5. “Pinball Wizard” by The Who (1969)
Pete Townshend was hard at work putting the finishing touches of his grand rock opera Tommy, when he decided to play a rough cut to influential British rock critic Nick Cohn. Although polite, Townshend could tell that the journalist’s response was decidedly unenthusiastic. “It’s a bit boring,” he finally admitted, and suggested that Townshend add something to lighten to heavy spiritual tone of the record about a “deaf, dumb and blind” messiah. Knowing that Cohn was a massive fan of pinball, he suggested making Tommy a Bally table champion. Cohn thought this was brilliant, and a great review was surely in the bag! Pete went off and immediately threw together “Pinball Wizard,” which he thought was pretty much an embarrassment. At the time he thought it was “the most clumsy piece of writing I’d ever done,” but he soon came around.
4. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica (1991)
James Hetfield wrote this slow jam while on the phone with his then-girlfriend when he was away on tour. Cradling the phone with one hand, he was only able to pluck open strings with the other, giving the song it’s arpeggio intro. The sentimental ballad about being “so close, no matter how far” wasn’t meant for anyone other than the loving ears of his girlfriend, but it was overheard by drummer Lars Ulrich. He thought the song was strong enough to be considered for their next album, and the band (minus guitarist Kirk Hammett) took a crack at it.