With some genres of music, a DJ is able to almost put a blindfold on and pick a song that most people in a crowd will like. Current top 40 hip-hop is one of these styles, as is mid-century jazz standards – these genres may sound a lot different and may often be used for different moods, but since so many songs from each of these styles are well-known, sociable, and often made for dancing, there’s a lot of great options to choose from. But with other genres, a DJ doesn’t have this luxury, and needs to comb through a lot of music before they are able to find a song that feel right for the moment.
Unless you’re having a theme party involving it, classic rock tends to be one of these genres. Some people might say it doesn’t have any place at an event, since the harder kind of classic rock is too full of ear-piercing electric guitar noodling, or since the progressive rock within the style is too full of clunky and awkward fantastical themes. While we have found through years of experience being DJs in New York City that classic rock does indeed have a place at events, we have seen that you do need to be quite careful about what songs you pick – Zeppelin may rule, but “Dazed and Confused” might daze and confuse most guests at most events, and not many women have ever danced to Rush. However, if you’re looking for a sexy, unpretentious vibe that will energize a wide range of ages at an event, some deftly-chosen classic rock songs can absolutely hit the spot.
At many events there are classic rock staples that are played, like Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” or AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” We’ve put together a playlist on iTunes of 25 songs that span the genre, though it digs a little deeper and wider, and includes songs you know but don't hear everywhere – many of which we’ve found enliven crowds at all kinds of events, and at all kinds of moments during events.
Classic rock as a style is rather loosely defined, so we’ve gone with what most radio stations and fans have come to define it as – roughly rock a bit “heavier” in sound (and sometimes theme) than pop, and released during the 20-year span from after the Beatles’ early years in the mid ‘60s, to the rise of glam metal in the beginning of the ‘80s. That may sound a bit restrictive, but if you listen to the list you’ll find a surprising range of sounds – from the festive salsa feel of Santana’s “Oy Como Va” to the new wave vibe of The Cars’ “Let’s Go” to the crunchy riffs and rapid-fire lyrics of Aerosmith’s ode to bad-ass cool, “Walk This Way,” a tune now forever linked in most people’s minds to old school hip-hop thanks to the mid ’80s re-working of the song by Run DMC. There’s also some stuff that some might think is more pop, and falls just outside the borders of classic rock, like the Turtles’ “You Baby” and Blondie’s “The Tide is High,” but we’ve found these songs work well in a classic rock block of music, so we included them. But don’t worry – there’s multiple Beatles, Stones, and Led Zeppelin songs on the playlist, too.
We’ve arranged the playlist in the order below, with roughly with the more mellow stuff in the first half, and the more “party” stuff in the second. Have a listen here, dude…
1. Fool in the Rain – Led Zeppelin
2. Get Back – Beatles
3. She’s a Rainbow – Rolling Stones
4. Ooh La La – The Faces
5. You Baby – Turtles
6. Let’s Go – The Cars
7. Beautiful Girls – Van Halen
8. Can’t Explain – The Who
9. Day Tripper – Beatles
10. Swingtown – Steve Miller Band
11. Brass in Pocket – Pretenders
12. Hey Hey What Can I Do – Led Zeppelin
13. Southern Cross – Crosby, Stills & Nash
14. Sugar Magnolia – Grateful Dead
15. Instant Karma – John Lennon
16. The Tide is High – Blondie
17. Miss You – Rolling Stones
18. Long Train Runnin’ – Doobie Brothers
19. Oy Como Va – Santana
20. La Grange – ZZ Top
21. Walk this Way – Aerosmith
22. Action – Sweet
23. Radar Love – Golden Earring
24. Surrender – Cheap Trick
25. Rock and Roll All Nite – Kiss