Listener Picks: Songs You Turn Up To 11

Nov 11, 2011
Originally published on November 11, 2011 9:38 am

It's finally here. November 11, 2011. Nigel Tufnel Day. The only day of the century that rocks hard enough to be turned all the way up to 11. In its honor, we picked 11 songs that make us want to turn our amps all the way up. As Bob Boilen tells Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, a song best heard extra loud can come from just about any genre, as long as it obeys just one particular law: You like it when you hear it, but when you turn it all the way up, it moves you in some visceral way.

On Monday, we asked you for the songs that move you to crank the volume, and you sent in thousands of suggestions. Many of them were heavy enough to satisfy Spinal Tap's own patron saint of excessive volume, like Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" or AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." Other songs with multiple nominations included "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. And though many of the selections are of at least the same vintage as Spinal Tap itself, some newer musicians got in on the action; Adele, Foster the People, My Morning Jacket and The White Stripes all got multiple nods. To the readers who nominated "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" By Rod Stewart, "50 Ways To leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon and "Closer To Fine" by Indigo Girls, we'll just say we understand. Not everybody liked all of our picks, either.

We could go on forever, but instead, we'll leave you with a few undeniable eardrum busters, and direct you to a Spotify playlist of 550 songs compiled from your own nominations, just in case you want to crank the volume all day.

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Today is the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 2011. And if you're like me, the number 11 immediately calls to mind a certain mockumentary about a rock band from the 1980s: "This is Spinal Tap."


CHRISTOPHER GUEST: (As Nigel Tufnel) If you can see...

ROB REINER: (As Marty DiBergi) Yeah.

GUEST: (As Nigel Tufnel)...the numbers all go to 11 right across the board - 11, 11, 11.

REINER: Oh, I see. And most of these amps go up to 10.

GUEST: (As Nigel Tufnel) Exactly.

REINER: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?

GUEST: (As Nigel Tufnel) Well, it's one louder, isn't it?


INSKEEP: The man laughing with me here is NPR's Bob Boilen, host of NPR'S ALL SONGS CONSIDERED. He's going to help us celebrate today's date - 11/11/11 - by sharing with us a list of songs that you play at 11 - really, really loud.

Hi, Bob.

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Really loud. How are you doing, Steve?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK. How do you decide which songs should go to 11?

BOILEN: It makes its own decision. A song is playing, it's on your car stereo and your hand just reaches over, right. You just can't help it.


INSKEEP: Well, let's just get right to it. Let's crank it up to 11 for...

BOILEN: You want to do Led Zeppelin?

INSKEEP: Sure. Led Zeppelin "Kashmir."


INSKEEP: Well, now, you've chosen an old song here. Is that part of your criteria? You want something from, you know, Spinal Tap era-ish?

BOILEN: I think everybody reaches back. And I was trying to think - because I put together a list that was 40 great ones. And what's the common thing for me? Well, for me it was distorted guitar.


BOILEN: Love distorted guitar. And then visceral, right. Absolutely visceral. Like you like it when you hear it, because it's a great song, but then when you turn it up your body starts to feel it.

INSKEEP: It has to make you shake. You have to feel that pounding in your chest. The kind of thing that if you don't like the song you're outraged because the guy in the car next to you is playing it and it shakes your car.

BOILEN: Outkast is something recent. We could easily play that.


OUTKAST: (Singing) Don't pull the thing out, unless you plan to bang. Bombs over Baghdad. Yeah. Yeah. Don't even bang unless you plan to hit something. Bombs over Baghdad.

INSKEEP: At least have a fast pace. That really helps here as well.

OUTKAST: It does. We had some puzzling ones. You know, we asked our listeners, So what are your 11s, right. And we've gotten thousands of suggestions. And some of them were really obvious. You know The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again," reaching back in time. Some - right? Some new. People really liked it Adele.


ADELE: (Singing) We could have had it all. (You're gonna wish you never had met me). Rolling in the deep. (Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep). You had my heart inside of your hand. (You're gonna wish you never had met me). And you played it to the beat.

INSKEEP: Well, let's hear one more song at 11 from your list, from all songs...

BOILEN: How about if we do "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys.


INSKEEP: Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Boilen just threw his arms into the air in triumph. Let's hear some more.


BEASTIE BOYS: I can't stand it. I know you planned it. I'm gonna set it straight, this Watergate. I can't stand...

INSKEEP: Bob Boilen is the host of NPR's ALL SONGS CONSIDERED. He has brought us some of the selections from their list of songs to play at 11 here on 11/11/11.

Bob, thanks for joining us.

BOILEN: My pleasure.


INSKEEP: For more eardrum-busting anthems, get the complete list at


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.