Analogue Music | The Top 75 Counting Crows Songs Ever

The Top 75 Counting Crows Songs Ever

By John Barber Matt Conner Mark Geil Glenn McCarty Pete Peterson PC Walker

"Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time." -Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

This list, this ranking of the Top 75 Counting Crows Songs Ever, is the very reason Analogue was launched. Well, this and an as-yet-unwritten essay on Alanis Morrisette's second album. I had specific ideas, sincere and silly, without an editorial home to call their own. I wanted space to think way too seriously about music with others who wanted to do the same. All-time lists. Entertaining essays. Thoughtful takes on albums past and present.

Basically, I pictured the digital equivalent of regulars in a record store—the Rob Gordons of the world.

Counting Crows would likely lay claim to the title of my all-time favorite band. At the very least, they are the band most connected to my emotional self. Their songs conjure any and all ghosts, and they can set a mood for me like no other artist or band I've heard to date. (No slight intended to Elliott Smith or Vic Chesnutt.)

I'm fortunate enough to know several others who feel the same way I do, so for a recent exercise in spending far too much time on a list that's not even remotely important, six diehard Counting Crows fans decided to rank every song (even rarities) for the sake of creating a definitive top 75. (Many thanks to the guys listed above for their efforts.)

If you need a real intro to the Crows, this is not for you. This is the deep end of the pool, and it's no fun playing lifeguard. You can wiki whatever you need if you're not well-versed in the ways of Duritz and company. Instead, this is a love letter to an incredible band who reminded us that we all have trouble acting normal when we're nervous. We assume you're here for the goods, so let's get on with it.

Read below for Part One (No. 75 to 51).

Click here for Part Two (No. 50 to 26).

Click here for Part Three (No. 25 to 1).

75. “Meet On The Ledge” from Underwater Sunshine

Richard Thompson never intended for this song to take on the sort of funereal function it's been given in the decades since it was a single for his band Fairport Convention in '68. With lines like, "Meet on the ledge, we’re gonna meet on the ledge / When my time is up, I’m gonna see all my friends," the song has become an anthem to the afterlife, a glass raised to our mortality, and it's through this lens that the Crows' version is best appreciated. Duritz's delivery is pitch perfect here, but even better is one of rock music's tightest bands uniting us all in this somber sing-along. (MC)

74. “Blues Run the Game” from Films About Ghosts

Is there a sadder story than the life of Jackson C. Frank? Tragic childhood accident, physical trauma, mental illness, and if that wasn’t enough, he was blinded in one eye by a stray shot from a pellet gun. Listen to his original, then listen to the cover by Simon and Garfunkel, and then queue up the Crows version and hear the way the band can embody a blues song that always sounded like a folk song. It’s like they were made for this song. (MG)

73. “New Frontier” from Hard Candy

The Crows introduced a few new flavors, for better or worse, on Hard Candy, from the pop gloss of “Big Yellow Taxi” to the waltzing “Butterfly in Reverse.” The dated synth sounds of “New Frontier” either compelled or repelled, depending on your tastes, but lost inside the new (er, older) sound was this compelling refrain, “From the outside of everything to the inside of you.” It felt as if Duritz is hoping to reach the listener at the deepest level with a real connection despite the ongoing clamor and noise. Is it about the artist and listener? Is it about progress and personhood? Either way, there’s more here on “New Frontier” than what many Crows fans allowed themselves to hear. (MC)

72. “Elvis Went To Hollywood” from Somewhere Under Wonderland

What seems to be a wackadoo pinball machine ride through the archetypal imagery of nightmares—a song that totally works on that level, by the way—is also fun to consider as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment, and begrudging embrace, of the validity of the bizarre things spinning around inside Adam’s head. Aliens on motorcycles riding in the radio? It’s got to be a metaphor, right? Well, maybe not. As with other tracks on this album, the allusions in the lyrics speed by one after the other —Alex Chilton, Victor Frankenstein, and of course, Elvis—but it’s the story lurking behind all this madness that has kept me coming back for years. “November promises, it seems, are broken February dreams that don’t come true.” We build things up to watch them fall and wonder how it happened, just like Elvis, again and again. (GM)

71. “High Life” from This Desert Life

With violins that rise and dive, this song is a unique entry in the Counting Crows. The lyrics are just wonderful though. There is a sense of watching everyone around you progress and move on in life while you feel stuck where you are. It is a different kind of loneliness than he sings about in other songs. Whether or not it is about everyone moving on or a specific person, there is a loneliness he wishes he could have avoided by keeping someone around for just another day or two. (PC)

