900 Down, 100 to go.
Gary Allan, “Watching Airplanes”
#2 | 2007
ZK: Because it’s me, I’d make an argument for “Smoke Rings in the Dark” being in the top 100, but unless we’re really going all in on the deep cuts – in which case, throw the entirety of Tough All Over into the running, too – I can’t think of another radio single I’d have about here. Too High
KJC: They could’ve gotten away with “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” or even “Smoke Rings in the Dark” this high, but not “Watching Airplanes.” C’mon, man. Too High
JK: Completely reasonable to include Allan’s last big hit on this list, but to say it’s in the top 11% of the genre’s best songs? Really? Too High
Tom T. Hall, “I Love”
#1 | 1973
KJC: The biggest omission on this list was written by Tom. T Hall, but it was not performed by him. Where the hell is “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Sirius? Still, I’ll always get a kick out of this song, perhaps because of it being controversial for including “grass” among the list of things he loves. He was talking about the lawn, prudes. Too High
JK: The kind of song I would have been happy to be discussing 500 entries back but cannot abide seeing ranked this highly. Too High
ZK: Even Tom T. Hall himself likely wouldn’t say this belongs in the upper half. #JusticeForYearThatClaytonDelaneyDied. Too High
Diamond Rio, “Meet in the Middle”
#1 | 1991
JK: Yep. This’ll do. About Right
ZK: One of the hugest hooks ever, and that’s all I really got for it. Good stuff. Too High
KJC: Chapin Hartford wasn’t particularly prolific, but she gave us “Shake the Sugar Tree” and “Meet in the Middle” and that’s good enough for me. Diamond Rio would approach but never exceed the brilliance of their debut single, and it’s ranked About Right
Roger Miller, ‘Chug-a-Lug”
#3 | 1964
ZK: OK, of all the Roger Miller selections I plan to defend, this isn’t really one of them? I mean, it’s a ton of fun, but I want to see nothing but killer material from here on out. Too High
KJC: I truly cannot comprehend why there are so many Roger Miller novelty records ranked so highly on this list. Too High
JK: A novelty, sure, but it’s just such a fun one, thanks to Miller’s affable presence on record. Too High but not egregiously so.
Garth Brooks, “The Thunder Rolls”
#1 | 1991
KJC: Thank God this was on No Fences, as he would’ve gone too far over the top if he’d recorded this on a later album. What’s amazing to me is that his version is so menacing despite excluding the violent third verse, which Tanya Tucker included in her flaccid attempt. A fantastic slow burn of a record. But I agree that it’s a bit Too High
JK: Good for what it is, but it’s impossible not to compare to the superior “Independence Day” and note the different treatment of the two records by country radio. Here, it’s over-ranked in relation to some of Brooks’ better hits. Too High
ZK: Brooks’ knack for dramatic flair hadn’t elevated material so well since maybe Reba McEntire a decade before, and while he took it too far on some of his later material, this is Brooks at his best (and surprisingly darkest). Going to say Too Low, but not by too much.
Linda Ronstadt, “Crazy”
#6 | 1976
JK: All apologies to Erik North, but there’s no way on God’s green earth that Linda Ronstadt should be represented this high on this list with this recording. Now, she has plenty of others– even some of her classic singles that weren’t massive hits at country radio– that I’d have ranked highly. But her cover of “Crazy”? I mean, it’s not as absurd as the Clint Black “Desperado” cover back at #123, but this is still laughable. So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: We’re going to see this again at No. 2. Why was this needed? So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: Crazy, indeed. But if they’d included “I Can’t Help it (If I’m Still in Love With You)” this high, I’d defend that choice until my dying day, as her cover of that Hank Williams classic is the perfect country record. So Wrong (This Song)
Kenny Chesney, “Young”
#2 | 2001
ZK: As sure as the sun rises and sets, we’re back to discuss another Kenny Chesney nostalgia track. “Discuss.” So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: This captures his “those were the days” nostalgia for partying in college as well as anything he’s ever done, but I can’t even try to pretend that this vein of Chesney hit is worth celebrating to the extent that one of the records is at #104. Too High
JK: Copy-paste: “Anything But Mine” can be this high, but not this. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”
#17 | 1967
KJC: “Ode to Billie Joe” is one of the greatest records in the history of recorded music. But it’s not surprising that it underperformed on the country charts. It’s really a great pop record that has Southern themes. So even though it’s not much of a country record, it’s still so phenomenal that I think that this ranking is About Right
JK: The biggest record by the singlemost underrated act in the genre’s history. The crossover impact cannot be overstated, nor can Gentry’s songwriting style on four subsequent generations of artists who shared her commitment to expanding the “big tent” view of country music and her belief that country songwriting, at its best, can boast a true literary depth. Now I’m mad again. Too Low
