We Built This City

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"We Built This City"
Single by Starship
from the album Knee Deep in the Hoopla
B-side Private Room (Instrumental)
Released August 1, 1985[1]
Format 7"
Recorded May 1985
Genre Pop rock
Length 4:56
Label Grunt
Writer(s) Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, Peter Wolf
Producer(s) Peter Wolf, Jeremy Smith
Starship singles chronology
- "We Built This City"
Music sample

"We Built This City" is a song written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf, and originally recorded by the American rock group Starship and released as its debut single on August 1, 1985.

The single version reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on November 16, 1985, and also number one on the U.S. Top Rock Tracks chart and number twelve in the United Kingdom.


The lyrics describe a city built on rock n' roll music. The lyrics explicitly mention the Golden Gate Bridge and refer to "the City by the Bay", a common moniker for Starship's hometown of San Francisco, California. However, the lyrics also refer to "the City That Rocks", a reference to Cleveland, Ohio, and "the City That Never Sleeps", a reference to New York City. Capitalizing on the ambiguity, several radio stations added descriptions of their own local areas when they broadcast the song, or even simply added their own ident in its place.[2]


The song was engineered by producer Bill Bottrell and arranged by Bottrell and Jasun Martz.

The song features Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick sharing lead vocals. MTV executive and former DJ Les Garland provided the D.J. voice-over during the song's bridge.[3]


"We Built This City" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1986.[4]

Blender magazine's "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever"[edit]

The defunct magazine Blender '​s ranking of the song as the worst song ever was in conjunction with a VH1 Special of The 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever.[5] 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 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."[6]

However, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that "Blender's list—compiled via an arbitrary and anecdotal data collection process and ranked by Marks—included several whimsical criteria. One was to go easy on novelty songs. In a discussion with the band's manager, Bill Thompson, he was surprised at the ranking, but also "thrilled" because of the other high-profile groups on the list, saying, "I wish Blender had called us for a group shot. I'd love to have my picture taken with Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney."[7] Mickey Thomas, one of the singers of Starship, stated in regard to the review from the by then folded Blender magazine,

From what I heard, they got so much flak about it that they sort of retracted their statements in a way about the song. And not only that, but Blender's folded, and we're still here.[8]

When asked about why the song was listed as #1 on the review, the editor of Blender magazine, Craig Marks, referenced the line of the song "Marconi plays the mamba" by asking,

Who is Marconi? And what is the mamba? The mamba is the deadliest snake in the world, so he must have meant the mambo, but it sounds so much like 'mamba' that every lyric web site writes it that way. It makes sense neither way."[7]

The Richmond Times listed other songs by Starship that would have made more sense for being on the top of the list than "We Built This City," concluding,

No, no. They chose the song that references Marconi, the father of the radio. The song that inserted a cool snippet of DJ chatter from the band's beloved San Francisco. The song that found Grace Slick enunciating the phrase "corporation games" with nutty abandon.[9]

Rolling Stone Top Ten Worst Songs of the 1980s[edit]

In 2011 a Rolling Stone magazine online poll named "We Built This City" as the worst song of the 1980s. The song's winning margin was so large that the magazine reported it "could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll".[10]

Commercial uses[edit]

In 1990, ITT Corporation began using a variation (as "We Built This Business") to promote their purchase of the financial services firm The Hartford.[11]

The song is featured in 2011's The Muppets, as well as the Broadway musical Rock of Ages and its film adaptation,[12] where it is sung in counterpoint with Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It".[13]

In 2014 it was used for a United Kingdom commercial for the 3 mobile service.[14] Following the advert, the song climbed 158 places to number 25 in the UK Singles Chart.[15]

The song is featured in in the video game Grand Theft Auto V on the "Los Santos Rock Radio" station, but only on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions. [16] [17]


Chart (1985–1986) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report Top Singles) 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[18] 21
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[19] 17
Canada (RPM)[20] 1
Germany (Media Control Charts)[21] 10
Ireland (IRMA)[22] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[23] 21
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[24] 11
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 8
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[27] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 1
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 37
Chart (2014) Peak
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[29] 25


  1. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum Database
  2. ^ "We Built This City On Rock and Roll"", OddCulture, Retrieved Jun 2, 2011.
  3. ^ "We Built This S**tty", Radio & Records, May 14, 2004 (PDF)
  4. ^ Richard De Atley (10 January 1985). "Dire Straits, Tina Turner, Sting lead performer nominations". The Times-News. Associated Press. p. 23. 
  5. ^ "The 50 Worst Songs Ever! Watch, Listen and Cringe!". Blender.com. [dead link]
  6. ^ "10 Really, Really Bad Songs, CBSNews.com
  7. ^ a b "We built this city on detestable lyrics". Sydney Morning Herald. April 27, 2004. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  8. ^ Rachael Recker (May 2, 2010). "It's not Jefferson, but it is 'Starship starring Mickey Thomas' at 2010 Tulip Time". Booth Newspapers. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  9. ^ E. Franklin (April 29, 2004). "Are you kidding me?; Many tunes are obviously inferior to Blender's50 Worst Songs of All Time". Richmond Times. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  10. ^ Readers' Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1980s
  11. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTvpikMIs3Q
  12. ^ [http://ibdb.com/production-songs.php?ShowNo=482290&ProdNo=482291 - "Rock of Ages Song List -"]. Internet Broadway Database -. Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  13. ^ Minow, Nell (2012-06-15). "Rock of Ages". Beliefnet. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  14. ^ http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/461076/Sing-It-Kitty-Three-follow-up-advert-to-moonwalking-pony-set-to-go-viral VIDEO: 'We all need silly stuff' Three's new Sing It Kitty advert set to go viral
  15. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/chart/singles
  16. ^ http://pitchfork.com/news/57496-grand-theft-auto-v-reveals-expanded-radio-station-tracklists-for-game-relaunch/
  17. ^ http://www.rockstargames.com/newswire/article/52352/gtav-soundtrack-listen-to-original-new-songs-added-from
  18. ^ "Starship - We Built This City (song)". Ö3 Austria Top 40. March 1, 1986. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  19. ^ Belgian peak
  20. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". RPM (Library and Archives Canada) 43 (13): 6. December 7, 1985. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Chartverfulgong > Starship > We Built This City – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  22. ^ Search for Irish peak
  23. ^ "We Built This City - Starship". Dutch Top 40. RTL Nederland. 1986. Retrieved January 13, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Starship – We Built This City". Top 40 Singles.
  25. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Singles Top 60.
  26. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Swiss Singles Chart.
  27. ^ UK Singles Chart (November 16, 1985). "Starship". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ "We Built This City - Starship". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Starship". Retrieved March 9, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Miami Vice Theme" by Jan Hammer
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
November 16, 1985 – November 23, 1985
Succeeded by
"Separate Lives" by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
Preceded by
"Separate Lives" by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
December 7, 1985
Succeeded by
"Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister
Preceded by
"Species Deceases" by Midnight Oil
Australian Kent Music Report number one single
January 20, 1986 – February 10, 1986
Succeeded by
"A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey