While classic rock hits still get radio play even decades after they achieve popularity, there are some songs that are equally great but didn’t get the recognition that they so deserved. Some songs are written and released by rock legends and iconic bands and artists who already has enough singles at the top of the charts, but not all their songs make it big. Of course, not all classic rock listeners always have the same opinion on some of these hidden gems beneath forgotten records, but to each their own. Still, it doesn’t hurt to widen your classic rock music horizons and take a listen to the 13 songs on the list and find out for yourself whether these underrated tracks should have been given a chance to escape from obscurity.
“Bolivian Ragamuffin” was written and recorded for the album “Rock In A Hard Place” sadly after Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had (albeit temporarily) left Aerosmith. That was when Jimmy Crespo and Rick ‘The Doof’ Dufay filled in for the them and recorded this hard rocking underrated track. It has an incredibly powerful opening with an aggressive yet quintessential guitar riff. To add to the complexities of the song’s musicality, Bolivian Ragamuffin’s lyrics is the hardest to decipher among Aerosmith songs. It’s been the cause of fans heated debates across the years, trying to make out Steven Tyler‘s rap-like scatting of the undecipherable words. Well, Joe Perry gave his stamp of approval despite him not being part of the record. This killer track goes all out and it even unbelievably sounds like the original Aerosmith. This intense jamming sans Perry and Whitford is definitely worth a second or third listen. Might as well play it on loop while you’re at it.
Rollin’ and Tumblin’ is a favorite song to cover by great icons in the music industry. The best thing about this delta blues classic cover by Cream, which sometimes gets overlooked beneath their greater hits, is that it’s a hard rock song built on the harmonica. Cream arranged a roaring version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ that included an awesome heavy harmonica break. And not only does Jack Bruce play that harmonica to his soul’s desire, he even sings lead vocals simultaneously. While it’s not really every rock fan’s cup of tea, the cover single does make for a unique sound trip. This cover will really get you tapping your feet to the uptempo beat, so props to Cream for making a blues folk classic unique and interesting.
This hard-rock classic is definitely a must-hear. The title itself already presents an interesting story: Nantucket Sleigh Ride, by definition, is the experience of being towed along in a ship by a harpooned whale, a reference to the whaling industry of the 1800’s where voyages are done to hunt whales in order harvest oil from their blubber. The song is dedicated to Owen Coffin, a young seaman who was a victim of cannibalism by his own shipmates after their whaling ship The Essex was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale. The story behind it is as dark as the music that makes it come alive. The track uses the melody of the Irish folk song “Parting Glass” in the epic instrumental break in the second half of the song. The closing section of the song provided the theme tune for the long-running London TV current affairs show, “Weekend World.”
An underrated classic thrasher, this Metallica track is one that should be given more praise. The fifth track from Metallica’s second album “Ride the Lightning” tells of the story about someone who is literally trapped under ice who then woke up from a cryogenic sleep, helpless and feeling doomed. It’s underlying meaning is interpreted in many different ways and angles such as a metaphor for depression, pain, and suffering, or loneliness. Inspired by one of lead guitarist Kirk Hammet’s former band’s songs “Impaler”, the upbeat song is based on a galloping riff rhythm and is over all it is a masterpiece thrash mayhem. Too bad it’s not played live too much with the band playing it in a live show only 3 times during the eighties and once during the 2012 Orion festival. Interestingly, the same guitar riff is played note for note with the single and first track of the album “Ride the Lightning”.
For sure hard-core Zeppelin fans would definitely know this song. However, it is underrated because even if it’s as great as it is, no other list includes this song as one of the Led Zeppelin greats. Even Led Zeppelin top 40 songs lists misses this underappreciated masterpiece. One interesting fact about “Achilles Last Stand” is that it’s one of the longest Led Zeppelin songs ever. It runs at 10 minutes 26 seconds. There is an edgy riff in the song that is a boogie-based hard rock. Not only was it’s musicality influenced by many musicians, the song itself was inspired by the titular Greek hero, Achilles. It’s very stylistic in its approach with its galloping, triple-inflected rhythm by John Bonham and an epic guitar solo by Jimmy Page that’s heroic in all its glory.
This song has the rare instance of being entirely sung by Izzy Stradlin with Axl Rose only singing the chorus. It’s a shame Guns N’ Roses has stopped singing it live since Stradlin left the band in 1991. This song was originally written by both Stradlin and Rose to what was speculated as a reference to the 14 year friendship they had at the time it was written in the year 1990. It began when Stradlin presented his song to Rose, and in a moment of true bromance, Rose responded with his own work-in-progress also titled “14 Years.” They combined their songs into one. The lyrics speak about the hardships and conflicts they have endured to achieve success. During live shows, Rose would introduce the song as proof that they are not an overnight success and that they worked hard to get to where they were at the top. The track was included in the setlist again at a few live shows in 2012.
