Love Stinks (song)

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"Love Stinks"
Love Stinks single cover.jpg
Single by The J. Geils Band
from the album Love Stinks
B-side"Till the Walls Come Tumblin' Down"
ReleasedApril 1980
StudioLong View Farm,
North Brookfield, Massachusetts
GenreRock, power pop, new wave
LabelEMI Records
Songwriter(s)Peter Wolf, Seth Justman
Producer(s)Seth Justman
The J. Geils Band singles chronology
"Come Back"
"Love Stinks"
"Just Can't Wait"
Music video
"Love Stinks" on YouTube

"Love Stinks" is a song written by Peter Wolf and Seth Justman that was the title track of the J. Geils Band's 1980 album Love Stinks. The song was released as a single and peaked in the US at #38, spending three weeks in the Top 40.[1][2][3] In Canada, the song reached number 15,[4] as it did on WLS-AM in Chicago.[5]


The lyrics describe a love triangle in which two participants experience unrequited love, before segueing into a description of love gone sour in general. The lyrics may have been inspired by J. Geils Band lead singer Peter Wolf's marriage to actress Faye Dunaway, which ended in a 1979 divorce.[2] Author Maury Dean describes the opening of the song as "ponderous Power Metal."[2] Dean describes the band's playing in the refrain as generating "wild waves of flame," the guitars as "fire-breathing" and Wolf's vocals in the "yeah yeah" portion of the chorus as snarling with "heavy metal glee."[2] Justman provides extensive keyboards, which Associated Press critic James Simon feels gives the song "a little extra zing."[6] Viglione describes the riff as "Lou Reed's 'Vicious' as performed by his Rock & Roll Animal band on Lou Reed Live at half-speed," also noting that it is a hard rock version of the riff from "Louie Louie."[7] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield notes that the riff was later used by Nirvana in the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit."[8]


Viglione finds such a "simple riff rocker" a departure for the J. Geils Band who were then known for blues and R&B, but admits the results are fun to listen to and acknowledges that this and some other songs from the Love Stinks album pointed the way towards their pop-oriented 1981 platinum hit album Freeze Frame.[7] AllMusic critic John Franck describes the song as "infectious," noting that it was "one of the band's most recognizable FM songs ever."[9] Music critic Robert Christgau describes the song as "broad" and "uproarious."[10] Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh considers it one of the J. Geils Band's greatest songs, considering its lyrics to be "a hilarious spoof on new-wave nihilism as well as soul cliche."[11] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield calls it "one of the great trash-rock singles of the '80's."[8] Cash Box said that the "playfully virulent lyric...mixed with Seth Justman’s whirling keyboards, creates an exciting march-like rhythm."[12] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci rated it to be the band's 3rd greatest song, saying that it incorporates "'60s garage-rock guitar," "late-'70s New Wave synths" and "a singalong chorus straight outta the era's arena rock" that "meet for a glorious collision that results in one of the group's heaviest, and best-loved, songs."[13]

"Till the Walls Come Tumblin' Down"[edit]

The B-side of the "Love Stinks" single was "Till the Walls Come Tumblin' Down", also a track from the Love Stinks album. Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield praised the song, describing it as "rollicking".[8]

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Love Stinks Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  2. ^ a b c d Dean, M. (2003). Rock N Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia. Algora. p. 330. ISBN 9780875862071.
  3. ^ Whitburn, J. (2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (9th ed.). Random House. p. 263. ISBN 9780823085545.
  4. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly". 17 July 2013.
  5. ^ WLS Musicradio Survey, July 5, 1980
  6. ^ Simon, J. (April 1, 1980). "Geils has hit with 'Love Stinks'". The Daily News. p. 14-B. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  7. ^ a b c Viglione, J. "Love Stinks". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  8. ^ a b c Sheffield, R. (2004). Brackett, N.; Hoard, C. (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside. p. 327. ISBN 0743201698.
  9. ^ Franck, J. "Love Stinks". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  10. ^ Christgau, R. "The J. Geils Band: Love Stinks". Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  11. ^ Marsh, D. (1983). Marsh, D.; Swenson, J. (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2nd ed.). Rolling Stone Press. p. 196. ISBN 0394721071.
  12. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. April 12, 1980. p. 11. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  13. ^ Gallucci, Michael (February 20, 2016). "Top 10 J. Geils Band Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  14. ^ "Opie Gets Laid soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  15. ^ "The Wedding Singer soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  16. ^ "Love Stinks soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  17. ^ Phares, H. "Love Stinks". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-01.