Top 10 Rock Songs of 1990

The Black Crowes ruled the roost

The year in rock in 1990 owed much to prior decades. The most popular songs on mainstream rock stations and on the sales charts were created by veteran musicians such as Eric Clapton and ZZ Top. But it was a flock of newcomers from down south that really made an impact.

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Damn Yankees - "Coming of Age"

Warner Bros.

This pop-rock supergroup consisting of Tommy Shaw of Styx, Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Motor City Madman Ted Nugent and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Michael Cartellone was made for the big time. And what better topic fodder to reach the big time in the era of “Girls, Girls, Girls” than a young lady sowing her wild oats? These Damn Yankees were active until 1996, then became an on-again, off-again outfit thereafter. 

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ZZ Top - "My Head's in Mississippi"

Warner Bros.

Guitar wizards Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill had been peddling their rock wares since 1969. More than 20 years into their career as purveyors of that red-blooded American sound, they were still churning out hot licks. “My Head’s in Mississippi” carried on their signature chug-chug-chug riffing with a manly growl.

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INXS - "Suicide Blonde"


The title may have an eerie connotation these days, as front man Michael Hutchence took his own life in 1997. But the rumored story behind this shuffling dance-rock number had to do with his then-girlfriend, Kylie Minogue, dyeing her hair blond for a film role. One can hear this song’s influence on the funky Muse hit “Panic Station.”

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ZZ Top - "Doubleback"

Warner Bros.

A fitting addition to the Back to the Future III soundtrack, thanks to its time-traveling lyrics, “Doubleback” featured more of the wailing guitar squalls that put ZZ Top on the map. A cameo in the Michael J. Fox Wild West flick as Hilldale's resident hoedown squad solidified the threesome’s cross-generational appeal. Those beards sure came in handy.

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Bad Company - "If You Needed Somebody"


Talk about a power ballad. After years of lineup changes and struggles to remain afloat, the Company enlisted Brian Howe as vocalist. Chart magic ensued, and Bad Company was once again making boss moves with music fans.

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Aerosmith - "What It Takes"


One of many of Aerosmith’s collaborations with songwriting extraordinaire Desmond Child, this epic single stretched the Boston band to their sonic limits. Steven Tyler’s run from banshee scream to scatting was intense, proving that he and his mates had “What It Takes” to maintain a decades-long legacy.

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Eric Clapton - "Bad Love"

Eric Clapton -
Warner Bros.

Don’t let that gauzy synth-pipes intro fool you— “Bad Love” was classic Clapton. He was “sad for the lonely people,” so he and his spirited backup singers gave them a zesty fire dance of a song. For a guitar hero who had been cranking out the jams since the ’60s, “Slowhand” made good on his promise to keep on rocking well into the next millennium.

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The Black Crowes - "Hard To Handle"

Black Crowes -
Def American

Sometimes, introducing yourself to the music world by covering a classic tune can backfire. (Does anyone remember anything else by Nicki French, aside from her 1995 cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”?) But the Black Crowes dodged that curse when they did their own raucous version of Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle.” Singer Chris Robinson married the soul and rock styles effortlessly.

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AC/DC - "Moneytalks"


Aussie rockers AC/DC put their money where their mouths were— their music was not legally available online until 2012. Perhaps this 1990 radio megahit (their highest-charting single in the United States) foresaw the eventual commoditizing of music as a product, rather than art. Or maybe not— the fist-pumper accompanied ads for the 2011 film Moneyball.

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The Black Crowes - "Jealous Again"

Black Crowes -
Def American

Hot keys, fiery vocals, a sinewy threading of blues and acoustic rock… the recipe for the Black Crowes’ early single was a winner. The Georgia group titled their first album Shake Your Money Maker, and singer Chris Robinson sure did. His swagger was so hypnotic that he eventually landed Penny Lane herself, Kate Hudson, as his wife.

Chart positions courtesy

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