Since everybody’s arguing about the new Superman movie Man of Steel, how about another argument: the best songs about, or referencing, the Man of Steel?
There’s a surprisingly large number of them (albeit not as many as Seinfeld episodes referencing Jerry’s favorite superhero). You can review some of the lists here, here, and here.
My top five?
1. The Kinks, “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” – the live version on One for the Road is by far the best version of this song, here’s a live version from the same era in the same arrangement, but slightly less crisp audio:
“Superman” comes from the Low Budget album, a sort of perfect period piece if you want to go back to capture the zeitgeist of pre-Thatcher England and pre-Reagan America, One for the Road is one of the best live albums ever recorded, and the match of the Ray Davies’ lyrics and Dave Davies’ blazing guitar solo brings vividly to life the ache of that era for simple, old-fashioned heroism to shake the malaise of the late 70s.
2. 3 Doors Down, “Kryptonite”
“Kryptonite” remains 3 Doors Down’s signature song, a catchy, driving rock song that’s just plain fun. It uses Superman more as a motif than a storyline.
3. Spin Doctors, “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues”
The Spin Doctors didn’t have a long run, but their debut album Pocket Full of Kryptonite had some fun, bouncy guitar pop-rock, and the thematic signature track that catches you from the opening guitar and tells the mournful story of Jimmy Olsen trying to compete for Lois Lane’s heart with the Man of Steel.
4. Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”
It’s Donovan’s backwards guitar riff, accompanied by a solo by Jimmy Page on electric guitar, that makes this oddball bit of Sixties pop shine. It would be number one if this was a list of songs about Green Lantern, who is playing over his head being listed in the same breath with Superman.
5. Jim Croce, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”
Jim Croce’s odd, truncated career veered between goofy, jangling tall tales and heartfelt weepers, both of which were entertaining in their own very different ways. This song is kind of a poor man’s version of “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown,” but with fewer racial stereotypes. This time, Superman gets paired with the Lone Ranger – and you don’t tug on his cape.
Honorable mention: the Taylor Swift “Superman” song is not bad, if you like Taylor Swift songs.
Dishonorable mention: Any slow, drippy ballads, worst of all the Crash Test Dummies “Superman’s Song.” Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive; you don’t mope on his cape, either.