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The Vinyl Countdown: Best Classic Rock Breakup Songs

Updated on February 10, 2015

The Vinyl Countdown

Join me in counting down the top 20 classic rock breakup songs on my college radio show, The Vinyl Countdown. The theme changes every week, and you guys vote for the songs you feel best fit the theme! To keep updated with the show, visit our Facebook page.

20. Bob Dylan - Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

Dylan wrote this after his girlfriend Suze Rotolo went off to Italy to study and left him in New York.


19. Guns N Roses - Don't Cry

The first song written for the band, this tune was created after Izzy and Axl fell for the same girl. It's found on both Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, appearing as an alternate version with different lyrics on the second.


18. The Smiths - I Know It's Over

The Smiths released this ballad in 1986 about a dying man reflecting on his wasted and lonely life.

17. Led Zeppelin - Tangerine

This is the second Zeppelin song named after a fruit ("The Lemon Song"). It also happens to be the last song Jimmy Page wrote while still in The Yardbirds - the only track on Led Zeppelin III that Robert Plant did not write lyrics for.

16. Guns N Roses - Used to Love Her

Released in 1988, Axl Rose wrote this song as a joke. It's actually about his dog that died.

15. Pearl Jam - Black

In Pearl Jam's documentary Pearl Jam 20, Eddie Vedder says this of "Black": "The song is about letting go. It's very rare for a relationship to withstand the Earth's gravitational pull and where it's going to take people and how they're going to grow. I've heard it said that you can't really have a true love unless it was a love unrequited. It's a harsh one, because then your truest one is the one you can't have forever."

If that's not heartbreaking, I don't know what is.

14. The Rolling Stones - Angie

This tune is rumored to be about David Bowie’s Wife, Angela, who claimed she found Mick and David in bed together.

13. The Cars - Drive

Sixx: A.M. covered this tune on their 2014 album Modern Vintage. It's The Cars' highest charting US single.

12. Led Zeppelin - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

This song wasn’t originally written by the band, and they didn’t know Anne Brendon had claim to it until her son mentioned it to the band after her death.


11. The Cure - Pictures of You

Robert Smith based this song on a poem by Myra Poleo, which after reading led him to destroy his old photos and videos in an attempt to erase his past. He deeply regretted the decision a few days later.

10. Fleetwood Mac - Landslide

Released in 1975, Stevie Nicks wrote this song in 5 minute about father-daughter relationships - although it makes for a great breakup song as well.

9. Motley Crue - Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)

Nikki Sixx heard this line in a movie, and decided it would make for a catchy song. In it, Crue's 1984 hit "Too Young to Fall in Love" is referenced.

8. Beach Boys - Caroline No

Written in 1966, Brian Wilson considers this ballad “sweet, pretty, angelic song that people like.”

7. J. Geils Band - Love Stinks

Joan Jett covered this tune of love gone sour for the film Mr. Wrong.


6. The Beatles - For No One

The Beatles released this song in 1966. Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, was thought to have written it about his ex girlfriend, Jane Asher.

5. Rod Stewart - Maggie May

This song is about the older woman who deflowered Rod at a music festival when he was 16.

4. Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

Lindsey Buckingham wrote it as a break up song to his bandmate Stevie Nicks. It was released in 1977.


3. The Beatles - Yesterday

The tune to this song came to Paul McCartney in a dream - the lyrics were "Scrambled Eggs" until he could figure out something better. It stands to be the most covered song ever, with over 3,000 cover versions recorded.

2. Soft Cell - Tainted Love

The number two song was released in 1981. Soft Cell is the duo of Marc Almond and David Ball. They started recording this as a "throwaway cover song." The choices were "Tainted Love" or a Frankie Valli tune, "The Night."

1. Human League - Don't You Want Me

This song helped launch MTV's mini British Invasion in 1981. Inspired by an article in a women's magazine, it details a love gone bad.


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    • a beautiful mess profile imageAUTHOR

      Alex Rose 

      3 years ago from Virginia

      So glad you like it! Yes, classic rock is my favorite :)

    • Tamirogers profile image

      Tami Rogers 

      3 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Alex you are WAY to young to remember all these songs but it's an awesome list so you obviously have great taste in music! Thanks for sharing and bringing me back in time. I am heading to iTunes now for downloading!

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      3 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Love it! You have some of my favorites here. Landslide never gets old.

      I listen to Go Your Own Way at least once a week. My FB friends probably get tired of my posting the HQ video of this song. If you've never heard Nick Gardner's cover of I Know It's Over, it's very much worth a listen. You've listen a great top 10!


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