We tend to think of successful songs as the carefully crafted result of great artistic vision and hours of grueling, dedicated work. This isn't always the case, though. Every so often a song explodes into the mainstream completely by accident, tearing up the charts to the surprise (and sometimes chagrin) of the musicians responsible. Like ...
6"Loser" -- Beck
The first and biggest hit of Beck's life would be the result of a bored Beck and his ability to make up random bullshit on the fly.
He had a lot of practice. Before he got famous, Beck played his music anywhere he could -- in clubs, in coffee houses and on the streets of L.A., usually to crowds who couldn't give less of a shit about him. Being the type of guy he is, he'd eventually break out of whatever song he was playing and start making up random lyrics instead, just to see who was paying attention.
"Heathcliff the cat, fucking a midget, with a pigeon's foot in the skyyyyy!"
This particular skill came into play later when Beck and Carl Stephenson, a producer for Rap-A-Lot Records, spontaneously decided to record a song in Stephenson's kitchen. Beck started rapping, and they both got a laugh out of how terrible he sounded. As they were playing it back, Beck just started sarcastically singing, "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me." Everything else is just random nonsense Beck made up while staring at things in Stephenson's kitchen.
Suddenly the lines about dog food, beef and Cheez Whiz make sense. Well, more sense, anyway.
The track took six and a half hours to record and produce from start to finish. Beck wasn't happy with the song, it being something he slapped together as a demonstration of how bad he was at rapping, and only agreed to release it under pressure from his label at the time, Bong Load. Because who wouldn't recognize the wisdom of every business decision made by an organization with such a name?
U2, for example, got their first big break while signed to Boner Fart Records.
"Loser" got Beck the attention he needed, and he soon got picked up by a real label, Geffen Records, which reissued the song in 1994. It peaked at 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, made Beck a star and was ultimately ranked #203 in Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Not bad for a bunch of gibberish made up in a kitchen.
5"(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" -- Beastie Boys
Featured on the Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill (1986), "Fight for Your Right" was the group's first hit and helped establish the persona of the badass, take-no-shit, hard-rocking party boys that they totally weren't, at all.
In fact, the Beasties hated the whole rocker scene, feeling it was populated by obnoxious, testosterone-laden douchebags. They wanted to poke fun at mindless party anthems like "Smoking in the Boys Room," so they cut the lyrics to "Fight for Your Right" as an in-joke before going on tour.
Their producer, Rick Rubin, added some drums and a blaring guitar riff and released the track, which soon became a big hit. Thinking the song's success was hilarious, the Beasties made what they assumed was an equally ridiculous video to go along with it.
This, shockingly, is disingenuous.
Slowly, they began to realize that the whole "parody" part was lost on most of the listening public, and the majority of their newfound fan base was now made up of the same toolbags they were making fun of.
The kind who would happily waste good pie.
Despite being the song that put them on MTV, the Beastie Boys publicly denounced "Fight for Your Right" and haven't performed it live since 1987. They would not be the first or the last band to find out that the whole "make an intentionally stupid song mocking other bands" thing can come back to bite you ...