ZK: Whew … to be fair, I’m glad to see it included at all and that recent country music histories have made up for past mistakes by including Bobbie Gentry within them – a woman who wrote and produced her own material with tons of loaded subtext. In this case, both the tale of small town nonchalance and an inability to engage with grief out of fear of disrupting everyone’s own little world have always rang louder than the infamous questions everyone always seeks the answer to … because a lack of answers is kind of part of the point. A damn shame that no one ever knew how to handle or market her effectively, and that we only know her specifically for this one song – “Fancy,” too, thanks to Reba McEntire. Too Low
Juice Newton, “Angel of the Morning”
#22 | 1981
JK: Look. This is a fantastic pop power ballad. Newton’s performance is a force of nature: I’d bet that, 40 years on, she’s still holding that raw, open note in the song’s fade out. And, as much as I’m a proponent of the “big tent”– see the entry directly above– I just cannot get on board with the idea that this is a country single. It’s the pop redux of “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” which is a fine thing to be, but, here? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: Sandwich in between two entries that actually infuriate me, all I can say is … a huge pop hit and minor country one as the 102nd best song of all-time in the latter genre? C’mon now. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Like “Ode to Billie Joe,” this is also a great pop record, but this time without any identifiable Southern themes. I still love it, and apparently I sang along loudly to it when I was young, mangling the lyric into “just brush my teeth before you leave me.” But it’s a pop record that crossed over to country. If you need to have a Newton crossover here, swap it out for Olivia Newton-John’s “Please Mr. Please,” please. So Wrong (This Song)
Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail”
#1 | 1965
ZK: And if No. 103 didn’t get you mad enough, consider that this is the last time we see Buck Owens on this list. That’s right. He’s just outside of the top 100. And someone thought that was OK! Too Low
KJC: It’s baffling to me that there isn’t a Buck Owens record in the top 100, but I’m not necessarily sure I’d choose this one as his highest-ranked hit. I think I’d bump “Together Again” up and leave this one here. About Right
JK: Infuriating. Both the ranking and the omission of Owens from the top 100 altogether. Too Low
“Watching Airplanes” is one of Allen’s decent, but still forgettable, hits. I can’t believe it’s deemed good enough to be just outside of the top 100! It’s not even close to one of his best singles.
It’s hard for me to take “I Love” too seriously, because it was in my 4th grade school music book.:) I do like the song though.
“Meet in the Middle” is ranked about right and I’m delighted to see it this high.
I do love “Chug-a-lug” but I agree it’s too high for such a huge list, but not way too high.
I’m with Zack on “The Thunder Rolls.”
So weird that they included Ronstadt’s version of “Crazy” so high. Why not another Ronstadt single at least?
Oof! No Chesney song belongs so high, in my opinion, but certainly not this one.
I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t already go listen to the Ode to Billie Joe episode of the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast. Great stuff.
“Dang Me” was Roger Miller’s breakthrough hit, so much so that Smash renamed the album after the song and changed the cover completely when the song started rocketing up the charts reaching #1 Country and #7 Pop. Most of the sales were with the new cover:
The song is only ranked only slightly too high. The album was recorded with only Roger (on guitar and vocals) and three other musicians (Ray Edenton – Guitar / Buddy Harman – Drums / s
Bob Moore – Bass) The label had no expectations for the album so its success was a total surprise to everyone.
I pretty much agree with the consensus of the panel’s comments on the rest of the songs although I think “Ode to Billy Joe” only belongs a little higher – perhaps in the 75-89 range.
Love Linda Ronstadt, but if any of her covers are gonna be this high, it needs to be “Blue Bayou.” Wait, what? That song isn’t anywhere on here? Sigh.
A number of Gary Allan singles would’ve been better than WA this high. My pick would be “It Would Be You” or “Best I Ever Had.” Allan’s true greatness lay beyond the singles, though. See: “A Showman’s Life,” “No Judgment Day,” and the entirety of the Tough All Over album, among others.
If Roger Miller’s gonna be this high, it needs to be with “Little Green Apples.”
Re. “Crazy”: The fact that Linda’s on this Top 1000 list at all, let alone twice, is something of a miracle, considering that she never thought of her self as as a country artist in the strictest Nashville sense of the term. You can (and probably should) argue that other contributions she made should have been on there too, including “I Can’t Help It”–but that’s Sirius’ fault for pushing the Bromeister narrative with their list, and leaving Linda largely off. In the end, Linda’s version of “Crazy” is the only one of the many versions to match up with Patsy’s classic 1961 original (IMHO); and Patsy’s is higher still on the list.
Re. “Chug-A-Lug”: Yes, it’s a novelty record, like “Dang Me”; and it’s arguably as “corn pone” as its predecessor as well. Still, Roger managed to parlay his Southern-fried sense of humor into something that was so big in the British Invasion era that it became his second Top Ten pop hit in a row (#9, October 1964).
Re. “Ode To Billie Joe”: Definitely one of the earliest examples of what would come to be known as Americana, more folk/blues than country. And in all good honesty, much like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”, Bobbie’s biggest hit (it topped the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” from the #1 spot on the Hot 100) is about the story, and not the resolution. That’s what made it a classic of its time, and for all time.
Re. “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail”: Yes, it’s a fair shot too low for a legend like Buck, especially since his and the Buckaroos’ electric Bakersfield twang had an enormous impact on what would happen just a hundred miles down Interstate 5 in L.A. just a short few years later. It was also his biggest pop hit, peaking at a highly respectable #21.
I agree with the panel for the most part. Points of departure: Meet in the Middle is far too low. An absolutely stunning vocal performance. I would accept it being in someone’s top 10. Ode to Bobbie Joe is fine here, although I think it’s a bit high. Tiger by the Tail is much too high for essentially a novelty song.
…if there ever was a justified spoiler, it would probably be the one that “harper valley pta” ain’t on that list at all. i should have expectet it to show up somewhere among the top 25 even.
“angel of the morning” is such a beauty, it would fit high up on any list of music just nicely – although perhaps, a country countdown would not spring to mind in the first place. then again, rule no. 1 applies.
just love the garth songs whith somebody dying in it (i know how this sounds). but there is also “beaches of cheyenne” or “cowboy bill” for that matter. not awfully wrongly placed in my book, this one.
was that somewhat peculiar hobby – plane spotting – ever taken out of its considerable obscurity more beautifully than by gary allan? just wondering… – also about the slighly too favourable ranking.
here in europe, “blue bayou” was synonymous with linda ronstadt. at least for those born in the 60s and later.
@Tom – I still love Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou” (even though i was born before the 60’s) and I can’t believe that “Harper Valley PTA” is not on this 1,000 song list.
Diamond Rio is a little too low, but not egregiously so. The Linda Rhomdstat version of crazy is way too high. So is Buck and this Gary Allan song.
“Watching Airplanes” is one of Gary’s most overrated singles. There, I said it. Mind you, I still think it’s a decent song, but no way in heck is it Gary’s absolute best or deserves to be his highest ranked song (I’m assuming. I’ve already given up hope on “Smoke Rings” making an appearance). I’m totally with Zack on “Smoke Rings” deserving this spot instead, and like him, I could possibly make a case for it being in the top 100. I also wouldn’t have minded seeing “It Would Be You” occupying this spot. Gary is pretty much another artist they did wrong on this list, overall.
I’ve always had such a soft spot for Tom T. Hall’s “I Love.” It’s on one of my parents LP records which was a compilation album called Country Superstars from the 70’s, and we recorded it on to a cassette tape when I was little. I’ve always loved its simple message of just enjoying life overall, especially the little things, along with the beautiful melody. Also, it’s one of the rare list songs that just really works for me. Perhaps it’s a bit too high, though.
I’d say “Meet In The Middle” is about right, too. Still one of the coolest debut singles from a new band, ever, and still just as catchy and fresh sounding today. And I’m guessing it will also make an appearance on the 90’s Number Ones feature here shortly, so I’ll save further thoughts for that…
Buck Owens is definitely another artist they did wrong, especially with the rankings. There’s no doubt he should have at least one song in the top 100. I’ve always really liked “Tiger By The Tail,” but it wouldn’t be my top pick from him.
“Angel Of The Morning” is another Urban Cowboy country hit I really enjoy, and I personally like it more than the original, thanks to the production and Juice Newton’s powerful performance. I don’t mind it being on the list, but it definitely shouldn’t be this high for sure.
I’d say “The Thunder Rolls” is about right, since it’s such a well known signature hit from Garth, though there are others I’d personally rank higher. I agree with the panel in which I’m glad he recorded this pretty early in his career and not later when he did get a little too dramatic at times.
I remember exactly when “Young” came out, that was when I really started losing interest in Kenny and when I was quickly becoming dissatisfied with the direction he was taking his music. I still honestly don’t know what the big deal is about this particular song. Personally, I think “I Go Back” captures the nostalgic theme much better, and also has a much more memorable melody.
Another Linda Ronstadt song I definitely wouldn’t have minded seeing here is her cover of “The Tracks Of My Tears,” which I personally like even more than the original. That was also one that was still getting some very decent recurrent airplay for us throughout 1991 on one of our stations.