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40 Songs Ruined by American Classic Rock Radio

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classic rock ruined

Can any of you out there even remember how you felt when you first heard “Stairway to Heaven”? It’s been played so many times by classic rock stations that I can’t bear to hear it any more….. I take that back. I no longer hate it; instead it has become almost a “non song” – no surprises, every note tired and stale.

The tragedy is that this has happened to so many other brilliant songs which have been literally played to death over the decades. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way. Oftentimes, these artists have huge catalogs of songs to choose from, but the stations pick the same shit over and over. Why? Will people turn away if they hear a song they aren’t instantly familiar with?

I understand, you can’t just play obscure B-sides and expect big audiences. But would it kill these classic rock stations to slip in Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude” instead of “Do It Again”?

Regardless of the reason and who is to blame. There’s a plethora of songs rendered unlistenable. Here’s my top 40.

1. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston
In my humble opinion, the most overplayed classic rock song of all time. It’s like there’s a federal mandate that all classic rock stations play this song at least 19 times per day.

2. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
Full of meaning – of how the hippie ethic turned materialistic and sour…. Kind of like this song. Honestly, I think I loved this song at one time, but it’s dead to me now…. Yet, no matter how many times I stab it with my steely knife, I just can’t kill the beast.

3. “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
What would happen if a renegade classic rock DJ actually decided to, instead of playing this song, play something by Uriah Heep, Kaleidoscope or The Pretty Things? Widespread panic in the streets.

4. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
Of course, “Honky Tonk Women” is also played like it’s the ONLY Rolling Stones song. THE STONES HAVE SIX OR SEVEN ALBUMS OF GOOD STUFF! CHANGE THE FREAKING SONG! Why drag out “Honky Tonk Women” — a song you hear at least 900 times a day — when you have a chance to play the killer “Monkey Man” or “Live With Me”?

5. “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas
This may come as a shock to you, but Kansas recorded more music than this song and “Dust in the Wind”. Whole albums in fact.

6. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
There’s actually a handful of songs that get endlessly recycled on classic rock stations…. Especially during the dreaded month of Zeptember!

7. “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger
Seger is the poster child of worn out musicians of classic rock stations. “Turn the Page”, “Like a Rock”, “Against the Wind”, “Hollywood Nights”, “Strut”, “Night Moves” all being played to death on classic rock stations everywhere. I continue to be puzzled by classic rock stations which insist on playing his over-played, second-rate shit in perpetuity. Why anyone other than someone who had been in a coma since 1977 would call a radio station and REQUEST “Old Time Rock and Roll” or “Turn the Page,” as if it’s not going to come around in heavy rotation in the next eleven minutes is a mystery to me.

8. “American Woman” by The Guess Who
The Guess Who has a fabulous catalog of songs that get overlooked.

9. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This song never gets old…. Then again, never say never. After the 752nd time around, it starts getting wearisome. The song references Neil Young, who happens to have a vast catalog of tunes worthy of classic rock radio, yet never get played. “Heart of Gold” on occasion, but his other billion songs don’t have a chance.

10. “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Man’s Earth Band
This song literally gives me the hives.

11. “Renegade” by Styx
This band is great in moderation – a concept foreign to classic rock, which beats you to death with the same handful of songs year after year.

12. “Feels Like the First Time” by Foreigner
Oh, if only I could remember what it felt like the first time I’ve heard this. Instead, it feels like the octodecillionth time.

13. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Bad Company
Sorry to Bad Co. fans, but this was a crappy song in 1975 and continues to age like a jar of mayonnaise left out in the sun. Plenty of other good songs to choose from other than this and “Bad Company”, but that would be too far off the beaten path I suppose.

14. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Thank you classic rock radio for ignoring the rest of A Night at the Opera (besides “You’re My Best Friend”). Nothing good to listen to there (said in the most sarcastic tone imaginable).

15.”Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
Such a wonderfully haunting song despite the cowbell– I never would’ve imagined I’d be scrambling to change the channel upon hearing those opening chords.

16.”Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS
Most classic rock stations don’t seem to know that they recorded any other song. Couldn’t we hear “Cold Gin” or “Black Diamond” just once…just for the fun of it?

17. “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers
The Doobies have several that make the rounds (“China Grove” for instance) which I’m sure I’d be begging to hear at a concert. A concert and the trillionth replay during my work commute are two very different scenarios.

18. “Tom Sawyer” by Rush
This is like owning a Shakespeare Theater and only playing Act II of Othello week after week, year after year.

19. “Take It Easy” by The Eagles
Henley deserve a special spot in Hell for spawning his other “no-longer listenable tunes” like “Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants to Do Is Dance.” Classic rock station regulars.

20. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Got time for an eight minute guitar outro? Well, too bad. Here it is yet again. To be followed up by the excessively long “Hotel California” guitar outro I’m sure.

