Top 11 Hit Songs That Were Recorded Live

Top 11 Hit Songs That Were Recorded Live

  1. “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol

“Mony Mony” was a 1968 hit for Tommy James and received renewed attention when Billy Idol recorded a version that reached No. 7 on the Billboard dance chart in 1981. In his autobiography Dancing With Myself, Idol explains the song’s attraction. “That song has always had special significance to me. I love its repetitive, we would say machinated, groove. It really grabs me. From the first time I heard it, I liked Tommy James’s voice, and always thought maybe I could get away with it too.

“Mike Bone, the new head of Chrysalis Records, was looking for a way to make an immediate mark. He proposed doing a live version of ‘Mony Mony’ to go with a collection of our remixes since 1980 compiled into one album that we would call Vital Idol. [Producer] Keith Forsey came to one of our shows and we recorded a live version of ‘Mony Mony.’ We released it as a single because Mike felt our studio version didn’t receive the exposure it deserved when it came out in 1981.

“The new live take was more guitar-oriented, and when the single was released it went to number one.”

“Mony Mony” by Billy Idol

“Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells

  1. “Crossroads” by Cream

“Crossroads” was written and recorded by blues great Robert Johnson in 1936. Johnson is a major influence on Eric Clapton, who recorded the song in 1966 with his band Powerhouse. Later that year Clapton formed Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Clapton embellished Johnson’s slide guitar work and “Crossroads” became more of what Clapton called “a rock and roll vehicle.”

“Crossroads” opens the live half of Cream’s 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. It was recorded March 10, 1968 at San Francisco’s Winterland. Engineer Tom Dowd edited the long performance of “Crossroads” down to just over four minutes. “It may have been eleven minutes long,” Clapton told Rolling Stone. “I think that’s a terrible solo. I saw a thing with Joe Walsh the other day, talking about that solo. I really appreciate that respect for it, but I can’t figure out what the hell they’re talking about. It’s messy! I admit it’s got tons of energy, but that alone doesn’t make it. I don’t like it. Isn’t that funny?”

“Crossroads” by Cream



  1. “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton

When Peter Frampton left Humble Pie in the early ’70s, he formed Frampton’s Camel, a band that found little success. Their 1973 LP Frampton’s Camel included the studio version of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” considered long at almost seven minutes.

By 1975 Frampton was a solo artist, slowly building an audience by opening for groups like ZZ Top and the J. Geils Band. “The old adage, which is still true today, ‘Get in front of as many people as quick as possible and the word of mouth will spread,’ well, that’s turned into the Internet now,” Frampton said in Billboard. “But, in those days you physically had to go around the country, around the world, and build that following person by person. I literally did what you do on social media, I did it physically. By just never stopping touring for, what was it? Five years.”

Frampton Comes Alive! included a 14-minute version of  “Do You Feel Like We Do.” The song, one of three hit singles from the 1976 LP, was notable for Frampton’s talk box solos. When label executives heard some of the live performances, they decided to expand it to a double album. Frampton went back on the road and on Nov. 22, 1975 recorded “Do You Feel Like We Do” at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. A shortened version would become one of three hit singles from the album.

“Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton

  1. “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney & Wings

“Maybe I’m Amazed” was written by Paul McCartney in 1969 as the Beatles were breaking up. The song appeared on McCartney’s 1970 debut solo album but was not released as a single. McCartney wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed” for his wife Linda, who encouraged him to write and record music again as a way to battle the depression of the band’s breakup.

“It was for Linda and was about her. It was to try and get a little deeper into a love song: ‘Maybe I’m amazed the way you hang me on a line, pulled me out of time.’ The sort of stuff that you don’t say to a girl except in a song. I think a lot of people relate to it. It’s a quirky song, but people know what it means – it’s the ‘maybe’ I’m amazed.

“A straight love song would say, ‘I’m amazed at the way you love me.’ That would be the Sinatra thing, and it would be called, ‘I’m Amazed.’ But the ‘maybe’ is like a guy not quite wanting to admit it.”

McCartney recorded a live version of the song with Wings for the 1976 LP Wings Over America. Released as a single, “Maybe I’m Amazed” was a Top 10 hit in 1977.

“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney & Wings

  1. “She’s Got a Way” by Billy Joel

When Billy Joel decided to record the 1981 live album Songs in the Attic, he did not want to include any hits. “She’s Got a Way” was recorded at a 1980 concert in Boston, accompanied only by his piano. “‘She’s Got a Way’ from Cold Stream Harbor I thought was cornball for years,” Joel told the Associated Press. “I had trouble singing it at first. Then I got into it and decided everybody has a corny side, I suppose.”

During an interview on SiriusXM, Joel revealed some of his influences. “Nothing very complicated about it. I wanted to write a very simple love song that could be played just on the piano and still get it across. Might have been influenced by George Harrison’s ‘Something’ which is another very simple love song or what’s the Joe Cocker song? [sings] ‘You are so beautiful to me.’ And this was just [sings] ‘She’s got a way about her.’

“Very simple chord progression. ‘Don’t know what it is but I know that I can’t live without her.’ That was it. A very simple sentiment.”

“She’s Got a Way” by Billy Joel

  1. “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick

The original version of “I Want You to Want Me” appeared on Cheap Trick’s second album In Color. Though released as a single, it flopped. Bassist Tom Petersson told Classic Rock that songwriter Rick Nielsen “just did that song as a bit of a joke, because at the time when we had done that song there was a lot of pop music on the radio – ABBA, and all sorts of things, disco. He thought: ‘I’m just going to do an over-the-top pop song. I just want to do one that’s so silly – total pop – and then we’ll do a heavy version of it.'”

When the band recorded Cheap Trick at Budokan in Tokyo in 1978, the live version of “I Want You to Want Me” became their biggest hit.

“The way we did it at Budokan was the way we played it in the clubs,” said Nielsen in MusicRadar. “In the studio, it got wimped out and toned down, very namby-pamby. We didn’t want to play it as candied as the In Color version, even though the Japanese liked that one. So we decided to rock. You don’t have that honky-tonk piano. It’s much heavier.”

“I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick

  1. “Summertime Blues” by the Who

Eddie Cochran’s 1958 hit “Summertime Blues,” one of our Top 11 Songs About Teenagers, has been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Bruce Springsteen. One of the most popular versions was recorded by the Who for their 1970 LP Live at Leeds.

“The rock and roll songs I like, of course, are songs like ‘Summertime Blues,’ man that’s beautiful,” guitarist Pete Townshend told Rolling Stone. “It says everything: don’t have the blues, it’s summertime; summertime, you don’t get the blues in summertime! There is no such thing. That’s why there’s no cure for them.

“When I hear something like ‘Summertime Blues,’ then I do both, then I’m into rock and roll, then I’m into a way of life, into that thing about being that age and being this age and grooving to that thing that he’s talking about which is, like, summertime and, like not being able to get off work early and not being able to get out in the sunshine and not being able to borrow the car because dad’s in a foul mood. All those frustrations of summer so wonderfully and so simply, so poetically, put in this incredible package, the package being rock and roll.”

“Summertime Blues” by the Who

  1. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Free Bird” was first recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd for their 1973 debut LP but many fans prefer the live version released on Another One From the Road. The album was recorded in July 1976 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, the city where Skynyrd got their start. The band often closes their shows with “Free Bird,” usually their longest song.

“Man, back in the old days, we’d have three or four sets a night at certain clubs, so we’d play it for a whole 30 minutes sometimes,” said guitarist Gary Rossington in MusicRadar. “We’d just jam on it to the very end. At first, when we did it on record or live, we never did it for more than 10 or 11 minutes, but then we just stretched it out. Seems to me that people would get tired of hearing the same thing for so long, even if it is really good. But it’s a fun song to play.

“It’s like it’s new every night. When you’re on stage, you look out at all the people’s faces. They’ll be cheering, or sometimes they’ll cry. You can feel their emotions  – they’re reminiscing or singing the song and feeling it. Then, at the end, we take off and soar. Everybody jumps up and down and shakes their fists. It’s a real energetic feeling. I couldn’t get tired of that.”

“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

  1. “Get Back” by the Beatles

The Beatles played their final public performance on the roof of London’s Apple Corps on Jan. 30, 1969. The impromptu concert was intended to provide an ending for the 1970 documentary Let It Be. Elaborate locales were considered as concert sites but the Apple rooftop was chosen as the simplest place to perform.

