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10 Mistakes in Iconic Hit Songs

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

We all strive for perfection, but sometimes our imperfections make our work exceptional.

Did you know in the movie Rocky that the ice skating scene where Rocky and Adrian have their first date was a last-minute disaster? Due to a scheduling mistake, the production lost its permits for Central Park - hours before the shoot! That last-minute change led them to switch the shooting locations to a friend's ice skating arena, which eventually made it one of the most iconic scenes of the film.

So I present for the music buffs - Ten iconic songs that embrace imperfection!

Drum roll….

10. The Police – Roxanne

One of the most enduring tracks in The Police’s discography is “Roxanne.” Its excellence aside, the famous tune has one glaring error just four seconds in, thanks to an un-deliberate move by Sting. Sting accidentally leaned back on his piano, creating a tuneless sound that surprisingly not edited out of the final master. The little chuckle heard after it suggests that the band found it all too amusing to omit.

9. Led Zeppelin – Black Country Woman

Even a group with the musical pedigree of Led Zeppelin isn’t always faultless – and they don’t want you to think they are either. They embrace their masterful improvisation skills on the freewheeling banger “Black Country Woman.” What makes this one unique is that not only do they leave the error in, but they leave it in their discussion about whether to edit it out or not! At the very beginning of the song, an airplane can be heard shooting through the skies overhead. The band members can be heard “What about this airplane?” before frontman Robert Plant quips, “Nah, leave it.”

8. Pearl Jam – Rearviewmirror

Rumor has it that the producer on this Pearl Jam song (Brendan O’Brian) was putting the group through their paces in the studio – striving for a perfection that wasn’t coming. Drummer Dave Abbruzzese typified the arduous process during the end of the track. That clattering of drum sticks you hear? That’s Abbruzzese chucking them against the wall in pure frustration.

7. The Who – Eminence Front

Another classic musical act to slip up on occasion was legendary rock band The Who – most notably on their 1982 single “Eminence Front.” In a rare appearance for Roger Daltrey on backing vocals, the croaky crooner fluffs his lines for the first chorus section. He times it wrong, and starts the line off with an incorrect word. He tries to switch it, but the damage is already done. It was amended on the remastered version, but it remains in the original pressings.

6. R.E.M – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight

R.E.M.’s gem “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” contains a little error that stems from some of the most bizarre lyrics that the band’s ever produced. During the insane line “a candy bar, or falling star, or a reading from Dr. Seuss,” frontman Michael Stipe lets out an audible laugh before going into the song’s stunning chorus. It occurs at 2:33, and was left in the mix – proving that even this intense group can get very silly.

5. Nirvana – Polly

This haunting cut from Nirvana’s classic stunner Nevermind is best known for its nightmarish tale of the rape of a young girl in 1987, but some may not know that it also has a mistake uttered by Kurt Cobain towards the end of its running time. Before the third verse, Cobain gets a bit of a head-start on the vocals, coming in too early for the “Polly” line. The song is an absolute corker, and this little mistake certainly doesn’t take anything away from its brilliance.

4. Ella Fitzgerald – Mack the Knife

Improvisation certainly wasn’t in the script when jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald sung this swinging number in 1960. However, that’s precisely what transpired. After forgetting the words to the chorus of this scintillating live rendition, Fitzgerald somehow wings it by making up the lyrics, surprisingly without missing a beat. It certainly did nothing to hurt her – she went on to win two Grammy

Awards for her supreme skills, not only for her vocal ability on the track, but also for her ability to switch it up on the fly.

3. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

In this rare case of musical discrepancies, a mistake caused a major life-changing event to occur for one of its creators. Yes, during a moment in Pink Floyd’s superb cut “Wish You Were Here,” something buried in the mix made guitarist David Gilmour give up his smoking habit completely. What was it? Well, he mistakingly coughed before the main guitar comes on – something which he says made him give up the cigs after hearing it played back.

2. Metallica – Master of Puppets

“Master of Puppets” by Metallica remains one of the best songs ever spawned under the heavy metal umbrella, but have you noticed the one very peculiar discrepancy during the track’s guitar solo? It revolves around a note that guitarist Kirk Hammett accidentally hits, piercing the ears with its high pitch squeal. While tearing it up for the scorching solo, Hammett somehow pulled the string off the fretboard, creating this unique musical mistake – one which he says he’s never been able to duplicate since.

1. The Beatles – Hey Jude

The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” is a rousing anthem that still resonates today. However, it’s not exactly flawless from a technical standpoint. If you skip to around the 2:58 mark, you’ll hear a cry of “f**king hell!” ringing out. It’s thought that either John Lennon or Paul McCartney couldn’t reach the piano chords they were going for, leading to this frustrated outburst. You can even hear the word “chord” being said before it too – a rare moment of weakness for the Fab Four.

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