5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians


Legendary musicians will record hundreds of songs over their career, but unless you're a hardcore fan bordering on psycho-groupie, you'll likely only hear the same handful of hits decade in and decade out. It's way easier for artists to fatten their wallet that way than by digging too deep into their drugged-out repertoire and exposing the bafflingly bizarre sonic screwballs of yore that will, at best, make the fans grunt like Tim Allen, or, at worst, run away screaming like a horror movie victim.

That's why, if you sneak into a show because like fuck you're going to pay $300 for nosebleeds, it'll all but guarantee the rockers will never bust out head-scratchers like ...

The Police's Atonal, Arrhythmic Primal Screamfest

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Most of The Police's songs adhered to the same distinct sound that signified either their arrival or Puff Daddy's. They only seemed to run into a wall when King Sting deigned to let the other two out of their boxes. I've already covered what happens when you let the drummer do his own thing, and since I'm apparently the world's foremost expert on anybody from The Police who didn't read that book by Nabokov, here's why the guitarist, Andy Summers, should've stuck to guitaring:

That's "Mother," the one track off Synchronicity that the others don't talk about at parties. Yes, a stalker anthem and a how-to guide for serial killers would rather not associate with "Mother," and for good reason: it's barely a song. The main riff is repeated time and again, and for some reason the guitar takes a backseat to a goddamn pungi -- that horn used to charm snakes into sleeping with you and making you breakfast in the morning.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Roger McLassus

"You like your eggs over easy? I prefer mine swallowed whole."

As for the lyrics, Summers just screams about how his mommy really needs to stop being so damn mommy, in a croaking rage like he had just started puberty that day, with about as much rhythm as a drunken barfly trying to sing along with R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World."

Well, the telephone is ringing
Is that my mother on the phone?
Telephone is ringing
Is that my mother on the phone?
The telephone is screaming
Won't she leave me alone?
The telephone is ringing
Is that my mother on the phone?
Well, every girl that I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end
Every girl I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end
Well, I hear my mother calling
But I don't need her as a friend
Well, every girl that I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end
Oh, oh mother
Oh mother dear please listen
And don't devour me
Oh mother dear please listen
Don't devour me
Oh women please have mercy
Let this poor boy be.

Those are all the lyrics, with virtually every line repeated ad nauseam when Summers isn't busy groaning like he has Ebola or cackling like Krang finally turned the Ninja Turtles into soup. At one point, he randomly growls "mother" without any context, just in case we forgot what the song was about.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Liam Nicholls/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"It's about me deciding to fuck The Police once and for all."

The song's only saving grace? Right in the middle, he squeaks out "mother" like Daffy Duck about to get crushed by a giant boulder. More bad music needs to remind us of good things like cartoon violence. If Justin Bieber's next album involves him grumbling nonsense obscenities like Yosemite Sam, I'll buy a hundred copies.

AC/DC's Sickeningly Sappy Love Song

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

The wrinkly schoolboys of AC/DC's steadfast refusal to change anything about their image, music, and probably underwear is utter marketing genius. Scared of progress? Always pining for the way things "used to be?" There's a band for that.

It's also why they're perfectly content to toss the very few ballads in their library -- like "Ride On" and "Love Song" -- into an old cupboard like a chord-driven Harry Potter and forget about them. Especially "Love Song" though, because while "Ride On" is a gorgeously sad treatise on the loneliness of road life, "Love Song" is a super-silly love song:

While we've already covered Bon Scott's teenybop pop past, I would have absolutely bet your life savings that he got all that shit out of his system by the time he started paying the liquor bills by bellowing about T.N.T. and murdering people for hire. Unfortunately for your bank account (and credit score), he did not. And while mature love songs certainly exist, this wasn't one -- "Love Song" is every bit as goopy and sappy as the artery-clogging gunk NSYNC put out in their ladyparts-pleasing heyday:

When you smile I see stars in the sky / When you smile I see sunrise

For some reason, Bon's paramour only smiles during that brief early-morning period when Sol enters stage right, but the night sky still hasn't wrapped up its performance. The whole song's like that -- just five minutes of bad poetry that might well have been ghostwritten by Bon's 6-year-old niece, backed by snuggle-soft guitar that Angus probably needed a tranquilizer in order to play.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians

Rage, rage, against the dying of the riffs.

