"We Built This City" is a song written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf, and originally recorded by the group Starship and released as its debut single on November 10, 1985. The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, best known for his longtime collaboration with Elton John. The song features Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick on lead vocals, and the single version reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on November 16, 1985, and also number twelve in the United Kingdom. The song was engineered by Grammy-winning producer Bill Bottrell and arranged by Bottrell and Jasun Martz.
The city that the band is singing about in the album version of this song has been generally thought to be San Francisco, California, (the traffic report in the bridge references the Golden Gate Bridge and "The City by the Bay"). However, it also mentions that it is "the city that never sleeps", which is a nickname more commonly associated with New York City. In Japan it has been sold with Japanese title "Sisuko wa Rokku Sitii" ("'Cisco, Rock City"). But according to Slick, it was actually written about early-1970s Los Angeles.
MTV executive and former D.J. Les Garland provided the D.J. voice-over during the song's bridge.
The song was also released without the traffic report and D.J. interaction during the song's bridge (the B-side of the promotional 45-rpm record). Local stations were encouraged to make local versions. New York City, for example, included a traffic report describing conditions on the George Washington Bridge.
In April 2004, the song was awarded "the #1 Worst Song Ever" by Blender magazine, in conjunction with a VH1 Special of The 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs…Ever. In order to qualify for the distinction, the songs on the list had to be a popular hit at some point, thus disqualifying many songs that would by general consensus be considered much worse. Blender editor Craig Marks said of the song, "It purports to be anti-commercial but reeks of '80s corporate-rock commercialism. It's a real reflection of what practically killed rock music in the '80s."
Blender magazine contributor Russ Heller later set a record for listening to "We Built This City" continuously for 24 hours. He was encased in a Plexiglas booth — without earplugs — beginning Friday, October 13, 2006 at 8:00 a.m. at a Best Buy store in New York City.
Paul Kantner who had left the group just prior to the single being recorded called the song "garbage" at the time it was released.
During a January 30, 2008, interview with DC101's Elliot in the Morning, Grace Slick called this song "one of the stupidest songs ever written".
In popular culture
* A short-lived TLC series named after the song used it in the title sequence. It documented the history of major cities.
* The lyrics were used to the tune of "Jimmy Crack Corn" in an episode of The Simpsons (Kill the Alligator and Run). Homer also sings the original song multiple times during the episode.
* The popular Canadian adolescent drama Degrassi: The Next Generation named an episode after this song. In the episode the main characters graduate from Degrassi Community School.
* At least two Canadian radio stations owned by Rogers Communications used this song as the final song played before switching formats from music to all-news: CFTR Toronto in 1993, and CFFR Calgary in 2006. Another Toronto station, CHUM, also used it to segue from C.H.R. to A.C., in 1986.
* The title of the song is used as a slogan by Australia's construction union.
* In Shrek the Third, young Arty turns to the audience of his high school's auditorium as he's leaving and says, "I'm building my city, people, on rock and roll", a reference to this song's lyrics.
* Comedian Sean Choolburra used a part of the song in his stand-up show at Melbourne's Comedy Gala. He called it "white music", in reference to a stereotype that white people dance differently than black people.
* The satirical magazine National Lampoon's guide to "Dumb Frat Games" included a drinking game where the participants listen to the song and are not allowed to switch off the stereo until they have downed their drink. The article pointed out that the game carries a strong risk of tragedy, because "humans weren't meant to drink that fast".
* On The Dennis Miller Radio Show, Miller tries to catch his sound engineer off guard by saying the phrase "This is Starship!" This prompts the engineer to play the song for a few seconds, and Dennis sometimes judges him on his response time.
Covers and parodies
It was later covered by LMP on its album A Century of Song, and by the hip hop group The Diplomats. The British band Half Man Half Biscuit recorded a song called "We Built This Village on a Trad Arr Tune".
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