The best classic rock songs you've never heard

Classic rock radio is based around just that: classic songs. But you can only hear the same four or five Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and Green Day tunes before craving something different. (Yes, Green Day is classic rock because the march of time is inevitable and all that was once young and hip is now old and crusty.) That's why we've collected these amazing songs classic rock bands never bothered releasing. You can't even find them on official bootleg albums, but they all have one thing in common: They could easily dominate classic rock radio.

Led Zeppelin: Take Me Home

By the time 1975's Physical Graffiti rolled around, led Zeppelin had compiled so many amazing songs, they simply didn't have room for them on their albums. So they turned Graffiti into a double album, comprised partially of outtakes from their previous album. Such outtakes included "Houses of the Holy," because even Zep's rejects are bigger than some band's biggest hit.

Case in point: "Take Me Home," an outtake that couldn't even make Graffitithe outtakes album — because 82 minutes of Zeppelin was enough, they couldn't possibly make it 87. But "Home" absolutely would've fit on this, or any other Zep album. It's a little similar to "Trampled Under Foot," and shares some elements with Graffiti's "Wanton Song," but it's bluesier than both and a nice callback to early Zep, before hedgerows started bustling and they were simply a heavy blues band. You can't understand a single word Robert Plant is singing in this rough demo, but he'd probably like someone to take him home. Call it a hunch.

It would be great to hear this fleshed out beyond a demo, but with John Bonham being unavailable due to prior commitments in Heaven, this isn't likely to happen. If nothing else, it's a nice slice of what live, stripped-down Zep was like, without Jimmy Page overdubbing himself eight times to make it sound like he was half guitar god, half octopus.

Beatles: Watching Rainbows

By 1969, the Beatles were attempting to come down from their Walrus-being cloud, and reestablish themselves as basic rock 'n' rollers. Thus we have albums like Let It Be, which are more roots-based than anything the Fab Four had done since Rubber Soul. One song that never made the album, became a B-side, or got anywhere past a handful of rehearsals is "Watching Rainbows," which John Lennon wrote before realizing wheel-watching was far more interesting.

It's a rollicking number that absolutely would've made moptop mavens everywhere bob their heads in appreciation. True to the band's goals, there are no crazy overdubs, no psychedelic gimmicks, and no artsy-fartsy tampering from the Yoko camp. It's just the Beatles making music like they used to, music they could've easily played on stage except for the slight hindrance of breaking up shortly thereafter.

The above video contains anyone's best guess as to what the lyrics are, though the line "Instead of watching rainbows, I'm gonna make me some" is both clear and awesome. Later he may be singing about shooting someone, which seems like the opposite of making a rainbow but John Lennon's mind did work in mysterious ways, so who knows? It will likely remain a mystery since John's no longer with us and Paul never plays this song live. Its main riff wound up as part of "I've Got A Feeling," so even though "Rainbows" never went anywhere, at least part of it lives on.

Kiss: Mistake

When you think KISS, you likely have a certain sound in mind: loud, hard rock 'n' roll. Outside the occasional goopy ballad like "Beth," the band almost exclusively shouts and parties every day. That's likely why we've never heard "Mistake" in anything resembling official form.

"Mistake" is, without hyperbole, a country song. Featuring twangy slide guitar and sad lyrics about the singer making a mistake by abandoning the love of his life, "Mistake" is more Gene Autry than Gene Simmons, and you can easily imagine a couple lonely cowboys crooning it by the campfire. That said, it's a really good country song, one that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand simply because the "Detroit Rock City" guys did it. If you enjoy old-school country about loneliness and heartbreak, and want a break from frat bros in big hats warbling on about catfish and partying with blondes in daisy dukes, a bunch of hard rockers in face paint have just the ditty for you.

Though it's never been released, "Mistake" kind of lives on in an official KISS recording. The group's Rod Stewart-esque ballad "Hard Luck Woman" sounds like a spiritual successor, albeit one with less twang and more basic acoustic guitar. That said, you can easily make the connection that the singer is leaving this hard-luck woman behind, only to later realize it was a big mistake. And you thought KISS lyrics were dumb.

