The Top 10 Hits the Band Wishes Didn't Exist

June 22, 2010

It's a well known fact that the music most bands want you to hear isn't the music that's actually popular.  Tales abound of serious bands having novelty hits, novelty bands having serious hits, and audiences completely missing the point of songs.  In fact, sometimes, it gets so bad, the band wishes they'd never even come up with the song.

Source: Capitol Records

By Dan Seitz

 

10. Butthole Surfers, "Pepper"

The Butthole Surfers is an experimental post-punk band infamous for their live shows.  Smoke machines, strobe lights, two drummers, Gabby Hayes lighting things on fire and throwing around blow-up dolls, all surrounded by sludgy, scary metal.  This is a band who put out an album called Hairway to Steven.  And they'd been doing this since 1981, although by 1996, when "Pepper" hit, they'd calmed down a bit.

So what was the deal with "Pepper"?  It was a send-up of Beck, actually.  Not being a fan of the guy at the time, they wrote a song poking fun at his lyrics and styles: for example, you can hear the bridge played in reverse in the song, just like in "Loser."

So what happens? The parody, which is mostly filled with clues that only other musicians can pick up, becomes their sole number one hit, and drags the album Electriclarryland to gold status.  Ever since, the Buttholes were asked to chase that "random mix of lyrics" success, at least until Capitol finally dropped them and they could get back to business.

9. Boston, "Amanda"

Source: Carl Lender/Flickr/Creative Commons

We take it for granted now that every arena rock band has some sort of soulful ballad they throw in mostly as a sop to the lead singer's girlfriend.  But Boston is a pretty unique case.

"Amanda" was actually written back in 1980, but didn't see an album until 1986.  The band loved the song so much they didn't even appear in the music video, which was never officially released and is so obscure you can't even find it on YouTube.  Boston didn't even do sensitive acoustic ballads; they were an arena rock band.

So naturally this is the song that rockets straight to number one and performs the best out of all of them.  Boston didn't talk much about this song, although one thing that does become clear is that the band never really shook off that whole sub-Barry Manilow thing.

8. Blur, "Song 2"

Source: Fred Duval/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Blur wasn't really noted as an alternative band before 1997.  In fact, they were a pop band, largely only a success in Britain, and by the time "Song 2" came along, they'd been together as a band for almost 10 years.

"Song 2" actually came about as a joke on Graham Coxon, one of the founding members, who was making a point to listen to American bands like Pavement to mock Damon Albarn, which has since been made into an official British sport, and who kind of ran the entire band despite Coxon having, you know, opinions and seniority and things like that.

Hence, "Song 2" came about as a bit of a tweak on Coxon…aaaaand it wound up being the hit everybody aside from the Brits knew them by, and they've had to cater to that ever since. Not even their old fans wanted their old sound after "Song 2" became such a hit. No wonder Albarn started Gorillaz. He wanted to perform something, anything, else.

7. Ray Stevens, "Everything is Beautiful"

Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who, you may ask, is Ray Stevens?  Well, that's a good question.  You probably know him best, if you know him at all, as the composer of songs like "Guitarzan" and "Osama Yo' Mama," or as an award-winning country songwriter.  When he's not writing fairly successful songs for other people, he's kind of like Weird Al, except without the wit.  Or the musical ability.  But he keeps winning the Music City News Comedian of the Year Award, for some reason.  Seriously, he's won this award we've never heard of nine times.  In a row.  He must be friends with the editor or something.

Anyway, one of Stevens' biggest hits, and arguably one he's been trying to get away from for thirty years, is "Everything is Beautiful."  Yes, that song, the sappy, serious ballad about how everybody should love one another, come together, hold hands, and sing songs together, preferably those penned by Ray Stevens.  It was good enough for him to get a Grammy, which he probably followed up with a song about running around naked.  Stevens doesn't talk about the song much, presumably out of shame.

6. The Cure, "Friday I'm In Love"

Source: John Shearer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Cure is notable for many things, but mostly for defining what it meant to be depressed in the '80s.  Granted, South Park isn't far off the mark about "Disintegration" being one of the best albums ever, but it kind of tells you how joyful the band is as a general rule.  Even if Smith did at least have the sense of humor to let the South Park boys turn him into Megalon, the giant drill-handed cockroach.

 

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"Friday I'm In Love" was actually the Cure's last big hit, back in 1992.  Not that this has stopped them from hating the hell out of the song.  Robert Smith even went so far as to say fans of the song weren't actually fans of the Cure, firmly separating themselves from the one happy song in their oeuvre.  Well, unless you count "Do The Hansa," but that's kind of its own special case.  It's largely the Cure's refusal to turn out crap that has kept them from being the cultural force they were in the '80s.  Well, that and all their fans had kids and decided they didn't want to write bad poetry anymore.

But at least they got a South Park appearance out of it.

