5 Iconic Songs Despised by the People Who Created Them
One hit song can make a career -- Carly Rae Jepsen will probably still be cashing "Call Me Maybe" checks after she checks into a nursing home. But not all musicians are happy about it. Sometimes they slap together what they think is their worst song, only to see it become the hit that makes them famous. Among the iconic hits that became their singer's nemesis, you'll find ...
Radiohead -- "Creep"
"Creep" was the song that broke Radiohead into the mainstream, because for some reason an angst-ridden, atmospheric alt-rock anthem about being an alienated nobody instantly connected with teenagers in the 1990s. With the success of that song, Radiohead became a Top 40 band almost overnight and began touring nonstop, while soul-patched doucheketeers in coffee shops around the world began the storied tradition of playing "Creep" on open mic night to try to impress girls with the sustained high note in the bridge.
It didn't just connect with kids, either. Everyone loved "Creep" -- the song was rated No. 31 on VH1's Top 100 Songs of the '90s, and it re-entered the charts as a single in the U.K. when Radiohead's greatest hits album was released in 2008 (16 years after its original debut), which is a feat normally only accomplished by dead musicians.
"Does it count if I wish I were dead?"
Everyone loved the song ... that is, except for Radiohead's frontman, Thom Yorke.
Even though Radiohead had skyrocketed to worldwide fame, at the time they were only famous because of "Creep." People would show up to Radiohead concerts just to hear that song and then leave, which frustrated the famously temperamental Yorke to no end (despite the fact that Radiohead deliberately capitalized on its success by specifically touring in countries where it was popular).
"How are we feeling tonight, Creepatonia? Are you ready to cry?!"
Worse yet (in Yorke's eyes), people were connecting Yorke himself with the song, believing that he was the lonely, depressed subject of its narrative. He quickly grew to despise "Creep" for making him a poster boy for self-loathing (in addition to, and we cannot stress this enough, making his band both popular and relevant). He rechristened the song "Crap," and displayed about as much affection for it as that would suggest (Yorke claims that Radiohead "sucked Satan's cock" when they rode "Creep" to stardom, a statement likely made from within the mansion that Satan's cock paid for).
When fans inevitably request "Creep," Yorke has responded on various occasions by telling them to fuck off, storming offstage, and inexplicably calling everyone in the audience "anally retarded," which is an affliction we cannot begin to imagine. The band has even asked other artists they tour with to play it for them, just so they won't have to. Keep in mind that tickets to see Radiohead routinely sell for hundreds of dollars, so imagine paying that price, as a fan, only to see their biggest hit get sweatily mashed out by an unwashed Moby. That is exactly how Thom Yorke feels about "Creep."
"Who here wants to see the entire world go fuck itself?"
Weezer -- Pinkerton (the Album)
Pinkerton, Weezer's second studio album, enjoyed a Phantom Menace type of reception when it was initially released. Fans and critics alike, who had loudly sung the praises of the band's previous record, unanimously declared Pinkerton to be the shittiest piece of shit of all time, and frontman Rivers Cuomo ran away and hid for the next five years.
However, much like Star Trek and Death Race 2000, it just took people a long time to recognize Pinkerton's genius. Over the years, it slowly gained momentum and is now considered to be Weezer's best work (when examining the band's post-millennium efforts, this should come as a surprise to exactly nobody). Rolling Stone readers voted it the 16th greatest album of all time in 2002, and Rolling Stone themselves retracted their original mediocre review and rewrote it, awarding Pinkerton a five-star rating nearly a decade after its original release. The album's recent re-issue even has a perfect Metacritic score, officially making it a more favorably reviewed piece of '90s culture than Schindler's List.
It wasn't quite as happy and light-hearted as Schindler's List, though.
When Weezer finally returned in 2001 with The Green Album, Cuomo was once again blasted for letting fans and critics down with such an unworthy follow-up to the unmitigated brilliance of Pinkerton (keep in mind, this was the exact same thing everyone had said about Pinkerton back in 1996). Frustrated over both the amount of personal juice he let spill in composing the songs for Pinkerton and the fickle entitlement felt by his fan base, Cuomo vented in a few different interviews about how much he wished he'd never written everyone's favorite Weezer album:
"It's a hideous record. It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people ... and [it] just won't go away. It's like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself."
