Step 1: Composition & Recording
Does the song have lyrics that make no sense?
You betcha, lots of 'em!
OK, but do some of the individual words and phrases sound cool and release emotions in the listener even if they make no sense?
Of course you bozo! They are amazingly evocative, though evocative of precisely what is hard to say and generate strong feelings, though it is impossible to determine why.
Is there a static opening that builds to a dramatic moment?
Does it contain a hypnotic repeating riff?
Yes, yes and yes.
Is it in a major key?
Does it use very few chords?
Is the guitar used to punctuate and accentuate the emotion?
Does it rhythmically build tension towards the end and provide a satisfying release for the listener?
You be the judge.
Does it sound better the louder you play it?
I can't hear you, let's talk when it's finished.
Step 2: Live Performance
Yeah, the recording sounds pretty good but is it just studio magic or does it work as a live performance?
Oh, YES!!! (And for you students of rock anthems pay particular attention to the guitar intro at 1:50).
Step 3: Durability
Thirty years later will middle-aged guys and guys not even born when it was recorded still sing it at the top of their lungs in public?
We hereby submit for your perusal Exhibit 1, recorded at the Concert For New York City, October 20, 2001. Listen to the crowd starting at 9:15. The entire four song set is an anthemic set for an anthemic time.
Listen and watch here. And they were still singing just last month, 44 years later.