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The Greatest Scream in Rock ‘n’ Roll History?

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Duke Ellington has been famously quoted as saying: “If it sounds good, it is good.”

Which brings us to Topic A of today:  What’s the greatest scream in rock ‘n’ roll history?

Cover of "Cheap Thrills," Big Brother & the Holding Company
Janis Joplin said it all — vocally, but wordlessly — at the end of “Piece of My Heart”

In my own mind, it’s a tossup which of these is No. 1 — Janis Joplin’s soul-scraping vocalization at the end of “Piece of My Heart” or John Lennon’s wordless reveille at the opening of “Revolution.” Joplin’s amazing album with Big Brother and the Holding Company, “Cheap Thrills,” has been named to the National Recording Registry for 2013 by the Librarian of Congress.

There’s a lot of other fantastic stuff on this year’s recording registry – bet you can find personal connections to a bunch of it, too.  Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”  – my college roommate played that album end-to-end daily for six months, but it was OK, because it was really good.  Harking back a bit more, Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine” is on my IPod – that is one hot instrumental, enduringly so. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for putting me on to that one.)  Ditto the soundtrack to “South Pacific,”played in our home again and again in the 1960s.

“Just Because” by Frank Yankovic & His Yanks is on this year’s registry; I can’t say I’m familiar with the album, but I know about Frank because a young woman I went to high school with was of Slovenian extraction, and let me know in no uncertain terms he was the man to see about polka.

And “Hoodoo Man Blues” by Junior Wells is on this year’s registry.  I had the enjoyment of seeing a very talented acquaintance of mine back in Denver, the irrepressible Robin Chotzinoff, sit in on piano with Junior Wells and Buddy Guy at Herman’s Hideaway.

Care to nominate an alternate rock cri de coeur?  Offer a comment below. And if you’d like to nominate sound recordings for next year’s registry, offer your suggestions here.


Comments (79)

  1. The Who – Baba O’Riley

  2. James Brown, “The Big Payback” greatest scream of all time.

  3. How about Roger Daltrey’s wail in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?

  4. The ones in the Beatles’ cover of “Twist and Shout”.

  5. I second Roger Daltrey’s primal scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.

  6. Little Richard screaming “Woooo” in “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny” and other songs.

  7. Can’t go wrong with the WDGFA, but Pink Floyd’s Be Careful With That Axe Eugene, scared the living daylights out of me first time I heard it.

  8. Screaming Jay Hawkins “I put a spell on you”. Is always a favorite.

  9. I’d say the best scream is probably by Roger Daltrey from The Who, in the song “Won’t get fooled again”.

  10. A third for Roger Daltry’s and the Who-Won’t get fooled again!

  11. Thank you Jennifer. It’s great to have somebody cool doing this stuff.

    • Hey, thank YOU for following the Library’s social media — we hope to get the word out that all the items in our collections (that’s more than 155 million items) are here for you and everyone to use.

  12. When the Music’s Over, The Doors; also Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends

  13. John Lennon would be one. But, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick is one of the best.

  14. Oh, drat! I forgot about Jim Morrison on When the Music’s Over. That’s particularly unforgivable since:
    1.) The Doors are one of my favorites
    2.) Just watched the Hollywood Bowl ’68 concert twice recently on Palladia

  15. Little Richard’s scream in the middle of “Good Golly Miss Molly” is the most memorable for me. As a kid I played the record over and over just waiting for it. The piano intro to the same song must be one of the best also.

  16. Any time Robert Plant opened his mouth.


  18. No list would be complete without Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander: so many great songs, but Gonna Raise Hell has to be near the top.

  19. Roger Daltry was my first thought. My second thought was the scream in Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. Nothing wrong with something a bit more modern.

  20. Joe Cocker, in “The Letter”, has a classic scream!

  21. Wilson “the wicked” Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances

  22. Greatest real screams in rock n’ roll history are:
    Robert Plant in Immigrant Song
    Bruce Dickinson in Number of the Beast

    Those two pretty much set the standard.

    Daltrey in Won’t Get Fooled Again is pretty good, though … never mind.

    More obscure: the Pagans’ “Boy Can I Dance Good”

  23. My top suggestions are Roger Daltrey’s second scream (after the drum solo) in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Paul McCartney’s panther-like screams when “Hey Jude” starts getting raucous.

  24. How has Kashmir not yet been mentioned? I dont know if it’s the best but Plant’s scream about halfway through certainly warrants some consideration.

