Rock Songs That Are Loved For Their Live Versions
1968: British Rock Group "Cream" poses for a portrait in 1968. L-R: Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Looking over the past decades, there were songs that were not expected to be in production and released as part of an album. There were also songs that didn’t have an impact during their first release, but because of the excitement that a live performance of these songs resonated with the crowd, it gives the artists sudden success.
Here are some of the rock songs that are loved for their live versions.
Cream, “Crossroads” (1968)
In 1966, Eric Clapton began performing Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” in the studio with the impromptu all-star ensemble Powerhouse, which also featured Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood. Later that year, when Clapton and Bruce established Cream with Ginger Baker, they kept “Crossroads” on the setlist and improved the arrangement into a powerful rock shuffle.
The single peaked at No. 17 on the Cash Box charts and was in the Top 20 in Canada. It remained in Clapton’s setlists throughout his career and was included in one of the three songs they performed when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” (1969)
The funny thing about this was, not everybody liked it. The opening salutation of the album led some retailers, including a department store chain refuse to carry it. This sparked a public relations battle with the band that finally resulted in Elektra Records dropping MC5. Following that, radio stations received a version of the song with the obscenity changed to “brothers and sisters,” which helped the song climb to No. 82. However, the band members claim that was done without their permission.
Humble Pie, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (1971)
When Humble Pie released it for the first time, it hadn’t yet cracked the American charts. Through Ray Charles, it finally reached the popularity it deserves by 1966. However, the most remarkable achievement it has received was when the time it reached No. 73 on the Billboard Top 100.
Chuck Berry, “My Ding-a-Ling” (1972)
This 1972 novelty hit has an obvious and witty reference to masturbation. Due to its controversy, several radio stations also refused to play the single, not even decades later. Others chose not to air the syndicated American Top 40 program featured “My Ding-a-Ling.” Despite that, it managed to become Chuck Berry’s lone No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100.
Kiss, “Rock and Roll All Nite” (1975)
This timeless party hymn became Kiss’s first single to reach the charts, peaking at No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, they succeeded with the subsequent Alive! upgrade six months later, with the studio track serving as the B-side. Through this, the band gained its popularity and the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” soon became a staple of their performances, frequently serving as the pyrotechnic-heavy closing act.
Peter Frampton, “Show Me the Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Do You Feel Like We Do” (1976)
Similar to his former band Humble Pie, Frampton’s solo studio albums produced no hits at first. But with the effect of live performances, these songs peaked at No. 6 and No. 12 on the hits respectively. The major surprise to this, of course, was Frampton’s 14:15-long opus, “Do You Feel What We Do,” which was shortened to 7:22 for the single. Despite its long length, the song rose to No. 10 in the charts.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, “Turn the Page” (1976)
The mournful ballad about traveling that Seger recorded in the studio and released as a single did not do well on the charts. Even though the song wasn’t a hit, “Turn the Page” had enough of an impact to be featured in Seger’s first Best Hits collection in 1994 because of its live performance in 1976 which quickly established itself on rock radio.
Elton John, “Love Song” (1976)
It was originally an album track that debuted in 1970, but it did not click the taste of its listeners not until Elton John and its songwriter Lesley Duncan performed the song as a duet in 1974. More than six years later, “Love Song” was released as a single from the Here and There in concert, peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard adult contemporary charts.
Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed” (1977)
In the 1970s, McCartney and one of his most well-known songs were first introduced. However, it wasn’t made available as a single. The carefully crafted live take from Wings Over America that became the number one single of “Maybe I’m Amazed” peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The McCartney album was reissued in 2011, and new live performances, including one from Glasgow in 1979, were already included.
Cheap Trick, “I Want You to Want Me” (1979)
The lead single from Cheap Trick’s second album, 1977’s In Color, “I Want You to Want Me,” did not make a relevant effect. It only became the band’s real hit when they performed it at Budokan, which bagged them a gold-selling No. 7 Billboard 200 blockbuster.
Pat Travers Band, “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” (1979)
The live performance of this song was captured at the beginning of 1979. It went platinum and helped Little Walter’s “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” reach the Top 20.
Eagles, “Seven Bridges Road” (1980)
Eagles Live recorded a performance of the song on July 28, 1980, as part of a three-night performance at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in California. The song was performed in an arrangement taken from Iain Matthews’ 1973 album Valley Hi, which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Eagles later broke up and came back together, playing “Seven Bridges Road” on occasion starting in 1999.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You” (1981)
On his second live album, Seger added this 1972 Otis Clay single to his performances in support of the Against the Wind album in 1980. Through his 1980 performance wherein Seger did a rendition of this “old Memphis tune,” as he dubbed it in his introduction, reached No. 5, while Clay’s original peaked at No. 102 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 24 on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
Bruce Springsteen, “War” (1986)
On the stadium leg of his Born in the U.S.A. world tour, Bruce Springsteen sang this Motown protest song, which was originally recorded by the Temptations and went on to become Edwin Starr’s No. 1 smash. The recording of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum performance on September 30, 1986, later resulted in a box set and served as its first single.
Guns N’ Roses, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1987)
Guns N’ Roses’ version of Bob Dylan’s classic song was not formally released as a single until 1990 when it appeared on the Days of Thunder film soundtrack. It was when it was on its way to Use Your Illusion II, a live version that was released three years earlier, as part of a six-song Japanese EP promoting the band’s tour there.
Eric Clapton, “Layla (Acoustic)” (1992)
When Clapton recreated and performed “Layla” as a languid, jazzy shuffle that highlighted the melody and singing, it peaked at No. 12 in the United States. Although it divided the fans for some reason, the song still reached number one in Japan and Canada before earning the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1993.
Ozzy Osbourne, “Changes” (1993)
It was popularized when he performed it in 1992 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. The performance was recorded on tape and later released as a single from the Live & Loud album in 1993. Due to extensive radio play, his update peaked at No. 9 on the Billboards Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Another song, “I Don’t Want to Change the World,” would later receive the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1994.