8 Famous Songs That Bands Don't Want to Play Live

You probably won't see these songs performed live any soon.

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Ultimate Guitar
8 Famous Songs That Bands Don't Want to Play Live
9

Metallica - 'Escape'

Escape was played live on June 23rd, 2012 and holds the record for going the longest without being played live, with 10,194 days. The hate can be justified as the song was written as a 'radio friendly' album filler, demanded by the record company. And this slow song paired with cheesy lyrics does the job quite fine.

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Eric Clapton - ‘Tears In Heaven’

This song was inspired by the death of Eric Clapton's young song who fell from the window of a tall apartment building. He doesn't sing it live not cause it's too painful, but because he doesn't feel the loss anymore and he doesn't want those feelings to come back.

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Korn - ‘Daddy’

This song is sure hard to listen to. It was written by Jonathan Davis about how he was molested as a child. 'He's already emotionally drained when he leaves the stage after our set,” said his bandmate Munky, “so I couldn't imagine him leaving the stage after playing that song.”

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Megadeth - ‘The Conjuring’

After Dave Mustaine 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."

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AC/DC - ‘Long Way To The Top’

One of AC/DC’s most loved songs can rarely be seen on the band's tracks because it was written and performed by AC/DC’s original frontman, Bon Scott, who died in 1980 after a night of heavy drinking.

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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 for an extended period of time, “because, honestly, it's like being stoned. Those little … things are like pebbles – they hurt." Poor Dave.

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Radiohead - ‘Creep’

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 in 2016. So you’ll probably have to wait until about 2023 before they’ll be playing it again.

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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 style.”

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134 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Eifler121
    The AC/DC thing doesn't make sense. Do they not play THAT live either? I'm not familiar with their writing credits, generally, but their best material was with Bon Scott. If I went to see them, I'd only be going to see those songs.
    sh165876
         What about Tool's Eulogy and System of a Down's Shimmy?
    redisni
    Eulogy is never played because the final scream puts too much strain on Maynard's vocal cords. I've heard them altering that part live, but it just ain't the same. BTW, same thing happens with Ticks and Leeches.
    canoenascar12
    maynard couldn't verbally communicate for two weeks after tracking ticks and leeches in any way. his being deliberately softer on all albums since then is probably is surely a reaction to this
    DrJuice
    There'll be way more that Tool won't play soon. I saw them in Montreal over the summer and Maynard straight up just didn't do any hard parts (screams or long notes) and really took it easy for everything else. Saw him with APC in '11 and he tried but kept messing up his voice and called the show after just over an hour.
    AfroFox
    All I take away from this is....Dave Mustaine is fucking nuts
    JorshWarsh
    He's far from crazy.  He's been able to figure out what works for him and what doesn't.  That kind of introspective thinking is necessary to grow as a human being.
    SymphonyOfDust
    Opeth's Black Rose Immortal has notoriously never been played live. 
    Pretelethal
    It's not a real Opeth concert until people loudly request Black Rose Immortal whenever Mikael asks what songs people want to hear.
    jordo246
    When I saw them Mike said "stop shouting requests we're not a pub band" and then proceeded to play the song everyone was requesting. Good show.
    Pretelethal
    My favourite Opeth live moment that I've seen is when Mikael says he's craving McDonalds, so an audience member runs out and delivers him a Big Mac. It's a fun watch:
    austinglasser
    The Foos have played 'Big Me' well over 500 times.  https://www.setlist.fm/stats/foo-fighters-bd689...
    Eifler121
    They're saying that they don't play it anymore, not that they've never played it.
    austinglasser
    Eifler121
    Fair enough. It's possible that there was a period of time they didn't play it. I remember Foo Fighters' Storytellers where they said they don't like playing the song anymore. I'm not sure how the author qualified it.
    austinglasser
    I'm pretty sure that is true. It also looks like they've been paring it back from some sets recently to make room for new tracks. But if it showed up at a show tomorrow night it wouldn't turn any heads.
    ng117
    They won't play "Lonely As You" because the vocals are too difficult for Dave live
    austinglasser
    Dunno about that one. They play 'White Limo' pretty frequently and that has among the rawest vocals on any of their tracks. Would be great if they brought it back though!
    Anjohl
    1) Escape is an *incredible* song, its super punchy, dynamic, and has a great riff. 2) If you're a band with a big hit that doesn't want to play it live, get a new job. If your fans make a song a hit, you're touring and making money because of said song. That would be like Metallica not wanting to play Sandman anymore. That's your job. Suck it up, and do the job you're being paid to do. I'm sure plumbers don't like plunging toilets, and that painters hate painting ceilings, but that's the job. You do it.
    minusxero
    I disagree on #2. The most recent time I saw Nine Inch Nails live, they did not play Closer. I was fucking pleased because they instead played a deep cut All The Love In The World instead. I've seen Closer live 6+ times. I don't need to see it again. A musician's job is not to play the hits, it's to put on an entertaining show. If you can do that without playing your hits, go fucking wild. There's no requirement to play the biggest hits if it's not necessary to a set.
    Anjohl
    You need to play the songs that someone who will only see you once wants to hear. Not all of them, but enough from that list that they walk away satisfied. I would call "All the Love in the World" a hit personally, but maybe I'm just a bigger fan than I thought I was.
    minusxero
    You probably are. All the Love in the World was not a single, didn't get radioplay, and isn't a hit in the way most people would definite one. In the case of NIN, you're looking at Closer, Head Like A Hole, The Hand That Feeds, and Hurt being the biggest recognizable hits. In the case of live staples, the "hits" would be akin to The Frail/The Wretched, Wish, Reptile, Terrible Lie, and Survivalism.
    Anjohl
    Hand That Feeds rules, the rest I'm not a big fan of. With Teeth is just incredible top to bottom
    stubkar
    No you don't. You play what you want to play, period. It's a free country/world. If the crowd, as a whole, expects the hits and doesn't get all of them, they can say no to tickets next time band in question is in town or talk trash online. Whatever. Play what you want. Suffer the consequences or enjoy the spoils. That's it.
    Anjohl
    Nah. Do your job.
    stubkar