The impromptu 42-minute concert ended with “Get Back.” As lunchtime crowds below grew and traffic became snarled, police arrived and ordered the amplifiers turned off as the Beatles played “Get Back.” “We kept going to the bitter end and, as I say, it was quite enjoyable,” Paul McCartney recalled in Anthology. “I had my little Hofner bass – very light, very enjoyable to play. In the end the policeman, Number 503 of the Greater Westminster Council, made his way round the back: ‘You have to stop!’ We said, ‘Make him pull us off. This is a demo, man!’ I think they pulled the plug, and that was the end of the film.”

“I always feel let down about the police,” added Ringo Starr. “Someone in the neighborhood called the police, and when they came up I was playing away and I thought, ‘Oh great! I hope they drag me off.’ I wanted the cops to drag me off – ‘Get off those drums!’ – because we were being filmed and it would have looked really great, kicking the cymbals and everything. Well, they didn’t, of course; they just came bumbling in: ‘You’ve got to turn that sound down.’ It could have been fabulous.”

“Get Back” by the Beatles

  1. “We Will Rock You” (Fast Version) by Queen

“We Will Rock You,” often paired with “We Are the Champions,” is heard in sports stadiums around the world. The rock anthem first appeared on Queen’s 1977 album News of the World. “It only has one instrument apart from the voice,” drummer Roger Taylor told Billboard. “There’s no bass, no real drums – just feet and handclaps and only that guitar at the very end. It’s quite an odd song. It was designed as a sort of song for the audience, a joining-in song. But we never really envisioned that it would be taken up by sports.”

That 45-second guitar solo is played by Brian May, who wrote the song. “We had been through the huge baroque thing which had its peak in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ We felt we’d taken it as far as we could and the danger was we wouldn’t get out and would paint ourselves into a corner. The whole idea was to strip it back down.”

By the late 1970s Queen often opened their shows with a speeded-up take of “We Will Rock You” that incorporates the whole band. Known as the “fast version,” it appeared on 1979’s Live Killers and other albums.

“We Will Rock You” (Fast Version) by Queen

  1. “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen

“Thunder Road” opens Bruce Springsteen’s landmark 1975 album Born to Run. “There is something about the melody of ‘Thunder Road’ that just suggests ‘new day,’ it suggests morning, it suggests something opening up,” Springsteen said in Rolling Stone. “That’s why that song ended up first on the record, instead of ‘Born to Run.'”

Springsteen and the E Street Band have performed “Thunder Road” hundreds of times in concert. In the early days, Springsteen would be accompanied only by Roy Bittan on piano and Danny Federici on glockenspiel. By the 1980s the song evolved to incorporate the full band, including a roaring Clarence Clemons solo on saxophone. One of the best live performances was recorded on Nov. 18, 1975 for the Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 album.

“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comment section below!


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8 Responses to "Top 11 Hit Songs That Were Recorded Live"

  1. dave H   February 16, 2018 at 4:40 am

    list must include elvis suspicious minds, from thats the way it is. the energy and passion have to be seen while listening to the music.

  2. Tim   February 17, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Turn The Page – Bob Seger

  3. MikeF   February 23, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Midnight Rambler during the Mick Taylor years, perhaps prior to Altmont. With the Stones, it’s hard because a lot of the concert stuff doesn’t work because they get so amped up that Charlie just drives them too far, too fast.

    Dylan, possibly with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The “Hard to Handle” Like a Rolling Stone cut.

    The Band. Anything but The Night They Burned Old Dixie Down. My choice would be The Shape I’m In or Stage Fright.

    Clapton, Layla. Both Versions.

    Tedeschi-Trucks. “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “Little By Little.”

  4. side3   March 9, 2018 at 8:43 am

    How about “Hello It’s me” by Todd Rundgren? The entire side 4 of “Something/Anything” was recorded live in the studio.

  5. SLm1975   April 18, 2018 at 4:34 am

    Was Brian May’s cover of “All The Way from Memphis” (Mott the Hoople) recorded live?

  6. dan holohan   August 27, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Around and Around , The Rolling Stones from Love You Live

  7. Keith   August 28, 2018 at 1:11 am

    J Geils full house,great album

  8. Jared Phelan   August 28, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Stay-Jackson Browne
    Shock Me-KISS/Ace Frehley
    As I Said Before-Zebra
    Question; Can that live “Thunder Road” be viewed at all anywhere? That is an AMAZING version of that song🎼🎸❣️


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