21. “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith
Is there a classic rock station on planet earth that has gone a day without playing this? Dream on.

22. “Barracuda” by Heart
My favorite Heart song is the Led Zepish “Love Alive” and basically all of Dreamboat Annie. Sadly, it’s this and “Magic Man”, and that’s all you deserve.

23. “All Right Now” by Free
I picture Paul Rodgers and Bob Seger hear themselves on the classic rock radio, rolling their eyes, and groaning “not him again”. Of course, Rodgers is Canadian, so maybe he’s spared the constant sound of his voice.

24. “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes
Why is it that classic rock stations assume listeners will tolerate endless guitar noodling, but will have their world rocked by veering off this tired playlist?

25. “Back in Black” by AC/DC
“You Shook Me All Night Long” perhaps even more so. This and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard are, for some reason, highly favored in the South, among country music fans.

26. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who
Also, that pile of shit “Squeezebox” is heard seven times an hour across America. It is an awful song that I’m sure Pete Townshend would like to see eradicated from his history. Yet no classic rock station has played “Relay” or “The Seeker” since 1978.

27. “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive
The strange thing about songs like this is that they have NEVER stopped being played. I mean, it was played to death when it came out, then as classic rock stations sprouted up in the 80s, transitioned to their playlists. This single has literally never stopped spinning.

28. “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra
You have to feel sorry for the DJ that his to, once again, plop this song into the airwaves. Then again, most classic rock stations these days don’t even seem to have live DJs. They’re like a single CD on “shuffle” play.

29. “Love Me Two Times” by The Doors
There’s a number of Doors singles that get stuck in perpetual classic rock rotation. But why play that sluggish turd “Love Me Two Times” when you could, just once, play the kick-ass “Changeling”?

30. “Roundabout” by Yes
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” gets some play as well, but that’s a poor consolation considering the vast body of work that gets ignored.

31. “Money” by Pink Floyd
People are bored to death of ”Another Brick In The Wall” and “Money” and the rest of Dark Side Of The Moon. How about Sheep and Dogs… or Piper at the Gates of Dawn?

32. “Everybody’s Working For The Weekend” by Loverboy
Required for the Friday afternoon commute on every classic rock station without exception. Will actually have you wishing it was Monday.

33. “Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller Band
What’s interesting is, if you go to the UK, or another country not plagued by classic rock radio, a lot of these songs are actually lost gems…. Can you Americans even comprehend a world where “Fly Like an Eagle” is a lost gem?

34. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
I want to say this guy Van wrote other songs, although I’m not sure. Maybe this was his only recording. (Said every classic rock station program manager ever.)

35. “Radar Love” by Golden Earring
If you stop and think about it, it’s actually a bit confusing and random which songs end up classic rock station favorites. I would’ve never pegged Golden Earring to have anything on heavy rotation in the US 30+ years after release.

36. “Long Cool Woman” by The Hollies
Great southern rock song… sung by Brits. I’m sure it was a lovely song before it was driven into the ground.

37. “Slow Ride” by Foghat
After seeing Dazed and Confused, this song was fresh again – for a brief moment I could glimpse how awesome this song was when it first came out. Of course, classic rock radio was quick to quench the fire.

38. “La Grange” by ZZ Top
I reiterate – I’m not saying these songs aren’t great. But if you turn Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, into your kitchen wallpaper and even that will become drab after a time. Ya dig?

39. “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood
Of course, some of these classic rock favorites were never great – not even mediocre.

40. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard
I include this one last, because it’s “newer”. If you think your favorite song is safe because it came out after the early 80s, think again. On occasion, they’ll incorporate latecomers. No song is safe.

I’d be interested in hearing of any glaring omissions. Oddly enough, I don’t feel any Beatles songs have been killed by classic rock stations (although “Hey Jude” could be in at “41”). Beatle tracks have been used in advertising which has injured a few…. but that’s a subject for another list.

  • Daniel Boda

    This is spot on , especially in Cleveland , Ohio . Classic Rock stations play all of these songs multiple times a day . It’s not uncommon having all 3 of them playing the same Pink Floyd or Lynyrd Skynyrd song at the same time . Clear Channel is a shitty , corporate company that replaced real DJ’s with pre-programmed , push-button radio stations .

    • Alec Leamas

      Unfortunately the Arbitron ratings rule all (ratings = advertizing dollars), and the DJs who play album sides and deeper tracks aren’t DJs for long because your fellow Clevelanders turned the knob to other stations.

      Are there no satellite or internet stations that play more than a few songs in the rotation?

      • Ty in TX

        We have a new station that only plays rock, new and old. Heard good stuff that won’t see the light of rap and hip hop dominated top 40 stations. And while they have played these songs, they do play deeper cuts which is much appreciated.

      • Brian Battles

        Psst… DJs on commercial radio stations haven’t “played songs” for about 30 years…it’s all preprogrammed, originally on index cars and stuff, now on computers.

    • MiddleAgedKen

      To be minimally fair, most of the DJs Clear Channel replaced weren’t worth beans either. Won’t even get started about the ones who were clearly on the take….

    • TheDissentingVoice

      I rarely listen to radio because of this.

  • Mark Hoyle

    Number one reason I only listen to satellite radio. Deep tracks plays b sides and album tracks all day 24/7

  • Mark Costello

    The Guess Who is the greatest band people never think of. I have seen them, as a group, and Burton Cummings solo, and both shows were terrific. The reunited Guess Who had Randy Bachman in the bad, and they did the BTO songs as well.

    • Realist

      cud

  • timdub70

    What makes it worse is that a lot of these songs on the list also get on TV and movie soundtracks a lot. And don’t get me started on the commercials (e.g. Chevy Pickups “Like A Rock”).

    • Bradley Greenwood

      Well, that was easy I did not have to type much… you beat me with that observation 🙂

  • Leslie

    I do not know if it just an oddity in the one area, and this is going back a few years (roughly between 1990 to 2005 when I was in Charlotte), but for some reason the classic stations would play Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” at least once a day. Like the song just fine but none of us at the shop could understand why they had it in a daily rotation.

    Weirdly (not that it matters) I have never heard “Stairway to Heaven” on the radio.

    • sampoerna quatrain

      A bit later than most of your list, but “Every Breath You Take” has absolutely got to be included in a list of songs that must be banned…no doubt Sting hates this one like Neil Young hates “Heart of Gold.”

    • Dan McDonald

      It’s too long.

    • Alec Leamas

      Weird because in my recollection it used to be such a Classic Rock staple even at 10 minutes, as with Kashmir at 8 minutes and some others, but that was Philadelphia radio in the 1990s so there may have been more regional variation.

    • swampwarbler

      If your radio station is still an actual DJ playing records, it could be when he takes his smoke break. I knew one that would play Alice’s Restaurant (one of my favorite Thanksgiving songs). You probably have a lot of hipsters in NC, hence the Gordon Lightfoot.

  • Drehcir

    Imagine the chaos that ensues if “The Bear”, “The Fox” or “The Weasel” played Seger’s “Fire Lake” or “Shame On The Moon” or Aerosmith’s “Uncle Salty”.
    It would also be cool if there was a rock station out there that didn’t have an animal as a mascot.

  • Nina Dunlap

    so I have a rock station on iheart radio and they played in this order: Tom Sawyer, Old Time Rock n Roll, More than A feeling, Take it Easy… I’m dying of laughter at how RIGHT this article is!!!!

  • Nina Dunlap

    I miss the days of a REAL DJ spinning real music…

  • Dan McDonald

    I’d rather hear my favorite classic rock songs played over and over again on the radio, than have them used on TV as an advertisement trying to sell me something. A guarantee that I will never buy that product!

    • Alec Leamas

      Except when the FM radio plays your favorite songs they’re doing it to sell you stuff too. Same difference.

  • RKae

    I never dug the whole radio concept. I listen to what I want to, when I want to. Radio’s gonna play “Roundabout” and NEVER “The Revealing Science of God.” It’s just a fact of life.

    But I’ll bet there are a lot of bands out there who wish their songs could have “ruined” by multiple playing!

    I don’t put much hate into the act of overplaying a hit. You hear the hit and like it, then you seek out the rest of the catalog, and listen to (as I said before) what you want to, when you want to.

  • Food

    If you include arena rock, “Enter Sandman,” “Crazy Train,” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” could be added, and “Back In Black” would get double dishonorable mention.

  • Alec Leamas

    Anyone who listened to a radio during the early 1990s would easily put Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the very top of this list. It had always been overplayed by Classic Rock stations, but after “Wayne’s World” hit theaters and a new video for the song was made you’d swear the absolute air saturation of this song was a psychological operation against the American people. The operatics and theatrics of the song make it highly annoying to begin with, but imagine your Classic Rock stations doubling or tripling its play while pop stations play it in their rotations, the video is played on MTV (yes kids, they used to play music videos on the station) and VH1, and nearly every kid of any age had the CD or audio cassette and played the song as well thinking it was new and released first with the movie. And then people thought the song was a compulsory sing along, punctuated by godawful Wayne and Garth impressions (Schwing!).

    An all out audio apocalypse it was, I tell you, and I’m one of the few to have survived to tell the tale.

  • ss396

    How is “Hey Jude” not on this list? They must have played that sucker hourly for the first year after it came out. Even the DJs were complaining.

  • Ty in TX

    Broke my heart to see ACDC on here but in all fairness Back In Black and Shook Me All Night Long do get so much over exposure that I ACDC fan that I am will skip them.

