For every smash hit single, there is a b-side (or at least a proverbial one) that didn’t land in quite the same way.
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Every great artist has a few deep cuts that die-hard fans dredge up and subsequently spend the rest of their lives defending as their “greatest song of all time.”
Throughout its 70-year history, Rock ‘n’ roll has produced a limitless supply of songs for the particularly explorative fans to uncover. Below we’re going through just a few—in no particular order —that you can add to help freshen up your playlists.
Though “deep cut” can be a gray area, we stuck to songs that weren’t released as singles and shied away from those that are so well known they might as well have been. Let’s dive into 10 rock n’ roll deep cuts below.
1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Bootleg” (From Bayou Country)
“Bootleg” follows “Born on the Bayou” on Creedence Clearwater Revivals’ second album and features the very best of John Fogerty’s lyrical prowess. Though CCR will always be known for their late ’60s political anthems, this comparatively simple song about running moonshine holds up well against any one of their colossal hits.
2. John Lennon – “Isolation” (From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)
This somber track comes from a time in John Lennon’s career when fame was starting to become more taxing than enjoyable. At least, that’s what he seems to sum up on this track, “Isolation.” With lyrics like People say we got it made / Don’t they know we’re so afraid? it is one of Lennon’s most vulnerable and revealing songs ever. Oh— and Ringo Starr makes a noteworthy appearance on the drums.
3. Queen – “Dragon Attack” (From The Game)
Queen discovered a strong affinity for synthesizers by the time the ’80s rolled around. Though the group started leaning toward the polished, buoyant rock that defined the era with their album, The Game, they never forgot their raw and frantic roots. If “Another One Bites the Dust” doesn’t illustrate that point, then “Dragon Attack” will. The song acts as a bridge between the operatic rock the band was pushing in the ’70s and the pulsing arena anthems they were beginning to pursue.
4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” (From Damn the Torpedoes)
Damn the Torpedos is often marked as a fan favorite in Tom Petty’s discography—and for good reason. Chock full of swag and raw rock instrumentation, the album boasts a number of stellar Petty tracks. “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” takes everything that’s great about this album and dials it up to 11—it’s a worthy addition to any Petty fan’s rotation.
5. Cream – “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” (From Fresh Cream)
Before Cream got heavy into psychedelia, the band was running on Eric Clapton’s early blues work. One such song included a pulsing cover of the delta blues standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” on their debut album Fresh Cream. The old standard is made anew with the help of Clapton’s rolling guitar licks and Jack Bruce’s smooth vocals.
6. Hall & Oats – “When the Morning Comes” (From Abandoned Luncheonette)
We could measure most of Abandoned Luncheonette as a deep cut, given its relatively looked-over tracklist—save the iconic ballad, “She’s Gone.” One song on the album that deserves its dues is the soft-rock gem “When the Morning Comes.” In classic Hall & Oats fashion, the track waxes poetic about lost love, but paired with the rolling, peaceful instrumentation, it seems the duo isn’t getting too worked up. It’s easy-listening, soft rock at its best.
7. Bruce Springsteen – “New York City Serenade” (From The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle)
Bruce Springsteen’s early albums didn’t quite catch on in the way his latter work did. One reason could be the inaccessibility of some of the songs. Take the stunning (but lengthy) “New York City Serenade” for example. It’s a nearly 10-minute sprawling love story that has a myriad of twists and turns. Despite not drawing the casual listener in, Springsteen pours his heart out into this story, creating something that is truly magnetic and beautiful.
8. AC/DC – “Shake a Leg” (From Back In Black)
With Back in Black being such a landmark album, it’s hard to imagine there are any overlooked tracks but, “Shake a Leg” doesn’t get as much love as it should—given it’s one of AC/DC’s best rockers and one of the greatest examples of Angus Young’s guitar work.
9. U2 – “Bad” (From The Unforgettable Fire)
“Bad,” along with the rest of The Unforgettable Fire, marked a turning point for U2. Whereas the band’s first three albums were steeped in traditional rock with flourishes of post-punkisms, The Unforgettable Fire finds Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. taking things to the level that would eventually make them one of the biggest bands in the world. “Bad” is at the center of that evolution. It’s a song that radiates with emotion and ultimately inspired the group’s breakthrough performance at Live Aid in 1985.
10. Led Zeppelin – “Achilles Last Stand” (From Presence)
There is arguably no other guitarist that has ever been better at arranging a guitar track than Jimmy Page. One piece amongst a long list of evidence is “Achilles Last Stand.” The track is through and through Page’s work of art with an onslaught of riffs and solos that are equally haunting and beautiful.
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