Balls to the wall – definition of, according to Farlex
With maximum effort, energy, or speed, and without caution or restraint. The phrase most likely originated as an aviation term, referring to the throttle levers of military aircraft (which have a rounded ball on top) being pushed to their maximum limit (i.e., to the bulkhead, or “wall”), so now you know.
As regards a description of the Top 10 Rock songs of the 80s, you have to think that maximum, effort, energy or speed without restraint is a pretty apt description. Top lists of anything are always subjective, and this one is no different. We chose the songs based on their lack of restraint and maximum effort, and, you know, they are great rock songs that make you understand why music amps should go up to eleven. We hope you enjoy our somewhat irreverent, spoiler alert – no, Sweet Child O Mine is not number 1 (in fact, it’s not even in the top ten) – view on what we consider the very definition of balls to the wall 80s Rock:
- Iron Maiden – Run to the Hills parts of the song are based on the “rising sixth” interval within a scale, which is said to be inspired by a documentary about why ‘MyWay’ ( Frank Sinatra) was one of the most popular songs ever recorded. You can hear Bruce Dickinson explain it here.
- DEF Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me. Joe Elliott ( lead singer) said the song was partially inspired by Run DMC/Aerosmith’s version of “Walk this way” and the blending of genres it represented. Wanting to create a similar vibe, Elliot was struck with a riff he came up with while taking a break from recording their album Hysteria.
- George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone The song features Rolling Stones side-man Ian Stewart Ian Stewarton on the keyboards, and in fact, George Thorogood and the destroyers opened for the Stones during their 1981 US tour. A raucous mixture of Chicago blues and Rock and roll, the same US tour with the stones helped bring them to the public’s attention.
- Rolling Stones – Start Me UpThe song began as a reggae-rock track named “Never Stop” but was abandoned to the archives as the band couldn’t get it to work. With the band looking to tour, in 1981, legendary producer Chris Kimsey suggested to Jagger (lead singer) that archived songs could comprise some of the set for the tour. While searching through the vaults, Kimsey found two takes of the song with a more rock vibe among some fifty reggae versions, recorded when Richards and Stones drummer Charlie Watts decided to try a rock version of the song to see what it would feel like. The song is widely recognised worldwide and is a staple of any Stones set.
- Brice Springsteen – Born in the USA – “The first kick I took was when I hit the ground” is the opening line to perhaps one of the most misunderstood songs in modern times. Rather than glorifying all that was good about the USA, The song addresses the hardships of Vets returning home from Vietnam to taunts of ‘baby killers and the reality of being unable to find work.
- Neil Young – Rockin in the Free world in February 1989, while on tour with his band, Young learned that a planned concert tour to the former Soviet Union was not going to happen, and guitarist Frank Sampedro said, “we’ll have to keep on rockin’ in the free world”. The phrase stuck in Young’s mind; the next day, he had the full lyrics to the song. Widely known for its commentary on what was happening in the Middle East, the accompanying video to the song clarifies Young’s view of then-US President George W Bush.
- Guns N Roses – Welcome to the Jungle “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby; you’re gonna die!” Axl Rose recalls the welcome he received from a homeless man after arriving by bus to visit a friend in Settle. He took that line and used it to write about how it feels to arrive in a city fresh off the bus, and you don’t know where anything is. The song is based on a riff slash came up with in the basement of Slash’s mother’s house when the band were jamming together, trying to get something going and writing original material.
- Beastie Boys – Fight for your right to Party – still to this day, the vast majority of people listening to the song are unaware that it was meant as a paradox of the trend at the time for ‘party rock’ songs. Written by Adam Yauch and their friend Tommy Cushman (who appears in the video), the tune poked fun at songs with titles such as ‘I wanna Rock’, which were in the charts then. It seems, though, that this was lost on most listeners. Mike D, a founding member of the band, commented, “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”
- Motörhead – Ace of Spades – For balls-to-the-wall Rock, it’s hard to beat this song. In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at No. 27 in a list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, stating, “This song has an intro which wouldn’t be out of place ushering in the end of the world.” It is such an apt description of the opening that we couldn’t describe it better. Once quoted as being sick to death of playing the song at every gig, Lemmy ( lead singer and bass) said, “Ace of Spades has been really good to us, and it’s one of the best songs that I ever wrote. So I suppose you have to put up with it because everybody wants to hear it every night.”
- ACDC – Back in Black 1980 The song was written as a tribute to former singer Bon Scott who died in February 1980. In a retrospective piece, “Back in Black”, Brian Johnson, who joined the band to replace Scott, was asked to write the lyrics. He is quoted as saying that the lines “Nine lives, cats eyes, abusing everyone of them and running wild” may not sound as though they make much sense; to his bandmates, they summed up their friend Bon Scott perfectly.