In conjunction with our previous lists which have looked at the Top 9 Rock Songs of Springtime and the Top 9 Rock Songs of Summer, we have moved into the Fall Season with an eclectic mix of songs drawn from a nearly 40 year time-span.
#9. “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground” by The White Stripes
We start with the 2001 descriptive rocker “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” by heavy duo, The White Stripes. The opening track from the album White Blood Cells, the song was written and produced by vocalist/guitarist Jack White and has a quasi-punk approach with just enough choppy riffs and chanting vocals to make it anthemic.
Listen to “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground”:
#8. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
The late seventies funk/disco classic “September” is an infectious pop song by Earth, Wind and Fire. While writer Maurice White admits that the hook ‘ba-dee-ya’ is pure gibberish, the song has long been used for seasonal celebrations, with an alternate version called “December” later adapted as a dance-oriented Christmas song.
Listen to “September”:
#7. “Autumn Almanac” by The Kinks
Released as a single in September 1967, “Autumn Almanac” has long been regarded as an Autumn classic by Ray Davies and The Kinks. The song has been lauded as “a finely observed slice of English custom” and it reached #3 on the UK charts. In a twist, its explicit reference to “football” (soccer) fits perfectly with the season in North America as well.
Listen to “Autumn Almanac”:
#6. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day
You know a song is special when a it is written and performed by a punk band and becomes a hit on the adult contemporary charts. The introspective 2004 track “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a song written by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong about two decades after the death of his father in September 1982. The song became a worldwide hit single, hitting top ten single in a half dozen countries.
Listen to “Wake Me Up When September Ends”:
#5. “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
“Harvest Moon” is the masterpiece song from Neil Young’s brilliant 1992 album of the same name. The song celebrates longevity in relationships and love affairs with an underlying theme of the protagonists being in the “autumn” of their lives. This song is musically and lyrically simple and elegant as it encapsulates the greater mood of the album.
Listen to “Harvest Moon”:
#4. “November Rain” by Guns n’ Roses
“November Rain” is a 1991 power ballad by Guns n’ Roses which was written over the course of several years by lead vocalist Axl Rose. In fact, Rose began working on the song while he was a member of the group L.A. Guns in 1983, but was initially not confident that the piano ballad was truly finished. The final product features rich orchestration, multiple guitar leads and, at nearly nine minutes long, holds the distinction of being the longest song ever to enter the Top 10 on the charts.
Listen to “November Rain”:
#3. “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
Although set within Tolkein’s fantasy world, the first verse of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Ramble On” leaves no doubt on what universal season this setting takes place in;
“Leaves are falling all around, time I was on my way….now it’s time for me to go the Autumn moon lights my way…”
The song was recorded during a stop in New York during the group’s whirlwind extensive touring in 1969. Musically, the song’s brilliant acoustic/electric arrangement sets the mood described in the lyric while the rhythms vary from subtle to powerful, giving the entire piece tremendous motion.
Listen to “Ramble On”:
#2. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
The changing seasons are both a literal and metaphorical element of “Maggie May”. The story told here by Rod Stewart and co-writer Martin Quittenton speaks of a summertime affair between a young man and older woman which has run its course as the seasons change;
“Wake up Maggie I think I’ve got something to say to you, it’s late September and I really should be back at school…”
Beyond these storytelling lyrics, this song has a tremendous folk arrangement highlighted by the closing mandolin lead by a session player named Ray Jackson, who the band members had just met at a local pub. Originally released as a B-side in 1971, “Maggie May” would eventually become Stewart’s first hit as a solo performer.
Listen to “Maggie May”:
#1. “Moondance” by Van Morrison
Topping our list is a jazzy/pop song which was not issued as a single until seven years after it was originally released in 1970. Like several other songs on this fantastic Van Morrison record of the same name, the title track “Moondance” sets a beautiful scene;
“A fantabulous night to make romance beneath the cover of October skies, and all the leaves on the trees are falling to the sound of the breezes that blow, and I’m trying to please to the calling of your heart-strings that play soft and low…”
Recorded in New York City with some tremendously talented session musicians, this song with a rich and sophisticated arrangement has gone on to become a true classic and is the most frequently played song by Morrison in concert.
Listen to “Moondance”:
Here are a few more tunes which barely missed making our list:
“Seasons of Wither” by Aerosmith
“Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Gutherie
“November” by Tom Waits
With this subjective list we’ve doubtlessly left out scores of artists who may have deserved consideration for this list. Please give us your comments below and tell us where you agree and disagree.
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