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Five Classic Hits Originally Recorded As Jokes

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Randy Bachman (Photo by Donald Weber/Getty Images)

Randy Bachman (Photo by Donald Weber/Getty Images)

Britt Bickel
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The ultimate goal of an artist is to record a hit song, however not every hit song was written intentionally to become a top ten hit. Whether it be just clowning around in the studio or making up words on the spot, some classic songs went on to become huge hits as a result of a happy accident.

Here are five classic hit songs that in some way or another were recoded in jest, and in some cases, not even intended for release at all.

“Stuck in The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel

Written as a parody by lead singer Gerry Rafferty about folk icon Bob Dylan, the song went on to become a major hit in 1972 selling over a million copies. Rafferty wrote the song poking fun at Dylan’s paranoia often featured in his lyrics, even including the line “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” as a direct dig at how Dylan referenced people in his songs. Rafferty even sang the vocals to sound similar to Dylan’s distinct voice.

The song had a resurgence years later when Quentin Tarantino used it in the notorious ear-slicing scene in his 1992 film Reservoir Dogs.


“Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells

Setting out to make a party-rock jam, Tommy James and the Shondells came up with the song’s catchy title and chorus on happenstance. Explaining to Songfacts.com, Tommy says the band had the entire track done before having the title, they spent days trying to come up with a silly-sounding name.

It wasn’t until he and his writing partner Ritchie Cordell almost threw in the towel one day and went out on the balcony of their New York apartment only to have the song title appear right in front of their face on the Mutual of New York Insurance building.

He explained, “‘That’s perfect! What could be more perfect than that?’ Mony, M-O-N-Y, Mutual of New York. And so we must have laughed for about ten minutes, and that became the title of the song.”


“Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

It’s hard to imagine, but B.T.O.’s only #1 single was never supposed to see the light of day. Singer Randy Bachman wrote the song as a joke to poke fun at his brother (and band manager) Gary’s stutter. Randy recorded a version of the song with the now-iconic stutter in one take, which was intended to only be heard by the group. However, the group ended up submitting the song to their recorded company on a whim, and the rest is history.


“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

Though he knew nothing about Gospel music, Norman Greenbaum set out to record a Gospel-rock hit after being inspired by a song about a preacher by singer Porter Waggoner. He told the New York Times in 2006, “I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that,’ knowing nothing about gospel music, so I sat down and wrote my own gospel song. It came easy. I wrote the words in 15 minutes.”

The song deals with several religious themes about afterlife and references to Jesus, though Greenbaum himself is Jewish. The song became his first and only hit, peaking at No.3 on the charts.


“Cum On Feel The Noize” by Quiet Riot

Originally released in 1973 by glam rock band Slade, heavy metal rockers Quiet Riot recorded the best-known version of the song in 1983. The idea to cover the song came from the band’s producer, but lead singer Kevin DuBrow hated the song from the get-go and conspired with his bandmates to recorded the song intentionally bad so it would be unreleasable.

His whole plan backfired, however, and his off-key, raw vocals and Frankie Banali’s chaotic drumming made the song a massive rock hit that helped rocket their Metal Health album to No.1.

Can you come up with any other songs that were recorded as joke, but later became huge hits? Add them to the list below!

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