  25. The video of ‘Revolution’ I’ve seen shows McCartney doing the intro scream…but I’m sure you’re right, it does sound more like Lennon on audio. Aside from the worthy and obvious Daltrey entries, I’d throw in Bono (Trip Through Your Wires, Angel of Harlem) and Donnie Iris (Ah Leah).

  26. Thanks for the input re Paul — if it is him, gives me another reason on my already-long list to appreciate him. More proof that crowdsourcing has true value!

  27. How about David Lee Roth’s scream in “On Fire” by Van Halen? That was quite frightening as it sounded like he was actually burning!

  28. Bon Scott in stick around acdc
    Rob halford victim of changes Judas priest
    Stephen Tyler dream on aerosmith

  29. kurt cobain- where did you sleep last night (unplugged)

  30. Rodger Daltrey
    Won’t Get Fooled Again

  31. My favorite scream is John Lennon in “BAD BOY” with a runner up him screaming in “SLOW DOWN”

  32. James Brown all through the song, “Cold Sweat.”

  33. Nobody has brought up Jim Morrison’s primal scream at the beginning of the live version of Back Door Man. It’s worth consideration. Or Bon Scott’s scream in the studio version of If You Want Blood (You Got It)

  34. Roger Daltrey in The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. Nothing else even comes close. Its primal, raw and drenched with pure emotion.

  35. It’s not exactly “rock n roll,” but Bruce Dickinson’s scream in Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast makes Roger Daltrey’s scream in Won’t Get Fooled Again a joke in comparison.

  36. Hands down Daltrey on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

  37. Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
    Ram It Down/Painkiller – Judas Priest
    The Happiest Days of our Lives/Careful With That Axe, Eugene – Pink Floyd
    Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie

  38. Bit late for the conversation, but:

    Pink Floyd – Careful With That Axe, Euguene; The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; Run Like Hell

    Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast (my personal favourite!); Run To The Hills; Flight of Icarus, Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    Aerosmith – Dude Looks Like a Lady

    Judas Priest – Painkiller; Ram It Down (second favourite, but by a reeeeally close margin)

    Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

  39. Not the greatest song, But “I am the God of Hell Fire” the song Fire by Authur Brown. See if it doesn’t make all the start barking.

  40. Light my fire (absolutely live by the DOORS). Best scream ever!

  41. Aussie Pete- Late to the party is better than nothing. And, we’re talking about the Library of Congress here, something more concerned with lasting impact than timely fads, though fads sometimes do lead to impact and influence. So, commenting on this in 2020 should still be fine!

    Best Screams in Rock History:

    When the Night Comes – Joe Cocker
    Not his best song, but he gets the screams down so well by the mid 1980s that they are just perfected on this track, and there are several, with the last one being particularly intense

    Bad – U2
    ‘I’m WIDE AWAKE!!! I’m not sleeping’. Bono hits transcendent levels here

    To Awake and Avenge the Dead – Thrice
    Check out the first verse. After a few seconds of an intro, this song will let you know why Screamo is a genre to be considered and not brushed aside

    Thieves – Ministry
    Another harsh track, this time of the Industrial genre, with unbelievable intense screaming throughout

    Pitiful – Blindside
    Yet another. This time a Scandanavian hardcore band with Christian undertones

    Worst That Could Happen – The Brooklyn Bridge
    The final telling of ‘If he really loves you more than me…’ is up on the expressive charts

    That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
    Final “Send down that cloud with a silver lining’. Pretty facuking intense.

    Time Consumer – Coheed & Cambria
    Intense Emo track highlighted by the sort-of chorus refrain “Me and my star, Matthew goodnight!”

    Last Night – The Strokes
    Essentially one long perfect scream to peel the paint

    Season of the Witch – Donovan
    The titular scream, the eponymous yawp.

    Screaming Infidelities – Dashboard Confessional
    Last Emo-genre song, but the genre has some serious screaming going on, whether lamenting wails or caustic screeches. Serious climactic screaming of the chorus toward the end

    Different Drum – Linda Rondstadt
    Another song that is essentially one long extreme peal

    Does Verbosity mean anything? Forgot the meaning. And, realize some are not quite ‘rock and roll’, but close enough.

  42. In the “screamed lyrics” category, my vote goes to Merry Clayton on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter. Never heard anything like it. “RAAPE! MURD//ee//ER!!”

