‘Happy Accidents’ That Made Songs And Musicians Into Major Hits
Sometimes, an accident can blossom into something truly beautiful. While painters may spill paint on a canvas and come up with a great new idea, other people might have an unexpected child that they couldn’t imagine their lives without. The same things happen with musicians. Some of the best songs can practically fall into a musicians lap, or the artist might make a mistake that makes a song even better. These things can’t be predicted or be prepared for, they just happen. Now, read about all of the happy accidents that have happened in music over the years that turned songs and bands from nothing into huge hits.
Tommy James & The Shondells Lucked Out With “Mirage”
Although Tommy James & the Shondells had a few happy accidents throughout their career, one of the best was when the band’s producer, Bo Gentry, accidentally inserted a copy of their song “I Think We’re Alone Now” the wrong way into the reel-to-reel tape player. This made the song play backward, and everybody actually thought sounded pretty good.
The band took the reverse chord progression and turned it into the song “Mirage.” Amazingly, “Mirage” went on to become a Top 10 single, with few people noticing that the band was playing another one of their hit songs backward.
“Wipeout” Was A Last-Minute Song By The Surfaris
With the average age of the band being just 15 years old, The Surfaris found enough local success to land themselves a manager with their song “Surfer Joe.” After they finished recording “Surfer Joe,” their celebration was short-lived once their manager asked them what they would be recording on the B-side of the record.
The band was absolutely clueless until their drummer starting pounding wildly on the drums, a sped-up version of what their high school drumline played. The rest of the band began improvising along until they had a fully fleshed-out version of “Wipe Out.” Just six months later, the song was everywhere.
“Fight For Your Right (To Party)” Was Written As A Joke By The Beastie Boys
While “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” may have become one of the most well-known songs about sticking it to the man and partying, that was far from the Beastie Boys’ intention. As it turns out, both the song and music video were actually mocking all of the other music out there centered around girls, partying, and being irresponsible adults.
Before the Beastie Boys had time to explain themselves, MTV had already started playing the music video and the group became known as the ultimate party boys. To prove that they actually hated the song, the group refused to play it live for over 30 years.
“Left Hand Free” Was Alt-J’s Attempt At Writing Their Worst Song Ever
While writing their 2014 album This Is All Yours, Alt-J was told that they needed a single that could be played on the radio. Disgruntled, the group decided too write what they called “the worst Alt-J song ever.” In the studio, they expanded on a joke riff they had been messing around with and added drums that had no real soul or uniqueness to them.
Essentially, they created a song that wasn’t even close to their style, but that they knew would be appealing to the American public. Their label was pleased and the track became a major radio hit. Their work there was done.
Otis Redding’s Whistling On “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” Was A Last-Second Decision
Recorded just days before his death, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is arguably one of Otis Redding’s most beloved and recognizable tracks. While the song itself is easy on the ears and great to sing along to, one of its most notable aspects is the whistling melody as the song fades out. As it turns out, this wasn’t Redding original intent.
He wanted to say a few things at the end of the song but forgot what to say, so he just started whistling. Apparently, his whistling wasn’t all that great and had to be re-recorded after his death.
Kurt Cobain Saw The Writing On The Wall For “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Believe it or not, Kurt Cobain’s inspiration for his hit song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” actually came from a brand of deodorant. One day, Cobain came home to see that his friend had spray painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the wall. This was in reference to Cobain smelling like his girlfriend Tobi Vail, who wore the brand of deodorant called “Teen Spirit.”
While it started out as a simple joke, Cobain decided to make a song out of it and the track grew to become an anthem for the apathetic teens of Generation X. Of course, it didn’t take long for Cobain to loathe the song and the popularity it brought him.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)” Came Out Of An Argument
In 1982, the Eurythmics, consisting of Annie Lennox and David Stewart, were a relatively new group. At the time, they were in between labels and were forced record in the cramped attic of a warehouse. It didn’t take long for tensions to build between the two being in such a small space, with Lennox even threatening to leave the band.
Acting like he didn’t care, Stewart then began messing around on the drum computer, accidentally reversing a synthesized bassline. The tones caught the attention of the two and Lennox sat down at her keyboard and added a synth line to it. They then managed to improvise the lyrics and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)” was born.
Ella Fitzgerald Won Two Grammys Even Though She Forgot The Words To “Mack The Knife”
Ella in Berlin was a 1960 live album by jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Her show in Berlin is considered to be one of the greatest performances of her life. But during the show, she forgot the lyrics and ended up improvising the majority of the words to the song “Mack the Knife.”
Since she’s Ella Fitzgerald, she didn’t miss a beat, singing along with the song and even adding a Louis Armstrong scat impression to top it all off. Even though she forgot the lyrics to a song, she still walked away with the Best Female Vocal Performance (Single) and the Best Female Vocal Performance (Album). The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 199.
Prince Didn’t Originally Write “Kiss” For Himself
When Prince was originally composing the song “Kiss” for the band Mazarati, the tack had a folk/country sound. When he brought it to the band, Mazarati was not impressed and knew they had a lot of work to do. The next day, engineer David Z came to the studio to find Prince working on the song. He claimed that the song was “too good for the band” and that he was taking it back.
When he finished the song, he brought it to the label who also didn’t like it. Prince told them that’s the song they were getting and they eventually complied. Despite being hated by the label, a band, and even Prince at first, the song went on to become a massive success.
Nobody Wanted The Song “No Diggity”
When record producer and member of Blackstreet Teddy Riley wrote the song “No Diggity,” he offered the song up to numerous artists. Yet, all of them turned it down, thinking that the song would never be successful and possibly even hated. So, when he brought it to Backstreet, even his own group even had serious doubts.
They made him sing the first verse to make sure that people liked it, and the song ended up reaching No.1 on six different charts worldwide. Riley has even commented saying “And now they wish they were singing the first verse, so that they can have the notoriety like me. So [now] they trust what I’m saying…”
“Creep” Didn’t Originally Have A Buildup To The Chorus
It’s no secret that Radiohead now despises “Creep,” the song that brought them to fame. These days, they simply refuse to play it at their live shows. The first member of the band to express their dislike of the song was guitarist Jonny Greenwood. In an interview with the Chicago-Sun Times in 1993, he claims that he came up with the iconic three dead chords before the chorus in order to make the song not sound so soft.
It’s one of the most recognizable parts of the song and gets listeners pumped for the upcoming chorus. It was this decision by Greenwood that helped make the song what it is today.
Fontella Bass Knew Exactly What To Do When She Forgot The End Lyrics To “Rescue Me”
While recording her hit “Rescue Me,” Fontella Bass forgot the lyrics to the end of the song. You can hear her humming along with the music, making it sound like she knows exactly what she’s doing. In an interview with the New York Times in 1989, she commented that “Back then, you didn’t stop while the tape was running, and I remembered from the church what to do if you forget the words.”
It turns out, her improvised humming was actually the perfect way to end the song and they ended up going with it. People are still humming along to it today.
The Buckinghams Owe A Lot To Susie Creamcheese
In 1967, The Buckinghams came onto the scene with their song “Kind of a Drag.” The tune was inspired by songwriter Jim Holvay’s love for go-go dancer Susie Creamcheese and how she didn’t love him back. With that song becoming a success, Holvay continued writing heartbreak songs about Susie which also turned out to be hits.
These included songs such as “Don’t You Care,” Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song),” and “Suzy.” While Susie may have been driving Holvay close to insanity, the band owes much of their success to her tumultuous relationship with Holvay.
The Guitar For “Sweet Child Of Mine” Is A Simple String-Skipping Exercise
The intro for Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” has become one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of all time. While many people think it came from a stroke of genius from guitarist Slash, he claims the opposite. He admitted that the opening riff is just a string-skipping exercise that he was practicing during a casual jam session.
When Axl Rose heard it, he came running in saying he already had lyrics and that it would be their next hit. The song didn’t take them long to finish, especially since the last half is Rose repeating the lyrics “where do we go now?” The song peaked at No. 1 and made their debut album the top-selling debut album of all time.
“I Put A Spell On You” Was Meant To Be A Love Ballad
Believe it or not, “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins’ 1956 song “I Put a Spell on You” was originally intended to be a refined love song/blues ballad. Clearly, things didn’t quite work out that way. According to Hawkins, before recording, producer Arnold Maxim “brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version … I don’t even remember making the record.”
From that day on, he was known as “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins and his version of the song was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The song is also ranked No. 313 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The Microphones Were Too High When The Kingsmen Recorded “Louie Louie”
Although not totally surprising, when the Kingsmen covered the song “Louie Louie,” they managed to pull it off in just one take. This is made clear due to the indiscernible lyrics which the band claims was due to the microphones being too high and the lead singer, Joe Ely having braces. The song was even investigated by the FBI in order to make sure there were no profane words hidden in the lyrics.
However, the roughness of the sound and the questionable lyrics helped to make the song sound that much more cutting-edge, and surely inspired some of the more loud and rough-sounding bands of the future.
Beck Wrote “Loser” As A Joke In His Friend’s Kitchen
After years of playing at clubs, bars, and coffee shops, Beck had become quite skillful at making up random songs on the fly. One day, while at producer Carl Stephenson’s house, the two decided to write a song in his kitchen. Beck began rapping nonsense about random things in the kitchen and added the line “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.”
The track took six and a half hours to complete and Beck hesitantly released it under his label Bong Load. The song caught the attention of Geffen Records who signed him and made him famous. “Loser” went on to peak at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is ranked No. 203 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Quiet Riot Intentionally Tried To Sabotage Their Cover of “Cum On Feel The Noize” And It Backfired
The song “Cum On Feel the Noize” was originally released by the rock band Slade in 1973. However, the most popular version of the song is glam rock band Quiet Riot’s cover of it in 1983. The song reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and put their album Metal Health at the No. 1 spot. The ironic thing is that the band did not want to cover the song whatsoever.
To spite their producer, who encouraged them to cover the track, they tried to make it the worst song they ever recorded. Their whole plan backfired and the public ended up loving their rough-edged version of the song.
“Stuck In The Middle With You” Was Making Fun Of Bob Dylan
It’s not uncommon for people to mistake “Stuck in the Middle With You” for a Bob Dylan song. However, it’s really by the band Stealers Wheel, who were openly mocking Bob Dylan. The song was written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s music from his lyrical style, even down to the sound of his voice.
The group couldn’t believe it when their jab at Dylan peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. The record sold over one million copies. The number of people who still think that it’s Bob Dylan is still unknown, but that’s exactly what Stealers Wheel were going for.
Keith Richards Was Originally Ashamed Of His Riff For “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
During The Rolling Stones’ 1965 US tour, guitarist Keith Richards woke up in the middle of the night with a guitar tune in his head, the riff for “Satisfaction.” He quickly recorded the song and went back to sleep. The next day, as Richards and Mick Jagger worked on the song, Richards realized that he hated it, calling it “folksy.”
He wanted to never touch the song again, yet the rest of the band forced him into the studio to play it for them. They released the song against his wishes and it was No. 1 for two weeks. “Satisfaction” is one of the Stones’ most popular songs today.