12 Times Fans Hated Their Favorite Band’s Big Hits
Those in whom we invest so much of our emotional capital have the greatest capacity to disappoint us. Imagine being a Billy Joel fan in 1989 when the local DJ announced there was a new Billy Joel song he was going to play and you, the Billy Joel fan, felt the anticipation rise within you. It had been three years since The Bridge, and you needed some new music from him like you needed air, like you needed water, like you needed food.
And the DJ played the record, and the first words you hear from your hero were “Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray, South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio.” A recitation, not a song.
The disappointment was deep and abiding. Our favorite artists give us much pleasure, but they are also the ones that can hurt us the most. Here, we give you a dozen times our favorite artists have given us songs we hate, along with the words of regular fans who took to the internet to express their displeasure. Or just to rant. We take it to the people; we listen to their voices.
Cheap Trick, “The Flame”
Mired in the deepest commercial funk of their career, the firm of Zander, Nielsen, Petersson and Carlos sought assistance from outside writers, two of whom (Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham) brought them a power ballad that even Elkie Brooks didn’t want. Nevertheless, they recorded it and had the biggest single of their lives, much less their careers — No. 1 in the U.S., Australia and Canada. It’s a song they must play every time they take the stage, wedged in among the spunky tracks of their youth (“ELO Kiddies,” “Clock Strikes Ten,” “Surrender”) and the surprisingly spunky tracks of their dotage (“No Direction Home,” “Long Time Coming,” “The Summer Looks Good on You”).
Those who are partial to those energetic rock songs and who did not have teenage crushes in 1988 might go for the beer vendor when Cheap Trick play “The Flame” live. They would be in good company. Back in the early ‘90s, as grunge bands like Nirvana were claiming Cheap Trick as one of their forebears, the band’s record company was looking for more hits like “The Flame.” “All those bands would say, ‘We love Cheap Trick, except the stuff they’re doing now,'” Tom Petersson told Rolling Stone.
“This song still makes me wince,” wrote one fan on Amazon. “It's not terrible as ballads go, but it's a pretty lowest common denominator kind of song,” said another in a post titled “Over produced [sic] crap.”
R.E.M., "Shiny Happy People"
Perhaps the strangest thing a band like R.E.M. (who were occasionally given to doing strange things) could do was to write a singalong song like “Shiny Happy People.” Michael Stipe blames it all on his bandmates. “The guys would give me pieces of music that were so ebullient and bubblegum,” he told The Sun, “that I’d be like, ‘Okay, I accept your challenge and I raise you.” He hearkened back to his earliest record-buying days, when he collected 45 RPM singles by like the Archies and the Monkees. And he channeled that into a song about little more than being happy. And it was a hit, striking the bottom rung of the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
In other words, somebody liked the song. Just not everybody, and some hardcore fans are vociferous in their hatred. “When push comes to shove, the main reason I hate this fucking song is that it's so annoying on every single possible level,” Brendan Kelly, leader of the Chicago punk band the Lawrence Arms, told PunkNews. “The lyrics irritate me, that fucking jangly riff in the beginning of it makes me insane and the sad French circus breakdown is fucking pompous. I think there's an intellectual reason to hate this song and there's a visceral reason to hate this song, and I firmly hate it for both reasons.”
A quick gander through Amazon’s ratings finds a number of folks that agree with Kelly. “Possibly the worst song in history,” says someone called rem fan. “Really makes me want to punch someone,” says another user. “It's Michael Stipe's transparent attempt at a ‘love’ anthem, like the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’ … only stupid,” writes yet another fan.
Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Billy Joel didn’t write this list (it’s not a song — it’s a list, set to four chords) to be “Cliff Notes for the MTV generation,” as one critic put it. “I wish people could understand that I did not write that song to be a hit – I wrote that one for me,” he told Rolling Stone in 1989. He added “Most of my mail I get about that song comes from teachers who have said this is the greatest teaching tool to come down the pike since Sesame Street, which means a lot to me, since I once wanted to be a history teacher.”
If there’s one way to make Oscar the Grouch grouchier, or kids at school more disinterested and sleepy, it might be to expose him/them to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Then again, Joel might agree with them. “I didn’t think it was really that good to begin with,” he told an audience of students at Oxford in 1994. “Melodically … It’s almost like a dentist drill.” Some people agree. “I was always annoyed by that song,” wrote someone named Mr. Peanut (surely not the Planter’s peanut spokesman, but an impostor) on a Yahoo board. “A truely [sic] miserable song,” commented another user in the same thread. “Who elected the people that commited [sic] the errors he sings about?”
Heart, “These Dreams”
This is the band whose singer cut out the heart of a sleazy record executive in “Barracuda” and made him watch it, still beating, as he expired. This is the band that demanded of a lover that he let her wildly make love to him in “Crazy on You.” This is the band that covered Aaron Neville, Little Richard, the Righteous Brothers and Led Zeppelin … on the same album. Then this band hit No. 1 by letting the singer’s sister take lead vocals as it rolled out a snoozy, synthy song co-written by the guy who wrote Starship's “We Built This City.” If there were any barracuda present, they were probably being served as lunch, on silver platters, delivered by faeries and fauns.
