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)
ReleasedAugust 1, 1985[1]
GenrePop rock
Length4:53 (album version)
4:49 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, Peter Wolf
Producer(s)Peter Wolf, Jeremy Smith
Starship singles chronology
"We Built This City"
Audio sample
"We Built This City"
Music video
"We Built This City" on YouTube

"We Built This City" is a 1985 song written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert and Peter Wolf, and originally recorded by US rock group Starship and released as their debut single on their album Knee Deep in the Hoopla.

Commercially, the single reached number one in Australia, Canada and the United States; the top 10 in Germany, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland; the top 20 in Belgium, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; and number 21 in Austria and the Netherlands. It has appeared on several "worst song" lists, topping a 2011 Rolling Stone poll of worst songs of the 1980s by a wide margin.


What exists of a narrative in the song consists of an argument between the singers (Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick) and an unidentified "you", presumably a music industry executive, who is marginalizing the band and ripping them off by "playing corporation games" ("who counts the money underneath the bar?"). In response to this injustice, the singers remind the villain of their importance and fame: "Listen to the radio! Don't you remember? We built this city on rock and roll!" A spoken-word interlude explicitly mentions the Golden Gate Bridge and refers to "the city by the bay", a common moniker for Starship's hometown of San Francisco. Starship's predecessors, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, were prominent members of San Francisco's psychedelic rock scene in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. However, the interlude then rapidly refers to the same city as "the city that rocks", a reference to Cleveland, Ohio (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum), and then "the city that never sleeps", one of the nicknames for New York City. Capitalizing on the ambiguity, several radio stations added descriptions of their own local areas when they broadcast the song or added their own ident in its place. The album's title Knee Deep in the Hoopla is taken from a lyric in the first verse of this song.[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 DJ voice-over during the song's bridge.[3] Additionally, some radio stations, with the help of jingle company JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, Texas, inserted their own opening line to promote their stations.[4]


"We Built This City" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1986.[5]

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

The 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.[6] 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."[7]

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."[8] Mickey Thomas, one of the singers of Starship, said in 2010 regarding 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.[9]

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."[8]

The Richmond Times-Dispatch 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.[10]

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

In 2011, a Rolling Stone magazine online readers 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".[11]

GQ Worst Song of All Time[edit]

In August 2016, GQ magazine declared this song as the worst of all time, referring to it as "the most detested song in human history".[12] The article covered Bernie Taupin's role in writing an early version of the song, the backlash against a video that no one liked and Grace Slick's inconsistent statements about whether she liked it or not.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[29] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

LadBaby version[edit]

"We Built This City"
LadBaby We Built This City.jpg
Single by LadBaby
ReleasedDecember 14, 2018 (2018-12-14)
GenreComedy rock
  • Mark Hoyle
  • Bernie Taupin
  • Martin Page
  • Dennis Lambert
  • Peter Wolf
LadBaby singles chronology
"We Built This City"
"I Love Sausage Rolls"

In December 2018, English blogger LadBaby released a comedy version of the song with a sausage roll theme (the refrain being "We Built This City on Sausage Rolls") as a charity single whose profits went to The Trussell Trust. It debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, beating Ava Max's "Sweet but Psycho" and Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" to the 2018 Christmas number one.[30]

Chart (2018) Peak
Australia Digital Track Chart (ARIA)[31] 31
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[32] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[33] 1
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[34] 47

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – May 28, 2015". RIAA.com. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  2. ^ "We Built This City On Rock and Roll". Oddculture.com. Archived from the original on 2015-05-07. Retrieved 2016-08-12.
  3. ^ "We Built This S**tty : The worst song of all time? Les Garland begs to differ" (PDF). Reelradio.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  4. ^ "'We Built This City': 30 years ago, the day the music (almost) died". wtop.com. 2015-07-31. Archived from the original on 2017-12-28. Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  5. ^ Richard De Atley (10 January 1985). "Dire Straits, Tina Turner, Sting lead performer nominations". The Times-News. Associated Press. p. 23.
  6. ^ "The 50 Worst Songs Ever! Watch, Listen and Cringe!". Blender.com. Archived from the original on 2010-08-06.
  7. ^ "10 Really, Really Bad Songs". Cbsnews.com. 2004-04-20. Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  8. ^ a b "We built this city on detestable lyrics". Sydney Morning Herald. April 27, 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  9. ^ Rachael Recker (May 2, 2010). "It's not Jefferson, but it is 'Starship starring Mickey Thomas' at 2010 Tulip Time". Booth Newspapers. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  10. ^ E. Franklin (April 29, 2004). "Are you kidding me?; Many tunes are obviously inferior to Blender's50 Worst Songs of All Time". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  11. ^ "1. Starship – 'We Built This City' Photo – Readers' Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1980s". Rollingstone.com. 2011-10-06. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  12. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob (August 21, 2016). "An Oral History of "We Built This City," the Worst Song of All Time". GQ. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 2017-10-05. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  13. ^ "Starship – We Built This City (song)". Ö3 Austria Top 40. March 1, 1986. Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  14. ^ "Radio2 top 30: 23 mei 2015 | Radio2". Top30-2.radio2.be. Archived from the original on 2012-04-09. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  15. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 43 (13): 6. December 7, 1985. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  16. ^ "Musicline.de – Starship Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  17. ^ Jaclyn Ward – Fireball Media Group. "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  18. ^ "We Built This City – Starship". Dutch Top 40. RTL Nederland. 1986. Retrieved 2012-01-13.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Charts.nz – Starship – We Built This City". Top 40 Singles.
  20. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Singles Top 100.
  22. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Swiss Singles Chart.
  23. ^ "Starship". The Official Charts Company. November 16, 1985. Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
  24. ^ "We Built This City – Starship". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
  25. ^ "Starship". Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  26. ^ "1985 The Year in Music & Video: Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 97 no. 52. December 28, 1985. p. T-21.
  27. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  28. ^ "British single certifications – Starship – We Built This City". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – Starship – We Built This City". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 3, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  30. ^ Alibhai, Zaina (December 18, 2018). "Who is LadBaby – the dad behind We Built This City poised to beat Ariana Grande in Christmas number one race?". Metro.
  31. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 40 Digital Tracks" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. December 24, 2018. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  32. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  33. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  34. ^ "Top Rock Songs Chart: December 29, 2018". Billboard. Retrieved December 25, 2018.

External links[edit]