 

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5. Ozzy Osborne, "Close My Eyes Forever"

Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

We all know Ozzy.  "Crazy Train," "Bark at the Moon," and of course his career in Black Sabbath.  Which makes his "duet" with Lita Ford, "Close My Eyes Forever," one of the biggest "what the hell?" moments in music this side of Garth Brooks deciding he wanted to play rock music.

Seriously, check out the video of this cheesmo monstrosity.  You've got Ozzy in enormous Farrah hair with the worst backing guitar riff this side of "Missing You," and Lita Ford, who is one of the Runaways nobody cared about, singing a duet with Ozzy.  What's scary is: they both look alike.  Seriously.

 

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Normally we'd say Ozzy was on drugs, but we already knew that.  Maybe he got some bad drugs.  Or maybe they switched his drugs out to something worse.  Maybe he started drinking Benzene.  That's about the only thing that makes sense.  Thankfully, metal Ozzy returned and we haven't heard much of ballad Ozzy since.  No, he did not perform a song with his daughter called "Changes."  We don't know what you're talking about!  Such a song doesn't exist!  And we'll keep drinking this paint thinner until we know that for certain!

4. Filter, "Take a Picture"

Source: Chapman Baehler/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Filter, an industrial rock band out of Cleveland led by the T-1000's brother, had huge success right out of the gate with "Hey Man, Nice Shot," a song about suicide.  Yeah.  Filter's not cuddly.  Or at least they weren't.

We've got to wonder what fans of the band made of "Take a Picture," a mellow, acoustic ballad.  True, it's intended to be an ironic reflection since the lyrics refer to an incident where the frontman got wasted and stripped naked on an airplane.

Unfortunately, Filter tended to write their lyrics in a somewhat oblique way, and people never listen to lyrics anyway, as the entire career of most pop singers can attest.  "Take a Picture" because a massive hit, by far Filter's biggest song, and joined the ranks of dozens of misinterpreted hits that people love because they sound pretty while not listening to the lyrics.

 

3. The Beastie Boys, "Fight For Your Right to Party"

Soruce: Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images

There are many things that define the '80s, but none of them were more annoying than the songs about how you had a right to be an obnoxious jerk that were incredibly, mindblowingly tame.  You know, "I Can't Drive 55," "Smokin' In the Boys Room," and songs like that.  Songs that pretty much said you were about as rebellious and badass as Lawrence Welk.

The Beastie Boys, finding this as annoying as everybody else, responded with a goof on songs like this: "Fight For Your Right." They made the lyrics as over-the-top as humanly possible, our favorite being "your mom threw away your best porno mag" which acknowledges something most of the guys singing songs like this pretended didn't exist, even though most of them were probably dating porn stars.

 

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As you might have guessed, the fans of the song missed the point, and missed it considerably.  The Boys enjoy the song so much, they haven't performed it live in over 20 years and in fact followed it up with Paul's Boutique, an album designed to both show their creativity and alienate all those alleged fans wanting more "Fight For Your Right." 

Well, that song turned out well for the rest of us, anyway.

2. Radiohead, "Creep"

Source: John Shearer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Yeah, throwing a band that changes their musical stylings every album might seem a little unfair, but "Creep" deserves a special mention, if for no other reason that Radiohead wishes it didn't exist.

"Creep," as anybody who cried to it during high school in the mid-'90s (shut up, we were sensitive then) knows, was pretty much a high school alienation anthem.  Unfortunately, it was also the only Radiohead song most people wanted to hear.  Radiohead got to witness people showing up, hearing "Creep", and actually leaving.

 

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They hated it so much, they composed a song about it in their next album, "My Iron Lung," sending up both their commercial attachment to the song, and people who didn't give a crap about the rest of their work.

It became a hit, and took the place as the song they hated that everybody demanded they play.  Which probably led to OK Computer, an album without a definable hit and probably one of the best concept albums ever, and then to the rest of Radiohead's career, which, well, we'll leave it to you to decide if Kid A was brilliant or just a coaster.


1. REM, "Shiny Happy People"

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REM is best known as the band that brought college rock to the masses, which means either they substantially improved American radio or ruined college rock, depending on who you're talking to and how bitter they are about it.

"Shiny Happy People" was, of course, a satire.  Are you kidding?  This is REM.  Either the songs are oblique references to comedians or they're just flat out depressing.  Either way, nobody got the joke and REM found itself besieged by people basically asking them to fill a niche that would remain empty until the Barenaked Ladies came along.  It was also their last top 10 single, which didn't stop it from being omitted from their Greatest Hits albums.

 

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Nor was REM alone.  AOL Music ranked it as the number one wussiest song, Blender dubbed it one of the 50 worst songs of all time, and in general, everybody hates it.

Now, "Furry Happy Monsters" is an entirely different story.

 

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