Rock of Ages – Which song is better? Original or Musical Version?

I recently completed the 100th show of the musical Rock of Ages, while traveling to Munich for that reason. The musical is playing in the 1980’s and features rock music of that era. Thus, most of the originals of the songs have been released about two decades before the musical had its premiere in July 2005 at King King in Los Angeles. During one of the musical shows in Munich, I reflected about  where the musical is doing a better version of the song or vice versa. The posting is, of course, very subjective. The more, I am happy to discuss with you about my thoughts, which are majorly based on the British and German professional versions of the musical.


Rock of Ages – The Songs and the Originals

For this comparison of songs, I just went for songs, which at least have a vocal part in the musical (a few are just featured in instrumental version). Additionally, I removed Keep On Loving You (by REO Speedwagon) and Renegade (by Styx), as the songs are just teased very briefly. They are listed in the order they appear in the musical. Of course, the musical typically profits from more singers and a technology gap in regards of sound processing. The original artist is given in brackets in the headers.


Cum On Feel The Noize (Slade / Quiet Riot)

Cum On Feel The Noize has been released by the English rock band Slade in 1973. The musical is likely based on the cover by US band Quiet Riot released ten years later. This song is very close to the musical version. The song is featured right at the beginning, but is then featured in the Stacee Jaxx Bourbon Room scene in the musical in a longer version.

My thought: the two versions are very similar. I like the guitar play in the original a bit more than in the musical, though. Thus I tend to prefer the original.


Just Like Paradise (David Lee Roth)

Just Like Paradise is one of the two key tracks of the first song in Rock of Ages. US-American rock singer David Lee Roth, the former singer of Van Halen. The song has been released on 30th December 1987.

My thought: Overall, the arrangements of the song are similar. However, I feel that the song massively profits from having the full vocal power of the musical cast. Thus, I prefer the musical version.


Nothin’ but a Good Time (Poison)

Nothin’ but a Good Time is part of the first full musical song as well. The song is a great party. The original has been released by Poison in April 1988 by the US-American glam metal band Poison.

My thought: Again, the musical makes use of a very similar arrangement. However, I again feel that the power of the cast and especially being able to “hand over” the lyrics from one actor to another in the musical does add some advantage. It is close, but I slightly prefer the musical version.


Sister Christian (Night Ranger)

Sherrie is about to leave Paola and heads to Los Angeles, pursuing an actress career. The corresponding song has been released by Night Ranger in 1984. The original is a power ballad, which is also strongly driven by piano.

My thought: Even though the notes are the same, the two versions are quite different. The Night Ranger original feels finer and has more of a ballad touch, including the chorus. It also has a more significant synth / keyboard lead. The musical version is more angry. As the role of the Mother is typically played by the same actor as the one of Justice, the musical typically provides a very energetic experience here. I feel it is hard to compare and I like both versions. Thus, I call it a draw.


We Built This City (Starship)

The Klinemann Cooperation wants to take over the strip, which leads to a dispute in the major’s office. The cry of the strip is thereby the opening to We Built This City. The song is a fun track, which people typically could sing-a-long. Thus, the August 1985 release by Starship plays a key role on the first act.

My thought: I cannot deny that I do know the song by heart – but I would not state that I really like the song in the original. The song is also a highlight of the musical as the scene switched between two locations, the office of the major and the Bourbon Room. There is one reason why I slightly favor the musical version: The major replies on the song line Marconi plays the mamba with Who is Marconi? and thereby also criticizes the song itself.


Too Much Time on My Hands (Styx)

Too Much Time on My Hands is one of the oldest songs used in the musical. The US-American rock band Styx released the song in 1981 already, as part of the Queen of Spades album. The musical uses the song in the Bourbon Room as part of the Major scene early in the third act.

My thought: The musical version is much more rocking and has more power than the original recording, even though it does not use that many actors on stage. Thus, I definitely prefer the musical version.


