Stylus Counsel | Area Resident’s Records

Track 35 | "Do Stairway!”


I have a Velvet Underground live album recorded at Max’s Kansas City in 1970. The album came out in 1972, the year the band broke up — just five years after their debut album, but a totally different era. At one point in the bootleg-quality recording, a fan calls out for the song Heroin, from that debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico. The immediate response from the stage is “we don’t do heroin anymore.”

Makes me think — I know there are heaps of songs bands are probably absolutely sick of performing, but what songs do bands flat-out REFUSE to play? Like, how many times do you think The Rolling Stones have done Satisfaction? I mean, I used to play in a pair of bar bands for a year. There are cover songs from those sets I refuse to play. Top of the list: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.

I was reading that Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour retired the epic Meddle centrepiece Echoes after Rick Wright died in 2008. I fully support that. My strongest memory of seeing them live in Ottawa in 1987 was them beginning with Echoes. Standing in general admission, I was only a few metres away from Wright and I’ll never forget the ear-to-ear grin on his face playing the hauntingly beautiful, sparse opening of the 23-minute masterpiece.

Bobby McFerrin is essentially a one-hit wonder. But he refuses to play it now, having done Don’t Worry, Be Happy so, so, so many times. Not to mention the fact that an a cappella song in which one person does all the parts is more than a bit of a challenge in a live setting.

Love Rollercoaster by Red Hot Chili Peppers wasn’t their only hit, but it’s the only one they refuse to play. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever done the song from the Dave Navarro era — an Ohio Players cover — even though it was a major part of the Beavis & Butthead Movie and soundtrack album.

Robert Plant doesn’t do Stairway To Heaven. Plant will occasionally do the Led Zeppelin song All Of My Love, which is a tribute to his young son who died from a stomach illness. But Eric Clapton no longer performs Tears In Heaven, a tribute to his four-year-old son who died after falling from an apartment window. And Evanescence vocalist Amy Lee refuses to play Hello because it was written about her three-year-old sister who passed away.

Speaking of tributes, that’s the only reason Sinead O’Connor decided to perform Nothing Compares 2 U one more time in 2016 — to mark the sudden passing of its writer Prince. Otherwise, the Irish singer no longer performs the song.

One would imagine it being quite difficult for lead singers who replace departed (quit, fired, died) predecessors. Styx — featuring Gowan as lead vocalist instead of Dennis DeYoung — rarely do Mr. Roboto because it’s such a Dennis song. Likewise, AC/DC haven’t performed It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ’N’ Roll) since original lead singer Bon Scott died. That’s vocalist Brian Johnson‘s call. Aferall, Scott not only sang the song, but played the bagpipe solo, too.

Sometimes vocalists can simply no longer sing songs from their early days. That’s why any Ian Gillan-fronted version of Deep Purple won’t attempt Child In Time.

All these are popular songs, and sometimes the most fun for fans is when bands pull out deep cuts you may not be expecting — like when I got to see Alice Cooper do Clones and Floyd do Astronomy Domine.

Now we just need Paul McCartney to do Wild Honey Pie. To date, he hasn’t. Come on, Macca, I can’t imagine a better way to kick off an encore.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.