Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Cleveland Countdown 

Honoring the top 10 songs of Northeast Ohio.

One of the best cuts  to come out of Cleveland was - "Conflict," by Cobra Verde (pictured).
  • One of the best cuts to come out of Cleveland was "Conflict," by Cobra Verde (pictured).

VH1 recently launched a new series of programs counting down the top 100 songs of the last 25 years (Spoiler alert: Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" edges out Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" for the top honor.) But Nevermind all the grunge granddaddies and fallen pop icons of the world; here comes a list that really matters: our picks for the top 10 cuts to come out of Cleveland in the last two and a half decades.

1. Nine Inch Nails, "Head Like a Hole" (TVT)

A loud, rebellious electro-rock mash-up that sneers at the status quo, "Head Like a Hole" is the mission statement for Nine Inch Nails' defiant 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. Recorded for free, after hours at Cleveland's Right Track Studios, where Trent Reznor worked as an engineer/janitor, "Head Like a Hole" gave hard electronic music a soul by toning down industrial's turgid crunch in favor of hooks and a human touch.

2. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" (Restless)

The song that introduced Bone Thugs' rubber-laying rhymes to the masses. With jet-powered wordplay tempered by rich melodies, Bone debuted one of the most unique sounds in rap via its 1994 EP "Creepin' On Ah Come Up." Of course, it was soon co-opted by countless others and quickly became played out, but with barrel-chested boasts underlain by sweet singing, this cut captures Bone when it was more gangsta than gimmick.

3. Dead Boys, "Ain't It Fun" (Sire)

Though this song originated with the short-lived Rocket From the Tombs, it rose from the Dead in 1978. A growling wastrel anthem, this is stirring punk disaffection. "Ain't it fun when you know that you're gonna die young?" Stiv Bators snarls, backed by grinding guitars and a sexy, sickening sense of fatalism.

4. Pere Ubu, "Life Stinks" (Geffen)

Another Rockets original relaunched in 1978. Pere Ubu's catalog is bold and boundless, but "Life Stinks" is the band boiled down to its essence: David Thomas's love-it-or-leave-it whinny, apocalyptic guitars, and a rhythm section that you don't want to meet in a dark alley.

5. Cobra Verde, "Conflict" (Motel)

Debauched glam rock doesn't get any better than the come-hither "Conflict," where Cobra Verde frontman John Petkovic does his best David Bowie impersonation over ricocheting guitars in this highlight of CV's heavy-breathing Nightlife (1999).

6. Boulder, "The Invasion" (TeePee)

Cleveland's greatest metal anthem. Released in 2000 at the height of the nü-metal craze, this was a call to arms against baggy-panted posers. Bassist/belter Jaime Walters violates his vocal cords to the tune of slobbering, bulldog riffs -- it's enough to send shivers down Fred Durst's spine. You know, supposing he had one.

7. Filter, "Dose" (Reprise)

"Hey Man, Nice Shot" was the big hit off Filter's 1995 debut, Short Bus, but that overplayed anthem was largely a misfire; "Dose" is the song that featured all guns blazing. Despite Richard Patrick's lamebrain lyrics -- "I hate it when you preach your case/It makes me want to stick my dick in your face" -- this is Filter's finest moment: A moody, slow-building rocker that climaxes in an afterburner chorus.

8. MC Chill, "Bust This Rhyme"

Cleveland's first breakout rap hit. Dropped in 1986, this was an early bridge between commercial and conscious hip-hop. Driven by Chill's fleet delivery and buoyant beats, "Bust This Rhyme" was radio-friendly rap that helped pave the way for the platinum playas of today.

9. Robert Lockwood Jr., "I Got to Find Me a Woman" (Verve)

The title cut of Lockwood's wild-eyed 1996 album proved that, even in his 80s, this blues great has enough fire in his belly to boil water. An aching blues barnburner, with Lockwood's voice equal parts honey and hellfire, "Woman" more than holds its own next to blues standards from the likes of Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr, and other greats.

10. Incantation, "Golgotha" (Relapse)

Possibly the heaviest song ever to come from Cleveland. Craig Pillard's vocal vomiting sounds like Lucifer with a chest cold. Combined with Dawn of the Dead lyrics and the depressive doom-riffing of guitarist-songwriter John McEntee, the song made Incantation's 1992 debut, Onward to Golgotha, a satanic standard-bearer.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Latest in Soundcheck

More by Jason Bracelin

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Kiry Shabazz @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Jan. 27
  • Soul Message Band Featuring Chris Foreman @ Bop Stop

    • Fri., Jan. 28
  • The Gershwins on Broadway @ Maltz Performing Arts Center at Case Western Reserve University

    • Fri., Jan. 28

© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation