Sometimes inspiration strikes fast and hard and a song seems to materialize in its entirety in one sitting.

That kind of ingenuity is made doubly impressive when the song ends up becoming a huge hit. Some examples: Elton John and Bernie Taupin pieced together "Your Song" in about a half an hour, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe not only wrote "Losing My Religion" quickly but he even recorded the vocal in one take, Jeff Lynne used three chords to get started on "Evil Woman" and later called it "the quickest thing I'd ever done."

But this is definitely not always the case. Often, a songwriter will toil over a song for years, tweaking bits and pieces, changing lyrics or just generally waiting for the right time to release it.

Below, we're taking a look at 22 Shelved Songs that were written at one point, but ultimately released — modified or not — much later.

1. Aerosmith, "Dream On"
From: Aerosmith (1973)

Steven Tyler was 21 years old when he helped found Aerosmith, but he'd been writing songs prior to that. In 1997's Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith, Tyler said that he'd written what would become "Dream On" on a Steinway upright piano when he was 17 or 18 years old. "It was just this little thing I was playing, and I never dreamed it would end up as a real song or anything" he said. "It's about dreaming until your dreams come true." It wasn't until 1973 that the band recorded it for their debut album.


2. The Allman Brothers Band, "Melissa"
From: Duane and Greg Allman (1972)

In late 1967, after struggling to be satisfied with anything he wrote, Gregg Allman penned "Melissa." Once he was finished, he showed it to his brother, Duane Allman. "'It's pretty good — for a love song. It ain't rock and roll that makes me move my ass,'" Gregg later recalled Duane telling him. "He could be tough that way." A demo of "Melissa" was recorded in 1968, but not released until 1972's Duane & Greg Allman. (Another version of it, this time without Duane who died in 1971, appeared on 1972's Eat a Peach.)


3. The Beatles, "When I'm 64"
From: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Believe it or not, Paul McCartney was a teenager when he wrote "When I'm 64," thinking much more along the lines of cabaret than rock 'n' roll. In their Cavern Club days, the Beatles would sometimes play a rough version of the tune, but it would not be until 1967 that they finally made the studio version of it. This was also more or less the case with the Beatles' "I'll Follow the Sun" and "One After 909," written (respectively) by McCartney and John Lennon as teenagers and saved for later.


4. Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue"
From: Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Bob Dylan often rewrites the words to his own songs years after they've already been committed to record, so it could be argued that no Dylan song is ever truly finished. "Tangled Up in Blue," however, is one of his best examples of a song that took several forms before finally becoming the version most people know today. Dylan first recorded it in New York City in September 1974 during the initial sessions for Blood on the Tracks, where he tried eight takes of it, often with varying lyrics. These versions would ultimately be scrapped in favor of one recorded several months later in Minneapolis.


5. Bruce Springsteen, "Murder Incorporated"
From: Greatest Hits (1995)

Bruce Springsteen has a particular knack for saving some of his best work for later. Take, for example, "Murder Incorporated" and "This Hard Land," two 1982 songs that were originally going to be placed on Born in the U.S.A. Instead they appeared on 1995's Greatest Hits. And that was hardly the only time the Boss reached back into his archives. On 2020's Letter to You, he recorded several songs ("If I Was the Priest," "Janey Needs a Shooter" and "Song for Orphans") that were written all the way back before his 1973 debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N. J.


6. Chris Cornell, "Josephine"
From: Higher Truth (2015)

For Chris Cornell, it wasn't difficult to determine that Vicky Karayiannis was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, a feeling he channeled into a song. "I sang 'Josephine' to Vicky from the telephone before we were married," he once explained. "I was going to ask her to marry me and the first indication was me singing her that song." The couple married in 2004, but it would be another 11 years before the song finally saw the light of day on 2015's Higher Truth.


7. Foo Fighters, "Alone + Easy Target"
From: Foo Fighters (1995)

In 1991, Kurt Cobain insisted that his Nirvana bandmate Dave Grohl show him the songs he'd been working on. "I'd told him I was recording and he said, 'Oh, I wanna hear it, bring it by,'" Grohl said to Mojo in 2009, recalling a demo of a track called "Alone + Easy Target." "He was sitting in the bathtub with a Walkman on, listening to the song, and when the tape ended he took the headphones off and kissed me and said, 'Oh, finally, now I don't have to be the only songwriter in the band!' I said, 'No, no, no, I think we're doing just fine with your songs.'" Nirvana never cut the song, but it, along with another number called "Exhausted," eventually found a home on the Foo Fighters' debut album.


8. George Harrison, "Isn't It a Pity"
From: All Things Must Pass (1970)

George Harrison first penned "Isn't It a Pity" back in 1966 while the Beatles were still very much together, but it was rejected for inclusion on any of their albums. Fortunately Harrison held on to it for 1970's All Things Must Pass, and it wound up one of his best-known songs.


9. Green Day, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
From: Nimrod (1997)

Today, it's hard to think of Green Day without the first few bars of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) popping into one's head, but there was a time the song wasn't deemed fit for publication. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the track back in 1993 and it didn't make the cut for 1994's Dookie. An initial version of the song came out in the summer of 1996 as a B-side to "Brain Stew/Jaded," but it wasn't until 1997 that Green Day recorded the version fans came to love.


