Even the best classic-rock lyrics don’t necessarily bear stand-alone scrutiny. Rock critic Robert Chrisgau memorably noted that Bob Dylan‘s “My Back Pages” was “a bad poem. But it is a good song, supported by a memorable refrain.”

Unfortunately, even Bob Dylan has a bad day. He’s not alone in that, as some of the genre’s biggest names find a home on our list of Classic Rock’s 20 Worst Lyrics. Some are bad poetry, while others spark head-scratching confusion. Still others are just plain wrong.

Of course, bad lines are sometimes deliberately included, as with Alice Cooper in “School’s Out”: “We got no principles; we ain’t got no innocence. We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” We’ve left those aside in favor of far more dubious entries in a countdown of Classic Rock’s 20 Worst Lyrics:

No. 20: Van Halen, “Everybody Wants Some!!”
From: Women and Children First (1980)

The lyric:Ya take a moople-ah, wookie pah-a moopie,” maybe?
David Lee Roth was apparently supposed to sing something that resembled “I’ve seen a lot of people take a ride on a moonbeam,” but he forgot the line. Not sure why they left it in.

No. 19. Poison, “Unskinny Bop”
From: Flesh & Blood (1990)

The lyric:Unskinny bop bop bop bop, she just loves to play – unskinny bop, nothin’ more to say.”
But is there really nothing more to say?

No. 18. Pink Floyd, “Bike”
From: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)

The lyric:I know a mouse and he hasn’t got a house. I don’t know why I call him Gerald.”
Believe it or not, Syd Barrett soon became an acid casualty.

No. 17. Deep Purple, “Highway Star”
From: Machine Head (1972)

The lyric:She’s got everything – like a moving mouth, body control and everything.”
Worst Tinder bio ever.

No. 16. Sammy Hagar, “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy”
From: Three Lock Box (1982)

The lyric:Hot, sweet cherries on the vine.”
Driving us crazy: Cherries (pretty famously) grow on trees.

No. 15. Rush, “I Think I’m Going Bald”
From: Caress of Steel (1975)

The lyric:I looked in the mirror today, my eyes just didn’t seem so bright – I’ve lost a few more hairs, I think I’m going bald.”
Next up, their equally compelling song about flossing.

No. 14. U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”
From: The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

The lyric:Early morning, April 4 – shot rings out in the Memphis sky.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s awful murder took place just after 6 p.m.

No. 13. The Doors, “Riders on the Storm”
From: L.A. Woman (1971)

The lyric:There’s a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad.”
The creator of the Rhyming Dictionary is somewhere openly weeping.

No. 12. Yes, “Your Move”
From: The Yes Album (1971)

The lyric:Don’t surround yourself with yourself.”
Wait, what?

No. 11. Bruce Springsteen, “The Wrestler”
From: Working on a Dream (2009)

The lyric:Have you ever seen a one-legged dog makin’ his way down the street?”
Actually, no.

No. 10. The Who, “Pinball Wizard”
From: Tommy (1969)

The lyric:[He] plays by sense of smell.”
Anyone who’s ever been to a musty arcade knows that this would be a particularly dreadful superpower.

No. 9. Starship, “We Built This City”
From: Knee Deep in the Hoopla (1985)

The lyric:Who counts the money, underneath the bar – who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars?
If only.

No. 8. Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
From: Storm Front (1989)

The lyric:Rock and Roller, cola wars, I can’t take it anymore.”
As this song unfolds, the Nazis commit genocide, John F. Kennedy is murdered, and nuclear annihilation looms. Yet somehow the cola wars send him over the edge?

No. 7. The Police, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”
From: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

The lyric:And when their eloquence escapes me – their logic ties me up and rapes me.”
Sting has this weird thing where he sneaks really awful things into songs that everybody thinks are sweet.

No. 6. America, “A Horse With No Name”
From: America (1971)

The lyric:In the desert you can remember your name, for there ain’t no-one for to give you no pain.”
Choosing wasn’t easy with a song that also notes that “the heat was hot.”

No. 5. Foreigner, “Dirty White Boy”
From: Head Games (1979)

The lyric:I’m a loner, but I’m never alone.”
Then how do you know?

No. 4. ZZ Top, “Sleeping Bag”
From: Afterburner (1985)

The lyric:Let’s go out to Egypt ’cause it’s in the plan … we’ll whip out our mattress ’cause there ain’t no beds.”
Then you won’t need the sleeping bag.

No. 3. Yes, “Roundabout”
From: Fragile (1971)

The lyric:Mountains come out of the sky – and they stand there.”
Wait, what?

No. 2. Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin'”
From: Escape (1981)

The lyric:Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit.”
To be fair, “Canadian hamlet of Windsor” really doesn’t work.

No. 1. Van Halen, “Why Can’t This Be Love?”
From: 5150 (1986)

The lyric:Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.”
This might have been better written … with more time.

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Over a lengthy career, certain pitfalls also present themselves: Band members leave, songs become one-hit wonders, sounds go out of style. Then you start to hate your own records.

Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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