70. “Four Days” from This Desert Life

This overlooked track from This Desert Life gives language to the frustration of a long-distance relationship—the heart held hostage by time and distance. When the unnamed partner hasn’t yet left, Duritz struggles to remain present knowing the distance is looming. “Take a breath, take your time,” he encourages himself. When she’s gone, he’s desperate to close the overwhelming gap. “Hold your breath, ease your mind,” he sings. Good luck with either of those. (MC)

69. “The Ghost in You” from Clueless Soundtrack

Even the very title of this song sounds straight from the CC catalog, but surprisingly enough, it’s a Psychedelic Furs cover from the soundtrack to a Reese Witherspoon comedy. No matter. The song’s thematic elements fit perfectly in Duritz’s wheelhouse, and it’s amazing the vocalist himself didn’t write the line, “Inside you the time moves and she don't fade / The ghost in you she don't fade away.” (MC)

68. “Friend of the Devil” from Films About Ghosts

It’s a testament to the band’s connection with the quintessentially-American outlaw archetype inhabited in this Grateful Dead classic that this song has developed such staying power in the Crows’ live repertoire. First debuted in 2003, it’s still kicking around set lists nearly two decades later. Yes, I’ll accept your claim that the studio version might not match the live performances—2013’s Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow is Exhibit A—but this is still a song which deserves mention, in my book. These guys are such great players that when handed a song that has great bones, they wring every ounce of pathos out of it. (GM)

67. “Monkey” from Recovering the Satellites

Maybe it’s a bit of a trifle, another goodbye/break-up song on an album full of them, but there’s a subtle sweetness lurking underneath on "Monkey" that I really dig. The backing vocals on the chorus are a warm-ish touch, and they’re downright playful on the second verse. Even the clanging piano chords front and center, similar to those in “Hanginaround” and even “Long December,” add to the distinct lack of desperation on this track. And, of course, I dig the shout-out to Ben Folds. (GM)

66. “I Wish I Was A Girl” from This Desert Life

Fun fact: this song was about the same girl "Goodnight Elisabeth" was written about. It was a few years after they had broken up. Adam was at a wedding, and the bride mentioned to him, “I was the one there with Elisabeth when she thought you were cheating on the road.” In several interviews, Adam made it clear he never cheated on her, and he wished he was a girl so that she would believe him. He wished he had the chance to explain that to her those years before. What a sordid tale surrounding these two songs! (PC)

65. “Walkaways” from Recovering the Satellites

Should this even count? It feels weird to comment on a track barely cresting the one-minute mark, but there's something profoundly affecting about "Walkaways". As a longtime fan who has seen the Crows on more than a dozen occasions, the song itself served as a live outro for years (these days, "Holiday in Spain" is often the closing number). But “Walkaways” is more than just a fond farewell; it's an infuriating track that begs to be finished. "Someday, I'm gonna stay, but not today," sings Duritz to close what should continue, what has already connected. It's unfair. The sentiment has grabbed, is just starting to cement itself, and then it's over. The song resembles the real thing, leaving you in a cloud of emotion even after goodbyes have been traded. (MC)

64. “Insignificant” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

How this landed so low in our countdown is beyond me. The intensity of Duritz’s vocal work and the killer rock backing here from his bandmates is already an ideal match, but the juxtaposition of the lyrical yearning sends it home for me. “I wear my intentions so clear,” he sings, a man painfully exposed, caught in the tension of his dueling desires to stand out and fit in. “I don’t want to feel so different / But I don’t want to be insignificant.” I think we all feel this way. (MC)

63. “All My Friends” from This Desert Life

The lies of stability inhabit the center of this solid Desert track. Growing up means moving and settling, marrying and procreating, having a career and gathering stuff. Duritz has clearly accomplished none of that. He’s got receipts from global adventures and a long list of broken relationships made impossible from such a lifestyle. “I'm trying to find me a better way to get from the things I do to the things I should,” sings Duritz. It's the shadow side of everything desired from their first single, "Mr. Jones"— a common Crows theme. (MC)

62. “I'm Not Sleeping” from Recovering the Satellites

I cannot tell you how many times, at the top of my lungs, driving down a dark two-lane road, I sang, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 am, all alone again, but I’ve been through all this shit before.” It was not always because I was feeling the sense of screwing it up with a great girl. It had more to do with how great it felt to scream with Adam Duritz while I drove down the highway. Sometimes that is all the doctor ordered. He’s a terrible doctor, but he ordered it nonetheless. (PC)

61. “Butterfly In Reverse” from Hard Candy

The title! It’s as if Adam said, “I’ll see your Six Word Memoir and I’ll do mine in three.” It’s a sad, myopic declaration in the middle of some of the sweetest words he’s written about anyone. The object here is actress Mary-Louise Parker, and these sentiments were apparently written the night after she won a Tony. “And then Ryan came over,” says Parker, speaking of co-writer Ryan Adams. The 3/4-time melody and strings add a dreamy quality to a love song tinged by the saddest of titles. (MG)

