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10 songs I wish I'd written, by Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr

The Blackberry Smoke frontman on classics by Dylan, Motörhead, Elvis and more

Charlie Starr (no relation to Steel Panther's Michael) has the power to grow the finest set of sideburns since Noddy Holder noisily declared it was Christmas on the telly in 1973.

But we're not here to talk about all that facial hair. As the vocalist, lead guitarist and chief songwriter in Blackberry Smoke – a band who've been dubbed 'the new Lynyrd Skynyrd' – we wanted to know about the songs that have inspired him throughout his life.

Here are the classics he wishes he’d written, had the likes of Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan not beaten him to it…


10. The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women

Starr: “This Rolling Stones song is perfect, first of all. It’s just a perfectly written song. It was also the first rock ‘n’ roll song that I just absolutely fell in love with. Growing up, my father taught me country and bluegrass music and when I wrapped my head around Honky Tonk Woman for the first time I just thought it sounded the same – the chorus, the vocals… everything. The only thing different about it is that it’s louder and it’s got twin lead guitars instead of twin fiddles.”

9. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows

“As a guitar player who writes songs, I’m always interested in songs that are written on the piano. It’s just a different way of putting chord structures together. The way this song moves is fascinating to me, and the melody just floats along on top of it. And at the end of the song he’s got three different melodies going on at once. It’s brilliant.”

8. Motörhead – Ace Of Spades

“I know it sounds corny, but I have to say Ace of Spades by Motörhead. What hasn’t already been said about that song? I think it was Dave Grohl who said that Lemmy never said anything dumb, either in an interview or in public, and Ace of Spades is that put to music.”

7. Bill Monroe – Blue Moon of Kentucky

Elvis Presley covered this song in what people consider to be the first rock ‘n’ roll session, when he recorded That’s All Right for Sun Records. Bill Monroe was the father of bluegrass and his original version was a slow waltz; I think it came out in 1946 and Elvis had a huge hit with his revved up version of it in 1954. But that’s not really what interested me. What interests me is that Bill Monroe is from Kentucky and he wrote this simple song that became the state song of Kentucky. That’s always fascinated me; one day he just woke up and wrote the state song and everybody in Kentucky loves it.”

6. Guns N’Roses – Rocket Queen

“I love the redemptive ending to this song. It’s all dirty and scary and life is weird for a while, but then at the end there’s a shoulder for you to cry on and everything turns out cool. It was such a brilliant way to end the record [Appetite for Destruction] as well: it’s a snarling, gnarly song with this funky, dark guitar riff, and the effect that they use on his [Axl Rose’s] vocal gives it that sinister feel, much like with Aerosmith’s Rocks. The lyrics all are suggestive and dirty and great, and it spirals out of control the whole way through but then there’s this hopeful, positive coda at the end. It’s so bad ass.”

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5. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

“Bruce Springsteen is so good at writing the workingman’s small town kind of song. You can’t call this song a ballad because it’s such a big song, but it’s very soulful, and it’s one of his best - as far as the workingman’s anthem for struggle goes. He’s always writing from the perspective of that little town in Jersey that he’s from, and he’s still so good at that.”

4. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Workin’ for MCA

“This song would’ve been perfect if it was on their debut album, but I don’t know any other band on their sophomore album that threatened the record label on the record. If that’s not punk, I don’t know what is – and it was written way before any punk records came out. So on that album [Second Helping, 1974] they’ve got a direct threat aimed at Neil Young [Sweet Home Alabama] and another one aimed at their record label. I wish I’d written either one of those songs, to be honest. They exude this great Southern confidence that we all love so much.”

3. Hank Williams – I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)

“The melody to this song grabbed me immediately. It’s just such a beautiful and simple melody, which Hank Williams was the king of. Recorded music was so young when this song first came out [1951] and Hank was the first larger-than-life star. And he could back it up. He had this incredible charisma and this amazing gift as the hillbilly Shakespeare; he spoke to the common man with his lyrics and everybody understood the lovesick situations that he was singing about. This song is country music perfection.”

2. The Allman Brothers Band – Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More

“This song was a more laid back thing for them; it was the first song on the Eat a Peach record that they released when Duane Allman died. But it’s a great song, and it’s a great set of lyrics from Gregg Allman. It’s amazing to look back on it now and think about what he was going through; his older brother and the leader of their band had just died. It’s so sad. For a moment there they lost their guiding light, but then everyone else in the band stepped up and vowed to succeed in tribute to Duane. These lyrics are so hopeful, and it’s just a really cool and positive song.”

1. Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone

“I think that everybody wishes they’d written a Bob Dylan song, and I’ve always just been a huge fan of Like A Rolling Stone. That song changed the game, man. It’s been voted the best rock ‘n’ roll song of all time many times, by many different publications. Bob Dylan made rock ‘n’ roll more interesting, all by himself.”


Blackberry Smoke's album Like An Arrow is out now. The band tour the UK in March 2017.

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