What Song is it You Want to Hear?
by Michele Christopher

THE GAUNTLET. Hacking your way through the adventure of life. Do not shoot the food. Tuesday mornings, by Michele

Welcome to The Gauntlet. Where I just write whatever each week.

This week, you get something that was on my mind last night. Overrated songs. Songs that have become legends in their own time, songs that people memorize, quote, play air guitar to, discuss and revere. Songs that seem almost untouchable, like they were meant to never be knocked.

That's what I'm here for. These may all be songs that people put up on that "greastest thing ever" pedestal. I feel like knocking them off.

1. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven.

I used to think this was the greatest song ever written. It was only years later that I realized the words probably mean nothing except that Robert Plant read a lot of books. He strung some thoughts and words from his favorite novels together, mixed them in a blender and called it Stairway to Heaven.

The problem here is also that Zep inadvertently invented a formula for overrated songs: Some cryptic lyrics about five stanzas too long, followed by a guitar solo that makes one envision the guitarist standing on top of a mountain, wind blowing through his hair while his screeching riffs conjure up all kinds of inclement weather because it's that good. And don't get me wrong. I love Zep. But Stairway makes me cringe. Maybe I'm just embarassed that I used to believe this song meant something profound. I also used to believe that you could see the Statue of Liberty in the reflection of a lake on Bear Mountain, but both those beliefs were born of the same drug.

2. Don McLean - American Pie
It's long. It gets tedious after a while. And most of it makes no sense to anyone but Don McLean. Yes, I get the whole "the day the music died" thing and I think it's really nice that he was so touched he wrote a song about it, and I get the allusions to other bands of the time within the song.

But maybe he could have cut about ten verses or so. freebird.jpg I mean, it's great when you're 17 and stoned and sitting around a campfire at the beach and your friend has an out of tune acoustic guitar and starts strumming and you all start singing "bye, bye, miss American pie...." but come on. It's just too god damn long. By the time the last verse came around, I was always halfway down the other end of the beach, looking for a private place to pee.

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird
So I spent a good portion of my high school years yelling "FREEEBIRD!" and playing air guitar to this song. Most people my age did. It's just what we did. You drank beer, hung out in arena parking lots before concerts and talked about what a fucking fantastic song Freebird is, man. With a straight face. And you had to listen to the live version, so you can hear the "What song is it you want to hear?" and also the part where he says "How 'bout you?" because man, he was talking to ME.

I'll let my 12 year old son give you the review of Freebird from the point of view of today: "Yea, the guitar solo is ok, kinda cool, but the rest of the song blows. It's like he's having sex with his guitar." I think he probably picked that up from the Guitar World message boards, but I'll let it stand on record.

4. Eagles - Hotel California
Do you see a trend here? Maybe I just don't like long songs. This is another one of those "rock musicians gone poetically awry" songs, in which a lyricist believes he is not just a writer of catchy rock songs, but a poet as well. A poet who likes to fill his lyrics with allegories. Dark, mysterious, cryptic lyrics that will, thirty years down the road, still be the subject of "what do you think it means" conversations. Who cares? This song is BORING. It's like watching a horrible movie with false endings, where you keep shifting in your seat thinking, ok, credits are going to roll right.........now! But no, they cut to yet another drawn out, badly acted scene, maybe one in which there are mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice. Oh, yes, how Hollywood people live in excess, that must be the theme of this song! No, wait, it's about being stuck in a place you can't get out of...no, it's...hey, a guitar solo! Another long, drawn out, masturbatory guitar experience! Pass the bong!

5. Guns N Roses - November Rain

November Rain (and here I'm going to include the video with the song) is a Harlequin romance novel when all you want is Hunter Thompson. It's GnR's Beth. Remember Beth? How much did you want to puke every time that song came on the radio? Sex! Drugs! Rock and Roll! Love Ballads! lennon_paul.jpg

Err...NO. Many people call this song the greatest love song of the 90's, but holy schmaltz, Batman. Is an 8 minute, 53 second heartbreaking love song accompanied by an equally heartbreaking video really what you want out of your depraved metal band? What happened to "I used to love her, but now I have to kill her?" Man up, Axl! Eh. Too late for that.