I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister)

I Wanna Rock is used twice on the album. The main appearance is in the first act, though, when Drew is releasing his rock energy after being teased by Sherrie. The 1984 released song has been written be Dee Snider and performed by his band Twisted Sister. VH1 praised this song as the 17th Greatest Hard Rock Song (see the song’s Wikipedia page).

My thought: Both versions are really good. I Wanna Rock is a key version in the musical, the ensemble dancers and singers lead to a nice touch. Nonetheless, I would call it a draw.


We’re Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister)

Twisted Sister is in fact the only band which is featured twice in a row in Rock of Ages. Both songs, I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Gonna Take It, come from the same 1984 album, Stay Hungry. They have been released one after another as singles in that year as well. In the musical, the song is the “hymn” of the protesters and is quoted multiple times.

My thought: Stay Hungry is a great album – and both versions, the original and the musical one, are great. I still lean towards the original version, even though it is really close.


More Than Words (Extreme)

Rock of Ages is a 1980’s musical? Not precisely. Even though most of the songs have been released in that decade, Extreme published this track in March 1991. The song was a huge success in that year, being a Top 10 song in the annual charts of Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA. In all major markets, it peaked in the Top 10 of the weekly charts. In the musical, the song is used when Drew is performing songs for Sherrie in the Bourbon Room.

My thought: To make it short: the fine ballad the US American rockers is just too iconic in the original. I do like how the song is used in Rock of Ages, but the duet-style of Extreme is simply better.


To Be With You (Mr. Big)

To Be With You, originally by Mr. Big, is another 1990’s track, being released in November 1991. Another song, where a rock band released a ballad and ran into huge success. The song is used in the same scene quoted before in the musical.

My thought: To Be With You is a great original, but I lean towards the musical version here. The adoption makes lovely use of having the full company on stage. The


Heaven (Warrant)

Still used in the same scene, there is Heaven, originally released by the US-American glam metal band Warrant in July 1989. The song comes with one of the most beautiful lyrics in the musical to me, I don’t need to be the king of the world, as long as I’m the hero of this little girl.

My thought: The musical shortens the lyrics of the stanzas and makes it more compact. Especially in the rather full cast scene, Heaven comes with a lot of energy. However, the Warrant version is also a really nice one. Nonetheless, I slightly lean towards favoring the musical version.


Waiting For a Girl / Boy Like You (Foreigner)

Drew and Sherrie are on the Hollywood Hills, where Drew is messing up their dates. The song originally released by Foreigner in 1981 is used to drive this scene in the first act

My thought: Regardless of the script and arrangement, the scene in the musical is typically one of the most memorable ones in the first act. I also like that it is one of the songs, which are majorly driven by Drew and Sherrie only. However, the Foreigner version is iconic. I like both versions very much.


Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi)

Wanted Dead or Alive, originally released by Bon Jovi in 1987, is introducing Stacee Jaxx to the musical. He finally also hooks up with Sherrie, one of the key scenes of the first act.

My thought: The original version is a bit of brave, has a bit of a ballad character. The musical turns it into a much more rocking, dirty, energetic song. Thus, I definitely go for the musical version here.


I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner)

Sherrie and Stacee Jaxx are physical in the men’s toilet. The second time, the musical makes use of a Foreigner track, which has been released in 1984. The list of countries, in which this song topped the single charts, is huge. The track is definitely one of the key songs of the 1980’s.

My thought: Again, the musical version is more energetic and not as gentle as the original. Additionally, it has a nice joke about the strange scream at the beginning of the original. Both versions are great, but the musical version profits from that and from turning it into a duet of a male and a female singer. Thus, I very slightly go for the musical version.


Harden My Heart (Quarterflash)

As part of all the trouble caused by Stacee, Sherrie quits her job at the Bourbon Room, Combined with Shadows of the Night (see below),the musical uses this song expressing the trouble and her situation. Harden My Heart was released by Quarterflash in September 1981. It was their debut single. The band did released more albums later, the latest one has been published in 2020. However, no song came even close to the US Rock Charts topper. In the musical, this song also leads to the first stage presence of Justice.