Worse yet, the song's a tease. Bon concludes verses one and two with the lines "And you know what I want to do" and "And I know how you want it to be." So the next verse will be them boinking, right? This is Mr. Big Balls, for Christ's sakes -- if men think about sex every seven seconds, it's only because he single-handedly skewed the average into the damn exosphere. But he immediately disappoints with, "And I know what you want me to do / Oh, I've got hearts and flowers for you."

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
The Australian

"I think she fell for it."

Scott continues blueballing the listener during the final verse, by begging his lover to never leave, despite her never threatening to do so. If she had, it probably would've been the first thing he brought up. Instead, he waits till the end to warble, "If you leave me you'll make me cry / When I think of you saying goodbye / Oh the sky turns to a deeper blue." Beautiful blue skies if you dump this guy? Please do!

Metallica's Weepy Country Ballad (Complete with Twangy Guitar)

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians

Lulu and St. Anger were sludgy messes that you will never, ever hear Metallica jam on ever again -- even during the St. Anger tour, they busted out as few of those dong-dong jams as possible before slipping back into the comfy lounge pants that are "Master of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman." But at least the songs on those two albums were rock. The band was trying new things and failing miserably at it, but at least they were still writing hard metal riffs and Lars was still slamming into his drum kit like Animal crossbred with the leader of the Lollipop Guild.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Steve Bosch / Vancouver Sun

Especially when the groupies didn't show.

The same cannot be said, however, for that time in 1995 when guitarist Kirk Hammett discovered the "twang" feature on his pedal and the band wrote themselves a country song. Sadly (I think), they didn't go the chugging-Bud-Light-and-creeping-on-blondes-in-daisy-dukes route like so many do today, and instead channelled their inner Hank Williams with a weepy ballad called "Mama Said."

The message is pretty simple: James Hetfield grew distant from his mother for this reason or that (though "apron strings around my neck" implies that getting regularly choked out might have been one of his turn-offs), and now that he's older and needs her love, she's too dead to do anything for him. But while he used to deal with the loss of his mom in heavy, badass angerfests like "The God That Failed" (along with its lesser-known sequel, "The God That Got Held Back a Grade and Was Totes Embarrassed About It"), now he's so lonesome that he could cry. And despite a video where Hetfield frays his jeans and wears the shit out of his cowboy hat, it just doesn't work.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians

Save a horse, ride the lightning.

The Nashville twang just feels so tacked on too, appearing mainly in the chorus and sprinkled over the final verse. This only makes it worse, because without it, this would've been an awesomely dark acoustic ballad punctuated with a heavy coda to help sell the emotion and keep those lighters high in the air. But turning the song into a weird Waylon Jennings tribute ensured nothing but lifelong neglect from its four fathers. If you ever hear it live, you're probably watching a foreign telethon starring Hetfield alone with a regular, non-twangy guitar because he learned his lesson super-quick.


His bandmates, who stay the fuck away until it's safe to come out and perform devil rock again, learned it even quicker.

Bob Dylan's Angry Protest of Horrible Brutality (That He Completely Made Up)

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Rattlesnake Records

Not only can Bob Dylan write socially conscious protest music with the best of them, he flips the best of them off, shoves every last one of them into the Sarlacc pit, pisses into its mouth, and then screams "fuhallughmofugguhs AH'Mthuhbyeesssss" to any of them who hadn't already terror-screamed themselves completely deaf. But songs like "Hurricane" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" work because they discuss real events, real tragedies, and real injustices. "Walls of Red Wing," alternately, doesn't bother with such trivialities and instead fights the real evil: Dylan's imagination.

His song concerns Red Wing -- an actual juvenile detention center that, according to him, serves as a medieval torture chamber for anyone who made Santa's naughty list more than once:

Oh the gates are cast iron
And the walls are barbed wire
Stay far from the fence
With the 'lectricity sting
And it's keep down your head
And stay in your number
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
British Library

"And don't giggle every time you see the tower, or the warden will cut you."