"The most painful thing in my life these days is the cult around Pinkerton. It's just a sick album, sick in a diseased sort of way. It's such a source of anxiety because all the fans we have right now have stuck around because of that album. But, honestly, I never want to play those songs again; I never want to hear them again."
After spending the next decade sufficiently distancing himself and his band from the dark introspection of that album by wearing cowboy hats and making music videos with Muppets, Cuomo's attitude toward Pinkerton has softened enough to discuss it candidly when asked about it, and even played it live in its entirety in 2010. However, he presumably bookended the set with performances of "Beverly Hills" and "Island in the Sun" to remind everyone that as far as he is concerned, Pinkerton can go fuck itself.
"Now on to my more serious album. Sponsored by Axe: Get your cock sucked by wearing Axe."
The Who -- "Pinball Wizard"
The Who's rock opera Tommy was the first album of its kind. Each song serves as a chapter in an overarching story about a blind, deaf, and mute boy who becomes a religious leader (we didn't say it was a good story). Tommy went on to sell 20 million copies and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated motion picture, the most memorable sequence of which is arguably when Tommy beats Elton John at pinball.
The song playing while Sir Elton does his best to look like Clint Howard in space goggles and moon-shoe stilts is "Pinball Wizard," the lead single from Tommy and one of the Who's most popular hits. The success of the album, and its ultimate adaptation into film and stage versions, can be traced directly back to the success of this catchy, upbeat pop number about a deaf, dumb and blind kid playing pinball after getting molested by his uncle a few songs earlier in the story. It became a fixture of the Who's concerts from then on, and it's been covered countless times by as many bands over the past 40 years.
No, really, if you've never seen it before, go back up and play that video.
Pete Townshend, the Who's lead guitarist and songwriter, refers to "Pinball Wizard" as "awful" and "the most clumsy piece of writing I've ever done" (we assume this also includes the statement he wrote while under investigation for child pornography). It was never meant to be included in the album -- the fact that the Tommy character would be inexplicably good at pinball was an afterthought, thrown into the mix at the last minute to try to get a good review from Nik Cohn, one of the most influential music critics in the industry, who, by the way, happened to be a big pinball fan.
From Soho down to Brighton, he must've played 'em all.
When Townshend first gave an early mix of the album to Cohn, Cohn thought it sounded like a confused pile of shit. But when Townshend offered the rejoinder that perhaps he could add a song about pinball, Cohn immediately said that Tommy would be "a masterpiece" (he was REALLY into pinball). So Townshend sped home and scribbled out a generic stream of enthusiastic pinball-related gibberish, called it "Pinball Wizard," and brought it to the rest of the band, who stunned him by declaring it the obvious hit single of the record. But not even they could have known that it was the track that would follow them all to their graves.
Warrant -- "Cherry Pie"
If you've heard of Warrant (and we're not being judgmental, but we're guessing that's maybe only half of you), you know them for one song and one song alone: "Cherry Pie." Nothing so perfectly symbolizes late '80s/early '90s hair bands like this goofball song full of sexual innuendo meant to appeal to 13-year-old boys.
In the video, lead singer Jani Lane prances around with his feathered hair, making cartoon character faces and singing to his four shirtless friends about how much he loves female genitalia. The lyrics are interwoven with complex, subtle imagery, such as a titular piece of cherry pie falling into a woman's crotch before she is sprayed in the face with a fire hose. Due to its undeniable catchiness and the video's heavy rotation on MTV, "Cherry Pie" became the band's signature song and was eventually named by VH1 as the 56th greatest hard rock song of all time, because VH1 clearly doesn't understand what "hard rock" is.
"It's still not clear enough. Could we maybe spell the word 'vagina' in newborn babies on her crotch?"
