Underrated songs by great artists. Often better than their hits.
"No no. You should hear this song!"
Fans often see their favorite music artists get hit songs, that just do not seem to jive with what they see as their best work. Sometimes music critics seem to miss the boat as well.
Here are five examples of what to me, should be higher regarded songs for each of these artists. They range from hardly known, to covered by others. But all of them are among the very best songs these musicians have to offer. And better than many of the songs people immediately think of.
U2 "I'm Not Your Baby"
Many fans of U2 fall into one of two categories. Those that like weird U2, and those that like anthem driven U2. In 1997, U2 was at a career low point, in that they were still grinding up that Joshua Tree, while the rest of the world wanted Joshua Tree 2. But "weird" should maybe be replaced with boundary pushing or risk taking. "Im Not Your Baby," is funky and different and just plain catchy. Sinead O' Conner duets, and it just has the feel of a song that was a lot of fun to make and perform.
Bassist Adam Clayton has said this is one of his very favorite U2 songs. It is for me. When I play it for anyone they usually go, "who the Hell is this?" Which for a band as big as U2, is a fantastic compliment.
Bruce Springsteen "Stolen Car"
"Stolen Car" is in some ways the antithesis of what usually shows up in the list of greatest ever Springsteen songs: the loud anthems of "Born to Run," or "Thunder Road." Though the concept of getting away is still there.
I prefer the more restrained, "Stolen Car," for just that reason; its simplicity. It is beautiful in how it conveys a man's thoughts on his broken marriage in just a few lyrics. A sense of hopelessness. A man "waiting to get caught," but he never does. From the lie of his marriage? What a great image and metaphor. Leonard Cohen would have been proud to write this one.
"Stolen Car," Live
Patty Griffin cover
Rush "The Pass"
I think Rush fans would argue nearly every song is unappreciated. But I think once you make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, show up as main characters in movies and tv shows, the "biggest cult band" in the world status is more "big" than "cult."
I know, this is not as underground as some would choose. What about "Part IV, Gangster of Boats Trilogy?!" But this was released as a single, on a fairly big album; and yet many people I mention the song to, have never heard of it.
Rush only plays it sparingly in concert.
I think it is one of their very best overall songs.
Natalie Merchant "River"
At the height of 10,000 Maniacs success, lead singer Natalie Merchant decided to go solo. What followed was a top notch album ("Tigerlily"); arguably still her best.
"Jealousy" and "Wonder" would be big hits for her. But maybe the best song on the album, was a eulogy to River Phoenix. The actor had died not long before. A death that hit many people of my age, rather hard. And the general media reaction was, "Who cares? He was just a junkie." Well Merchant took issue with this too.
It is a fitting and beautiful tribute to a great artist. As well as a middle finger to those who said he was not worth grieving.
"Why don't you let him be? He's gone. We know. Give his mother and his father peace.
Your vulture's candor. Your casual slander. Will murder his memory. He's gone. We know.
And it's nothing but a tragedy."
Tom Petty "Crawling Back To You"
Tom Petty was married for 22 years to his first wife, Jane Benyo. I am going to go out on a limb, and assume he was not always easy to live with. There is a bootleg live album out there, where a drunk Petty rants about his wife leaving him and taking this and that.
The marriage would last another 15 years.
"Crawling Back To You" is the best track on maybe his best album. The fact the marriage ultimately ended does not make it any less poignant. Just poignant in a different way.
Not all great love stories have a happy ending.