If that weren't enough to make you want to burn this place down, Dylan also sings of a "dirty old mess hall," dark and dreary cells, and sadistic guards just itching for the chance to beat the shit out of any kid dumb enough to break even the slightest rule. Sounds pretty nasty, except it's all bullshit. Red Wing, far from the dungeon of doom that Dylan described it as, was not at all a bad place to be. Its purpose was to take wayward kids and mold them into good, productive citizens. They believed brutal punishment, unprovoked beatdowns, and angry denial of pudding prior to a successful swallowing of meat did nothing but breed adult criminals, so they dealt with the little ne'er-do-wells in other ways. Harsh, unforgiving ways, like taking them camping and forming a marching band.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Minnesota Department of Corrections

"At least we're not camping."

So Dylan, having heard of Red Wing being a place and that's about it, spun a complete fable about what one would find inside, and just played it alongside his other protest tunes. You know, the ones about problems in the real, actual world and not just "thought exercises" from the mind of a guy who had clearly read one too many Dickens novels? If he had just used his creative license to concoct a brand-new name for his fictional hellscape, then this likely would've been an unabashed classic. He could've called it "Tangled Up in Twist."

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Rowland Scherman

"Please sir, I want some more 13th-century Italian poetry."

But, since he didn't, the song quickly faded to a purgatorial fate filled with bootleg tape trades and Joan Baez covers. That's what happens when you pen the bard equivalent of a movie "based on a true story" when the only similarity is that both book and film feature people with skin.

Brian Wilson (and His Shrink's) Beach Boy-Sampling Hip-Hop Disaster

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Even an eclectic genius like Brian Wilson can't do it all. No one can, because every one us -- even artists of the highest caliber like Wilson -- are human and have our limits. In Wilson's case, he can't rap for shit, especially when under doctor's orders. Here, endure "Smart Girls":

From the very first couplet -- "My name is Brian and I'm the man / I write hit songs with the wave of my hand" -- it's clear this song is the exact opposite of fun fun fun. But Wilson doesn't just wax poetic about what an awesome bard he is. Actually, he mostly raps about his fetish for "sexy legs with high IQs." Apparently, decades of ditzy-dumb surfer girls like Barbara Ann and that girl who lost her t-bird have grated on the man, because now he can only get his erection on over "intelligent chicks" that are "dynamite."

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Capitol Records

One that could remind him that surfing in slacks is a stupid idea.

But Brian's not all about that medulla oblongata and no eye candy. He makes it crystal-clear -- through lines like "I'm no different from the rest / I love hips and legs and breasts" -- that he enjoys girl parts as much as the next middle-aged rock star. But they must be attached to "brainy babes" with "attitudes." So all you unfrumpy doctors, lawyers, and architects out there, feel free to giddy up on Brian's 409 anytime.

When not macking on your local librarian, Wilson's referencing his old hits as much as humanly possible, with the most awkwardly placed samples in hip-hop history. "Yeah smart girls are my inspiration / Givin' me good good good good vibrations." My "good" key didn't stick -- he seriously raps "givin' me" before the song immediately cuts to a 20-year-old recording of "Good Vibrations" for all the young bucks out there listening to Brian Wilson rap who haven't yet learned about The Beach Boys.

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Karl Walter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"Blah blah excitation, blossom world, yak yak -- get to the brainy amazons already!"

Brian isn't really to blame for this turd of a track, though. Yes, he performed the thing and defended it despite its rejection by everybody (including his record label), but only because his doctor, Eugene Landy, told him to. Landy had Wilson under his 24-hour care, since Wilson was too forehead-deep in mental illness to function on his own. Unfortunately, Landy was an opportunistic, exploitive quack who manipulated his patient's trust in exchange for a bit of fame (as Wilson's manager and producer) and a lot of fortune (billing him $35,000 a month for what the invoice probably described as "stuff").

5 Insane Songs by Otherwise Genius Musicians
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

"Let's go out drinking, even though drinking damn near killed you. Trust me -- I'm a doctor."

If Landy didn't write "Smart Girls" himself, he absolutely badgered, prodded, and harassed Wilson until he did. Ultimately, Landy lost his license and was court-ordered to never contact Wilson again. Sadly, the judge never thought to summon the Men in Black to erase everybody's memories of having ever heard "Smart Girls." If anyone knows their number though, it's not too late.

Jason Iannone once requested "Love Song" at an AC/DC show, and they shanked him all night long as punishment. Sympathize with (or laugh at) him via Facebook and Twitter.

For more from Jason, check out 5 Celebrity Endorsements That Ruined the Product and 5 Famous Musicians Who Went Solo (and Insane).

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