Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Tattoos

Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Tattoos

Feature Photo: Sterling Munksgard /

The top 10 classic rock songs about tattoos primarily come from a list of recording artists who’ve personally experienced decorating their bodies with ink. There are a variety of reasons why a person decides to get a tattoo. Among the most common are usually an engraving of a loved one’s name, usually acting as a memorial or tribute to that someone special. Sometimes, tattoos are drawn as a bold statement that typically has a permanent impression instead of something plastered on a t-shirt.

Everyone who has received a tattoo has a story to go with it. In some cases, receiving a tattoo was a whimsical decision brought on as a spur of the moment while celebrating or partying with some friends and the influence of alcohol has played a factor. Among the talent pool of rockin’ recording artists, they have stories of their own to tell in the form of what was sometimes a pretty good rock song.

Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Tattoos

#10 – New Tattoo (performed by Saving Abel)

Mississippi-based Saving Abel was the rock band behind “New Tattoo,” a hard rockin’ frisky song about sporting a new tattoo and showing it off to everyone who crosses your path. Released in 2008, this song was the lead track from the group’s self-titled debut album. Although “New Tattoo” wasn’t released as a single, it became an unofficial anthem among the fans who shared their fondness for tattoos.

Saving Abel was the same album that featured the hits “Addicted,” “18 Days,” and “Drowning (Face Down).” The album itself became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Written by guitarist Jason Null, “New Tattoo” was based on a true story he experienced while he embarked on what he referenced as a rowdy road trip.

#9 – Tattoo Vampire (performed by Blue Oyster Cult)

In 1976, the Blue Oyster Cult released its fourth studio album, Agents of Fortune. This is the same album that featured the hit single “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which became an all-time timeless cult classic. Another song on the certified platinum album’s tracklist was “Tattoo Vampire.” In the lyrics, Eric Bloom shared a sexual encounter he had with a vampire tattoo artist. The beauty of this song was the opening riffs that sounded like the heart was pumping out of control before Bloom’s vocals piped in. The guitar works performed by Donald Roeser, Allen Lanier, and Joe Bouchard sounded out of this world, giving listeners what almost sounded like a supernatural experience. When listening to this song, you might want to wear some garlic, just in case.

#8 – Tattooed Millionaire (performed by Bruce Dickinson)

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame released his first album as a solo artist in 1990, titled Tattooed Millionaire. Its title track was a song that focused on the wild lifestyles enjoyed by big-name rockers in what was a direct slap in the face against Motley Crue’s bass guitarist, Nikki Sixx. The inspiration behind the song came to Dickinson after learning his wife at the time cheated on him with Sixx. When this was released in the UK as a single, it peaked as high as number eighteen on its UK Singles Chart.

Recording the entire album was a two-week project he and guitarist Janick Gers embarked on while the rest of the Iron Maiden crew was taking a much-needed breather. At first, the song started with the sound of a beacon before the guitar riffs performed by Gers kicked in. From there, Dickinson shared his woes as a man scorned by a cheating woman with a man whom he perhaps once upon a time thought was a friend.

#7 – Tattoo (performed by Van Halen)

Released in 2012 as a single, “Tattoo” demonstrated the iconic rock group known as Van Halen still had enough juice left to produce one final hit before calling it quits. This came from the band’s twelfth studio album, A Different Kind of Truth. Inspired by a 1977 Van Halen live concert classic, “Down in Flames,” “Tattoo” featured David Lee Roth as the band’s lead vocalist, Eddie Van Halen as the lead guitarist, and Alex Van Halen as the drummer. Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, played bass guitar.

The story behind “Tattoo” begins with the earlier days of Van Halen when a much younger band was at its most prolific as songwriters. When fans heard “Tattoo” for the first time, it took them down memory lane as a song bearing resemblance to “Down in Flames.” According to Roth, “Tattoo” was simply a song about this form of body art and overcoming the fear of the needle and the feeling of pain that comes with it. For him, getting a tattoo is like performing a rite of passage.

When “Tattoo” was released as a single, it was a minor hit at number sixty-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was more popular on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart at number sixteen. In Canada, it peaked as high as number sixty-two. It was especially popular in Japan at number fourteen.

#6 – Red Dragon Tattoo (performed by Fountains of Wayne)

Hailing out of New York City was a rock band called Fountains of Wayne. Between 1995 and 2013, Chris Collingwood, Jody Porter, Adam Schlesinger, and Brian Young recorded and released six studio albums with a variety of pop-rock styles. The band is best known for its 2003 hit single, “Stacy’s Mom.” Before this, Fountains of Wayne recorded and released “Red Dragon Tattoo,” which belonged to the group’s second studio album, Utopia Parkway.

This song was part of a themed album that focused on everyday living in the suburbs. It also became a fan favorite that was played often by Fountains of Wayne in concert. “Red Dragon Tattoo” was about a boy getting himself tattooed to try and impress a girl he had a crush on. According to the lyrics, Chris Collingwood went to Coney Island to get the “Red Dragon Tattoo” before approaching his love interest to show off his brand new piece of body art.

#5 – Angel with Tattoos (performed by Skylar Grey)

Skylar Grey is a singer-songwriter from Wisconsin who began to make her mark as a recording artist in 2006. At the time, she went by the name of Holly Brook and released her first studio album, Like Blood Like Honey. With the niche of pop rock as her main sound as a musician, she’s also been known to fuse country and hip-hop into her material. It was she who co-wrote “Love the Way You Lie,” a 2010 hit for Eminem and Rihanna when they sang this as a duet. In 2013, now as Skylar Grey, she released her second studio album, Don’t Look Down.

