#3. "Cum On Feel the Noize" -- Quiet Riot
"Cum On Feel the Noize" was originally released by the glam rock band Slade in 1973, but the version everyone knows is the one done by Quiet Riot in 1983, which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled their album Metal Health to the #1 spot. This is truly an amazing accomplishment, because the band tried their best to make sure it was the worst song they'd ever recorded.
When their producer took the idea of doing a cover of "Noize" to them, the band was less than thrilled. Lead singer Kevin DuBrow hated the song outright, to the point where he and drummer Frankie Banali conspired to sabotage the recording and make it impossible to release. The band didn't rehearse the song at all and let their production engineer, Duane Baron, in on what they were planning to do. When the time came, he really only hit the record button for shits and giggles.
Banali tooled around on the drums, making things up as he went along, and when it came time for DuBrow to sing the lyrics, he tried his best to make it sound terrible. He screamed loud and off-key, doing his best not to give a fuck while ironically forgetting that rock music is all about not giving a fuck.
Well, that and "actually making good music." A lot of bands forget that.
So DuBrow's vocals just ended up sounding like raw, hard rock awesomeness to everyone else, especially once backing vocals were added to smooth things out a bit, and the track went on to enjoy massive success. Years later, he admitted that covering "Noize" had been good move for the band.
"The rest of our songs were all terrible by accident."
#2. "Stuck in the Middle With You" -- Stealers Wheel
Many of you only know this as the tune that accompanies the ear-severing scene from Reservoir Dogs (NSFW). If you heard it on the radio, you probably thought it was a Bob Dylan song:
But "Stuck in the Middle With You" was actually written and recorded by a band called Stealers Wheel. Would Gerry Rafferty, the band's lead singer, have been offended by your confusing it for Dylan? Probably not. Odds are he would have thought it was hilarious, since sounding like Bob Dylan was the whole point because they specifically wrote the song just to make fun of him.
Normally a man who commands the highest degree of respect.
"Stuck in the Middle With You" was written as a parody of Dylan's more paranoid, drug-induced ramblings, which is another way of saying it's a parody of every single Bob Dylan song ever recorded. The line "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right" is a dig at how Dylan would often generalize a group of people by cleverly referring them to as clowns or jokers. Rafferty also borrowed Dylan's distinctive singing style, which sort of sounds like Neil Diamond trying to eat oatmeal while having a stroke.
We have a whole laboratory in the basement for checking such things.
Rafferty couldn't believe it when their little joke hit big and peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Exactly how much of its success it owed to people mistaking it for a Dylan song isn't clear, but all told "Stuck in the Middle With You" sold over a million copies, so we're betting Stealers Wheel didn't really give a shit.
As long as the checks were in their name.
#1. "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- Guns N' Roses
"Sweet Child O' Mine" boasts one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of all time (the "greatest guitar riff ever," as voted by readers of Total Guitar magazine). Hard to argue with this shit:
Thanks to that riff, a generation of rock fans can identify that song within three notes. So how does Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash feel about that?
Not great, considering the riff was just a string skipping exercise he was doing for practice. It was never meant to be an actual song. It'd like if Beethoven got a standing ovation for performing chopsticks.
"Beethoven, you've done it again!"
You see, "Sweet Child O' Mine" was written in a total of five minutes. Slash and Izzy Stradlin were just having a jam session, tooling around on their respective instruments while singer Axl Rose was upstairs playing with his action figures or something. Slash started doing his string skipping exercise and thought it sounded kind of like circus music, so he kept playing it and making goofy faces at his bandmate. Rose, on the other hand, heard the riff and came downstairs to tell Slash that it was going to be their next song. It went something like this:
"Dude! That shit is awesome. It's going to be our next hit!"
"What? No man, I was just ... I was joking around. That can't be a song. It's just nonsense."
"No no, it's perfect! I wrote this poem about my girlfriend a little while ago. We can use it for lyrics!"
"I don't think you understand ..."
It took a while for Slash to begrudgingly get the unusual riff to match with a drum beat, but they eventually started recording. Their producer listened to what they'd put together so far and told them that they should add a dramatic breakdown in place of the last verse, with Slash busting out a killer solo and Rose singing something. After thinking for a moment about what that something could be, Axl asked "Where do we go now?" As in, "Where do we go with this song?"
Nobody had any better suggestions, so for a solid chunk of the song, Rose just keeps shouting, "Where do we go now?"
"Anywhere but here, you crazy bastard."
It could have just as easily been any other sentence someone decided to say at that particular moment, like "Where are my cigarettes?" or "Why does Slash's hat smell so bad?"
"Sweet Child" went on to hit number one on the charts, helping Guns N' Roses' album Appetite for Destruction secure its spot as the top-selling debut album of any band in the U.S. So let this be a lesson to every creative person reading this: What you like, and what your audience likes, are probably going to be very different. It's probably best to just go with it.
(It's midget porn all the way down.)
We've got plenty more music trivia for you in 10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums and 6 Pieces of Music That Mean The Opposite of What You Think.