My thought: I would say that any professional musical performance was just better in emphasizing the atmosphere of the song. The (typically energetic) vocals by Justice also add a lot of energy. Definitely, the musical version is my favorite.


Shadows of the Night (Pat Benatar)

The song was originally composed in 1980 to serve as part of the soundtrack for the Times Square movie. However, it was refused for that cause. In 1981, there was a version by US-American artist Helen Schneider, but finally the 1982 Pet Benatar version is the most popular one. However, the chart positions of this song were rather limited outside North America.

My thought: Especially by mashing up this song with Harden My Heart, the song gets a really nice touch in the musical. The much I like Pat Benatar and her music – in this patr of Rock of Ages, the musical just delivers the better versions.


Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)

Even though Lonny later speaks of a musical with poop jokes and Whitesnake songs, there is in fact just one song by the British band. The song has been released in 1982. The song is the atmospheric first act finale before the intermission at Rock of Ages.

My thought: Even though I struggle a bit with Whitesnake live performances nowadays, the original is a great song. The musical version comes with a lot of power and the full cast at the end of the first act. I really like both versions.


The Final Countdown (Europe)

The first act majorly features US bands. However, the first and the last song are by British artists. Right at the beginning of act 1, when Hertz starts tearing down the Strip, the musical uses The Final Countdown, written by the Swedish rock band Europe. They released the song, which turned out a huge global success and their most successful track ever, in 1986. The Swedish version of Rock of Ages had Europe’s former guitarist Kee Marcello on stage, by the way. However, Marcello joined Europe after the song has been recorded

My thought: I feel I can make it rather short. The musical does not emancipate from the original that much. I love both versions the same.


Any Way You Want It (Journey)

Sherrie is taking her first steps in the Venus Club in the musical, when Justice is explaining her that Any Way You Want It is more or less the service rules in that place. It is the first time a Journey song is used in the musical. The US-American rock band released this song in 1980 already. Songwriters were Steve Perry and Neal Schon. The latter is still an active member of the band.

My thought: Of course, the scenery in the Venus Club is iconic and very atmospheric in the musical However, even with the new singer Arnel Pineda, I really love Journey performing this song. A very tough decision, but Journey are just too good.


High Enough (Damn Yankees)

I recently gave you quite a lot of detail about High Enough in the Songs of My Life. In the musical, Sherrie and Drew run into each other by chance, feeling that they still love each other. As I stated in the posting, this 1990 original is my favorite song of the musical.

My thought: To me, this one is likely the hardest choice. The original is great, but no scene touches me so much than this duet. Surprisingly for me, even some amateur shows I saw did an amazing version of High Enough. I just have to go for the Drew and Sherrie duet in the musical.


I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released this song in 1988, which is used in the moment together with Heat of the Moment (see below).  The song is used for the scene, where Stacee is visiting the Venus Club, running into Sherrie. The original had quite some success in multiple markets. Interestingly, the only country listed on the song’s Wikipedia page, in which it in fact topped the charts is Zimbabwe.

My thought: The original version is darker, more rocking, more raunchy than the musical version. Two good version, which is in the musical nicely blended with Heat of the Moment. I slightly feel that the original is somehow cooler.


Heat of the Moment (Asia)

The song with which the Joan Jett track is blended in the musical, is Heat of the Moment by Asia. The song is one of the few European originals used in Rock of Ages. It has been released in 1982 by the British band. It was a Top 5 success in the US Billboard, the US Rock, the Swiss, South African and Canadian charts.

My thought: To make it short: the excerpts used in the musical are very close to the Asia version. Only the mixing with I Hate Myself For Loving You leads to a special listen. Thus, I like both versions the same.


Hit Me with Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar)

The song is driving one of the typically most popular scenes in Rock of Ages. Franz is rebelling against Hertz and joins the protesters, supported by Regina. The original is another Pat Benatar song. The 1980 song was a Top 10 in the US Billboard and Canadian charts and had a silver record in the United Kingdom.