    "Why is the Superbowl played on Sunday?" "Because it's tradition." "Ok, but wouldn't it make more sense to have it on Saturday? Work absenteeism would decline, and more people could actually watch the game. It could potentially be better for ratings as well!" "It's tradition." "Ok. How about maybe just making it earlier on Sunday, for the same reasons mentioned before?" "TRADITION"
    Iplaymusik
    I agree with #2 and Anjohl's comment says it well. What do people think about improvising solos ?  I usually get disappointed when I expect to hear a solo from a song and it gets altered too much.  Keep solos as they are !  (Frusciante being my exception)
    minusxero
    It entirely depends on the musician and the context of the solo within the song. There's a certain type of solo I would expect to hear during, say, Comfortably Numb. But I'm also a huge fan of improvised jams and solos, having grown up with a jazz background.
    Iplaymusik
    There is lots of time to do improv and jams at the beginning, the end, and between songs.  I have never seen Pearl Jam live but if they altered the 'Yellow Ledbetter' solo I would be bummed out.  I saw Blue Rodeo a couple times and the solo to '5 days in May' was altered and I was severly disappointed.        When you say a type of solo during Comfortably Numb, does that mean you are ok with alterations ?  I would not be.
    minusxero
    I'm 100% okay with alterations on most songs. As an example that you can relate to, I was very afraid that Frusciante was going to mess with his "solo" in Don't Forget Me when I saw RHCP during their By The Way touring cycle. I love that solo. I love his improved solo even more after he played it. Same with, for example, John Mayer when he was touring for Continuum. The new solo he had for Slow Dancing in a Burning Room was not what was on the studio album and I'm okay with that. If I wanted to hear a pitch perfect version of that song, I'd listen to that song. There are a few steadfast exceptions to the rule though. In the Comfortably Numb example I stated, that's one of the few songs where a complete rework of the solos there would probably leave me disappointed. Then again, it's Gilmour. I'm sure if he decided to completely alter the solos on that song, it would still be amazing.
    Parthan
    Most rock solos are improvised though. It's unrealistic to expect a guy who basically winged a solo one time to go back and memorise it. Maybe live performances will revisit certain melodic ideas that the guitarist liked, but hopefully not at the cos of the spontaneity of the thing. Sometimes this signifcantly improves the solo too.
    Iplaymusik
    Even if most rock solos are improvised, which I question, why is it unrealistic for a guy to memorise it ?  Maybe I am in the minority here, but most of the time I go to a show to hear a recreation of my favourite music, not a reinterpretation.  They can exercise spontaneity without altering the music.  Someone like Iron Maiden I wouldn't care about altering the solos, but that is an exception to me, and a result of the solos not being as much a part of the DNA of the song. IMO.    
    jhonbaker
    If you go to hear a recreation - stay home and listen to the CD, Mp3, or Vinyl or whatever you listen to - music is not static and when it is it is worse for it.
    Iplaymusik
    So in your view there is no point in going to a concert unless the music differs enough from the recordings ?
    jhonbaker
    pretty much - yeah. If you go to a concert to hang out with friends  - you've wasted money. If you go to hear a song as it was on the album - you have no appreciation for the musicians on stage. If they play exactly what they recorded every time - they might not really be that good and it is a waste of money anyway. Why go to a concert to hear what you have already heard?
    Iplaymusik
    I explained why above.  And yea, I guess the guys from Dream Theater aren't that good, because they spend as much work as anyone on recreating their studio material...
    jhonbaker
    In addition to my other comment - there is a lot of variation to Dream Theater's concerts. You've likely never seen the same show twice.
    Iplaymusik
    Absolutely.  And Dream Theater works hard to achieve that.  However, it is done by setlist alteration, not improvisation within songs.
    jhonbaker
    I've never been to the symphony and heard Beethovan's 9th the same way twice.
    Iplaymusik
    Depends on what you mean by the same.  Yea they are never identical.  But your comment is kind of my point.  In improvising at rock shows we are talking about changing notes, melodies, timing, structure, chords.  None of those things are changed in classical performance.  The performers have sheet music, and work endlessly to follow it exactly.  They, or the conductor, do not change notes.
    jhonbaker
    my comment does not support your point. at all. 
    Iplaymusik
    Perhaps not.  I just meant the differences between performances of Beethoven are subtle (no change in notation), compared to what I am talking about at a rock show where the notation of solos are being altered.  
    jhonbaker
