Rockers have long used stuttering as a musical device to express nervousness or frustration. And sometimes the effect just helps the lyrics fit the music. They’re all here in our Top 11 Stuttering Songs.
Which of your favorites did we leave out? Let us know in our comments section below.
11. My Generation by the Who
In the ‘60s My Generation was the finale of the Who’s concerts, when Pete Townshend smashed his guitar and Keith Moon blew up his drum kit. Townshend told Q Magazine that England’s Queen Mother inspired the anthem of youthful rebellion. “I had this Packard hearse parked outside my house. One day I came back and it was gone. It turned out that she’d had it moved, because her husband had been buried in a similar vehicle and it reminded her of him.”
Singer Roger Daltrey said his stuttered lyrics were manager Kit Lambert’s idea. Lambert suggested that Daltrey stammer like someone high on drugs. “I have got a stutter. I control it much better now but not in those days,” Daltrey told Uncut. “When we were in the studio doing My Generation, Kit Lambert came up to me and said ‘Stutter!’ I said ‘What?’ He said ‘Stutter the words – it makes it sound like you’re pilled’ And I said, ‘Oh… like I am!’ And that’s how it happened.”
10. Katmandu by Bob Seger
Bob Seger mixed classic rock with a geography lesson in Katmandu, first released on his 1975 LP Beautiful Loser. The song refers to the capital of Nepal, located in the Himalayan mountain range. Seger wrote Katmandu to poke fun at the music business. “Katmandu was a song about getting completely out of the country because nobody cares,” Seger said in a 1979 radio interview.
“It was written sort of tongue in cheek, to the industry… You know, if you’d gone through what I’ve gone through, you’d want to go to Katmandu, too. You’d just want to disappear.”
Working with the Special Olympics in 1991, Seger finally got to visit the city he called “K-K-K-K-K-K-Katmandu.” Seger told the Detroit Free Press that he met the King of Nepal, who asked, “What made you write that song, anyway?”
“When I was five, my dad would show me National Geographic. When I was eight, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mt. Everest for the first time. I always was fascinated by exotic places, and I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who yearned for a place as far from America as anybody could get, someplace exotic and distant.”
9. Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees
By 1975, the Bee Gees – brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb – had been without a Top 10 hit for four years. Jive Talkin’ would mark their comeback, a funky departure from their ballads of the ‘60s. The song’s stuttered intro – “J-J-J-Jive Talkin’” – was discovered while driving across the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Miami’s Criteria Studios.
“As we crossed the bridge, the bridge went ‘tickety, tickety, tickety tick’ and it just gave us a thought and I don’t know where it came from, I just started singing ‘Just your jive talkin,’” Barry said in The Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb. “So the next day, when we were going across the bridge again, we started singing along to it. The same night, we got back about midnight and we sat down and we wrote the lyrics to the song.”
Maurice related in The Bee Gees: The Biography that when they played the song for producer Arif Mardin, he explained the expression’s meaning. “Being British, we thought jive was a dance, so the opening line was ‘Jive Talkin’, you dance with your eyes…’ It was Arif who said to us, ‘Don’t you guys know what jive talk is?’
He explained that it was black slang for bulls–ting, so we changed the lyric to ‘Jive Talkin’, you’re telling me lies.’”
8. Changes by David Bowie
For a song that David Bowie said “started out as a parody of a nightclub song, a kind of throwaway,” Changes has become one of the rocker’s best known songs. Highlights are Bowie’s hypnotic saxophone solo and his stuttered “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.” Lyrics like “These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds” endeared the song to young fans.
But one line confounded even Bowie’s backing singers Gui Andrisano and Geoff MacCormack.
“Towards the end of the tour, we were singing Changes for the purposes of a sound-check,” MacCormack wrote in From Station to Station: Travels With Bowie 1973-1976. “When we reached the chorus David stopped the band, walked over to Gui and me, and asked us to sing our part. We duly obliged. David doubled up with laughter. For two-and-a-half months we had been singing ‘turn and face the strain’ instead of ‘turn and face the strange.’
From then on, every time we performed that song David would stick his arse out towards us, which would make us both laugh and fluff the line even worse.”
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