As for “Angel with Tattoos,” this was a touching ballad that had Grey seek approval from her love interest’s mother as she didn’t seem to care for the young woman’s previous lifestyle and tattooed appearance. In a promise not to do her man wrong, Grey pointed out that the faded ink on her body was nothing more than a piece of her past she has since walked away from. This was recorded and released in 2019 as Grey’s sixth EP, also titled Angel with Tattoos. Even though it was released as a single it failed to make an impression on the music charts. It did, however, mark a lasting impression among a fan base who could relate to the song’s story.

#4 – New Tattoo (performed by Motley Crue)

In 2000, Motley Crue released its eighth studio album, New Tattoo. This was the lone album produced by the heavy metal band from Hollywood, California not to feature Tommy Lee as its drummer. After his departure the year prior, he was replaced by Randy Castillo of Ozzy Osbourne fame. “New Tattoo” was a power ballad sung by Vince Neil as he was addressing his new love interest in the form of a confession.

He admitted he decorated his body with her in mind as he revealed who his heart belonged to. Wonderfully performed by the dynamic guitaring duo of Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx, “New Tattoo” had a proud Neil wanting nothing more than to show off his new body art to the entire world. This song was released as a promo single in 2001 but failed to hit the official music charts. It did, however, tattoo itself into the hearts of heavy metal fans as Neil once again had them swooning over his incredible vocals.

#3 – Tattoo (performed by The Who)

In 1967, The Who sang “Tattoo,” a song about two brothers who took it upon themselves to borrow money from their mother so they could run off and get tattooed while they were still teenagers. The decision came about after debating what makes a man a man. Sang by Roger Daltrey, the story unveiled the father disapproved of the tattoos while the mother had a mixed reaction.

She approved the singer’s tattoo but not his brother’s. The song itself was written by Pete Townsend as he recalled seeing men fully decorated with tattoos and was concerned perhaps one day he’d grow up to be like them. When “Tattoo” was written it was not intended to be recorded as a song striving to become a standout single. However, the vulnerabilities shared in “Tattoo” had Daltrey, Townsend, and the rest of The Who lineup at their finest. This isn’t a hard rocker but it is an instrumental gem that earns the right to be called a classic rock favorite.

#2 – Rose Tattoo (performed by Dropkick Murphys)

2013’s “Rose Tattoo” was a Celtic-style punk rock song about a man sharing the reason why he decided to use his body as a canvas. Of all the tattoos plastered on him, the most prized one of them all was the “Rose Tattoo.” Although the band’s music style has been Celtic punk rock, Rick Barton, Ken Casey, and Mike McColgan founded the group in Massachusetts in 1996. There was also a drummer named Jeff Erna but he was replaced by Matt Kelly a year later.

The band named itself after a detox facility that was named after Dr. John “Dropkick” Murphy. In the beginning, McColgan was the group’s lead singer but he left the band after it released its first full-length studio album, Do or Die. He was replaced by Al Barr, an unlikely candidate as he was considered the Dropkick Murphys as rivals at first. While the punk rock group underwent a series of lineup changes over the years, Barr and Casey remained as the two mainstays that kept Dropkick Murphys in the limelight as one of America’s favorite punk rockers.

In 2013, Signed and Sealed in Blood was released as the eighth studio album from Dropkick Murphys. The first “Rose Tattoo” single was released in November 2012 but failed to make much of an impression. In May 2013, there was a newly recorded version that featured Bruce Springsteen as guest vocalist. This was a recording that was featured on Rose Tattoo: For Boston Charity as a response to the Boston Marathon bombing that took place in April 2013.

This re-recorded version was released as a single on May 14, 2013, and was popular enough to peak as high as number twenty-five on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. As for the story behind the “Rose Tattoo,” this is an actual piece of body art that appears on Ken Casey’s arm. It serves as a memorial to his grandfather who took over raising him after his father died. The music video shot for “Rose Tattoo” features the original release, which was uploaded to the YouTube channel belonging to the Dropkick Murphys.

#1 – Ink (performed by Coldplay)

“Ink” was a song performed by the British-based rock group, Coldplay. Originally founded as Big Fat Noises in 1997, it didn’t take long before Coldplay became international superstars as a group of musicians who knew how to rock the house down. Coldplay has been ranked as one of the most awarded rock groups in history, along with a track record of becoming one of the best-selling musical acts of all time. Released as a single in 2014, “Ink” quickly made a big impression across Europe as yet another fantastic hit from a talent pool of incredible musicians.

It was a number four hit in Belgium, a number twenty-two hit in Ireland, and a number thirty-one hit in the Netherlands. “Ink” also appeared on the official music charts belonging to Italy, Switzerland, and the UK. In Italy, the song also became certified platinum after selling over fifty thousand streams in that nation. This song came from Coldplay’s sixth studio album, Ghost Stories.

Coldplay has a knack for performing songs that really dig deep into a listener’s psyche while listening to the lyrics. Chris Martin’s vocal performance with “Ink” had such a powerful impact. The song was primarily used as a metaphor that love is like a tattoo. As painful as it seems to have a new tattoo applied, it’s even more painful to have it removed.

The timing of this song came after Martin separated from his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow. Already going through a great deal of pain after having a decade-long marriage disintegrate, “Ink” served as a reflection of the difficult time he was going through. In the animated music video, the hero of the story is on the hunt, looking for lost love. The video was unique as it allowed viewers to determine the final outcome of “Ink” as a story. The one aired on YouTube won out by popular vote as the overall favorite.

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