Probably one of the best yet terribly underrated songs Jim Morrison has ever written for The Doors is “End of Night”. The ninth track on the B-side of their self-titled debut album is mysterious yet beautifully poetic, with verbatim excerpts from the poem Auguries of Innocence by William Blake. This track showcases Morrison’s emotional vulnerability and literary competence as he combines into his lyrics his “confessions” about his disturbing and depressing views on life and its end while keeping it explicitly inspired by classic literary works like the William Blake poem mentioned before and also by the 1932 French novel Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. The song is dark and melancholic, and is in some twisted way, a precursor to Morrison’s sudden death at a young age of 27, seven years after this album was released.
The legendary Shock Rock pioneer Alice Cooper is sometimes more known for his sick stage antics and persona, which sometimes make people forget that he’s still a musician. And with his commercial success and impressive roster of hits come some tracks that may need to be unearthed to be appreciated. Take for example, “Black Juju”, the last track on the Side A of his third studio album “Love It to Death”. It’s dark, it’s long, it’s terrifying, and it’s epic. If listened to carefully, the track is quite similar to Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. Fun fact: Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd once shared a stage together in their early days. “Black Juju” is the track that many forget highlights Alice Cooper’s haunting dark image especially during live shows when Cooper would sit in a prop electric chair in a “mock execution”. The song puts listeners in a quiet trance at first and is wrested out from it when Cooper would scream the lyrics “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” more than half way through the song. It’s a shame it’s not more known as it should be.
“Mr. Blackwell” is a track from the KISS 1981 concept album “Music from the Elder”. While it might be peculiar at first listen, it’s actually one of the most bizarrely fascinating tracks of the album to the point that it gets overlooked. It does grow on you once you get to listen to it more and more. The entire album tells a story about a boy recruited by the Council of Elders and goes into a journey that combats evil in the world. “Mr. Blackwell” is the sinister antagonist in the story Music from the Elder is trying to convey. So because Mr. Blackwell is the “villain of the album”, listeners get treated to a bizarre and skin-crawling track that puts you in a strange trance. Although many fans would deem the song quite odd, the bass riff, the crazy panning and effects, and force of Gene Simmons‘ voices adds to it becoming a badass track. Simmons penned the song with Lou Reed and is an addition to the fantasy concept record that is unfortunately is not much of a fan favorite.
One of Deep Purple‘s songs with the most underrated riffs by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore is “The Cut Runs Deep” from their thirteenth studio album, “Slaves and Masters”. The English rock band was originally formed as a progressive rock group but eventually developed a heavier metal hard rock sound in 1970 and was listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe’s loudest band”. This particular song is the second track on “Slaves and Masters” and it opens to a typically 80s eclectic keyboard riff by Jon Lord. There’s some division with Deep Purple fans regarding the vocalist for this reord, former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner. He’s mostly known for having a nasal characteristic to his voice back in his Rainbow days but it has matured into a gritty quality by the time he was singing for this record. However, it is the instrumentation that highlights this song. While it’s nothing like their hit “Smoke on Water”, the song showcases the band’s ability to be diverse in their art of heavy metal rock.
It’s a shame this Pink Floyd song is not more well-known because not only does it spark Roger Waters‘ songwriting credits, it also builds up into an awesome guitar riff by Syd Barret. In the psychedelic art realm of music where the lyrics don’t really make much sense in the real world, this song speaks about a patient in a hospital who may be dealing with delirious pain. This song was the first one written entirely by Roger Waters for Pink Floyd with the rest of the songs in their debut album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” penned by guitarist Syd Barret. This track begins the similar clinical and biblical characteristics present in Waters’ songs such as “Comfortably Numb” and “Sheep”. The title is a reference to the biblical passage John 5:8, “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk”.
The legendary Aussie rock band is more commonly known for their hits such as “Highway to Hell” or “Hells Bells”. Aside from their chart-topping hits, there are some tracks that may have been lost in the shadow of the bigger ones. Just like the head banging sensation “Back in Black”, the lesser known “Go Zone” from the band’s tenth studio album “Blow Up Your Video” will also rev you up and get you on your feet. The album was even certified platinum in the U.S. and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental in 1989. Even if the album was as successful as it was though, some songs are on it are still underrated. Take a listen to “Go Zone” and appreciate the beauty of Angus Young‘s mix of minor and major pentatonic scales in his smokin’ hot guitar solo.
This highly overlooked Queen song written by Freddie Mercury for the album “Jazz” involves a sort of up-tempo Middle Eastern – Hebrew sound to it. Now, some fans may argue that “Jazz” isn’t exactly their favorite record, but there are some gems in it if you just listen carefully. Such as the complex artistic style present in the off-the-wall track “Mustapha”. In fact, Mercury would sometimes sing the opening vocals of “Mustapha” instead of the complex introduction to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a couple of live performances. He goes from the verse “Allah we’ll pray for you” in Mustapha to “Mama, just killed a man…” segueing to Bohemian Rhapsody. The entire song is reminiscent of the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, which would totally become rock n’ roll if Freddie Mercury was singing.