  43. Pink Floyd ft Clare Torry
    -The Great Gig In The Sky

  44. Ted Nugent, Double Live Gonzo near the end of Motor City Madhouse.
    Asphalt Ballet, Hell’s Kitchen right at the beginning.

  45. Tool, “The Grudge” around the 7 minute mark.

  46. How about each line in the verses of Kings of Leon’s Charmer?

  47. Roky Erickson of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators!!
    “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and others from their albums.
    Take a close listen, I think Janis learned to scream from him.

  48. Territorial pissings-nirvana towards the end. Best thing ever

  49. The scream at the beginning of revolution was Paul McCartney. You would think the Library of Congress would get it right once in a while.

  50. Thanks for your comment. I investigated, and stand by my version. Meanwhile, please blame the writer, not the Library, if you find an error in our blogs: as you’ll see posted on our blogs, they do not represent official Library of Congress communications.

  51. David Bowie: Look Back In Anger
    The Stooges: T.V. Eye
    David Bowie: Heroes
    Sex Pistols: Bodies
    Public Image Ltd.: Theme
    The Stooges: Raw Power
    New York Dolls: Personality Crisis
    Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Devo: Too Much Paranoias
    Gorillaz: Punk

  52. Sebastian Bach I remember you!

  53. Montrose “Space Station Number 5”
    Sammy Hager “Heavy Metal”

  54. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “I Need To Know’. At (approx.) the 1:30 mark, they scream… IN HARMONY.

  55. King diamond in the mercyful fate song a corpse without soul easily one of the greatest screams in all of rock history

  56. Dave grohl on monkey wrench, absolutely awesome
    Bruce dickinson number of the beast

  57. Edgar Winter from his first album Entrance “Tobacco Road “

  58. Ian Gillan in Space trucking.

  59. Bonnie Tyler Tyre Tracks and Broken Hearts – or Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts, etc…

  60. liar, liar castaways!

  61. Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances

    An excerpt from the LA Times:

    “The thing about Wilson was he was just a great screamer, but he did it with control,” Pickett’s producer, Jerry Wexler, told the Los Angeles Times. “James Brown would scream and it was a scream, but Wilson could scream notes. His voice was powerful, like a buzz saw, but it wasn’t ever out of his control, it was always melodic.”

  62. Buzzy Linhart’s scream in his cover of Elton John’s Take Me to the Pilot.

  63. How about a couple of singing screams, in key!

    Ian Gillan, Deep Purple, “A Child in Time”

    Steven Tyler, Aerosmith, “Dream On”

    Ian’s “A Child in Time” is particularly skillful, and long, and it’s amazing that he could go from that back to his normal rich upper baritone voice.

  64. Roger Daltrey – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

  65. How is this list missing Prince? When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy & Kiss? come on people.


  67. Otis Redding That’s What My Heart Needs
    This is one of a number of ballads where Otis gets more unhinged as the song goes on. The first verse is almost staid. The last 30 seconds are mayhem.

  68. Ian Gillian’s from “I Only Want To Say” on the original Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack hasn’t been mentioned? :0

  69. “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” (a/k/a “Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up”) – Pink Floyd
    “Twist and Shout” – The Beatles
    “Ball and Chain” – Big Brother and the Holding Company (more of a wail, really)
    “Where Did you Sleep Last Night” (“In the Pines”) – Nirvana (the last verse/chorus in the live, unplugged one)

  70. Beatles, always thought McCartney was the better screamer. Helter Skelter, Hey Jude, yes Revolution.
    Although Lennon’s I want you was probably his best.
    That is until post Beatles Well, well, well. Pure guttural, primal, soul wrenching.

  71. Anything by Milojenko Matijevic – Steelheart

  72. Deep Purple – Child in Time

  73. No mention of Lee Michaels screams on “Stormy Monday” tops, or matches, Daltry in my book.

  74. It’s definitely iron maiden number of the beast songs by Bruce Dickinson

  75. Janis Joplin screams at the beginning of Cry Baby. Not at the end of Little piece of my heart.

  76. How about Chris Cornell scream in Jesus Christ Pose? Helter Skelter Paul McCartney Mother John Lennon Ian Gillan Space Truckin

  77. Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky. Clare Torry did the lead vocals to this and it is by far the win when you talk #1 scream.
    There’s a whole bunch of good ones 🙂

  78. Nothing beats Guns n Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” in my humble opinion.

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