Songs that started off as jokes

Sometimes, songs that start off as inside jokes end up being gold for bands. Here are some hit songs that made it from “gag” to “gig”. 

 

Song 2” – Blur 

With a distinctive “woo hoo” chorus, “Song 2” is one of British band Blur’s best-known tracks. However, according to Blur lead guitarist Graham Coxon, the track was written as a prank on their record company. Coxon intentionally created an “amateurish” guitar sound for the track. However, label executives loved the song, and it was the second single off of their fifth studio album. 


Sweet Child O’MineGuns ‘n Roses

The opening riff for “Sweet Child O’Mine” is one of the most recognizable guitar lines of all time, but G ‘n R lead guitarist Slash came up with the melody as a prank during a jam session. According to a 2005 interview, Slash described the riff as a “circus melody” and was playing it while making faces at drummer Steve Adler. However, his bandmates heard potential in the riff, and within an hour, it was on its way to being “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. 

 

“Loser”- Beck 

As a destitute singer/songwriter, Beck would resort to making up ridiculous songs at coffeehouses and clubs to attempt to keep audiences engaged. “Loser” was an extension of those nonsensical songs. He recorded an early version of “Loser” while visiting Rap-A-Lot Records producer Carl Stephenson’s house. He was attempting to imitate Chuck D on the verses, and thought “Man, I’m the worst rapper in the world, I’m a loser” when listening to it back – a sentiment that became the chorus. 


“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

The title for Nirvana’s 1991 grunge anthem came from a graffiti scrawl that Kurt Cobain’s friend and Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna put on his wall, “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”. Hanna meant to make fun of Cobain for wearing his girlfriend’s Teen Spirit deodorant, but Cobain didn’t know what “Teen Spirit” meant and took it as a compliment. 


“Fight for Your Right to Party” – The Beastie Boys 

“Fight for Your Right” was intended as an ironic parody of “party” songs like Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock”. However, it took on a life of its own and the irony was lost on most listeners. The group eventually stopped playing the track live.

 

“Left Hand Free” – alt-J 

While the 2014 track is one of English band alt-J’s most popular songs, its Southern-rock influenced style diverges from the band’s sound. It was written in about 20 minutes and drummer Thom Green said he deliberately played “as cliche as possible” on the track. The band describes the song as “the least alt-J song possible”. 


“Stuck in the Middle with You” –  Stealers Wheel 

If you’ve ever associated this 1973 track with Bob Dylan, you’re not alone. Scottish band Stealers Wheel performed the track as a parody of Bob Dylan’s style, and it surprised them with its success – even being famously featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs.

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