Rolling Stones: Get Yourself Together

By 1966, the Rolling Stones were starting to explore the trippy psychedelic music the Beatles had made hip with tunes like "Strawberry Fields" and albums like Revolver. That might be why a perfectly good song like "Get Yourself Together" never saw life beyond initial album sessions. It was simply too "old Rolling Stones" to fit in with "new Rolling Stones."

"Together" is very much a classic-sounding Stones song, full of the blues-rock swagger Mick, Keith, and the other guys not named Mick or Keith are most famous for. Even the vocal mix is classic Stones, where Mick's voice doesn't dominate, but instead bleeds into instruments that don't quiet down for a second. It's such a good rocker, it's honestly baffling that they didn't revisit it once they realized that the psychedelic stuff simply wasn't for them. It certainly would've made for better music than just about anything the band put out in the '80s, at least.

Perhaps one day the Stones will get around to releasing this song officially. They wouldn't even need to do much work, as the demo is near perfect as-is. With just a touch of remastering, this would be a surefire hit on the group's next album. And since Mick and Keith are probably immortals, there will almost certainly be a new album eventually.

Bruce Springsteen: Preacher's Daughter

Bruce Springsteen may be an everyman, but he's a dark, moody everyman. That side of Bruce is front-and-center on a song like "Preacher's Daughter," which takes a basic premise like "I'm going on a date" and turns it into a darkly sensual story of forbidden love. Bruce is a troublemaker in love with a preacher's daughter, and even though her dad would have nothing to do with him, he's looking to corrupt her quick as he can. It's Billy Joel's "Only The Good Die Young," but with any shred of youthful innocence stripped away.

The song itself would fit perfectly on any of Bruce's moodier albums. The second half of the tune, when he starts singing much louder, is The Boss at his sad-but-soulful best. It's utterly baffling that he's never done anything with it. "Daughter" was recorded during the Darkness At The Edge of Town sessions, but a preliminary recording is as far as it ever got. "Daughter" didn't make the album. It didn't make any singles as a B-side. It didn't even make the six-disc box set filled with Darkness outtakes, which does make it seem like the awkward kid nobody wants to pick for their dodgeball team. That's too bad because this song could dodge musical balls with the best of them. Maybe Bruce just forgot about it — if so, hopefully this article will inspire him to dig the tune up and officially make it part of his repertoire.

REM: September Sang

It's beyond baffling that REM never found room on any of its albums for "September Sang." The song is quintessential early '80s REM, featuring jangly guitar, tight drumming, and completely inscrutable lyrics. Don't think most of the words in the above video are incomprehensible because it's a bad recording or a primitive demo — that's just Michael Stipe being Michael Stipe, singing with all the enunciation of a kid being forced to apologize for hitting their sibling.

The band wrote "September" very early in their careers, but it appears they never even considered it for an album release. According to Setlist, and as far as anyone else can tell, they only played it live once, during an Athens, Georgia, show in 1982. After that, they focused on tunes like "Radio Free Europe" and never looked back, no longer giving a damn what song September sang, and whether it was in tune or not.

We're not likely to see this tune recorded officially, since REM broke up years ago and seem pretty determined to stay broken up. Luckily, the recording we do have of it is a great tune in its own right, though it'd be nice if Stipe would provide some help with the lyrics. That way, we could accurately sing lines that sound like "red is green and blue is dumb" but probably aren't. Then again, it's REM. That lyric might be 100 percent accurate.

Queen: Affairs

"Affairs" is almost certainly the least complete song here, but it's a testament to the power of Queen that it's still a great song, even when half-built.

