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Top 11 Rock N’ Roll Screams

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Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses

Hard rockers Guns N’ Roses tell the story of a young musician struggling to survive in Los Angeles in Welcome to the Jungle. The song’s video shows front man Axl Rose’s arrival in an LA teeming with drug dealers, hookers and brutal cops. Rose opens the song with a scream that would scare Tarzan out of the jungle. Though his howls are legendary, Rose says they don’t require much inspiration: “I realize I make exactly the same scream whether a great white is attacking me or there’s a piece of seaweed brushing my leg.”

Guitarist Slash has said the song was written in about three hours. “I was at my house and I had that riff happening and Axl came over and he got those lyrics together,” Slash said in the liner notes of Guns N’ Roses: The Hits. “We got an arrangement for the whole band, ‘cause that’s how we work. Someone comes in with an idea and someone else has input and in that way everyone’s happy.”

Revolution by the Beatles

With Apple Records about to launch in 1968, the Beatles had to choose a debut single. Paul McCartney preferred Hey Jude; John Lennon lobbied for his Revolution 1, a lazy shuffle that was the group’s first overtly political song. McCartney and George Harrison were uncomfortable with the song’s message, which expressed doubts about the anti-war movement’s violent protests; they also maintained that the song was too slow to be a hit. “We recorded the song twice,” Lennon said in the book All We Are Saying. “I did the slow version and I wanted it out as a single: as a statement of the Beatles’ position on Vietnam and the Beatles’ position on revolution.”

To address McCartney’s concerns about the song’s pace, the group went back into the studio; the result, simply titled Revolution, has been called the Beatles’ hardest-rocking performance ever recorded. The track opens with a highly distorted fuzz-tone guitar riff followed by a double-tracked, throat-shredding shriek by Lennon. (When performed live, McCartney handled the scream to allow Lennon to launch into the verse.) Despite the song’s power and one of the greatest roars in rock history, McCartney prevailed; Revolution was released as the B-side to Hey Jude.

Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who

As the carnage continued in Vietnam in 1971, Pete Townshend of the Who wrote Won’t Get Fooled Again, an anti-war anthem that became one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history. “It is not precisely a song that decries revolution – it suggests that we will indeed fight in the streets – but that revolution, like all action can have results we cannot predict,” Townshend wrote in his online diary. “Don’t expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything.”

Townshend’s lyrics are complemented by Roger Daltrey, who delivers the lead vocals at full throttle, including an extended, earth-shaking “Yeah!” in the last minute of the song. That high-intensity howl has been famously included in the opening of CSI: Miami and even has its own Facebook page.  Townshend said, “What I write is interpreted first of all by Roger Daltrey. Won’t Get Fooled Again – then – was a song that pleaded ‘leave me alone with my family to live my life, so I can work for change in my own way.’ But when Roger Daltrey screamed as though his heart was being torn out in the closing moments of the song, it became something more to so many people.”

The End by the Doors

The music of the Doors overflows with imagery of sex, danger and death. The band’s darkest work may be 1967’s The End, Jim Morrison’s Oedipal horror story from the Doors’ first album. “It started out as a simple good-bye song,” Morrison told Rolling Stone. “Probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood.”

Not Beaver Cleaver’s childhood, that’s for sure. The song evolves into a nightmare vision that begins as Morrison intones, “The killer awoke before dawn.” The spoken word passage reaches its climax as Morrison says, “Father? Yes son? I want to kill you. Mother, I want to…” What follows is an unintelligible primal scream. In concert, the Lizard King used more explicit lyrics; his record company ordered the words to be sanitized for the LP. “He was giving voice in a rock ‘n’ roll setting to the Oedipus complex, at the time a widely discussed tendency in Freudian psychology,” Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek said in the book The Doors. “He wasn’t saying he wanted to do that to his own mom and dad. He was re-enacting a bit of Greek drama. It was theatre!”

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