My thought: You might argue that the original is rather a power pop than a rock track. The musical version lives from the power Franz and Regina bring on stage. I like both versions, but appreciate the higher energy in the musical.


Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon)

The audience highlights are now following one after another in the musical. Lonny and Dennis explore that they are both in love with each other. For that, the musical uses the REO Speedwagon original Can’t Fight This Feeling. The song has been released one week before Christmas in 1984 and became a huge global success. In the 1985 US Billboard annual charts, it was placed 13th, for example.

My thought: Of course, the scene and story turn the song into a special part of Rock of Ages. If you look on the two versions only, you have to say that they are very close. Both versions are really good in my point of view.


Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison)

Sherrie decides to quit her job at the Venus Club and head home after Drew ran into her and Stacee there. In that scene, the musical uses the Poison classic Every Rose Has Its Thorn. The October 1988 topped the US Billboard charts and finished third in the 1989 US annual charts. In many European markets, the song made it into the Top 20.

My thought: In the musical, the first part of the song is sung by Justice and Sherrie, before other characters are having their parts as well. This leads to a very versatile, energetic listen. The song is my wife’s favorite Rock of Ages song for a good reason. The original is a great song as well. Two really good versions, but I lean towards Rock of Ages.


Oh Sherrie (Steve Perry)

If you include the two Journey songs, Steve Perry is the only artist, who is having three original songs in Rock of AgesOh Sherrie, however, has been a solo recording in 1984, i.e. he was still member of the band as well. The song topped the charts in Canada and had Top 5 placements in the US Billboard and Australian charts. The song is used for the scene when Drew is rushing to the train station (German version: bus terminal) to avoid Sherrie going home.

My thought: The original by Steve Perry is a beauty, but it has a strong pop component as well. In the musical, regardless if you look at the current German tour or at previous UK stage appearances, the vocal performance by Drew is typically very energetic. Thus, I definitely go for the musical here.


The Search is Over (Survivor)

Sherrie decides to stay and kisses Drew at the train / bus station. This is underlined in the musica by The Search is Over, which was released by Survivor in 1985. In contrast to the US rock band’s biggest one, Eye of the Tiger, the song was popular in the USA, but struggled in other markets, it only made it to the charts in Australia and Canada. Tellingly, the song was listed in the US annual charts as a pop song, not a rock track.

My thought: The Survivor version is very pop-ish and gentle. It seemed to have touched the North American market, but it does not touch my European soul too much. I definitely go with Rock of Ages here.


Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)

The happy ending in the musical, time to party – and to roll out Journey’s biggest song. The 1981 release has an amazing chart history. While it originally just made it to the Top 10 in the USA and Canada in 1981 and 1982. However, it again and again popped up in other markets. In 2007, it peaked fourth in Ireland. Around 2010, it gained a huge popularity again. This was on the one hand driven by the musical, but also by a Glee version, which had a huge popularity worldwide. Even today, it is popping up in the charts. On 31st May 2024, for example, it re-entered the German single charts (by the way, the third time within 12 months). I featured Don’t stop believin’ in the Songs of my Life.

My thought: I love Journey and look forward to be at their U.K. tour towards the end of the year. Of course, on the other hand, there is the full cast performance of Don’t stop believin’, which is so full of memories and emotions to me. I can’t and don’t want to decide between them – a clear top level draw at the end of this post.



Album covers and Rock of Ages logo are copyright protected.


Rock of Ages – The Originals (Spotify Playlist)

I featured all the originals of the musical in a Spotify playlist:

The musical versions are available on Spotify as well, in a Broadway recording:


All “classic” blog posts

No reviews – just debating and certain topics – these are my “traditional” blog posts in the categories Just blogging, Just blogging on music and Sports Blogging:


Rock of Ages (Musical)

Here are all postings related to the musical Rock of Ages:

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