Even in this unfinished zygote version of a would-be song, Freddie Mercury sings in rare form, and the band sounds as great as ever. It's not typical grandiose Queen, though likely those bombastic touches would have come down the line, as the song got fleshed out. Lyrically, there's not much here, as Mercury hadn't yet thought up his words. Therefore, half the lyrics are ad-libbed filler noises like "doo-doo-doo" and "da-da," and even the actual words sound like first draft ideas that Mercury planned to work on later. Sadly, there was no later for Mercury, meaning this is likely as much of "Affairs" as we'll ever hear.

Fully fleshed out, this song likely would've made for an amazing power ballad. Even in its half-baked form, however, it's still good enough for at least a few listens. It'd be awesome if Queen could officially finish this song and release it someday, though who knows what the lyrics would be, and who would write them. Maybe Brian May can have an affair and get inspired.

The Doors: Old Stone Road

"Old Stone Road" is a great Doors song for people who've heard all the other Doors songs and want more. It's also pretty great for people who've heard "Light My Fire" and not much more. It's just a good song, period.

"Stone" is the kind of mellow, bluesy song the band excelled at, and the lyrics are classic Jim Morrison, in that depending on who you talk to, they're either mysterious and poetically vague, or total brainless garbage. Either way, it's clear the Old Stone Road isn't a very nice place, since the song's subject shot his friend there, likely after robbing him and taking his money. Maybe this is where the killer on the road from "Riders On The Storm" worked as a side gig.

There's some evidence that, had fate gone differently, "Old Stone Road" would've wound up on a Doors album. It seems to have been a frequent part of their live shows in 1970, sometimes as part of a medley with "Backdoor Man" or "Five To One." Everything about it, from the melody to the lyrics, seemed complete, so they were likely planning to record it eventually. Unfortunately, Jim Morrison went and died, which put a fairly sizable damper on any plans the band had for that song. Though the band continued for a couple more albums sans Morrison, they never recorded "Stone," presumably realizing nobody could've sung it the way the Lizard King did.

Stevie Nicks: Castaway

Some songs just sound so perfect for the singer, so tailor-made to be a classic, that it's almost unbelievable they never evolved into an official recording. Stevie Nicks' "Castaway" is just such a song. It feels like something Nicks would sing at every show because her fans all bought the single and fell in love with it, but seemingly no more than a couple people have ever seen her perform it live.

The song's demo was apparently recorded live, based on her talking to at least one person nearby. It's also clearly not a concert, since she begins by admitting it's been a while since she sang it so "I may f**k it up once." Uncharacteristic potty-mouth aside, this song is perfect for Nicks: it's just her and a single organ, which makes the tune even more hauntingly lonely than the lyrics about a going-nowhere relationship suggest. If she were to ever record "Castaway" for real, it might not even need much fleshing out. Simply giving us Stevie Nicks alongside her trusty organ is enough to convey the song's point.

Now, will that ever happen? At this point, it seems doubtful. Nicks recorded that demo in the late '70s — early '80s at the latest — and hasn't done anything with it yet. It didn't even make her 2014 "re-recorded demos" album, Songs From The Vault. It's sad to say but at this point, "Castaway" is a musical … castaway.

Paul Simon: Bad News Feeling

Paul Simon has written so many songs, it makes sense that a few got away from him. Still, it's a shame that "Bad News Feeling" is apparently destined to never go anywhere because it's a fine song that, with a little extra polish, could've been a classic.

As it stands, it's Simon and a couple guitars, playing a melancholy little ditty about having a feeling bad news is on its way. It's not one of Simon's subtler songs. But as a tune, it works well already, with a clever reference to cobblestone that makes one wonder whether the silence or the bad news came first. Also, Art Garfunkel is sorely missed here, as "Bad News" is begging to be harmonized. Simon's a fine solo singer when surrounded by instruments, but when all he has is a guitar and his voice, Artie completes the package.

As it stands, you can only find "Bad News Feeling" as an unofficial bootleg recording called Village Vanguard, and on YouTube, of course. That's likely where it will stay, which isn't exactly bad news. As nice as it would be to get a full version of this song, at least we get to hear some form of it. Plus, Paul Simon's bank account is probably doing just fine.