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8 Songs More Popular Live: Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Marley and More

by Ryan Book   Jul 17, 2015 14:01 PM EDT

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Bob Marley and The Wailers played a concert at Lyceum Theater on this date 40 years ago, which included the iconic version of the song "No Woman No Cry" that more fans are now familiar with, thanks to its inclusion on Legend. The song had appeared on the equally iconic album Natty Dread during 1974, but its inclusion ten years later on the posthumous compilation propelled it to new heights, earning a ranking as the no. 37 song of all time by Rolling Stone. It's not the only song that has gathered even more fame as a live cut. Here are seven other iconic numbers that still receive more play in their live forms, from Bruce Springsteen, U2, Eric Clapton and more.

"Crossroads" by Cream

This first example technically breaks the rules we set above: Although "Crossroads" would go on to rival "White Room" and "Sunshine of Your Love," the band never actually cut a studio version of the song. The band was looking for some filler to turn Wheels of Fire into a double album and so it opted to take two blues covers, of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" and Willie Dixon's "Spoonful." The song would become the album's first single, and was only obvious as a live track when bassist Jack Bruce notes "Eric Clapton, please, on vocals" at the end. Cream may not have recorded a studio version, but Clapton had as part of one of his lesser-known groups, Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse. He still closes the majority of his concerts with the song.

"Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Hardcore fans enjoy live albums from their favorite bands because it allows the acts to take single-length tracks and expand them to their full potential, such as the Allman Brothers and "Whipping Post." Skynyrd released "Free Bird" as a four-minute single...which seems like sacrilege now, when classic rock radio stations have no issue playing the full nine-minute rendition, half of which is dedicated to one of the world's most famous guitar solos. Heck, radio stations have even gotten wise enough to the allure of live rock by playing the live version from One More From The Radio, which stretches the aforementioned solo an additional four minutes. To this day, new vocalist Johnny Van Zandt asks the crowd "what song is it y'all wanna hear?" before the band closes its set.

"I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick

Many bands gather a better reputation as live acts rather than for their studio LPs. Any good jazz performer for example, or the Grateful Dead, aforementioned Allmans and all of the jam bands that came after them. Cheap Trick is an exception, in that it's not renowned for lengthy improvisations (although Rick Nielsen's guitar collection is entertaining to behold). The band found more success and accordingly recorded its first live album at the Budokan in Tokyo, including the now famous rendition of "I Want You to Want Me." Vocalist Robin Zander sends his Japanese fan base into a fury when he introduces the song by reading the title line aloud. The album would end up translating into the group's most popular record in its homeland as well.

"Do You Feel Like We Do" by Peter Frampton

Have you heard of the album Frampton's Camels? In all likelihood, no. Have you heard of Frampton Comes Alive!? In all likelihood, if you're from your correspondent's generation, your parents probably have a copy stored away somewhere. This is another case where a lengthier version of the song just made more sense to the listening audience as a whole. The studio and live versions of "Do You Feel Like We Do" aren't too different in overall approach, and both feature Frampton's trademark voice box effect. The later, live edition added an additional seven-minutes of solos and electric-voice tricks, much to the pleasure of the audience at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, a town closer to Montreal than to any of the state's major cities.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2

U2 was quickly becoming the band-of-the-decade when it released War, the album that kicked down the door to superstardom. Many have forgotten just how huge, and how great, that album is because of the success of The Joshua Tree later in the decade. Another reason is that nearly every single on War became more popular as a live single from the excellent Under A Blood Red Sky, released later that same year. "Gloria," "I Will Follow"...this live album may feature more songs still in radio rotation than any other ever recorded. The coup de grace however was "Sunday Bloody Sunday," introduced famously by Bono with "this is not a rebel song." Which live rendition you know may vary: The album version was recorded in Sankt Goarshausen, Germany, but the similarly popular video version was shot at Red Rocks.

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

This may be the most popular entry on this list, but less is known about this single than any of the others because Springsteen had been playing it for years, more than a decade before it became one of the most popular mainstream Christmas songs. The version that everyone now knows is believed to have been recorded during a show at Long Island University Post near Brookville during 1975 (although this wasn't the first time it was performed). The song didn't get a mainstream release until the early '80s when it was included on a Sesame Street compilation, and then it finally became the classic we know it as now when it was made the B-side to Springsteen's "My Hometown."

"About A Girl" by Nirvana

Nivana's MTV Unplugged session was certainly the best in the series' history, but the promoters behind the album deserve a slap on the wrist for their conservative approach to marketing it. Kurt Cobain and co. obviously made their intentions clear when much of the set was full of deep tracks and covers...yet DGC opted for "About A Girl" as the lead single. You may have to stop and think about whether the last time you heard the song on the radio, and whether you heard the live or studio version. It doesn't matter. No song on the Unplugged album was more interchangeable with its original than "About A Girl." Fortunately the deeper tracks from the album, such as the Meat Puppets' "Lake Of Fire" and "Something In The Way" have gotten the attention they deserve in later years.

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