10. Guns N' Roses, "November Rain"
From: Use Your Illusion I (1991)

You might think that Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" is a long song, clocking in at nearly nine minutes, but believe it or not it was once roughly twice as long as that. According to Slash's autobiography, an 18-minute version of the track was recorded in 1986, eventually being whittled down for 1991's Use Your Illusion I. That album contained another song culled from days gone by: "Don't Cry," which was written in 1985 not long after GNR first formed.


11. John Lennon, "Gimme Some Truth"
From: Imagine (1971)

John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" came out in 1971, though work on it began two years earlier during the Beatles' Get Back sessions. But like Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity," it fell to the back burner. "It was an old lick that I had around a long time but I again changed the lyrics," Lennon once explained.


12. Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
From: Various Positions (1984)

It's now considered his masterpiece, but Leonard Cohen labored over 1984's "Hallelujah" for five years, writing dozens upon dozens of versions of it. (Cohen's personal notebooks confirm he wrote roughly 150 draft verses.) Even when the song was finally released, it wasn't received warmly and took decades to achieve the success it ultimately did.


13. Michael Jackson, "Come Together"
From: HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995)

Sometimes you nail a recording in every possible way and the timing for release just isn't there. Such was the case with Michael Jackson's cover of the Beatles' "Come Together." Jackson intended to include it on 1987's Bad, but it ended up staying shelved until 1995's HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.


14. Oasis, "All Around the World"
From: Be Here Now (1997)

"All Around the World" appeared on Oasis' 1997 album Be Here Now, but there are recordings of the band first beginning to workshop the song during live performances in 1992. In 1994, Noel Gallagher expressed an interest in wanting to record the song in studio, but was holding out until the proper funds were in place. "The reason we haven't recorded that song is because there isn't enough money in Creation Records' bank balance to pay for the production of that record," he explained then.


15. Pearl Jam, "Better Man"
From: Vitalogy (1994)

"I wrote 'Better Man' before I could drink — legally — on a four-track in my old apartment," Eddie Vedder said to Spin in 1994. The song sat around until Pearl Jam recorded it for Vitalogy, then became a set list staple. "Sometimes I think of how far I've come from the teenager sitting on the bed in San Diego writing 'Better Man' and wondering if anyone would ever even hear it," Vedder marveled to the Los Angeles Times Calendar just two years after the track's release.


16. Prince, "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"
From: Sign O' the Times (1987)

The first time Prince recorded "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" was in 1979, but that version stayed sealed. Seven years later in 1986, Prince decided to record the song again, from scratch, and it was finally released on 1987's Sign O' the Times.


17. Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
From: A Night at the Opera (1975)

Let's be real: you don't just write an epic like "Bohemian Rhapsody" overnight, and Freddie Mercury sure didn't. He reportedly began working on the song sometime in the late '60s, before Queen was even founded. It took years of work to bring the song into its final form.


18. Radiohead, "True Love Waits"
From: A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

The first time Radiohead performed "True Love Waits" was in 1995, and that was just the beginning of the song's journey. From there, it became a regular of their set lists, but no studio version appeared until nearly two decades later on 2016's A Moon Shaped Pool. (It wasn't for a lack of trying — the band attempted to record it several times but could not settle on an arrangement.)


19. The Rolling Stones, "Start Me Up"
From: Tattoo You (1981)

The curious thing about the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You is that most of it comes from previous sessions. "Start Me Up" is perhaps the strongest example, having been recorded under the title "Never Stop" back in 1975 while the band worked on material for Black and Blue. At that time it had a much more reggae feel to it, and was also considered for 1978's Some Girls, but shelved yet again before taking its final form (and title) in 1981.


20. Steve Miller Band, "Fly Like an Eagle"
From: Fly Like an Eagle (1976)

In 1973, the Steve Miller Band introduced the first iteration of "Fly Like an Eagle," a much more blues-based version that the band had previously tried out live. "'Fly Like an Eagle' could be like a 15 or 20-minute thing that went in all kinds of different places because of the freedom of the whole psychedelic music scene," Steve Miller said to Guitar Player in 2023. "We were a jam band really, and were able to play anything we wanted." Three years later, they cut a more straight-forward rock version that became the title track to Fly Like an Eagle.


21. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Don't Do Me Like That"
From: Damn the Torpedoes (1979)

"Don't Do Me Like That" is just one of several Tom Petty songs that the Heartbreakers attempted to cut at one point and for one reason or another saved for another time. Disc five of 1995's Playback box set contained a number of them: there's a 1974 version of "Don't Do Me Like That" recorded by Petty's first band, Mudcrutch, plus a 1984 demo of "The Apartment Song" with Stevie Nicks that wasn't finished until 1989's Full Moon Fever.


22. Van Halen, "House of Pain"
From: 1984 (1984)

Van Halen's "House of Pain" serves as the closing track to 1984, but it actually dates all the way back to their early club days. The band employed this technique again decades later for 2012's A Different Kind of Truth, which features seven tracks that derived from old club numbers.

Albums That Took Over a Decade to Come Out

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