    changes in notation can be way subtle -more subtle than dynamic changes - for example. When you begin altering chord structures, say from a I,IV,V to a II,VI,V,I - that is a new song. Solos in rock come from Blues and Jazz but are much simpler than Jazz and more tonally complex than blues (if you're doing it right) - There is a structure to them that does not alter much and melodies that are consistent, but if it is exactly the same - your soloist is not very inventive or musical and I don't care how fast he can play. 
    Iplaymusik
    You have good points.  If a solo is identical it could absolutely be the result of a performer not having improvisational talent.  That being said, it is wrong to assume that because someone chooses to not improvise (John Petrucci for example) doesn't mean he can't.     And a performers improvisational ability at a rock concert is not important to me.  If you think I am an idiot that is fine, but that is my personal preference.  If I want to experience improv I will go to a jazz show.
    jhonbaker
    I don't think you are an idiot - don't know where that came from - I just think you could save a lot of money by cranking the shuffle mode at a park with all your friends.
    Iplaymusik
    It came from you telling me if I go to hear music without improvisation I have no appreciation for the performers on stage.  Which to me is insulting and that is just your opinion.  I have been to many shows to see improv, sometimes I go and don't want improv, I don't think that indicates a lack of appreciation... I don't go to shows to hang out with friends either.  I have been to many shows by myself, including one to see Offspring again this summer.  They played their songs pretty much how they are on the album, no improvisation, and I was still able to experience a powerful emotional effect and boost to my spirit. And honestly, (not that you said this) but the idea of being at a concert where I could control the band with my ipod and all the music is identical, just live.  I would fucking love that.
    jhonbaker
    hanging out with friends wasn't necessarily the point - that feeling you get is the energy of the crowd and the volume of the music. Not the instrumentalist sawing away at the same thing 500 times. We simply relate to music very differently from each other - anything else I could say would be insulting and unnecessary. So I'll leave it here. Thanks for the chat!
    Parthan
    Lol. You're trolling right? If you want a a perfect recreation of your favourite music listen to the albums...or go watch a cover band.
    Danroush
    I don't get why nobody seems to understand that there are a wide range of reasons people go to see a band, so this "go listen to a CD" or "go watch a cover band" nonsense just because someone enjoys hearing a solo they love, is a pretty weak point.
    Parthan
    While there may be a "wide range of reasons" to go see a band, watching the verbatim mechanical reproduction of notes, especially for a blues, jazz, or blues-based rock band, is an inappropriate reason. Those music forms, especially instrumentally, are supposed to be expressions of emotion, not just the dreary rote reproduction of an already established template. Yes, improvisation isn't really a part of baroque classical music, or other music that takes its stylistic cues from it. But in the blues and music based on the blues, improvisation is an exalted part of the art form. So, if you want to hear Jimmy Page or Slash play the exact same solo he played on record, then listen to the record or watch a band that makes its living imitating records. However, don't expect one of those original guitarists to play the recorded solo note for note. That's just realism.
    Iplaymusik
    No definitely not trolling...of course if I was I would probably say that anyway....             Hearing the music live by the actual artist is obviously a different experience from the album at home.  Live music has a much deeper emotional resonance, and is a much more profound spiritual experience. At least to me.  To see the guys doing it live, without a net, creates a bond with the music and musicians.  And the other aspects of going to shows to mosh and scream your face off as well.
    Batmantera
    I actually saw them play Escape at at Orion Festival and it was awesome. Im pretty sure they don't play it due to the singing part being difficult, especially these days, not because of its content or being an "album filler"(which its not).
    N7Crazy
    Disagree with #2 for many different reasons - Let's use Radiohead as an example. They had pretty good reasons to dislike Creep - While it brought them success, it almost killed the band. Music journalists and media was cramming the "one-hit-wonder" hat over the head of them because of its massive popularity, which meant that many concert goers would turn up solely for that song, and leave immediatly afterwards, being utterly disinterested in anything else the band had to offer (because in their minds, they were just a one-hit-wonder band). The band relocated it at the end of their setlists, but which only resulted in concert goes heckling the band to play it. Five years later, and they had released two critically acclaimed albums, their latest at the time being arguably their opus magnum, yet they were still labelled by everyone as "the band that wrote Creep". On top of that, as their career progressed, the song didn't really fit into their sound anymore. Imagine if "Bike" by Pink Floyd had