  • swampwarbler

    ALL Beatles songs are overplayed. They have whole days dedicated to them on classic rock stations.

    • hithere55

      The Beatles are the only group that deserve that!

    • Applecorped

      Revolution #9 is underplayed 😉

  • Typo Dynamofo

    This is what drove me to talk radio. I have worked construction for 20 years and we could nearly always have a radio on for the entire day. That meant hearing many of these songs 3 times.

  • You Lie, Boy!

    Tom Petty. Change of Heart and You Got Lucky. Both songs came out about the same time. Both peaked near #20. You Got Lucky gets the crap played otta it. The other? I can’t remember the last time I heard it.

    • Samantha Gilmour

      Agree 100%. Love “Change Of Heart”. And I LOVE the album cut, “Straight Into Darkness” with Stevie Nicks.

  • Robert T

    I wrote a song about this awhile back. It’s called “Yesterday”. You can guess which tune it goes to.

    Yesterday…
    We played the same songs yesterday…
    We play the same one’s every day…
    Cause we believe, in Yesterday.

  • TheDissentingVoice

    I think that my local Classic Rock station leads off with one of these after every commercial break.

  • Mk F

    How could you possibly have left Don McLean’s “American Pie” off this list? And it’s always–always–the long version.

    • swampwarbler

      THANK YOU.

  • DoctorZin

    Biggest possible Led Zeppelin fan, but I often forget that Stairway to Heaven isn’t just an open to finish acoustic dirge; it never gets past the opening flutes on my radio dial.

    On the other hand, there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of radio stations that one can listen to for free now, so . . .

  • DoctorZin

    Biggest possible Led Zeppelin fan, but I often forget that Stairway to Heaven isn’t just an open to finish acoustic dirge; it never gets past the opening flutes on my radio dial.

    On the other hand, there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of radio stations that one can listen to for free now, so . . .

  • Edward Callahan

    Back in the days of yesteryear, between the time of the first Sony Walkman and the origina IPOD, the last living DJ on a hard rock station compiled a list of the top four hundred favorite hits and whittled it down to forty songs by eliminating any song that had ever been the subject of any objectionable statements in its entire life. The list was hardwired into the “classic rock station” transmitting hardware, turned on and sealed into an unreachable cupboard in an inaccessible radio shack atop an unclimbable mountain. And there it drones on 24/7/52. Ironic, isn’t it, that the rebellious nature that was hard rock has been boiled down to a thin gruel of unobjectional noise. Rock and Roll of the Sixties and Seventies was supposed to replace the abomination that was top forty radio (looking at you WABC) and winds up becoming a shamless parody of it.

  • Edward Callahan

    To this day, I flee in panic from any audio source playing the Allman Brothers’ “Rambling Man”. This phobia originated about 30 days after it was released in 1972 (?). Yes, it got that much air time at its release, never mind Classic Rock Stations.

  • FrancisChalk

    The problem is the incompetence of the classic rock DJs. They’re lazy and do a poor job in their profession–a real low-performing career field.

  • jeffunde

    You must be listening to the radio stations in Philly! These are the only songs they play. That’s why I listen to CDs.

  • pattaya_bob

    If you grew up in the late 70s I will bet most of you have a special hatred for these
    songs..Not only did they play these songs to death even then but you had no choice
    but to listen to them.There was radio and there were cassette tapes and that was it.
    You should add steely dan cuervo gold to the list.

  • Samantha Gilmour

    Oh no! I’m sorry, but The Beatles “Come Together” is quite worn to death. My mother was a classic rock disc jockey from 2000 to 2010 and left because she said if she had to play, “You Really Got Me” by both The Kinks AND by Van Halen, she was going to burn the place down. Her CR station was so bad, she opted for a Country station because she knows nothing about Country music and it would be nice to work at a place where it’s not the same song.

    By the way, she wanted to add to your list, “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Lights” by Journey and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”.

  • Triggo

    Gone are the days when the DJ’s programmed their own music, which was what separated FM from AM. Now classic rock stations have just become a retro form of 1970’s top 40 AM radio. Thanks to corporate packaging and corporation ownership of multiple stations. Nothing wrong with making money, but bring back creativity instead of cookie cutter formats.

  • Brian Battles

    Guess what, pal…that stuff still gets played to death because that’s somehow what the majority of the mass audience listens to…the stations that mainly just play that get the biggest ratings. Sad but true.

  • Brian Battles

    I’m amazed that there are people who still think DJs on commercial radio stations have anything to do with the music that gets played. Commercial Radio DJs have not picked songs to play on the radio since about 1980. It’s preprogrammed. They used to use index card systems, etc, and now they use computers. No commercial radio station allows any DJ to select songs, or even the order to play them. The only place you could hear anything like that for the past 30-40 years is noncommercial stations.