Strangely often in music, the popularity of a song seems to be inversely proportional to how often it gets played live. As if bands see popularity as a threat to their credibility, to be worn not with pride but with a chip on their shoulder.
It’s inevitable, though, in a way. Yell a song title enough at a band, and they’ll start to turn against it. Boredom isn’t the only reason why a musician might retreat from their own creation though. Here’s 10 bands who refuse to play some of their biggest songs live - and why.
Oasis - ‘Stand By Me’
In fact, before their split (and since), the band refused to play pretty much anything from 1997’s Be Here Now. Noel Gallagher despises the whole album, describing it as "the sound of a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. All the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit and for every millisecond Liam is not saying a word, there's a fucking guitar riff in there in a Wayne's World stylie.”
Korn - ‘Daddy’
The band’s singer, Jonathan Davis, wrote the song about his experience of being molested as a child. Unsurprisingly, he finds it difficult to perform live. "He's already emotionally drained when he leaves the stage after our set,” said bandmate Munky, “so I couldn't imagine him leaving the stage after playing that song.”
Foo Fighters - ‘Big Me’
The song became a fan favourite as much for its music video - which parodied Mentos adverts - as for the song itself. As a consequence, fans started throwing Mentos at the band whenever they played it live. So they stopped playing it, “because, honestly, it's like being stoned. Those little … things are like pebbles – they hurt." Poor Dave.
Radiohead - ‘Creep’
Sadly, one of the band’s most beloved songs is the one they hate the most. Thom Yorke famously called it “crap,” and responded to a fan’s request by shouting, “Fuck off, we’re tired of it.” They’ve not got a blanket ban on it exactly - they played it in 2001, then in 2009, and most recently earlier this month. So you’ll probably have to wait until about 2023 before they’ll be playing it again.
Megadeth - ‘The Conjuring’
After Dave Mustain became a born-again Christian, it didn’t particularly appeal to him to sing songs about black magic anymore. In fact, he said it had “ruined his life.” Describing his childhood obsession with Wicca, he said, "I put a hex on a dude and his leg kind of got messed up. The other one was I put a sex hex on this girl and the next night she was in my bed, so I think that it worked."
AC/DC - ‘Long Way To The Top’
This was - and still remains - one of AC/DC’s best loved songs, but Brian Johnson doesn’t perform it live. That’s because it was written and performed by AC/DC’s original frontman, Bon Scott, who died in 1980 after a night of heavy drinking. He was just 33 years old, and Johnson feels the song belongs to his predecessor.
Eric Clapton - ‘Tears In Heaven’
Though it was ostensibly written for the soundtrack to Rush, ‘Tears In Heaven’ was in fact inspired by the death of Clapton’s 4-year-old son Conor, who fell from the window of a New York apartment building. He doesn’t sing it live anymore - not because it’s too painful, though. But because it no longer is. "I didn't feel the loss anymore,” explained Clapton, “which is so much a part of performing those songs. [The feelings] are kind of gone and I really don't want them to come back, particularly.”
Beastie Boys - ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)’
The group retired their biggest hit when they realised the crowd were missing the song’s irony. As Mike D explained, “We might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different. There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”
Led Zeppelin - ‘Stairway To Heaven’
To put it simply, Robert Plant got fed up with this song. “I’d break out in hives if I had to sing it in every show,” he once said. “It's just not for me. I sang it at the Atlantic Records show because I'm an old softie and it was my way of saying thank you to Atlantic because I've been with them for 20 years. But no more of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for me.”
Nirvana - ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Actually, Kurt Cobain did usually perform this song live - but they did play it badly on purpose. They famously refused to perform it on the MTV Music Awards in 1992, and their deliberately terrible miming on Top Of The Pops went down in legend.