been a hit, yet many years later and with several legendary albums behind them they were still known as "those guys who wrote "Bike"", and their label told them "No, we don't want you to write concept albums, we want you to write more like "Bike", otherwise we won't want to advertise your endavours, or maybe even kick you off our label" As a musician, you owe your fans your livelyhood, but the vast majority of people who made "Creep" a hit weren't fans, but casual music listeners who were completely uninterested in anything else the band did unless it was more of the same. It's possible to be have music as a livelyhood, but if you tie yourself too much to what the fans want, you severly limit your own creative freedom, especially if you've only just begun. Not everyone wants to play the same shit over and over, and just because some can, doesn't mean that others have to as well. Furthermore, not all musicians view music as a job, let alone what they create as something for mass consumption - A lot of musicians create music as self-expression, and if people want to buy it, that's great, but if their following work pisses off those fans, that's too bad, since the person/people as said isn't/aren't creating music with consumption as the main aim, but for the sake of expressing themselves. Others create music solely for their own enjoyment, no matter if it sells well or not, and if they do so, they are neither under any obligation to do as fans and concert venues demand. As for Radiohead, their choice to stop playing Creep was actually a pretty sound one - By downplaying their number one hit, they managed to make people look at them beyond that one song, both with fans and with music media in general, more or less killing the label that was "the band that wrote Creep".
    antonov12
    Most people think of Hawkwind as "the band that recorded Silver Machine",but when I saw them they didn't play it.It is by far their most famous song in their 40+ year existence,yet they have many better songs,no one shouted out for it,probably because most of the crowd were high!.I can't imagine anyone going to a concert just for a couple of songs.Many bands I have seen have not always played my favourite songs,but as a fan that does not bother me at all.If a band has a number of albums behind them it is unreasonable to expect them just to play the hits in a one to two hours,especially as a lot of bands are most succesful in their early years then the general public looses interest in them,leaving mainly "real" fans who would just enjoy seeing them whatever they play,unless,of course,they do a "Jazz Odyssey" As for solos,I have never seen a band renowned for them,I just prefer the songs. Exceptions would be Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth,and I would certainly expect them to go completely off track,and I would enjoy whatever they played.
    elcapitan1800
    In general I agree, but sometimes it's nice to not only hear the hits. Many of my (and probably most people on this sites) favorite songs are not singles. But a lot of it is personal preference too. I was really please that Soundgarden skipped Black Hole Sun, but disappointed that Tom Petty didn't play Breakdown. I think you have to give them a little artistic freedom, playing the same setlist night after night can really kill the passion that they are expected to bring
    Anjohl
    Sure, noone is saying "Play the hits album", unless you're an oldies band that lives and dies off those hits, but if a band has 5 signature songs, they should be playing 3/5 every night. It's about being a professional. Being an "artist" doesn't remove the obligation to do the job you've been paid to do.
    vikkyvik
    Their job is to fill seats and therefore make money for themselves, the venue, the promoter, etc. If they are filling seats, then they are doing their job properly.
    Iplaymusik
    I saw RHCP two nights in a row on their Stadium Arcadium tour.  They used significantly different setlists each night.  The second night, they skipped Under the Bridge and did I Could Have Lied.  Great for me but if I had only gone the second night I probably would have been upset.      Bob Dylan never played Knocking on Heaven's Door when I saw him.      I think the 3/5 comment by Anjohl below is a good rule of thumb.
    voodrew
    I disagree too. One of the reasons I stopped going to AC DC concerts is because I knew the setlist before, and I knew I was going to be a lot of repeats.
    chamiller005
    Its an OK song, and by 80s Metallica Standards it really might be their worst song of the decade. I've been taking runs to Ride the Lightning lately and I usually skip it, its pretty jarring in the middle of that album and doesn't flow very well, definitely doesn't fit between "Trapped Under Ice" and "Creeping Death".
    Anjohl
    I 100% disagree. There are songs off all three of their first album that are worse than Escape.
    abacab666
    really??? each to their own i spose, but i'm curious as to which track from MOP you think is worse than Escape?
    Anjohl
    Leper, and maybe Disposable.
    stubkar
    Holy shit no. Hell no. Escape doesn't fit with mid 80's Metallica, at all. It doesn't even for the context of Lightning. Disposable heroes is A+ primo Metallica. Escape is clearly a sellout.
