Did you know that some of the biggest songs in music history have mistakes that the bands decided to leave in? From accidental words to the phone ringing, here are several popular songs with accidents that made it into the final studio versions.
1. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay — Otis Redding
Did you know the famous whistling last verse in Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was used as a placeholder while finishing the song? Tragically, Redding died in a plane crash before singing a last verse, so they released the song as is.
2. Ain’t No Sunshine — Bill Withers
The third verse of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” is the words “I Know” repeated 26 times! In an interview with GoldRadioUK, Withers explains: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.'” He elaborates that it was a placeholder until he wrote something better. But everyone in the studio said to leave it, so he did.
3. Roxanne — The Police
Do you know that off-key piano note and subsequent laughter that follows in the beginning of “Roxanne” by The Police? It was accidental. Sting reportedly sat down on the piano because he was tired and thought it was closed. The result? A mistake that is preserved at the beginning of the iconic track.
4. The Ocean — Led Zeppelin
OK. This one is up for debate. There’s no contesting that a phone is ringing in the background around 1:37-1:38 and again at 1:41 in Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” However, some fans can’t hear it. Nonetheless, the question is, was it intentional or accidental? The overall consensus is that it was a mistake that slid in.
5. Baby One More Time — Britney Spears
Have you ever thought about the lyric “Hit me baby one more time” and wondered what it meant? You’re not alone. Many people confuse it with romanticizing domestic violence. The truth is that it was a linguistic misunderstanding.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Swedish songwriters Rami and Max Martin composed the song and believed the American slang for “call me” was “hit me.” So Britney should be singing, “Hit me up, baby, one more time,” but the mistaken translation remained.
6. Pride (In the Name of Love) — U2
Did you know that U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” was written about American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.? It is, but Bono erroneously references the assassination by singing, “Early morning, April 4,” despite his being shot at 6:01 p.m. Bono recognizes the mistake. He changes the lyric to “early evening” in live performances.
7. Gimme Shelter — The Rolling Stones
During “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, backup singer Merry Clayton pours her heart into it, and you can faintly hear Mick Jagger exclaiming, “Woo!” in the background. It is around the 3:00 minute mark of the song.
Also, Clayton’s voice cracks during the second refrain on the word “shot” and the third refrain on the word “murder,” but they left it in the recording. She was apologetic, but the Stones loved it and assured her it was perfect. Many fans agree that it’s the best-sounding voice crack in musical history.
8. Should I Stay or Should I Go — The Clash
Joe Ely from The Clash admits that when you hear “Split” in their hit song “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” he and Joe Strummer snuck up behind Mick Jones, startling him in the middle of recording. Mick looked at them, gave them a dirty look, and said, “Split!” The Clash kept in the final track.
9. Master of Puppets — Metallica
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammetts’ guitar string slipped off his neck during his solo in “Master of Puppets,” creating an abnormally high note right after the mellow part. The band thought it sounded cool and opted to leave it in.
10. Twist and Shout — The Beatles
During The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” recording, John Lennon suffered from a terrible cold, and you can hear him cough near the end. His coughing can be heard on several tracks, including “Please Please Me.”
11. April 29, 1992 (Miami) — Sublime
“April 29, 1992 (Miami)” by Sublime references the date of the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of four police officers videotaped beating Rodney King. However, the lyric is sung as “April 26, 1992” in the released version because it was their best take of the song.
12. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet — Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Did you know that Randy Bachman wasn’t planning to release the song with the stuttering vocal, “B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothin’ yet?” Bachman sang it with the stutter to poke fun at his brother Gary, who had a speech impediment. He recorded a version for Gary, but the record company preferred the stuttering version of the song, which they released.
13. Rearviewmirror — Pearl Jam
Drummer Dave Abbruzzese from Pearl Jam can be heard throwing his drumsticks against the wall. The producer, Brendan O’Brien, was pressuring him while they recorded, and he threw them out of frustration.
14. Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd
At the beginning of “Sweet Home Alabama,” Ronnie Van Zant says, “Turn it up,” but it was not planned. Zant told an engineer to turn up the volume in his headset before recording his track. However, the comment sounded good, so they left it in the final recording.
15. Been Caught Stealing — Jane’s Addiction
Perry Farell’s dog Annie, whom he rescued from a rescue center in L.A. Farell didn’t want to leave Annie home all day alone, so he brought her to the studio. They put headphones on Annie, and she started barking. Jane’s Addiction felt it fit perfectly and left it in the song.
16. I Saw Her Again — The Mamas & The Papas
Around the 2:45 mark, where “I saw her” is repeated twice in The Mamas & The Papas’ “I Saw Her Again,” was a happy accident. Record producer Bones Howe inadvertently punched in the coda vocals too early.
You could still hear the mistake after rewinding it back and inserting the vocal in its proper place. Nevertheless, record producer Lou Adler liked the effect and told Howe to leave it in the final mix.
17. Life On Mars — David Bowie
According to producer Ken Scott, the phone ringing in “Life On Mars” by David Bowie was accidental. There was a “public phone in the toilet,” and someone who dialed the wrong number called in. They were recording a great take and opted to leave it in.
18. Sweet Child o’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses
In Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” the lyric “Where do we go now” was not meant to be. When producer Spencer Proffer listened to a demo loop, he heard Axl Rose singing “Where do we go now” to himself because he was uncertain about which direction to take the song. Proffer liked it and suggested singing it and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” became Guns N’ Roses’ biggest hit to date.
19. 115th Dream — Bob Dylan
“115th Dream” by Bob Dylan has a false start, followed by his stoned laughter and producer Tom Wilson’s laughter and request to “Start Again!” The track is then transitioned into a take played by the band the next day. It was a happy accident.
20. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida — Iron Butterfly
Did you know that Iron Butterfly’s only hit, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” was supposed to be “In the Garden of Eden?” The band was schnockered with wine, and the band’s drummer, Ron Bushy, couldn’t make out the slurred lyrics Doug Ingle was singing as Bushy penned the lyrics. He wrote down “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and the rest writes itself.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.