracks like strawberry fields, Lucy in the Sky, rev #9...the biggest pop band in the world suddenly starts making music that cant be recreated live (at the time) thats extremely avant-garde? I think things like that changed the way we looked at things more than the pretty melody of imagine. There was lots of pretty songs with social messages before 1971. Last, Eruption. Yes people did tapping before evh, but the combination of a technique the average person hadnt heard and a guitar sound that people still chase and helped kick off the "i can play faster thing" that people have now taken to insane levels.
    Is this limited to rock music? Because I'd argue that Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" changed the world a good bit.
    no but it ends up that way. i myself am guilty of forgetting about early classical music and how it changed the world. this site's users are biased towards rock and metal. any of these UG lists is almost always the same in terms of what bands get featured on them
    if you want a list including all the genres of music, make your own poll and stop complaining about this one and insulting the sites users.
    My Last Words
    I never said I wanted that, I was merely dissapointed in the fact that people tend to forget the great music from those genres. Broaden up your horizons folks!
    As much as I love Pink Floyd (one of my top 3 fav bands of all time), Another Brick in the Wall did NOT change the world. It's a great song. It's probably their most popular song. It's not revolutionary. I would have picked Money instead.
    Honestly for me it would be Interstellar Overdive off of Piper at The Gates of Dawn, or Saucerful of Secrets. The former being mind blowing at the time and the latter due to the Ambient/Experimental influence. ALSO Careful With That Axe Eugene, I think that song is the earliest piece I can think of where Unclean Vocals/Screaming is used as the focal point...
    I agree though with Money (although I always skip it on DSOTM) because it was what really brought Floyd to the forefront. Take care my good sir
    You sir, actually have a clue about what you are talking about. First time I have ever agreed with a comment that was longer than one sentence. Also nice for mentioning songs other than their more popular, well known hits. *golfclap.jpg*
    I like Money as a song a lot more than Another Brick in the Wall, but I'd say Another Brick in the Wall was more "world-changing."
    How so? It was, after all, largely Money that really pushed Floyd into the top of the charts, and we all know what happened after that. By the time of "Brick" there was already similar music being made. The only thing particularly notable about it is the lyrics.
    Yeah you've got a point. I guess I'm saying that Brick was moreso because it was arguably the theme song to The Wall. Also, a lot of people who probably aren't as big of a Floyd fan as you might see it as their "signature song." But don't get me wrong, I do like Money as well as a bunch of other Floyd songs better than Another Brick in the Wall.
    The ****... I do like rock n roll. But it seems that UG forgot that there are other types of music out there. shitty list.
    To the Smoke on the Water powerchord/fourths comment, fourths and powerchords are exactly the same, harmonically.
    okay yeah i think most people on this site know that, obviously he just meant that he's playing the fourth within the power chord instead of playing root, 5th, root. and i'm pretty sure ritchie blackmore knows that too, considering he's ritchie blackmore...
    Rebecca Black's "Friday" Should be in this list. I'll remember that song till the day i die. What a nightmare.
    If one more person says **** Smoke On The Water, I swear to Lucifer I will punch a hole in the wall.