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Retired Songs: When the band stops playing a crowd favorite hit

Actively creating and performing artists sooner or later face the need to balance old and new songs in their live shows.

Some songs inevitably fall out of the repertoire to make way for others, and often the dilemma is how to meet the expectations of those fans who want to hear the most familiar and hit compositions.

There are a variety of reasons why musicians opt out of performing some of their biggest hits and most beloved songs.

It’s often a matter of being tired of a song being played over and over again, often the artists don’t really like their most popular tunes nearly as much as the audience likes them.

However, there are other reasons why universally loved songs are “retired” for many years, and some of them never return to the set list and remain a memory of long-ago live performances that have acquired legendary status.

In the given examples, the songs are well known, but the circumstances surrounding their “retirement” – not so much.

Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)

This timeless hit from the rap rock trio is meant to poke fun at party culture and a certain type of clichéd party song.

But for most listeners, the irony is elusive, and Fight For Your Right becomes an anthem for the very people the Beastie Boys are parodying.

“It just annoys me that we might have reinforced some of the values ​​of some of the people in our audience when our own values ​​were completely different,” Mike Dee of the Beastie Boys noted years later. “An awful lot of people were screaming along with us at Fight For Your Right, not realizing the fact that the song was making fools of them.”

No wonder the band removed the hit from their concerts as early as 1987 – and since then only allowed themselves to perform it a few times as an exception until their last concert as a trio in 2009.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Perhaps the most famous ballad in all of rock history, it became a crowd favorite and, in an epic over 10-minute version, served as the finale to almost every Zeppelin concert until 1975.

After the 1977 tour, however, frontman Robert Plant felt tired of the song. “You can’t sing it all the time and be sincere… it just started to get hypocritical at some point,” he explains.

Since then, the band has abandoned Stairway to Heaven, except for 2-3 exceptional performances.

Paradoxically, the numerous Led Zeppelin tribute bands must have played the song more times than its true creators.

REM – Shiny Happy People

It’s an iconic, yet very untypical REM song, and the famous American alternative band has more than once treated Shiny Happy People with irony.

The almost absurd hilarity of the lyrics seemed off-putting to REM, and to make fun of their song, they once even played it on the children’s show Sesame Street.

At their concerts, however, the musicians wanted nothing to do with Shiny Happy People at all and could only play it twice in 1991.

They have since scrapped the single entirely, despite its massive success. “It’s a fun pop song written for kids,” the band’s frontman Michael Stipe scorns, admitting he wouldn’t want REM to be remembered for Shiny Happy People.

AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock n’ Roll)

The song became something of an emblem for AC/DC’s first major singer, Bon Scott. In it, he performs one of the few bagpipe solos in the history of classic rock and roll and shines with one of his greatest vocal performances.

The legendary Australian band removed It’s a Long Way to the Top from their concerts after the singer’s sudden death in 1980.

When Brian Johnson replaced Scott, he refused to sing that very song out of respect for his predecessor. So the last known performance of It’s a Long Way to the Top remains from 1979.

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven

A touching ballad inspired by a tragic event in the life of the virtuoso Clapton – the death of his 4-year-old son Connor after an accident in 1991.

Therefore, Tears in Heaven was born out of overwhelming grief and suffering, and then the guitarist removed it from his set list for a whole decade.

“I just didn’t feel the loss anymore, and it’s such a big part of performing these types of songs,” he explains.

“I really need to reconnect with the feelings that were there when I wrote it. And they’re basically gone and I don’t want to get them back. My life is different now. They probably just need time and I’ll go back to them with a more detached perspective,” adds Clapton.

He fulfilled his promise 10 years later and this song, along with My Father’s Eyes, became a regular part of his concerts again.

Muse – Muscle Museum

It’s a much-loved song by the band’s fans, but it’s been dropped from setlists for an unusual reason.

It is about one of the old songs of the great British trio, performed regularly by them from the mid-90s until 2006, and after 2007 it mysteriously disappeared from the concerts.

In a radio interview, drummer Dominic Howard explains where Muscle Museum has gone – it turns out that frontman Matt Bellamy has lost the unusual analog pedal he uses for the vocal effect at the end of the song.

However, Howard admits he would love to play the song again. And it happened in March 2015, when Muscle Museum appeared for the first time at a Muse concert after an 8-year hiatus.

Since then, it has been played a few more times by the band, although it is not as often in the sets as before.

Radiohead – Creep

It’s no secret that Radiohead frontman and lead songwriter Thom Yorke can’t stand Creep.

The timeless hit from the Brits’ debut album catapulted them to incredible heights and 30 years later remains the most popular song of the band that went on to create so much quality music afterwards.

To Yorke, though, the song is “rubbish” — and that’s what he calls it on days when he’s a little more gracious. In others, he gives it more colorful definitions.

Radiohead fans know the incident from a concert in Montreal when a fan dared to ask for Creep and the lead singer replied: “Fuck you, we’re sick of her.”

For seven years the band stuck to their decision not to play Creep at all, but the story has a happy ending, as Tom gradually mellowed and in later years sang the big hit at concerts again.

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