It's easy to forget that Warrant had a total of nine Top 40 rock hits throughout that period, virtually all of them permed-mullet power ballads. And that if Jani Lane had gotten his way, "Cherry Pie" would never have existed.
Following the commercial success of their debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, Warrant went in to record their anticipated sophomore effort. While everyone in the band was happy with the end result, the record label was worried that the disc didn't have a clear hit single. So, they told Lane to get his bug-eyed, Bret-Michaels-doppleganging ass back into the studio and write them a toe-tapping jam they could use to move units. He responded by writing "Cherry Pie" in 15 minutes on the back of a pizza box, which was meant as a thinly veiled "fuck you" to the label executives ("I Dare You to Play This Pussy Ballad on the Radio" was presumably the song's original title).
"Oh, and you know how you wanted me to be a pretty boy frontman? You might want to sit down."
To his woeful surprise, the executives loved it, and "Cherry Pie" became both the album's title and its lead single. Understandably, Lane held a bit of a grudge for being eternally associated with a song he was forced to write, despite the fact that its massive success undoubtedly led to a deluge of "research material" for future compositions:
"I hate that song. I had no intention of writing that song ... And my legacy is 'Cherry Pie,' everything about me is 'Cherry Pie,' I'm the 'Cherry Pie' guy. I could shoot myself in the fucking head for writing that song."
Other band members may have been a little more into it.
The intervening two decades evidently did not do enough to teach him to be grateful for every morsel of fame the universe chose to bestow upon his ridiculous band. However, his words proved to be eerily prophetic -- Lane died in 2011, and the upcoming biopic about his life is called Cherry Pie Guy.
Led Zeppelin -- "Stairway to Heaven"
Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is widely considered by middle-aged white people everywhere to be the greatest song in the history of the world. Whether or not that is correct is debatable, but the song is undeniably one of the most iconic pieces of rock music ever composed.
After its debut on Led Zeppelin IV in 1971, "Stairway to Heaven" became so popular that it was the most requested song on FM radio throughout the rest of the decade, despite the fact that it was never actually released as a single in the United States. Rolling Stone put it at No. 31 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and VH1 continued to beg people to give a shit about them by ranking "Stairway to Heaven" as the third best rock song ever written. Lead guitarist Jimmy Page later referred to the song as being "the essence of the band," which seems to suggest that it somehow smelled like alcohol and vagina cocaine.
Calm down, Robert. It's over, man. It's aaallll over.
Robert Plant, lead singer and resident funslayer of Led Zeppelin, hated him some "Stairway to Heaven." And not just a little hate. We're talking a hate so epic, it rivaled the scope of the song itself. By the late '70s, Plant was thoroughly sick of singing the damned thing, later saying in an interview, "I'd break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show."
That's code for "Fine, I'll sing the fucking thing. Bring me two Benadryl."
Plant referred to it as "that bloody wedding song" (for reasons that aren't entirely clear) and felt that it paled in comparison to the rest of their repertoire. He was doubly irritated that "Stairway" was the only thing interviewers seemed to want to talk about, and fans became borderline obsessed with it, cooking up bizarre theories surrounding the song's possible hidden meanings that persist to this day.
Plant's dislike of the song was so intense (and so contrary to Page's enthusiasm for it) that it impeded talks of a Led Zeppelin reunion for decades, simply because Plant didn't want to have to perform it every night and have Page turn it into a 38-minute guitar solo. When an Oregon public radio station announced that they would never play "Stairway to Heaven," Plant actually pledged a donation. That's right -- he gave money to a radio station that had literally vowed to never play his most famous work.
Dude, seriously, you have to relax.
So there's a new goal for all of you aspiring musicians and garage bands out there: May you someday make a song so iconic and universally loved that the sheer mention of it sends you into a fit of rage.
For more creations hated by their creators, check out 6 Classics Despised by the People Who Created Them. Or learn about The 5 Most Famous Musicians Who Are Thieving Bastards.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 4 Least Anticipated Movies of February 2013.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why Host-Droid Michael Swaim's regrets creating him.
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