Is ‘We Built This City’ the Worst Song of All Time?
This is the story of what happens when some of the top talent in the music industry combine to create what is widely considered to be the most painful four minutes and 53 seconds in the history of recorded music.
Pinning the 'worst song ever' label on Starship's 'We Built This City' has happened so often, tail-less donkeys at six-year old's birthday parties are jealous.
A Rolling Stone magazine online readers poll named 'We Built This City' as the worst song of the 1980s. The vote was so lopsided, the magazine said it 'could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll'.
The song was also #1 with a bullet on a VH1 Special of The 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever.
And now the September 2016 issue of GQ magazine has weighed in with 'We Built This S#!tty - An Oral History of the Worst Song of All Time' .
For the story, Rob Tannenbaum visits with a number of the principal players in the creation, and ultimately the recording, of the song, which appeared on Starship's 1985 album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla.
We're talking about some pretty heavy hitters:
- Bernie Taupin (one of the song's co-writers) - Elton John's legendary lyricist
- Martin Page (co-writer) - Also co-wrote Heart's 'These Dreams' and had a big solo hit 'In The House of Stone and Light'
- Dennis Lambert (executive producer) - Also co-wrote The Four Tops 'Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)', Glen Campbell's 'Rhinestone Cowboy', and Player's 'Baby Come Back'
- Mickey Thomas (Starship singer) - Sang on Top Ten songs with Elvin Bishop and Starship
- Grace Slick (Starship singer) - Sang lead vocals on a pair of Top Ten hits for Jefferson Airplane in the 1960's. The band that later spawned Jefferson Starship, and later, Starship
All had their own unique take on a song that went to #1 in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and cracked the Top Ten in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
A song that was nominated for a Grammy.
A song that is now synonymous with the depths of musical hell.
It wasn't supposed to be that way.
Taupin says the song began as a very dark number about how the live music scene in Los Angeles was dying off; until it got into the hands of Austrian producer Peter Wolf (no relation to the singer of the same name). Taupin says when Wolf was done with it, it sounded nothing like the original.
Things go so bad at one point that Taupin had to beg Wolf to stop writing new lyrics for the song.
But it was too late.
After reading the story, you come away with a twisted tale of finger-pointing and half-hearted justification.
Slick comes across as the most pragmatic of them all. She went to Lambert with the singular focus of 'making hits' so she could make a lot of money and retire.
And while there may be some debate about whether 'We Built This City' is the worst song ever made, one thing is certain - everyone involved cashed the checks.