Amazon commenter Clear Channel Sucks (so we know how he/she feels about that) noted, “This is very tacky by a ‘rock band’ and it sure shows it. Zero stars on ‘[T]hese [D]reams.’” “Next to Heart's new and old material, the ‘80s stuff is cringe-worthy,” wrote a fan.
Chuck Berry, “My Ding-a-Ling”
To think this puerile novelty song was Chuck Berry’s only No. 1 hit is proof that we humans quite often have tin ears and stumps for brains, and that even one of the great songwriters and performers ever to put pen to paper and duck feet to the stage, can sometimes make bad, bad decisions.
What particularly hurts here is that the double-entendre (“ding-a-ling” for penis, in case you didn’t get it) is so broad and obvious, too much so to be used by a man whose gift of wordplay was for a time second to none in early rock ‘n’ roll — who could encode racial injustice into a song like “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” or “Nadine,” or fill “Maybelline” and so many others with dense rhymes and coined words. “My Ding-A-Ling” was beneath him. The pain is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that Berry didn’t write the song; Dave Bartholomew gets the acknowledgement there.
In the words of one Amazon customer customer, “My Ding-a-Ling” “is an embarrassment to listen to and I hope all of the people that pushed it to #1 are forced to listen to it for their eternity. After everything Chuck did for rock'n'roll why did we have to hear ‘MDAL’ [sic]?” He drew an “Amen” from Speedy, who slowed down enough to agree. “[I] never understood why this song was so popular and why so many other REALLY great songs by Berry were forgotten,” he/she writes.
Kiss, “I Was Made for Lovin You”
In David Leaf and Ken Sharp’s Kiss: Behind the Mask:The Official Authorized Biography, we find out that Paul Stanley took a stab at writing a disco song because he thought a disco song would be easy to write. He was correct. He, Desmond Child and producer Vini Poncia put Stanley’s best come-hither, chest-hair-baring lines to a 120-beats-per-minute, sound-effect-punctuated dance song production, and suddenly you could play Kiss at nightclubs and roller rinks.
Of all the songs the band recorded, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” is pinned to a specific moment in history. You can always blast “Rock and Roll All Nite” at a ballgame, or find “Beth” or “Forever” on adult contemporary radio, or hear the neighbor kids playing “Do You Love Me” or “Heaven’s on Fire” in the garage next door, because they just discovered the thing. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” belongs in a 1979 time capsule with MEGO Kiss figures and Colorforms sets.
“I am actually quite embarrassed by it,” an Amazon user user wrote of the song. “I paid money for it, so I haven't deleted it. I hope none of my friends see it.” Poor guy. “I listened to this and was broken-hearted,” Claudette Adler concurred. “It was some of the worst crap I have ever heard.” “1979 was a pitiful year for KISS,” an unidentified customer wrote. “What were they thinking?”
The Beach Boys, “Kokomo”
A last-ditch trip up the singles chart for the once-mighty boys of summer. It’s telling that it took four writers to come up with lyrics that rhyme Jamaica with “wanna take ya” and Bahama with “pretty mama”; if you gather up enough nickels, you’ll have a quarter one day. “Kokomo” was a hit because it was attached to a Tom Cruise film (Cocktail) in which Cruise’s character acts like a jerk for two hours and still gets the girl in the end. In the video for the song, John Stamos plays bongos with the Beach Boys, as he apparently did for a while in real life, which just goes to show you that there is nothing mediocre that cannot be further ruined with an appearance by John Stamos.
Over on Amazon, one attached but unimpressed user noted of the song, “My girlfriend likes it more than I do.” In an interesting twist, an unidentified customer wrote, “Great Beach Boys tune! ... ‘Kokomo’ comes off a bit dated. But I still love it. Definitely worth the download. The rest of the album is .... meh.” It must be noted that the album in question is the Beach Boys compilation 50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits, and that the “rest of the album” contains songs like “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and the like.
Bob Seger, “Shakedown”
Bob Seger loved his only No. 1 single so much, he left it off his first Greatest Hits album in favor of a Chuck Berry cover and a minor new song tacked on so people who had all the other old stuff would buy it. “Shakedown” (which was featured in Beverly Hills Cop II) did make it onto his second volume of greatest hits, nine years later.
According to Fred Bronson’s The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Seger wasn’t even the first choice to record the song — his buddy Glenn Frey had been asked, but Frey didn’t like the lyrics and mysteriously/conveniently “came down with laryngitis” shortly before he was supposed to record the song. Then Seger got the call and agreed to record the song ... if he could rewrite the lyrics. “There were a lot of lyrics about working undercover,” Seger told Bronson. “I didn’t like them, so I threw them all out.” (“Why didn’t I think of that?” Glenn Frey must have thought briefly, before adjusting the flow control in his Jacuzzi.) Apparently, Seger liked the chorus (with the line “Shakedown, breakdown, you’re busted”), and left that in, along with the many-layered wall of synthesizers that overwhelms him throughout.
There aren’t many people out there discussing “Shakedown.” One of the few is a dude over on YouTube, who noted, “This is the song you sing before breathing on a stranger's neck.” “It's like Bob Seger got drunk and made a deal with the devil,” wrote another. And a commenter by the name of Django Unchained (we doubt that’s his real name) simply wrote “Fuck yeasss Bob Seaver its bobbbb ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” That says it all, doesn't it?
Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
Aerosmith should not be recording Diane Warren songs for Bruce Willis space movies. They should be challenging Ted Nugent and Deep Purple to see who headlines the next all-day hard rock jam-fest in the desert. Which desert? Any desert. Bring Black Oak Arkansas and Mahogany Rush and Sammy Hagar along, play all day and party all night.
Of course, that Aerosmith doesn't exist anymore; they’ve been replaced by the older, wiser Aerosmith that look for opportunities to build their brand and stake out a place for themselves with the younger crowd, the one that wants to see Steven Tyler’s daughter and Ben Affleck really make a go of it together, because they’re meant for each other, you know?
With the threat of an extinction-level event coming down from the stars, the last thing we should be lucky enough to hear before we all die is Joe Perry ripping a solo from his Les Paul; it’s just that literally the last thing we should be hearing him rip the solo on is “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
“JUST A GREAT SONG WHEN YOU NEED THAT REAL LOVE,” one guy screamed at us from his Amazon comment. Former American Idol contestant Caleb Johnson told People magazine, “I hate that song,” shortly after the producers compelled him to sing it in front of millions of people. “I'm always gonna love this song but never listen to it again,” wrote a YouTube user, with some note of finality.
Genesis, “Invisible Touch”
So the band that launched “The Carpet Crawlers,” "Firth of Fifth,” “Squonk,” and the seven-part “Supper’s Ready” hit the big time — the really big time, with stadiums and limos and very good catering — singing “She seems to have an invisible touch-ay!” Like 1985 before it, 1986 more or less belonged to Phil Collins (“Will the Free World ever tire of Phil Collins?” one Chicago Tribune reviewer asked), so much of the blame for “Invisible Touch”’s slickness and silly chorus fell on him, not that it mattered. U.S. listeners bought 6 million copies of Invisible Touch (the album) and sent the single to No. 1, the first and only time Genesis would sit atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
Not everybody dug it, though. “‘Invisible Touch’ represents the absolute nadir of Phil Collins' leadership of Genesis,” wrote one Amazon reviewer. “‘Invisible Touch’ is the definition of what singles are today: lame,” added another. “This is where it really gets to be ‘Phil Collins featuring Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford…’ AKA: CHEESE!” yelled yet another not-fan. And A Kid’s Review added, “Man I hate this stupid album. Way too synthesized and the stupid love-dovey romance songs! ... I once got beat up by N-SYNC for real. Did y'all know that?” We did not.
Metallica, “Nothing Else Matters”
Metallica play “Nothing Else Matters” at just about every show; at some point between when they walk out onstage and two hours later, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield will play those arpeggios and begin the slog through the worst song the band ever recorded that’s not on St. Anger. Sometimes they encore with it. Why would they do that to their fans, whom they claim to love? We recall the first time we heard the song, doubling over as if we had been kicked in the stomach. Nothing else mattered, except hitting the next track button on the CD player, which cued up “Wherever I May Roam,” enabling us to uncurl from our defensive position and enjoy music again.
Commenters on YouTube seem to dig the song, at least in retrospect, though tens of thousands gave it a thumbs-down. Lord Ganja indicates that “Nothing Else Matters” was “when they sold out :(.” He’d better not say anything to edie youngblood, who indicates “The 72k people who disliked I want to punch strait [sic] in the face.” Trevor Phillips said the song reminds him of “[w]hen your brother tries to get you killed and fakes his own death, but you forgive him because he's your brother,” while someone named Θανάσης Ζολώτας wrote, “This song is made for endless sex” (something we’d never before considered).
Rod Stewart, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
It’s been said that no other artist in rock 'n' roll has squandered as much talent and good will in search of widespread popularity as Rod Stewart. We cannot disagree. Want to hear some great '70s rock — classic songs that fuse the best folk and blues influences with a Stonesy swagger? Go find the first four Rod Stewart albums (and, while you’re at it, grab the first three records he made with the Faces).
Want to hear a story about the most awkward one-night stand ever, set to a disco thump with synthesized strings pushed so far in your face, you can smell the keyboard player’s cologne? For that, you have to play “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” The song, to be honest, is kind of cute now, since Stewart has become more of a standards-crooning grandfatherly figure these days, and since “Sexy”’s co-writer Duane Hitchings has told people that the song was Stewart’s way of “spoofing” disco — to bury the leisure suit, not to praise it.
“It's the blandest recording he's ever done,” wrote one Amazon user. “[T]his is one interestingly bizarre song,” wrote a YouTube user. “NO, I don't think ya sexy!” someone named Swearing is for Bistros said, likely believing the tiny Rod onscreen was really questioning him/her. Fortnite TheoryYT dug Stewart’s wardrobe in the video: “He looks like ninja.” Josh IsBaws says the chorus “is me after any girl randomly says 'hi' to me.” We root for you, Josh IsBaws, we really do.