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.

Top 10 Songs That Changed The World
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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. The 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

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    iommi600
    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.
    xplosive59
    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.
    iommi600
    Well, what can we expect from UGers, Dethklok was actually being upvoted on the wednesday article...
    xplosive59
    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.
    iommi600
    That's what I thought when I started coming to the news articles on a daily basis, too... Insane mistake...
    snoble029
    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.
    My Last Words
    Someone please enlighten me why this is upvoted and my comment is downvoted while we say essentially the same thing.
    xplosive59
    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.
    limpidgreen345
    Yeah, I was led to believe that this article was a dissertation on the development of popular music.
    Metaliccca
    Chuck Berry is hot as hell! Would certainly interracial bang him. Would not bang Roger Waters, although Pink Floyd is also good!!
    cmo626
    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
    Gibson_SG_uzr55
    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
    jameshudson92
    Surprised no Robert Johnson ,AC/DC,or any classical/folk song made list.Surely music is more than classic rock
    burghUK
    It's about those who changed the world , not just the lives of music hipsters/snobs.
    lawrenced92618
    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.
    AARWave
    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.
    Voodoochile711
    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.
    schirripar
    No one is calling it the greatest song of all time. We're calling it the song that changed the world the most
    Buurman
    He isn't calling it the greatest song of all time as well, but the greatest guitar song. Which the article literally says
    rocklee1431
    I don't understand why you were downvoted, schirripar and apparently other people misread the article and the comment.
    filipe26
    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.
    arnolddrummer
    I think the article's meant as, 'songs that changed the world, that have guitar in them.'
    IrishConnor1994
    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...
    Voodoochile711
    "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...
    Somerandomguy95
    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.
    Abacus11
    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.
    snoble029
    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.
    6-String_Madman
    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.
    jd277
    well eruption changed music so i guess that isn't the world..?
    rebreh
    There are a few songs on there that I would call epochal in that they signified a new of thinking about rock music.
    Elegitii
    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.
    Lightning_Ray
    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.
    Mouloudo
    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
    Lightning_Ray
    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.
    third(-)eye
    That is a good point. Reminds me how ridiculous it is that the Beatles are nowhere to be found on this list.