    chamiller005
    Scratching my head at that one, curious which song from the first three is better, to me all the rest are basically classics.
    Cheesepuff
    making music isn't a job, it's art. artists do what they want. the moment they follow the fans or money before themselves it stops being art and becomes entertainment. also escape sucks
    Anjohl
    No, it's a job. It's how they sustain themselves, and like any business, the customers are their bosses.
    Eifler121
    It depends how long you're around, and how much other material you have. Radiohead by now mostly has fans who don't like them for just Creep. If this were 98, probably not the case.
    tom11
    If Be Here Now actually had some Wayne's World style riffing in it it might be worth listening to.
    BranoKarnis
    "Tears in Heaven" was a stable part of Clapton's 2017 set list. Not sure why it is on the list. 
    crosskip
    It's even his 14th most frequently player live song. Think the guy didn't play it for a short while, but it has been a concert staple for years now.
    Eifler121
    Red Hot Chili Peppers have never played the Greeting Song. It's not a hit, but that was one of their songs I really liked right away as a kid.
    Iplaymusik
    In Keidis' biography he says he hates that song.  He didn't have lyrics and Rick Rubin told him to write about girls and cars, which was a favourite subject of Rubin.  So he did, but he has never liked listening to it.  
    Hexagram88
    I wish they had played Porcelain live during the era of Frusciante. It's my favorite song by RHCP.
    j.mparkes
    The Creep thing really isn’t a big deal anymore. It was almost a staple of their festival shows in 16/17. It’s played much more than other hits from that era (see: High and Dry).
    Flutterfelt
    How about anything from Van Halen, from 1986 onward?  
    Anjohl
    They played all kinds of Sammy era songs when he was in the band, over half the set I believe. They also play stuff off ADKOT. That would be like expecting Deep Purple in 2017 to play "Burn".
    cullenmartin60
    They played Big Me at the Birmingham, AL show I went to like two or three weeks ago. S/O to Jeremy, the guy they brought on stage to play guitar.
    shamrock21
    How tf wasn't Smells Like Teen Spirit on this list? Everyone knows how much Nirvana hated playing that song live
    mpartin
    I'm pretty sure that Nirvana doesn't play anything any more.   
    shamrock21
    ...I don't know why my comment got downed. Never said anything about it being a good or bad song, or anything about them as a band. All I said was they hated playing the song live, which is a well-known fact that's just objectively true. 
    City_Machine
    " and how he put a sex hex on this girl and the next night she was in his bed. " those work? be right back, time to uh...hit the books. 
    Metallicaloveu
    I heard Clapton play Tears in Heaven 2.5 years ago.  It was the night BB King died and I am now wondering if he played it because he felt loss again. 
    viltorm
    Korn performed 'Daddy' number of times during 20-th anniversary tour.
    OriginOfFeces
    Every night they played since they played their entire debute album live. I've seen them on that tour and man, that song was intense and ended up in Jon mic dropping and rushing off stage.
    joe164
    How about Stairway by Zeppelin? They famously refused to play that song for years. Now they refuse to play anything lolololol :-(
    erajorma
    I don't know if you can call it famous, but "Glorious" by Muse is a fairly popular song, even if it's a b-side. It's a fan favorite, but Matt hates it with a passion.
    gruppesechs2004
    I was always under the impression that Metallica wrote Escape purposefully to appease radio execs just so they could get their music played.
    sh165876
    Tears in Heaven is one of my favorite Eric Clapton songs, it goes to show that true emotion can help write music so much.
    zackhack
    Actually Radiohead did perform Creep just last summer at the concert in Israel, and then they played The Bends. Best concert ever
    BigHeadClan
    Iron Maiden - Dance of Death. Seen them twice and a few other as well and none of us has ever seen them perform that song.
    wylde1994
    Man, "Escape" reminds me of Ozzy's Ultimate Sin record, if i was around when Ride came out and i heard that on the radio more often than not...i'd get sick of it pretty quickly 
    baldico
    I bought Ride when it came out and it was easily the poorest song on the record. As far as i recall, Creeeping Death was the only single released off of Ride and in the UK, at least, there was hardly any rock shows on the radio back then (RIP Tommy Vance). I know exactly what you mean tho
    domea
    I can't even imagine writing and recording a song like 10 years ago, and playing it over and over and over again whenever you go on tour.  That would drive me insane I mean Creep was released what in the 90's?  Hell Kiss wrote some of their stuff in the 70's and still play it.  Couldn't do it.
    zack2k
    Yeah, I swear to god they played Big Me a lot, I even loved Skin and Bones' version of Big Me.
    Emperor's Child
    How about Muse's Falling Away With You? 14 Years old, and the song has never been played in full because "it never seemed to work".