We like to think we all know a hit song when we hear one. If we don't, we like to at least think that guys like Quincy Jones and Keith Richards know a hit song when they hear one (it's sort of their job).
Apparently, it's not as easy as we thought, as a lot of classic songs almost never made it out of the studio.
#5. "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" - Rolling Stones
Like most awesome things, this song originated in the middle of the night. Unlike most awesome things, this song originated in Florida. During the Rolling Stones 1965 US tour, Keith Richards woke up suddenly for reasons that shockingly had nothing to do with heroin. He had a riff in his head that was harder to shake than his heroin habit. Keith Richards. Heroin. Get it? Anybody?
Anyway, the story goes that Richards got up and recorded the riff and the phrase "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" before dozing off. The next day, Keith and Mick fleshed out the track, and immediately Keith began to hate the shit out of his late night inspiration. At first his complaint was that the song was too "folksy." And we all know that the last thing the music buying public of 1965 wanted was "folksy" sounding rock music.
It didn't stop there. Keith later admitted that he considered the title "...just a working title. It could have been 'Aunt Millie's Caught Her Left Tit In The Mangle.' I thought of it as just a little riff, an album filler. I never thought it was commercial enough to be a single." He expressed concerns that the riff sounded too similar to Martha And The Vandella's "Dancing In The Street," and would've been happier if the riff was just quietly tucked away somewhere, never to be talked about again.
Eventually the rest of the band had to drag Richards into the studio and force him to record the song that he wrote and showed them in the first place. Even then, he considered his guitar part a scratch track and the recording an unfinished demo. Keith just wasn't satisfied.
Fortunately, all the other band members, their manager, the sound engineer and we assume several wandering passersby all outvoted Richards by a landslide to release the single. The song spent two weeks at #1, and Richards's throwaway scratch track become one of the Rolling Stone's most recognizable anthems, and boosted sales of the Gibson fuzzbox he used on the recording to the point where supplies ran out by the end of the year.
As a sidebar, in light of the fact that Richards never went back to claim it, some of us in the Cracked writers pool have decided to use the song title "Aunt Millie's Caught Her Left Tit In The Mangle" for our in-house garage metal band DIKCHOKE. Expect an exclusive release on our Myspace page later this year.
#4. "Kiss" - Prince
Love him or hate him, we can't deny that Prince conquered pop music in the mid-80s, slapped its ass, pulled its hair and convinced it to do more than a few things it would regret later.
In 1986, Prince was at the top of his game and had started taking other bands under his dainty, bedazzled wing, like Morris Day's band The Time and the "chick who's humping Prince" project Appolynia 6. Also this band Mazarati but, as you'll soon see, no one really gives a damn about Mazarati.
Prince was diverse and talented enough to realize when he was writing a song that wasn't a Prince song. Such was the case, at the time, with "Kiss" which, believe it or not, was composed as a folksy/country song. Unable to finish it, he brought the demo track to his pet project du jour, Mazarati.
Who were obviously waiting for that perfect country/folk track to make it big time.
Unimpressed and kinda pissed, the band spent an entire day in the Paisley Park studio with engineer David Z completely rebuilding the track from the ground up. They retired for the night not believing the track was good enough. Or so they thought.
David Z returned the next morning to find Prince in the studio, tightening up his own freshly-recorded guitar and vocal tracks to the song. Reacting to Z's stunned confusion, Prince retorted that "This song is too good for you guys. I'm taking it back." This decision is likely the reason you had probably never heard of Mazarati before today.
Prince started cutting. He dropped the bass guitar off the track, along with all instruments but voice, guitar, drum machine and backing vocals. The result was shockingly sparse; only nine tracks were included in the mix down (most modern pop songs include roughly that many tracks for the vocals alone).
Prince is crazy!
When the people at Warner heard it, they kind of wondered where, you know, all the instruments and stuff were (they said it sounded like a demo). So if you're keeping score, the song was rejected by Prince, rejected by a shitty almost-Prince funk band and then reimagined as a sparse, bass-less song which was then almost rejected by the label.
Prince, probably after crossing his arms and whimpering in falsetto, told them that was the track they were getting and they better just deal with it. After a massive fight, the label reluctantly released it.
"Kiss" hit #1, and proved a triumph for a musician who was given more artistic freedom than pretty much any since. As for Mazarati, well, Prince later provided them with an outtake song by The Time called "Jerk Out" that made it nowhere until The Time took it back and made another # 1 hit off of it.
Seriously, after doing the research for this, we here at Cracked have been sending Mazarati friend requests on their official Myspace page, possibly one of the saddest official Myspace band pages ever. In-house Cracked band DIKCHOKE has only been around as long as this article, and we've already accumulated twice as many friends.
#3. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - Eurythmics
Believe it or not, there was a point when no one had ever heard of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart--better known as Eurythmics, even better known as the scary chick in the tuxedo and the guy playing the cello in the cow pasture and even better known as "that 80s band that wrote that Marilyn Manson song." That "song," "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," almost didn't exist because the band, dropped from their label after a lackluster and hitless first album, almost completely dissolved before composing it.
In 1982, the band, which had started in 1980, had yet to make a single that even approached the minor success of their previous band. Their first album was plagued by management troubles, and by the time they were recording "Sweet Dreams," they were reduced to recording in an improvised "home studio" (read: attic of a warehouse) and were in-between labels.
Also, they were really weird.
Their arguments became more severe--which tends to happen when you combine artists with poverty--to the point where Lennox could not take it anymore and threatened to leave. Then, with a cold suaveness more easily expected from James Bond than a pasty synth-pop composer, Stewart replied "Okay, fine, you don't mind if I go ahead and program the drum computer then, do you?" (he's British, so we don't know if "drum computer" is a euphemism for something filthy, but we'd guess that, no, it is not). And there, with Dave Stewart fucking around on a drum machine, and Annie Lennox curled up on the floor sobbing, commenced what is likely the most awkward, creepy and uncomfortable recording session since Phil Spector held a gun to Leonard Cohen's head.
While screwing around, Stewart accidentally reversed a synthesized bass line, and holy shit did it sound badass. Badass enough that Lennox "could not resist" getting on her keyboard and laying down a synth line. The words just came to her and she improvised the lyrics and vocals right there in one take. From the looks of it, they probably made up the "plot" of the music video on the spot right then too.
Pretty much all you need to know about the music video.
Of course, this incident just followed the standard behavioral instinct of "if you're in the middle of an argument that angry sex can't solve, just get on the computer" that most guys possess. Except instead of playing World Of Warcraft until four in the morning, Dave Stewart put together an international hit song, and married one of the chicks from Bananarama. Kind of puts your life in perspective, doesn't it?