7. The Beatles - Hey Jude

I'm not saying it's a bad song, musically. The thing is, the song is seven minutes and seven seconds long and I think seven full minutes of it is the Beatles singing "Na na na na na ,na na na, hey jude.." which makes me thing that Paul and John got together and said "Hey, let's make one of those arena songs, you know, the kind where the audience stands up and flics their Bics and sings along with you and we can keep it going for half an hour at least and then turn the house lights on at the end and no one will bitch about the show ending because they had a moment with us, you know wut I'm saying, luv?" Ok, so it was 1968 and the cigarette lighter arena show hadn't been invented yet, but everyone knows that McCartney and Lennon were ahead of their time.

8. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run in the USA in his Glory Days

Yea, all of them. All of him. And I'll be honest and tell you right off the bat that I have a personal, visceral hatred for Springsteen that goes beyond the usual "oh he sucks" kind of hate. But there's also that other kind of hatred where you listen to a band/artist and think to yourself "Why? Why, god, why?" And then you remember you don't believe in god and people like Springsteen becoming world class heros is part of the reason why.

Anyhow. I can't stand his strained voice. I can't stand his underbite and the way he grimaces when he sings. I can't stand the oh so meaningful lyrics about life as a down and out Jersey cowboy (wait, I think that's Bon Jovi). Every song reads like the same Joyce Carol Oats short story. Me and Janie went down to the boardwalk to talk about our lives and well, the boardwalk was kinda empty because this town is just dyin', man and me and Janie said like, yea, we gotta get out of here. This town is just gonna kill us man. We can't spend all our lives drag racin' and fuckin' and takin' long walks on the beach contemplatin' shit. And Janie's pregnant, man and her old man is gonna kick her out of the house for not lovin' Jesus enough and her momma done spent all the milk money gamblin' in Atlantic City and we just work hard, you know? We work hard, man. We put on our blue jeans and work boots and go to the factories and mills and we work our fingers to the bone and we got nuthin' to show for it 'cept teenage pregnancy and drug overdoses and depressed kids with nothin' to do and the streets are on fire baby. Let's make out.

9. The Doors - The End

The End is probably the most quoted Doors song of all time. It’s quoted by pretentious potheads who think they are being deep and meaningful; by retro beatnik poets who carry tattered paperback copies of On the Road in the back pocket of their faded jeans; by psuedo-intellectuals who claim that Adlous Huxley’s Doors of Perception is the single greatest thing ever written by man; and by despondent, razor-weilding, confused, emotional teenagers who think they have this connection with Morrison, a connection with the sixties, man and hey, the blue bus is calling us.

Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold

Do you know that otherwise intelligent people have spent entire weekends drinking vodka and deciphering those very lyrics? Here’s a news flash:

It’s nonsense. No matter what you want to believe, no matter how allegorical and deep you think those words are, no matter how much Freud you studied or Smirnoffs you drank, those words are the magnetic poetry of the Age of Aquarius.

So, yea. The killer awoke before dawn and put his boots on and killed his mother. Or did he fuck her? Ohhh, the mystery! Fistfights have broken out over whether he fucked or killed her. Will we ever know? Of course not, because Morrison, realizing that he was nothing more than a sham, a bad poet and a bloated parody of his own idols, killed himself before he could tell us that, well, he had no fucking clue what he was saying there. He ad libbed it. Winged it. Made shit up as he was going along.

I’m not saying the Doors sucked in general. I was a big fan and I still dust off the albums once in a while.Pink_Wall.sized.jpg But if you’re over 18 and not hindered by drug addiction or alcoholism that may cloud your thinking and you still believe these words are the most powerful thing you ever heard, you might want to find the nearest bathtub and emulate your idol.

10. Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall

If you know me, you know I'm a huge PF fan. But come on. Even I can admit that the entirety of the Wall, not just this song, is kinda overrated. There's a whole "what the hell were they thinking" aspect to the album, most notably the disco background of Another Brick in the Wall. The whole song is tedious - it's as if their goal was to come up with an anthem that the kiddies would sing along to, that would resonate with them and make them believe that this album was about them, too. "We don't need no education" was the Pied Piper line of The Wall. It suckered in millions of teens and young adults who shouted along with the lines and bopped their heads to the rythmm and never gave thought (at least not until their later years) to the fact that Waters and company were pounding out the disco beats (also on Run Like Hell and Young Lust, which makes the "dirty woman" line feel somehow justifiable) just a year after disco was declared dead. Was he being ironic? Was the whole album ironic? Who knows. The message sort of got muddled in between the Oedipal odes and the admonishment of eating your whole meal before you have dessert.

11. Bob Carlisle - Christmas Shoes
Seriously. WTF. I just don't get songs like this. I mean, I don't have anything against sad songs, per se, but this thing wants to jerk the tears out of your eyes with a fucking clawhammer. It's emotional porn. Like those Chicken Soup for the Soul books, turned up about twelve notches.

Sir I wanna buy these shoes for my Momma please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry Sir?
Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes will make her smile
And I want it to look beautiful
If Momma meets Jesus tonight

I don't know about you, but that makes me want to beat Bob Carlisle with a pair of stilleto heeled shoes.

The only saving grace for me with this song? When it came out, my son kind of misunderstood the words and would sing:

What if momma eats Jesus tonight.

I didn't correct him. -M

Agree with me or fight me. Either one is fine. But I know you have your own to add here. Go for it.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What Song is it You Want to Hear?:

» Most Over Rated Song Ever from The Daily Brief: A Military Blog For All The World To See And Read
Michele over at FTTW did this a couple days ago, I wanted to add my two cents and see where you fine readers were at. Most over-rated song of all time? The song that makes you just wonder what the hell anyone was thinking when they wrote it, much... [Read More]


I just want to go on record as saying that I think Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto" is one of the most overrated songs in exsitence, but I just couldn't find the words to explain why I loathe this tune so much.

The Cartman version kicks ass, though.


Right on the head sister... Songs I will flip stations for, every one. Especially that goddamn Don McLean whose name I can't even utter without becoming incensed.

The Bob Carlise tune, though, I haven't heard. The title alone is enough to keep me away. I can't stand Christmas music as a general rule and the lyrics you quoted are freaking dreadful. Who buys this kind of crap ?


Here's the lyrics, for those blissfuly unaware:

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Repeat Chorus


Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer.
Meat Loaf - Paradise and 2 out of 3

We all need to stop talking about Bob Carlisle and Christmas Shoes. Talking about it gives it more power and Christmas isn't far.

Cartman's better than Elvis at everything except drug abuse.


Oh shit you've posted the lyrics do you know what you've done?

If that song gets stuck in my head today I'll be on the ledge by lunch.


I don't like Beach Boys music. I consider it all overrated.


I didn't include Paradise mostly because I've gone off on it before.


wow. you got most of 'em there, missy.

i have GOT to add

-brown eyed girl (ick puke blech those fucking frat boys love that shit)

-space cowboy


Well, this may piss some of you off, but I can't stand "I Wanna be Sedated". Hell, most of the Ramones music. I don't get it. Yeah, you want to get fucked up. Me too buddy. You know, this is the kind of music that was on the "cutting edge" at the time is came out, and now the members are doing interviews on NPR, and Terry Gross is acting like she's some badass rocker because she did some online research about the band, but never really listened to them. Blah blah blah I can't stand the Ramones.


I agree on all counts, though I still like Freebird. The solo(s) at the end is definitely way too long. I remember I had the 'Prononced' cassete and Freebird was split between side A and B. That was just lame.

Anyway, all of those songs were way overplayed in my youth as well.


Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Dude. That's awful stuff and they play it incessantly.

Holiday songs are generally bad, I agree, but I have Johnny Cash Christmas and Elvis Blue Christmas to help with that. It's a good compromise.


Kenny & Dolly!


i do just want to throw in that john lennon had nothing to do with the writing of "hey jude" so let's keep him out of this

/nothing else really to add

oh, and I hate all KISS songs, but you guys probably know that by now


I have a few -

'Pour Some Sugar On Me' - Def Leppard. "I'm hot, sticky sweet. From my head to my feet." Man that is awful.

'Clocks' - Coldplay. I am not a Coldplay fan to begin with, but I am not sure what it is about this song that gets people into a frenzy. It sucks. My nine year old son yells at me to turn it off the moment he hears the first few notes.

'Show Me The Way' - Peter Frampton. There's a ringing in my ears allright. It's the piercing drumbeat of awfulness that this song is leaving in my skull.

'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' - Crosby Stills & Nash. This song just goes on forever, makes no sense and near the end, Stills launches into some nonsense in Spanish about Cuba! A song that was the direct result of too much LSD.


Fun topic - just some comments:

Songs 1-4 - all overrated, but made horrible mostly by the years of repetition. In the unlikely event that I ever wanted to hear one of these songs again, I could replay them note-for-note in my head. And don't make me start.

There's nobody I love more than The Beatles, but Hey Jude generally gets the ol' fast forward from me, too. Good call.

I've always had about a three-minute tolerance for Springsteen, but Born To Run still makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I can't help it.

And finally - The Doors - the single most overrated and annoying band of all time (only my opinion, put down the club). And The End shares the bottom spot with that godawful L. A. Woman. I'm convinced that that song has never actually ended. Morrison isn't actually dead - he's in some little recording studio somewhere bellowing the 350,000th verse of L. A. Freakin' Woman...


yeah. all that. And "Sweet Leaf" by Sab. Of all the songs that get played of theirs, why not something GOOD goddamit, but NOOOO it's the trans-am wastoid dipshit anthem. Hey man, is that Freedom Rock? Jeezus.


Beck...ANYTHING by Beck...I hear his music and I immediately want to punch a nun and punt kittens across the East River.

Rage Against the Machine...Kiss my ass. I'll take The Clash's worst songs over RAM's best...



Just kidding! I wanted to see if anyone was paying attention...:P


You know at 2:58 into Hey Jude, you can hear John Lennon say "FUCKING HELL!".

No joke, I'm serious.


I don't understand the love for Dave Matthews Band. I mean it's okay. I don't go scrambling to turn it off, but I don't get the adoration. Is it a "You really need to be high." thing?

Simply can't listen to The Beatles or The Stones any more. Can't do it. Doesn't happen.
Not over-rated, just over played in my lifetime. Put them in a vault for a generation, bring them back out again.

Love Pink Floyd, hated all of The Wall. Never got throuh.


I read something in a non-fiction article called "The Dark Art of Interrogation" a while back about the song Hotel California that revitalized that particular one for me even tho it had grown sort of stale. See, they informally call one of the US interrogation centers "Hotel California." If you listen to the lyrics with that in mind, it has a whole new meaning. The article was optioned for a full-length movie, by the way. So if Hollywood gets off its ass, soon you may hear that song playing during some sort of creepy montage scene.

Also... I'm glad to see that Quinn the Eskimo didn't make your list.


Actually, you're forgetting a whole genre...

Most overrated and overplayed?

Who can forget, as much as they want to:
Brooks & Dunn: Boot Scooting Boogie
Achy Breaky Heart (can't remember singer)
Pretty much any Garth Brooks or Shania Twain song.

Yes, I listen to country, along with most other genres, but just for purely over-rated and over-played...


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