YOU ASKED FOR IT
The people have spoken.
At the conclusion of our recent list of pop history's most overplayed classic-rock songs ("Stairway to Hell," December 7), we invited you, our readers, to point out any tunes we might have overlooked. The response was voluminous. Either we struck a chord, or we did such a poor job that you felt someone had to fill in the gaps.
Hence, here's your roster of the ten overplayed acts we didn't mention last time around, as well as the top ten numbers by performers whose other work gets aired less frequently (see sidebar, page 64). And for those correspondents who suggested that overplayed rock oldies, classic new-wave hits and cuts that fall into several other musical classifications also deserve to be noted, here's an admission: You're right. Don't be surprised if they make an appearance in these pages sometime in the future.
10. ASIA. Oh, my God! It's perhaps the most mediocre supergroup of all time! This collective of veteran art-rockers--Yes's Steve Howe and Geoff Downes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Carl Palmer, and John Wetton, formerly of King Crimson and (yikes!) Uriah Heep--made music that was about as artful as a Jim Varney film. Worse, they're still getting airplay.
Runners-up. 3. "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" (1983): The listeners have left the room. 2. "Only Time Will Tell" (1982): Time's up. 1. "Don't Cry" (1983): All right, but only if you stop spinning this song.
The Winner. "Heat of the Moment" (1982): Untruth in advertising: It's not hot, and it lasts a lot longer than a moment.
9. TOTO. A group of L.A. session men with absolutely nothing to say get together, and millions of masochists make them stars. Little-known fact: Toto keyboardist David Paich won an Emmy for co-writing the theme to the Raymond Burr series Ironside. Which kicked the asses of the rest of these disgusting ditties.
Runners-up. 3. "I Won't Hold You Back" (1983): You already have. 2. "Africa" (1982): Single-handedly pushed back the cause of improved relations with nations on the African continent by about a thousand years. 1. "Rosanna" (1982): Single-handedly pushed back the career of Rosanna Arquette (the composition's inspiration) by about a thousand years.
The Winner. "Hold the Line" (1978): The first, and worst, Toto hit. It's way over the line.
8. JEFFERSON AIRPLANE/STARSHIP. This San Francisco outfit was one of the brightest new entries during the original Summer of Love. With each passing day (and each successive name change), however, it became less interesting. In another decade or so, it may finally disappear.
Runners-up. 3. "Somebody to Love" (1967): Judging by the miles on Grace Slick today, she found plenty of somebodies to love. 2. "Miracles" (1975): After this song, we stopped believing in them. 1. "Jane" (1979): She's feelin' no pain--but listeners are.
The Winner. "We Built This City" (1985): Easily the band's worst hit.
7. FOREIGNER. These guys may not have much of a career right now, but they've left eons worth of fake rock and genuine treacle in their wake.
Runners-up. 3. "I Want to Know What Love Is" (1984): Love is never having to be subjected to this again. 2. "Hot Blooded" (1978): You can never find a leech when you need one. 1. "Cold as Ice" (1977): Hot-blooded or cold as ice? Make up your minds.
The Winner. "Feels Like the First Time" (1977): If this song really was anything like "the first time," most of us would still be keeping a vow of celibacy.
6. DAVID BOWIE. The Thin White Duke is a crossover hero; he gets overplayed on modern-rock radio, too. Fortunately, he has enough personalities to go around.
Runners-up. 3. "Young Americans" (1975): Among the hipper tracks here. As such, it's a surprise it gets aired at all. 2. "Golden Years" (1976): This is as funky as classic rock gets--meaning that James Brown has nothing to worry about. 1. "Fame" (1975): Yeah, being rich and famous is rough. Those of us who are unknown and impoverished definitely sympathize.
The Winner. "Space Oddity" (1973): The story of Major Tom lost in space. Too bad he didn't take this creaky epic with him.
5. ELTON JOHN. Laugh if you'd like, but Elton was one of the more tolerable idols who emerged during the Seventies. Of course, that doesn't make The Lion King sound any better.
Runners-up. 3. "Rocket Man" (1972): Bowie's inspiration for "Space Oddity"? Only his hairdresser knows for sure. 2. "Crocodile Rock" (1972): Our readers think this has a lot in common with its namesake--it bites. 1. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (1973): Billy Joel likes this John song more than any other. Figures.
4. JOURNEY. Beavis and Butt-head's most hated group. For cartoon morons, they're pretty damn insightful.
Runners-up. 3. "Who's Crying Now" (1981): Anyone who ever heard this frigging thing. 2. "Any Way You Want It" (1980): We want it spindled, mutilated and destroyed. 1. "Don't Stop Believin'" (1981): Okay--but can we stop listening?
The Winner. "Open Arms" (1982): If you doubt that lead singer Steve Perry is the spawn of the devil, check this one out.
3. STEELY DAN. Critics tend to like the work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, which Frank Zappa dubbed "downer surrealism." But our letter writers have had more than enough.
Runners-up. 3. "Hey Nineteen" (1980): Beloved by middle-aged men who get horny watching The Breakfast Club. 2. "Aja" (1977): Recorded during the period when the boys began to get too enamored of overslick jazz. 1. "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (1974): Rikki may have lost the number by now, but classic-rock DJs will never misplace it.
The Winner. "Do It Again" (1972): On second thought, don't.
2. ZZ TOP. Man, were you shocked this threesome didn't rate a mention in our first article. Here in Denver, the Topsters' Texas boogie is as omnipresent as John Elway car dealerships.
Runners-up. 3. "Arrested for Driving While Blind" (1976): Gets big laughs from people serving time for vehicular homicide. 2. "Gimme All Your Lovin" (1983): Retooled for the MTV generation. Dig that dorky synthesizer. 1. "Legs" (1984): They couldn't mention their other favorite body parts on the radio.
The Winner. "Tush" (1975): When male chauvinists sexually harass women, this is the song going through their heads.
1. THE MOODY BLUES. The band that put the term "symphonic rock and roll" into the musical lexicon has a lot to answer for. So let's get started, shall we?
Runners-up. 3. "The Story in Your Eyes" (1971): A sad, sad story. 2. "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)" (1968): Jocks love putting this on during (surprise) Tuesday afternoons. Appropriate! 1. "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)" (1973): Debatable.
The Winner. "Nights in White Satin" (1968). Our biggest oversight. This turgid slab of yuck could be about anything from cocaine to the Ku Klux Klan--we can't bear to analyze its mock-poetic lyrics long enough to know for certain. But this we're sure of: We can't wait until these "Nights" are over.
Our previous rankings of one-shots by acts that didn't make the main list of classic-rock overachievers featured a slew of deserving victors, including Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kansas, Golden Earring and Foghat. The names added by readers are just as hallowed--and generally as horrifying:
10. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," by Pat Benatar (1980). A darling of despicable spouse-abusers everywhere, "Hit Me" is sung by the only female artist to make the grade--echoing the overwhelmingly male tenor of our initial piece. You can bet that somewhere, Stevie Nicks is pissed.
9. "Hocus Pocus," by Focus (1973). Admit it: The first time you heard this ridiculously drawn out novelty song from Dutch progressive rockers Jon Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer, you knew they'd never have another American chart success. And you were right.
8. "Come and Get It," by Badfinger (1970). Penned by Paul McCartney and made sort of famous by the Peter Sellers flick The Magic Christian, "Come" has the kind of melody that some people could listen to endlessly. For those in the other camp, it represents a special brand of torture.
7. "Love Hurts," by Nazareth (1976). Fans of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons know that this song can be lovely in the right hands. But the hands attached to these idiots from Scotland are wrong, wrong, wrong.
6. "All the Young Dudes," by Mott the Hoople (1972). Mott put out a lot of good music in its day, but only made waves with this androgynous mosaic produced by David Bowie. Note to you macho, hairy-chested types who like it: For a time, this was regarded as a homosexual anthem.
5. "Hold Your Head Up," by Argent (1972). When singer/keyboardist Rod Argent was in the Zombies, he contributed to some pretty good radio fare. But it's difficult to picture him holding his head up about this weak solo venture.
4. "Rock and Roll Part 2," by Gary Glitter (1972). A walking, talking trivia question, Glitter made his mark with songs whose rhythms simulate the sound of a rhinocerous tap-dancing. Haven't we heard this enough at hockey games?
3. "Bang the Drum All Day," by Todd Rundgren (1982). "Bang" is an enjoyable enough anti-work tune, but it gets played whenever some nutty radio jock wants to suck up to the blue-collar crowd. Which, according to our respondents, happens all too frequently.
2. "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," by T. Rex (1972). More banging from the late Marc Bolan, who wrote a handful of groovy tunes before clocking out. But you wouldn't know it by listening to classic-rock radio.
1. "Green-Eyed Lady," by Sugarloaf (1970). Yes! Denver's own Sugarloaf takes the prize with this wacky ode to womankind, delivered by lead singer Jerry Corbetta in a stentorian voice that would do Tom Jones proud. Remember--it doesn't have to be old to be classic. But it sure helps.
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