Apr 092009

In our recent investigation of rock’s most pompous singer, Townsman and major Queen fan 2000 Man directed us to this delusional video clip on The Story of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Already-forgotten bands like The Darkness proclaim the song as “the Holy Grail,” then go on to say that if anyone says they don’t like “Bohemian Rhapsody” they’re lying!

Well, call me a liar. I’ll argue that not only do I not like the song but that the song itself has almost no influence on anything that came after it. You could argue that the joy and flamboyance of Freddie Mercury was inspiring to some future gay (and straight) frontmen. You could argue that the band’s production techniques were influential on ’80s hair metal bands. But I don’t see how you can argue that “Bohemian Rhapsody” was influential on any song that would follow in the history of rock to date.

I could argue that the song completed work started by Paul McCartney and Wings through various cut-and-paste songs, from “Uncle Albert/Uncle Halsey” through “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die,” but once Queen so perfectly completed McCartney’s artistically suspect efforts, no band had a chance of following in “Bo Rhap”‘s footsteps. Queen was too good at that shit! Despite the fact that I can’t stand “Bo Rhap,” it’s a masterpiece of execution. But it’s not influential.

Are there other huge rock songs that would be, for whatever reasons, in no way “influential?”


  34 Responses to “Huge Rock Songs That Were in No Way “Influential””

  1. general slocum

    That is a beautiful video. There is no more “Spinal Tap” place to go with it! I feel the same way about the song, but what a great self-pat on the back! I want Nobby Holden sitting around talking about how brilliant I was in the seventies without making a single record! “It was really incredible, you see… no album atall,and yet Andy was the most revolutionary artist of the decade in many way, wasn’t he?…” Then cut to some crap home recordings with stills from now video’d into motion. Hee hee!

  2. Hank Fan

    Stairway to Heaven? For much the same reasons. It was an end point.

  3. Hank Fan

    I’m a little afraid to walk down this path because I am not as schooled in the nuances of big rock as you guys, but what about Stairway to Heaven? That one too seems more like an end point.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    “Stairway…” may be a similar case for the reasons you state, hank fan, but if nothing else it probably influenced Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” You do get one of the things I’m getting at here: that converse to cult artists who produce highly influential works on the handful of people who bought their albums (ie, The Velvet Underground Effect, as presented by Brian Eno).

  5. pudman13

    LONDON CALLING. When this came out at the very end of the 70s it signalled the next great wave in rock history: brilliant, bombastic, classic rock with punk energy and pedigree. But it never happened, not even close. I can’t think of *anything* that sounds like it was influenced by it, to be honest.

  6. I would in fact argue that X in their prime took the London Calling basic template and basically bettered it.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m waiting for the rock docu where some artist, somewhere, declares the first Boston album “influential.” I’m willing to bet that will never happen.

  8. diskojoe

    I would add “I Can See For Miles” (I just got the Who Sell Out Deluxe set that just came out in the UK. I don’t know if there’s going to be a US release, but the price is good via Amazon.uk). I don’t know if the Who ever did that song live, even though it was their biggest US Top 40 hit.

  9. dbuskirk

    “I Can Se For Miles” and “Eight Miles High” both have this grandness of production that really makes them feel unique to me. There is not much that sounds like them, even in their respective band’s discographies. Maybe it is the sound of expensive studio time.

    “How Soon Is Now” would be another song in this side-thread, bands who never re-captured the sound of their biggest hits…

  10. “How Soon Is Now”

    I never got the appeal of that song. That guitar with the tremelo has a great tone but the song itself is big “meh”.

    I like that club song that sampled it in the early ’90s (The Hippie Chick?) much better than the song itself. Maybe that’s a Battle Royale: Songs that sample another song and are better than the original.

  11. Hank Fan

    Sorry for the double comment above. I got an error message and assumed it didn’t go through either time. Here’s another: “Loser” by Beck. I don’t think I’ve heard another song quite like it since.

  12. Hank Fan

    cdm –

    The guitar sound IS the appeal of How Soon Is Now. A great guitar sound like that can take you a long ways.

  13. 2000 Man

    I think that video has several parts, but Bo Rhap really sealed the deal for me. I can’t watch any more than the first part. Maybe Bo Rhap itself wasn’t influential on others, but that album has Prophet’s Song on it, and I think that’s in the same vein. I think the only things Queen really influenced were Styx and Boston, so technically I think they were an artistic dead end.

    DiskoJoe, I think The Who never played I Can See For Miles because Bernard Purdie wasn’t available for tours, only studio work.

  14. Sure, but with the Hippie Chick, you get a sample of the cool guitar and a much better melody.

  15. BigSteve

    Loser is a good one. I’m thinking that a lot of the big Stones records are so unique that they seem to inhabit a sonic universe all to themselves and separate from everything else — Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Dandelion, Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, even Satisfaction. From Sticky Fingers on their range of styles seems to have settled down.

  16. pudman13

    X? I don’t hear any similarity at all. Then again, I can’t get past how irritating I find both of the voices (especially together), so my appreciation of X is as unlikely as my appreciation of the similar vocal stylings of Jefferson Airplane.

  17. I strongly disagree regarding “Loser.” “The Distance” by Cake, “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers all wouldn’t have gotten the play they did without that song (and Beck in general). Also, after Beck hit, for a while there, every modern rock song had to have a drum loop percolating in the background, resulting in atrocities like “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind.