60. “On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Of all the many Adam Duritzes we get to enjoy as Crows fans (angry, cocky, sad, broken, sarcastic, etc.), my favorite is the bittersweet, melancholic lounger in the afterglow of something fleeting that retreats into the distance, which is exactly what we get in this (and so many other songs). On some forgotten Tuesday in Amsterdam in some lonely hotel room, he tells us, “She is the film of the book of the story of the smell of her hair,” and after all, what are the Crows themselves but the music of the story of the feeling of something we desperately need but can’t quite keep hold of. (PP)

59. “When I Dream of Michelangelo” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

We first heard this turn of a phrase on “Angels of the Silences,” but it took considerable time for Duritz to fully realize the meaning and imagery of “Michelangelo.” As Duritz sings, “I see God upon the ceiling, I see angels overhead / And he seems so close as he reaches out his hand / But we are never quite as close as we are led to understand,” you realize the singer has been trying to come to terms with something greater—a way to connect with the divine, with his own meaning, for the greater part of his career. What he thinks is out of reach, however, is something we’ve held onto for years. (MC)

58. “Mercury” from Recovering the Satellites

This song is a rough one. I’ve heard interviews of AD talking about this song, and it is as painful to hear him talk about it as it is to hear him sing about the addiction in this song, an unwillingness to let go of what you know is wrecking you. I love the use of the tambourine because it summons this ethereal feel to the song; almost like being entranced by a dangerous gypsy you know is bad news, but damn it, you just can't get enough. (PC)

57. “Earthquake Driver” from Somewhere Under Wonderland

So an earthquake driver: one who undergoes great risk for great gain. An enviable profession, no? At least the “great gain” part of it. This is a nifty weaving shuffle, asking questions like, What do we want? Who do we want to be? What if the thing we say we want isn’t the thing we really want? What if we get the thing we want, only to find out we didn’t want it after all? It’s a tune as old as Gatsby, or Solomon, if you want to go further back. “I live alone, but I am hungry for affection/I just struggle with connection/Til the water calls me home.” Truth is, no matter how underwater we all say we want to be, we also want to see if the sun is still shining. (GM)

56. “You Can't Count on Me” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

One of the things I most appreciate about Adam’s writing is his willingness to be honest to a fault, honest when it doesn’t make him look good or even likeable, honest when he reveals the worst parts of himself with a grin. And what I love about songs like this is that he’s able to turn that honesty into an ironically self-congratulatory and irreverent song that reveals his own knowledge of how broken a person he is. That takes either real madness or real genius. And I honestly don’t know which it is sometimes, but it’s never less than fascinating. (PP)

55. “Four White Stallions” from Underwater Sunshine

I remember downloading terrible bootlegs of this song years ago, when I was still in college. The Crows have been playing this song forever. Adam actually had nothing to do with the writing of this song, since it was all Dan Vickrey. Even then, there was a tinge of the old country vibe that would be part of some of the later songs written by the Counting Crows. It is not normally a vibe I enjoy, but something about this song has always kept me wanting more, and I hate myself for that. (PC)

54. “On Almost Any Sunday Morning” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

This is yet another quiet little gem from one of their most overlooked albums. It’s hard to pin down anything particularly new or unique here, but it continues to do what the Crows always seem to do so well—to wrap up a little corner of our universal human longing for wholeness in a package that makes it sound exactly the way it feels. “You dig yourself a dream / that we won’t be coming home alone.” Me too. All of us. (PP)

53. “Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)” from Rarities

“Einstein on the Beach” swipes its title from a Phillip Glass opera, but that’s the extent of the association. The muse here seems to be that famous photo of Einstein, standing on the beach staring away from the camera. What’s he thinking about? Is he regretful? Does he lie awake at night thinking about how his scientific discoveries paved the way for things like the atomic bomb? The Crows seem to think so. The eggman is broken, and can never be put back together again. And when the egg broke, the worst things came out. As in a lot of Crows songs, this isn’t a happy story, but it sure sounds like one. Adam’s enthusiasm, those driving drums, and that lead riff make this sound like a romantic comedy theme song—except, you know, “what you fear in the night in the day comes to call anyway.” (JB)

52. “She Don't Want Nobody Near” from Films About Ghosts

In 2004, the Crows released a best of compilation, Films About Ghosts, titled after a memorable lyric from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”. Anchoring the set was a brand new single among the familiar favorites, “She Don’t Want Nobody Near,” a song so adept at describing the social anxiety of many (myself included), those of us wanting to be both close to and away from persons, to belong yet left alone. It’s a mix of fear and loneliness that haunts the protagonist with great lines like, “She don't want to be alone / So they just keep pouring in / Pretty soon they've got her headed for the door.” (MC)

51. “1492” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings