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The 10 Most Overplayed Classic
Rock Songs of all Time

July 25, 2012 by Somebody

Most classic rock radio stations have one thing in common: they love to play the same songs over and over again. Chances are, you could tune into a classic rock station two years from now, and they would be playing almost the exact same songs that they're playing today. You would think that, since time marches on and new music continues to be made, newer songs would be added to the classic rock repertoire after they get to be, say, ten years old. But no. Although a handful of lucky 90s tunes have found their way into these stations' formats, for the most part you keep hearing the same moldy collection of songs from the seventies and eighties. Here are ten that are well past retirement age, and have a home awaiting them at the Smithsonian:

"You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC

AC/DC is undoubtedly one of the great rock bands of all time, but I could never wrap my brain around the popularity of this particular tune. It should be officially christened as "the song that never goes away."

I always assumed that the singer's heartwarming tale about a female who "shook" him all night long was a reference to getting laid, but it occurs to me now that maybe he was drunk and passed out, and a hooker was trying to revive him to collect her cash. Another possibility is that the shaking refers to the treatment of the singer by his mother when he was an infant, which would explain a lot about Brian Johnson's lyrical output.

"Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

In terms of romantic lyrics, this revered southern rock anthem scores a zero. The singer is basically saying, "hit the road, bitch," and then rubs salt into the wound with a torturous multi-guitar duel that seems to never end. The unchangeable bird apparently thought it was necessary to poop on the girl before he flew away. I'm guessing she got over the loss of her trailer-park Romeo a lot sooner that he expected.

"Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi

A pointless power ballad about the rigors of being on tour. This song made bad lyric history with lines like, "I've seen a million faces, and I rocked them all," and "I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride." (Not sure what kind of vehicle he's referring to here, but I could see how riding on top of the tour bus would get old. Maybe riding inside the bus would work a little better.) Yes, the life of a touring rock star can be tedious, but in the end the happiness of your fans makes it all worthwhile. Also, the money isn't bad, and you get to sleep half the day. Keep rockin' those faces, Jon Bon!

"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven. When she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed, blah, blah, blah, and on and on forever until the end of time. Of course, I loved this song when I first heard it, like most other people. Sad that classic rock radio had to play it to the point that I can't even enjoy it anymore. If you had to find a silver lining in the song's fate, maybe it helped us to learn that even the greatest masterpieces can't hold up to the erosive powers of overexposure and endless repetition.

"Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osborne

There is an unsettling quality about Randy Rhodes' in-your-face guitar on this tune, kind of like the feeling you get when you contemplate climbing over a razor-wire fence. Although the song has some good lyrical moments -- who hasn't felt like they were "going off the rails on a crazy train" -- I, I, I... still prefer the Pat Boone version.

"Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses

There are few things that will make me change the radio station quicker than the cringe-inducing opening guitar notes of this horrible song. After Slash's dull-witted intro, Axl Rose squawks like a large predatory bird about a girl he feels affection for, but it's hard to know if he's referring to a girlfriend or daughter. Either way is kind of creepy, since he alternately refers to her as both his "child" and his "love,” and the line "I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain" sounds like an abusive alcoholic apologizing for his latest violent episode. This song is the musical equivalent of watching Cops.

"Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen

In the late 70s, a lot of established rock bands from previous years seemed to be going through an identity crisis, and started dabbling in music trends like disco and new wave. This minimalist faux-disco song is a prime example of that genre. Consisting of little more than a drum beat and a bass line, this song would seem more at home next to Lipps, Inc.'s "Funkytown" than on a Queen album. The lyrics, which seem to celebrate homicide, are equally baffling. It occurred to me that the song might have served as a dark commentary on the AIDS epidemic, which eventually claimed singer Freddie Mercury as one of its casualties, but it turns out that it was recorded one year before AIDS was officially recognized as a disease. So, unless the band had a crystal ball, it's probably just a mindless dance tune about murder.

"Panama" by Van Halen

In the eyes most Van Halen fans, the album 1984 represents the point at which the band's hard-edged music began to be softened by their ongoing commercial success. "Panama," in spite of its solid rock riffs and sing-along chorus, seems like pretty good evidence of that claim. David Lee Roth's previous role as spokesman for the rebellious youth of America was traded in for jet-set bravado, and lyrics such as, "Yeah, we're runnin' a little hot tonight" are little more than a celebration of the singer's super-stardom and hedonistic lifestyle. The lack of anti-establishment sentiments was, no doubt, a factor in the song's endless radio airplay.

"Love in an Elevator" by Aerosmith

I thought this was a pretty cool song when it was first released. Aside from the obvious racy connotations of the title, there was something haunting about the melody of the chorus and the symbolism contained in the line, "Livin' it up when I'm going down," which seemed to echo my uncertainty and mixed feelings about life when I was in my early 20s. The time leading up that point in my early adulthood had been relatively free of worries and responsibilities, but I felt the direction of my life was definitely "going down." There are also some nice Beatles-influenced touches in this song, like the single plinking piano note on the chorus, and the trumpet-like keyboards at the end of the song. Unlike some other tunes on this list, this one was over-played with good reason.

"Hey Jude" by The Beatles

This one doesn't get as much airplay as it used to, but from 1968 until around the mid-80s it seemed impossible to listen to the radio for more than three minutes without hearing it. It stayed on the playlists of top 40 radio stations for an extended period of time before moving into the regular rotations of classic rock and oldies stations.

The popularity of this ballad was understandable. It was released a year or so before the Beatles' breakup, and the lyrics -- "Hey Jude, don't make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better" -- seemed intended to console their legions of disappointed fans. However, the song was actually written by Paul for John Lennon's son Julian, after the divorce of the boy's parents.


"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...