Overlooked Classics on Overplayed Albums
by Mike McGuirk | March 17, 2011
I've been playing a game lately where you try to identify the classic rock-era band you could go the rest of your life without ever hearing again. Basically, whatever band you choose can't have even one song you like. It's actually pretty hard because even if I really don't like a band, they always always always have one song I either want to hear or will put up with if it comes on. Here at Rhapsody, we aren't really in the business of putting bands down, mainly because somebody likes every band and when it comes down to it, one person's musical opinion is every bit as valid as anyone else's. You can be an expert on info and history, sure, but taste is a totally different thing. I get paid to write about music and am lucky because I really do love a broad range of it, though my strongest affinity is for the rock music of the '70s. But I can't lie. I detest some bands. What I learned was that even most of the bands I can't stand have a song I like. An example: I have always hated Foreigner. Can't stand 'em. The guitars sound chintzy and Lou Gramm, well, he sings like he is perpetually sweaty. So for a night playing this game, Foreigner was my choice to be erased for eternity. Then I woke up realizing I totally dig "Waiting for a Girl Like You." O calamity! That takes them off the books no matter how much I hate "Urgent," "Cold As Ice," blah blah blah. Get it? I even have songs by The Police and Steve Miller Band I like hearing.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying these bands are bad, I just personally don't enjoy their music 90% of the time. I think this is an idea anyone who likes classic rock can identify with. We've all been exposed to so much classic rock at this point, almost everybody's an expert. And there are albums we've all heard two or three songs from ten thousand times thanks to the fact that the radio has been completely destroyed by the shadowlord monopoly that controls everything. Because of those two songs you may hate a particular record, but I'm telling you, you might be surprised to find yourself digging it when you hear something they haven't been playing every five seconds since classic hits radio formats started emerging in the '80s. For the record, my band chosen for deletion from my life is Boston. They don't have a single song -- not one -- that I will leave on when it comes up. And I know the albums too, from when I was a teenager. Not one song, not even that one that has a super-long intro and then that guy starts screaming. Oh wait, that's all of them. Anyway, here is a list of the classic rock songs on the opposite end of the overplayed spectrum, the ones I don't think have gotten their due on the radio or elsewhere.
Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle
Not a fan of Steve Miller. For some reason, his songs sound like the soundtrack to spring break to me. And I don't mean sun and sand -- I'm talking about whatever it is that comes over people to allow Girls Gone Wild to happen. I admit I am probably just jealous. Anyway, the fake psychedelia of "Fly Like an Eagle" and jam rockiness of "Take the Money and Run" are the two you've heard on every "Twofer Tuesday" ever, but "Serenade" -- with a real psychedelic feel and true weirdness -- makes me reassess Miller's whole thing. "Abracadabra" is awesome, too.
Allman Brothers Band, Eat a Peach
You would think all the Allmans contributed to the world was "Melissa," but that doesn't take into account Duane's jagged-knife slide work on "Stand Back," a song you never hear on the radio yet is one of the Allmans' absolutely baddest tunes.
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
"Any Colour You Like"
Chances are good you've heard "Money" and "Wish You Were Here" so many times, they register about as much response as Charlie Sheen in conjunction with the word "overexposure." But "Any Colour You Like," a synth-guitar instrumental toward the end of the album, delivers the trippy chunk-ity-chunk funk Pink Floyd not only perfected but essentially invented.
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
"1983 ... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)"
I love Jimi Hendrix, but if I hear the solo from "All Along the Watchtower" or "Voodoo Chile" blaring from the windows of some rich-dude car one more time, I'm trading my freak flag in for a crack pipe. This 13 ½-minute epic is a definitive song for people who can live and breathe underwater as well as a true marvel of stereo panning. You want headphones for this one.
The Doors, L.A. Woman
"Been Down So Long"
The song "L.A. Woman" features some of Jim Morrison's goofiest word-sounds -- he somehow fits a "D" into "mister." "Love Her Madly" just has too much Ray Manzarek (read: any Ray Manzarek), but Morrison sounds as untouchably cool as he ever, ever did on "Been Down So Long." Menacing, heavy blues and there's just nobody that says "goddamn" like that.
"Waiting for a Girl Like You"
Here is the aforementioned Foreigner track. Lou Gramm doesn't sound sweaty, there are no crappy guitars and not only does this song have awesome falsetto, but I heard a crazy person on the bus sing the whole thing once -- perfectly -- it was so good I wanted to clap when he finished.
The Police, Synchronicity
There is a case to be made that this isn't classic rock. But The Police do get played on classic rock radio approximately every 9 minutes and the point here is really that "Synchronicity I" is so much better than "King of Pain" and, ugh, "Every Breath You Take," it fairly exemplifies the idea of an album cut that expiates the sins of the hits.
Derek and the Dominos, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs
"Tell the Truth"
As fantastic as it is, "Layla" simply gets played too much. It's truly wrong that such a monumental song has become something we often don't even notice is playing. "Bell Bottom Blues" and "I Looked Away" are both equally amazing and get some play, but "Tell the Truth" never does and features the band at their shuffling, boogie-ing, Delaney and Bonnie-est best.
Deep Purple, Machine Head
Well, the truth is, you do hear this a pretty good amount, but if you ask me, the main riff is real heavy, the riff at the chorus is one of the best guitar moments of the '70s, and when Ian Gillan goes screamed falsetto ("They got music in the solar system"), I feel like they should just never stop playing this song.
Queen, A Night at the Opera
Similar to "Layla," the creativity behind and uniqueness of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is something folks have gotten way too comfortable with. And as touching as "You're My Best Friend" is, "Sweet Lady," with heavy metal guitars and Freddie Mercury's vocals bolstered by ten million-zillion overdubs, puts Queen on the short list for rockin'-est bands of the '70s.
Cheap Trick, Dream Police/ Heaven Tonight
"I Know What I Want"/"Auf Wiedersehen"
Despite the fact that Cheap Trick have approximately 50 awesome songs, all you ever hear is either "Dream Police" or "Surrender." Both are as much of a blast to hear as anything by the band, but "I Know What I Want" is sung by bassist Tom Petersson! And "Auf Wiedersehen" is hands-down the funnest song ever written about killing yourself.
Bad Company, Bad Co
Free, "Fire and Water"
Bad Company don't actually have any good songs. Instead check out this blues rock gem that's tough as nails and definitely the best thing Paul Rodgers has ever done.
Jethro Tull, Aqualung
"Up to Me"
Even though "Aqualung" is very likely the only rock song with the word "snot" in it and "Locomotive Breath" has that cool "chicka-chicka" sound, "Up to Me" has flute and acoustic guitar working hand in hand to create rock music and succeeding. Also, Ian Anderson gives a comprehensive lesson on the surprising number of meanings of the phrase "up to me" has. It's kind of an early version of The School of Rock. Sorry.
Supertramp, Breakfast in America
If all you ever heard by Supertramp was "Take the Long Way Home" and "The Logical Song," you might think not only that they were a crappy band but also that you could probably beat any member up with one hand tied behind your back. "Goodbye Stranger" may not reconcile any perceived wimpiness, but it doesn't need to because the keyboards and backing singers are so damn beautiful.