My Ideal Jukebox

If someone gave you a classic Wurlitzer jukebox, what songs would you put in it?

A few ground rules:

With those rules in mind, it took a few days to stock my ideal jukebox. Here’s the list, in no particular order. (* indicates a single I or my brother owned.)


  1. 96 Tears, ? and the Mysterians

    This was at the top of the charts just before I was born. If I’d known, I’d have left the womb early. Why doesn’t anyone tell me these things?

  2. Time Has Come Today, The Chambers Brothers

    Howard Waldrop’s great story “Do Ya, Do Ya Wanna Dance?” described this as “always a show stopper, a hard song for everybody including the Chambers Bros., if you ever saw them”. I heard the Ramones’ cover first, but the original’s better.

  3. Respect, Aretha Franklin

    A classic that should be is in every single jukebox in the world.

  4. Heat Wave, Martha and the Vandellas

  5. Light My Fire, The Doors (album version -- see rule 3)

    Arguably the best-structured song in rock’n’roll. The extended solos pull me right into the song, capturing my attention so completely that the restatement of the theme after the bridge makes me feel as though I were returning home after traveling the world for years.

  6. Dancing with Myself, Billy Idol

  7. Pump It Up, Elvis Costello & the Attractions

  8. Brazil, Geoff Muldaur

  9. It’s Martini Time, The Rev. Horton Heat

    An anthem for the retro cocktail crowd.

  10. Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You), Ann Cole

  11. The Politics of Dancing, Reflex

  12. 15 Storey Halo, ABC

  13. Dance Hall Days, Wang Chung

  14. This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide, The Kingsmen (The Toronto Kingsmen, not the Portland “Louie, Louie” Kingsmen)

    One of the all-time great just-get-out-on-the-road-and-drive songs. This showed up on one of my brother’s tapes in high school, and I fell in love.

  15. Flagpole Sitta, Harvey Danger

    I first heard this while back in NY for a visit, listening to a college radio station while driving around. I had no idea what it was, but it was the first time in years that I liked a song I’d heard on the radio. It took a while to track down. Viva bubble-grunge!

  16. You Can’t Hurry Love, The Supremes (#1 on the charts when I was born)

    If I can’t have “96 Tears” for my natal song, this is a worthy consolation prize.

  17. Baby Love, The Supremes

  18. Runaway, Del Shannon

  19. Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey

    It’s brassy! It’s Bassey! And it’s undeniably bigger-than-life fun.

  20. Baby I’m a Star, Buddy Miles

    This Prince cover was running through my head on a day when everything was going oh so right.

  21. C30 C60 C90, Bow Wow Wow

    What can I say? I’m a sucker for that Bow Wow Wow/Adam & the Ants drum sound.

  22. Summer in the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful

  23. Crocodile Rock, Elton John

    The first rock’n’roll song I liked, at age 5 or 6. When we went to the local restaurant, I’d bug my parents for a dime for the jukebox to play this.

  24. Where Did Our Love Go, Diana Ross and the Supremes

  25. Church of the Poisoned Mind, Culture Club

    It’s the gospel voice that makes it.

  26. Cool for Cats, Squeeze

    How can you not dance?

  27. Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits

    In any jukebox, there’s gotta be at least one song for the lovelorn. Why not pick one with the great lyrics of Mark Knopfler?

  28. Love is Like a Bottle of Gin, The Magnetic Fields

    For those quiet 2 AM moments.

  29. One Less Bell to Answer, The Fifth Dimension

    Yes, it’s sap, but it’s good sap.

  30. Do You Remember Rock’n’Roll Radio b/w Do You Wanna Dance, The Ramones

    Ramones at their retro-’50s danceable finest.

  31. Senses Working Overtime b/w Ball and Chain, XTC

    The pure exuberance of living.

  32. New Frontier, Donald Fagen

  33. Take Five, Dave Brubeck

  34. Live, Bangles (cover of The Merry-Go-Round’s song)

    Pure Pop for Now People.

  35. My Last Cigarette, k.d. lang

  36. We Are the Champions b/w We Will Rock You, Queen*

    I hated “We Will Rock You” on first hearing (I was what, 12?), but over the years I’ve come to appreciate its completely over-the-top adolescent silliness.

  37. Don’t Box Me In, Stan Ridgway & Stewart Copeland

    On Fly on the Wall, Stan tells the amusing story of the genesis of this song and its briny couplets. If this is what comes from him working under pressure, let’s put the screws to the guy.

  38. Go For It, Joe Jackson

    Joe isn’t known for his upbeat, exuberant songs, but when he wants to he can hit one out of the stadium.

  39. I Want You to Want Me b/w Ain’t That a Shame, Cheap Trick (I’d prefer “Surrender”, but IWYTWM is a better jukebox cut)

  40. The Message, Grandmaster Flash

  41. Tequila, The Champs

    Put on the big shoes and get up on the bar, amigo.

  42. Ride Captain Ride, Blues Image*

  43. Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty*

  44. 25 or 6 to 4 b/w Where Do We Go From Here, Chicago

    Gotta love the powerful horn section.

  45. Takin’ Care of Business b/w You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, Bachman-Turner Overdrive*

    How often do you find a band’s two best songs on the same 45? I haven’t seen it anywhere but this single.

  46. Couldn’t Get It Right, The Climax Blues Band*

  47. Would I Lie To You, Eurythmics

  48. Tusk, Fleetwood Mac

    Makes a nice double bill with “We Will Rock You”, but I like it for itself too.

  49. Smooth Operator, Sade

  50. Ballroom Blitz b/w Wig Wam Bam, Sweet*

    When we were young, my siblings and I got a lot of kicks out of playing the single at 78 RPM. Ever wonder what Sweet sounds like as Chipmunks on speed?

That’s my list. What’s in your ideal jukebox?

Last updated 6 July 2006
All contents ©2003 Mark L. Irons