Iconic folk-rock band 10,000 Maniacs had many hits in their 35-year run.
But how can you pick a favorite with so many excellent songs to choose from?
We’ve done the digging, so you don’t have to! Below are our picks for the greatest 10,000 Maniacs tunes of all time.
Let’s dive in!
About 10,000 Maniacs
John Lombardo, Robert Buck, Steven Gustafson, Dennis Drew, and Jerry Augustyniak formed the original band in 1981, calling themselves Still Life. The group changed its name to Burn Victims, then landed on 10,000 Maniacs later that year.
The men initially invited Natalie Merchant to provide background vocals, but she quickly found herself singing lead.
They cycled through many incarnations throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Following Lombardo’s departure in 1986, their album In My Tribe finally hit the charts.
In 1992, Merchant announced her departure from the group. Elektra Records chose to drop the band and keep Merchant as a solo artist. Founding member John Lombardo returned along with Mary Ramsey, who took over lead vocals. The group later signed with Geffen Records.
Robert Buck tragically died of liver failure in 2000, prompting the group to take a year-long hiatus. The band toured off and on throughout the early 2000s.
In 2016, they celebrated their 35th anniversary with the release of Playing Favorites, a compilation of their greatest hits recorded in their hometown of Jamestown, New York.
7 Greatest 10,000 Maniacs Songs
The discography for 10,000 Maniacs is packed with well-loved hits. Here, we’ve picked the seven most notable for you to enjoy.
#1 These Are the Days
About the Song: Natalie Merchant and Robert Buck wrote this hit together. Upbeat lyrics and instrumentals make this one of 10,000 Maniacs’ most danceable songs.
While a straightforward interpretation relays the joys of “the good old days,” some speculate the song is actually about having a baby.
These are days you'll remember Never before and never since, I promise Will the whole world be warm as this And as you feel it you'll know it's true
First Appearance: This single first appeared on the 1992 album Our Time in Eden. It hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks the year it was released.
#2 Like the Weather
About the Song: The gloomy lyrics of this track, written by Merchant, contrast with its feel-good melody. The song describes the relatable feeling of wanting to simply stay in bed instead of facing what’s outside your door.
We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed– even Natalie Merchant. Steve Gustofson said, “We liked to play toe-tapping music. Stuff you could dance to with a big beat. Her [Merchant’s] view of the world was sometimes in stark contrast to that joy we got from playing”.
It is such a long time since my better days I say my prayers nightly this will pass away The color of the sky is gray as I can see through the blinds Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
First Appearance: 10,000 Maniacs released Like the Weather on the 1987 album In My Tribe. It was the band’s first breakthrough hit, charting on both Billboard’s Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock charts.
#3 Trouble Me
About the Song: Merchant wrote Trouble Me as a tribute to her father, Anthony Merchant, who was in the hospital. The lyrics paint the picture of love between father and daughter. They convey the bittersweet transition that takes place when children must begin caring for their parents.
Trouble me On the days when you feel spent Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden When my back is sturdy and strong?
First Appearance: This track was the first single from the 1989 album Blind Man’s Zoo. It was the band’s top original hit, reaching #44 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
#4 Verdi Cries
About the Song: In her early 20s, Merchant traveled to Spain for the first time. Every morning she could hear Verdi’s famous opera “Aida” playing through the thin walls of her apartment. Although she never met the ‘man in 119’, she carried the memory of him with her.
Verdi Cries is an homage to this mysterious gentleman and to the nostalgia that certain music evokes in us.
Holidays must end as you know All is memory taken home with me The opera, the stolen tea The sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago
First Appearance: This track appears on the album In My Tribe. It’s one of the only 10,000 Maniacs songs to include a string section.
#5 What’s the Matter Here?
About the Song: Merchant and Buck wrote this heartbreaking track, describing the inner turmoil of a woman witnessing the abuse of a neighborhood child. Torn between confronting the parents and staying out of it, the woman is paralyzed with indecision. This song is one of many that the band used to speak on important social justice issues.
I'm tired of the excuses everybody uses He's your kid, do as you see as you see fit But get this through that I don't approve Of what you did to your own flesh and blood
First Appearance: The third single released from In My Tribe was What’s the Matter Here? It was the band’s second song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
#6 City of Angels
About the Song: This powerful piece of social commentary speaks of the homeless inhabitants of Los Angeles. Often ill, injured, and drug-addled, these people are largely ignored by those who can afford to do so. This reality contrasts the image of wealth and luxury many think of when they picture L.A.
See them walking, if you dare If you call that walking Stumble, stagger, fall and drag themselves Along the streets of heaven
First Appearance: City of Angels is another track from In My Tribe. While it was never released as a single, the song offers another critical commentary on a troubled society.
#7 Stockton Gala Days
About the Song: Stockton Gala Days describes the experience of suppressing your true self to please others. It’s the story of a girl who sees in technicolor becoming a woman who doesn’t know who she is anymore. It’s a cautionary tale of what can happen when we aim to please rather than live an authentic life.
Pulled stems of flowers from my hair Blue in the stream like none I have seen Apart from dreams that escape me There was no girl as bold as you
First Appearance: This track first appeared on the 1992 album Our Time in Eden. Although it never reached critical acclaim, this song remains one of our favorites.
So, What Is 10,000 Maniacs’ Greatest Hit?
Folk-rock giants 10,000 Maniacs gifted us with so many heartfelt, dance-worthy hits. Natalie Merchant’s poignant lyrics and unparalleled vocal style resulted in their totally unique sound.
We may have narrowed it down to a few favorites, but it’s too hard to pick just one. If you have a favorite, we’d love for your to share it with us!