There is always debate over the Ten Best Classic Rock Songs, but little about the worst – so here are ten contenders for the Heavy Metal Hall of Shame.
They keep coming around, those lists of the top ten rock songs, the best riffs, best guitar solo, greatest live act. And many people spend hours in the pub arguing about the rights and wrongs of the choices, why Steve Vai’s guitar work with Frank Zappa can never be surpassed, and why Led Zeppelin were better than Deep Purple. One man’s Meatloaf is, after all, another man’s Poison.
But there’s never been much debate about the top ten worst rock songs ever recorded might be. Not those slight, throwaway album fillers that are so easy to identify, but the big hits and “classic” cuts that somehow keep coming round on airplay despite their dubious qualities.
So presented below for the consideration of classic rock music fans everywhere is the definitive (possibly) Ten Worst Classic Rock Songs ever.
10. Guns ‘n’ Roses – November Rain
They went from global domination on the back of “Appetite for Destruction”, one of the greatest rock albums of all time, to controversy and condemnation for ditching all the original band members and taking more than 10 years to record a new album (Chinese Democracy). Add in the fact that band leader Axl Rose keeps fans waiting for three hours or more before taking to the stage at live gigs and G n R look increasingly like a supergroup past its prime.
This was a difficult choice because the most obviously terrible G n R song must be their interpretation of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. However, thinking a little more closely about this it does, in fairness, sound exactly as one might expect a G n R cover of the timeless sixties classic to sound.
So the gong goes to November Rain, an overblown epic ballad with possibly the most ham-fisted grade-1 piano parts ever heard on a rock song and a guitar solo by numbers from a clearly tired Slash.
9. Kansas – Wayward Son
This song seems to have been put together by a group of people who weren’t speaking to each other and liked different kinds of music. Its structure is so complicated it sounds like it is made up of all the left over bits from other songs.
With close vocal harmonies and fiddly guitar parts this tune has more components than an Airfix kit; except they don’t go quite as well together, and you won’t find a buyer on e-bay for your old Kansas records.
Impossible to dance to, hum to, sing along with or indeed listen to in its entirety.
8. Rainbow – All Night Long
Blackmore goes pop! Blackmore has always displayed an interest in broadening his musical pedigree from his work with Deep Purple to his departure to form Rainbow with the late Ronnie James Dio.
After Dio left, Blackmore recruited then little known singer Graham Bonnet to spearhead a more commercial rock sound. In a Classic Rock blog entry rock journalist Malcolm Dome defends Bonnet’s tenure likening his performance to George Lazenby’s James Bond: “For me, he’s the George Lazenby of Rainbow. Think about it. Lazenby was the man called upon to take on the mantle of the irreplaceable Sean Connery, as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
But for many rock fans “All Night Long” is pop rock by numbers, with syncopated hand claps, a chorus about “lurv” and a below par guitar solo from one the greatest rock guitarists of all time.
Clear evidence, some have cruelly said, of Blackmore being pre-minstrel.
7. Poison – Every Rose has its Thorn
“Every Rose has its Thorn” is a rock power ballad that sold millions and ranked #7 in MTVs Top 25 Power Ballads and #34 on VH1s Top 100 songs of the 80s.
Despite these accolades, the country-twinged crooning of singer Bret Michaels alienated many fans who thought Poison had sold out its roots as one of the new generation of glam metal bands.
Dee Snider of Twisted Sister said of the demise of glam metal: “Hey man, it was them power ballads, you know! Bret is gonna kill me for saying this but ‘Every Rose’ completely killed the metal in the pop metal scene man. All of a sudden, all the heavy metal rock bands got rid of their distortion pedals and went acoustic.”
With lyrics painting romantic cowboy imagery that inspired teenage boys to sing to their girlfriends it was mercilessly lampooned by Bill and Ted in their Bogus Journey.
6. MSG – The Dancer
When Michael Schenker formed his eponymous band in 1979 he took a legion of fans with him who lapped up an earnest debut album.
With “Assault Attack”, their third studio outing, former Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet stepped up to the microphone. However he also stepped up to co-writing duties and though some material was well received, the 1982 single “Dancer” left much to be desired with simply bizarre lyrics: “She’s a great dancer, not ideally built for ballet. She’s got her calling card to live this way.”
A promotional effort in clear vinyl couldn’t get this beyond number 52 in the UK Singles chart.
5. Kiss – I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Kiss (or KISS) divide rock fans at the best of times. With their pyrotechnic showpieces, and obsession for branding and monetising everything possible many commentators believe these aspects take priority over their songwriting and musicianship.
Indeed, according to NYRock Kiss have over 2,500 licensed products available that have together generated over half a billion dollars in revenue.
The 1979 hit “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” was a disco monster that sold over a million copies in the USA. Far removed from their hard-rocking image and sound it was a track that disappointed as many fans as it seemed to please.
4. Ozzy Osbourne – So Tired
When Ozzy was once asked why he didn’t play this modest hit of his in his concerts he replied, “Because it’s s**t!”
With such personal condemnation it’s hard to defend. In truth this rock-ballad, that shares so much style and structure with a hundred other similar songs, is not necessarily so bad. It’s just that it really doesn’t suit Ozzy, the Prince of Darkness, to be singing lines like: “The time has come to say goodbye.”
Fans of Ozzy want menace and dread. They want dark subject matter, pumping rhythms and great guitar breaks not love songs.
3. Rush – The Trees
Millions of bytes have been used up on classic rock internet forums discussing the extent to which the lyrics to “The Trees” describes conflicts between differing political and humanitarian ideologies or not.
However in 1980, Neil Peart said in Modern Drummer magazine:”I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, “What if trees acted like people?” So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that’s the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement.”
While at least this clears up debate over the philosophical value of the song the lyrics still don’t seem to make any sense.
2. Iron Maiden – Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Iron Maiden have a well deserved pre-eminent position as one of the UK’s most influential heavy rock bands around the world. Their massive global following is loyal and eagerly awaits each new release.
And while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with rock bands tackling more mature high-brow material there is something distinctly odd about “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. It has everything a good Maiden song should have, but Coleridge’s tale seems completely out of pace with Maiden’s galloping style.
1. Starship – We Built this City
The Number 1 spot goes finally to Starship’s 1985 hit “We Built This City” identified as far back as 2004 as a real stinker by Blender Magazine and reported in USA Today.
Then editor Craig Marks says: “It purports to be anti-commercial but reeks of 80s corporate-rock commercialism. It’s a real reflection of what practically killed rock music in the 80s.”
He went on to criticize “the sheer dumbness of the lyrics.”
So with that final crashing power chord the top ten list of the worst rock songs ever concludes, but be warned – there are many more out there.