  18. Also, I don’t know enough about this particular strand of British Rock, but doesn’t “How Soon as Now” lead to the “Madchester” sound of bands like the Stone Roses?

  19. X — particularly on Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun — combined punk rock with the Power and the Glory, kick-ass song structure, clearly defined musical hierarchy, and a deep love and knowledge of the source of rock. I consider the latter album the apotheosis of Mr. Mod-ian rock values, even moreso than Get Happy.

  20. They didn’t do anything worthwhile with it, but the Libertines basically took their entire act from LONDON CALLING and SANDINISTA!

  21. saturnismine

    our notion of influence in this thread is pretty narrow.

    just because we’ve “never heard anyting quite like” a particular song doesn’t mean it wasn’t influential.

    rhapsody and stairway are both songs that, at the time, suggested possibilities to rock musicians that they hadn’t considered. certain features of both songs may have made them feel like they had a broader set of options than before, more “places” to take their songwriting, than they originally thought they had.

    so the results of the impact of these songs don’t have to *sound like mimicry or rewrites of them*.

    even the general notion that “hey, these guys threw out the tried and true and did whateverthefuck they wanted…so i’m really gonna push that idea that my label won’t let me pursue” is influence enough.

    and i’m sure that after each of those songs came out, there were scads of long hairs in office and conference rooms saying “look man…bloody QUEEN scored a number one when THEIR label reated them like artists instad of cash cows! give ME that freedom, too!!”

  22. BigSteve

    I think saturn’s notion of influence is overly broad.

    If the influence of Bo Rhap and Stair Heav lies not in their sound but in the encouragement to be more original, then every successful and original sounding record ever made is not only influential but influential in exactly the same way.

    It’s like saying Slade’s two-guitar-bass-and-drums lineup was influential because it convinced musicians that that particular format could work. How many times does that lesson have to be learned?

    When we speak of a song as being influential, we usually are referring to attributes that are specific to that song.

  23. saturnismine


  24. I think we can be more specific: Bohemian and Stair had a huge effect on the long, multi-part epic/suite heavy metal song. Sabbath tunes played a role in this too. But the whole history of heavy metal opera is unthinkable without those tunes. That made not be an influence some of you appreciate, but it’s a real influence nonetheless.

  25. You can’t put Stairway to Heaven in the non-influential category exactly because it so obviously led to Bohemian Rhapsody. Sure, it’s got the opera bit in the middle, but c’mon. And you can’t tell me Stairway didn’t lead to Free Bird, either.

    I’m waiting for the rock docu where some artist, somewhere, declares the first Boston album “influential.” I’m willing to bet that will never happen.

    That’s too bad, because the first Boston album is the belt-holder in the category of Influential Album That No One Gives Credit To. All – all – of faceless ’80s rock is in there.

  26. i don’t know how relevant this is to the discussion, but something i’ve noticed that’s a little odd with indie music. The 60’s have been mined by modern musicians for a long time now, leading to stuff like the ‘rediscovery’ of Forever Changes’ and ‘Odyseey and Oracle,’ and the Beach Boys and Byrds suddenly became about influencial on the indie scene as the Beatles, or Bob Dylan, or the Rolling Stones.

    How come the Door’s cataloge hasn’t been reissued and given a 10 by pitchfork? I don’t hear much of their influence on much indie music. i might be missing something though.

  27. BigSteve

    The reason is that The Doors’ music mostly sucks. Thanks god they haven’t been widely influential.

    Their back catalog has been reissued repeatedly, but I guess it’s been mostly bought by guys who don’t form bands.

  28. “How come the Door’s cataloge hasn’t been reissued and given a 10 by pitchfork? I don’t hear much of their influence on much indie music. i might be missing something though.”

    Specifically, you appear to be missing the very existence of Echo and the Bunnymen.

  29. jeangray

    I would argue that you also appear to be missing the very exsistence of Glenn Danzig & Mark Lanegan. Both owe a heavy debt to the music of the Doors.

  30. BigSteve

    I don’t think any of the artists mentioned sounds especially influenced by the music of the Doors. And singers with ponderous baritone voices may remind historically minded rock fans of Morrison, but that doesn’t mean there’s a direct influence. Critics sometimes say this about Iggy too, don’t they? I’m most familiar with Lanegan of the others mentioned, and I find the concept very dubious.

  31. Rock Town Hall is Fun!

  32. I’ve got that Deluxe Sell Out from Amazon UK. The exchange rate is really great right now and I decided to go ahead and grab it up. Good stuff. That reminds me, I need to go check on that deluxe Odessa over there and see if it’s cheaper…

    The Doors. I wouldn’t say that The Doors suck (I’m not a huge fan), but I will say that they are unique. While lots of bands sound like The Beatles or Boston, not many sound like The Doors. Their influence isn’t as evident as many others. Not too many bands sound like The Doors.

    I might agree that “Bo Rhap” is larger than its influence. Even “Stairway” had its aftershocks, but “Bo Rhap” is in a league of its own.


  33. Mr. Moderator

    Anyone who wants to take on The Doors has got to go through Morrison Hotel. But that’s not really relevant to this thread…

  34. mikeydread

    One great thing to come out of Bohemian Rhapsody is this:

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube