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There is an argument that we are presently in a cultural "Golden Age." At no other point in human history has the same amount of information and art been available to as many people. On the very same computer, tablet or whatever that you're using to read this sentence, almost every painting, sculpture, book, film, TV show, song, symphony and bit of information that has ever existed might be just a click away. And the NSA will watch along as we read and watch it.

Of course, along with all the material comes opinions from everyone and their brother about what it all means.

With music, people can sometimes miss the deeper subtext of a song or totally misinterpret the meaning of the lyrics. Have you ever been at a wedding where you hear a song played during the reception, and it's like "Why in God's name would you play this?!?" I've occasionally heard Nick Gilder's Hot Child in the City on the public address system at malls and department stores as background music. Because a song about child prostitution is perfect for when the family is out shopping for drapes at Bed Bath & Beyond. This sort of thing also applies to the use of music in commercials, especially political commercials. There have been more than a few occasions in which a campaign has been embarrassed by using a campaign song whose lyrics didn't exactly mean what they thought it meant.

So ... what are the most interesting song meanings, misinterpretations or subtexts?

Last week, Alanis Morissette wrote a campaign theme song for Marianne Williamson, who's running for Rep. Henry Waxman's seat in California's 33rd district. Morissette said in a statement that the song, Today, is meant to capture Williamson's qualities and the state of America.

However, not every political campaign is savvy enough to either get the support of the artist or even pick a song that's thematically appropriate. President Reagan's 1984 campaign famously wanted to use Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. because of the patriotic qualities of the title, totally overlooking the lyrics—which are about the struggles of a Vietnam vet who's lost in society. Another one of Springsteen's songs that people misunderstand is Glory Days. A lot of people think of it as an upbeat, happy song, but if you listen to the lyrics, it's a song in which a middle-aged guy is basically talking about how much life sucks compared to the "glory days" of high-school.

Heart's Barracuda made news in the 2008 presidential campaign when Sarah Palin used it for campaign events without getting permission, pissing off the Wilson sisters something awful. There have been some interesting interpretations as to what the song means, including the idea that it's about oral sex ("You’d have me down down down down on my knees. Now wouldn’t you, barracuda?") However, the song is actually a response to the scumbags at Heart's record label of the time, which ran ads claiming Ann and Nancy Wilson were involved in an incestuous relationship as a way of promoting the band.

So here are songs where the intended meaning might be different than what popular consensus assumes.

► R.E.M.  - "This one goes out to the one I love ... This one goes out to the one I've left behind ... A simple prop to occupy my time"


R.E.M. has two songs that people totally misinterpret. Even though the video for Losing My Religion plays with religious symbols, the song is not about religion or spirituality. Michael Stipe has said in interviews that it's actually about unrequited love that borders on obsession.

However, the band's very first hit is also not quite understood. The One I Love is a song in which people look at the title, listen to the first two lines and think it's a love song. But Stipe has called it an "incredibly violent" song, with a theme of playing on emotions and using someone over and over again.

► The Village People  - "It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. ... They have everything for young men to enjoy ... You can hang out with all the boys"


As a form of protest, gay rights activists suggested using The Village People's Y.M.C.A. during the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics for the introduction of the United States team. However, the group's former lead singer, Victor Willis, who wrote the lyrics for the song, let it be known that "Y.M.C.A." is not veiled lyrics about being gay. According to Willis, the song is about ... well, the fun of staying at the Y.M.C.A. Whether that's believable, I'll let you decide.

For this particular song, it's a situation where the people in the group don't always agree with the intention of the group's creators. The Village People was created by French composer Jacques Morali and music producer Henri Belolo. Their intention was to target gay disco fans and the group is composed of gay male stereotypes/fantasies. And there is some record that Morali, who was gay, wanted to mainstream images of gay men through double entendre with The Village People. However, performers in The Village People have denied that intention, and Willis has complained the performers were typecast as a gay group.

► U2 - "Is it getting better? Or do you feel the same? Will it make it easier on you now? You got someone to blame"


One is the third track on 1991's Achtung Baby. The song has a habit of showing up at wedding receptions, with the lyrics of "one love, one blood, one life" being a favorite of couples entering eternal union.

Bono has said the song is about relationships. But there are many differing interpretations of the song, with explanations anywhere between a girl, an AIDS victim or struggles within U2 itself. Also, the lyrics are not exactly about the union of people in "one love." There's much more melancholy to it, with the lyrics coming from the perspective of someone who feels wronged in a relationship begging the other person to come to their senses and function in a relationship.

► Queen - "Mama, just killed a man ... Put a gun against his head ... Pulled my trigger, now he's dead ... Mama, life had just begun ... But now I've gone and thrown it all away"


Written by Freddie Mercury for Queen's 1975 album A Night at the Opera, Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the band's most famous and elaborate tracks. It is also one for which there is no definitive meaning as to what the lyrics are supposed to represent. Mercury refused to divulge the song's meaning and even suggested it was just "random rhyming nonsense," and the living members of Queen have remained tight-lipped about it as well.
Freddie Mercury: "It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them."
However, that hasn't kept people from speculating. One interpretation of the song is that it's about a man who accidentally killed someone and sold his soul to the devil. He calls out to God before his execution (i.e. "Bismillah!") and is saved.

Another theory is that it's about troubles in Freddie Mercury's childhood, or it's about Mercury's sexuality, since the song came around the same time his relationship with girlfriend Mary Austin was falling apart, and he acknowledged his bisexuality.

► The Vapors - "No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women ... No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it's dark"


1980's Turning Japanese has always been rumored to be a song about masturbation, with the "turning Japanese" being a politically incorrect euphemism for the look a man has when he climaxes.

However, the band denies it, and has said the song is about a guy who lost his girlfriend and is going so crazy that he's turning Japanese.

► Billy Idol - "When there's no-one else in sight... In the crowded lonely night... Well I wait so long... For my love vibration... And I'm dancing with myself"


Interestingly, "Turning Japanese" is not the only Japanese-themed song rumored to be about masturbation. Billy Idol swears Dancing With Myself is NOT about masturbation either. Instead, he claims it was inspired by being in a Japanese club that was lined with mirrors, and seeing people dancing by themselves.

► Percy Sledge - "When a man loves a woman, he can't keep his mind on nothing else ... He'll trade the world for the good thing he's found ... If she is bad, he can't see it, she can do no wrong ... Turn his back on his best friend if he put her down"


Percy Sledge's 1966 hit, When a Man Loves a Woman, is considered a classic love song, and it was a Number 1 hit for Michael Bolton in 1991 as well.

But if you listen to the lyrics, it's NOT a love story. The song tells the tale of a man who's used as a doormat, trying to hold on to "heartless love" and begging the woman he loves not to treat him bad.

► The Rolling Stones - "Brown sugar how come you taste so good? Brown sugar just like a young girl should"


Brown Sugar is the opening track and lead single from the Stones' 1971 album Sticky Fingers. The song was originally titled by Mick Jagger as "Brown Pussy" and was first performed live at the infamous Altamont concert where the Hells Angels security stabbed a man to death. Most people think of the song as being Jagger's ode to having sex with a black woman. But if you listen to the lyrics, the song tells the story of slaves sold in New Orleans, with the women being the "brown sugar" that are beaten and raped.

However, an alternate interpretation of the song is that it's about heroin, with the person being "mastered" by brown sugar (aka brown heroin).

Mick Jagger: "I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, 'Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop.' I can't just write raw like that."

► Radiohead - "I don't care if it hurts ... I want to have control ... I want a perfect body ... I want a perfect soul ... I want you to notice when I'm not around ... You're so fucking special ... I wish I was special"


Creep was a huge hit  for Radiohead and considered one of the best songs of 1990s. Rumored to be about a girl that lead singer Thom Yorke had a crush on, Yorke has said the track is about being in love with someone, but not feeling you're good enough. He describes the feeling as, "there's the beautiful people and then there's the rest of us." However, Radiohead has come to hate the song, since given its popularity the band, and particularly Yorke, became identified with it and get asked to perform it over and over again. Yorke dislikes the song so much that he's said in interviews that Radiohead "sucked Satan's cock" when they rode it to stardom. In some interviews, Yorke has offered an alternate interpretation of the song. Instead of being a sympathetic perspective, the song is everything that's wrong about the loaner, slacker sad sack that obsesses over a girl.

This song is also a famous case of plagiarism. A chord progression can't be copyrighted, but a song's melody can. "Creep" uses the chord progression from The Hollies' The Air That I Breathe in its verse and the melody from the song in the bridge following the second chorus of "Creep." The writers of "The Air That I Breathe," Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, noticed and sued Radiohead. Both Hammond and Hazlewood are now credited as co-writers of "Creep" in the liner notes of Pablo Honey.

► The Police - "Every breath you take, and every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you"


Every Breath You Take was among the list of Rolling Stone's 500 greatest song of all-time, but it is NOT a love song and should never be played at weddings ever again. Do people even listen to the first line of the song? Sting wrote the song after breaking up with his first wife, Frances Tomelty, and the track is about an obsessive stalker who wants to watch a lost lover out of jealousy.
Sting: "I think it's a nasty little song, really rather evil. It's about jealousy and surveillance and ownership ... I think the ambiguity is intrinsic in the song however you treat it because the words are so sadistic. On one level, it's a nice long song with the classic relative minor chords, and underneath there's this distasteful character talking about watching every move. I enjoy that ambiguity. I watched Andy Gibb singing it with some girl on TV a couple of weeks ago, very loving, and totally misinterpreting it. (Laughter) I could still hear the words, which aren't about love at all. I pissed myself laughing."
This isn't the only song that gets misinterpreted for special occasions. Green Day's Good Riddance (Time of your life) used to get played at graduations a lot. While it's true the song's original meaning is about a change in a person's life, it's not in the way most people take it. The song, written by Billie Joe Armstrong, was about a breakup with his girlfriend who was leaving for Ecuador, hence the "good riddance" in the title. The Whitney Houston version of I Will Always Love You also has a habit of showing up at weddings. While it does speak about a love that will always be there, it's actually a sad song that's about separation and moving on. The song was written by Dolly Parton for her partner Porter Wagoner, with it being Parton's swan song to Wagoner and marks the parting of ways.

► Eagles - "On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair ... Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air"


Hotel California was a huge hit for the Eagles and is the title track to their 1976 album of  the same name, which is also one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Over the years, there have been many theories on what the song is actually about. Some think it was based on an actual hotel. Some think the "hotel" of the song is a mental asylum, and the lyrics describe the experience of a disturbed person in involuntary, long-term care. However, the biggest urban legend connected to the song is that it's about Satanism. Proponents of that interpretation point to the lyrics which talk about wanting to "Kill the beast" and "Stab it with their steely knives," with Hell being a place where "you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave."

And they also point to a weird-looking, shadowy dude on the inside album cover, with pre-internet, tinfoil hat speculation being that it's Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan.

However, Don Henley has said the song is about hedonism and greed in the music industry and the country as a whole during the '70s. Henley has also referred to it as a song about the loss of innocence.
The album has as its underlying theme the corruption of impressionable rock stars by the decadent Los Angeles music industry. The celebrated title track presents California as a gilded prison the artist freely enters only to discover that he cannot later escape.
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Comment Preferences

  •  my personal favorite (12+ / 0-)

    Iggy Pop (& David Bowie's) "Lust For Life"
    - a song about living the heroin life, albeit briefly, used to sell the "wholesome life" aboard a cruise ship....

    Youtube video here
    (starts with a commercial - sorry)

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:08:49 PM PDT

  •  I'm kind of surprised (9+ / 0-)

    I was expecting to see "Gigantic" by the Pixies below the cut, given it's recent use in an iPhone commercial.

    •  I was astonished (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, high uintas, ER Doc

      I couldn't believe it when I first saw the TV ad.   A song about a big penis used to sell iCrap.  Did no one at Apple bother to looking into the song meaning before they licensed this song?  

    •  I know nothing about the Pixies, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, VPofKarma

      but I saw that and went, "Really?"
      I really like "Creep" and never liked the Hollies song, or made the connection. ("He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" and "Bus Stop" were great, but I think 'Long, Cool Woman" is my favorite Hollies.)
      It's so exasperating to hear artists whine about the popularity of their biggest hit. Everything Radiohead does, and everybody does at some point, is the same old shit. Step aside, if your tired of it, and we'll keep it on our own rotations as we see fit. You sold it. We bought it. It's ours, now.

      and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

      by le sequoit on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:24:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And while I'm on my soapbox, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VPofKarma

        Bono says the this-is-too-depressing-to-sell-CDs-so-here part of "One" is about tolerating difference, and not the "old hippie" living together kind of thing. Leave my generation out of it, dude, you can't use the word "hippie" and know anything about it.

        and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

        by le sequoit on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:52:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I still haven't gotten over the cognitive (21+ / 0-)

    dissonance of watching thousands of sweet, dewey-eyed girls singing along to "Every Breath You Take" at the Singularity tour concert in Biloxi.

    I shudder still.

    Then again, I recently heard "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," the original, with complete lyrics, in the grocery store, so what do I know?

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:11:10 PM PDT

  •  Musical meaning (12+ / 0-)

    I think in many ways the 60's were the most innovative decade in music.  The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who set the stage for most of what was to come.  Now I listen mainly to alternative rock, but I still hear the influences.

  •  Any song by Elton John (10+ / 0-)

    Not because of any nefarious reason - just because his diction is so bad you can't really understand what he is saying.  "She has electric boobs and a mohawk too...."  :)

  •  Electrical banana. nt (8+ / 0-)

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi, 6/30/07 // "Succeed?" At what?

    by nailbender on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:20:20 PM PDT

  •  Everything is actually gay. That's in The Agenda, (13+ / 0-)

    Article 7, Section 666: "Any representation of any idea, regardless of derivation, shall include at least one -- and ideally, two -- potential gay subtexts without exception."

    And also, Article 9, Section 12: "Everyone is secretly gay cf. Republican Party, Section 69, Article 69."

    Once you put convenient, lethal force in the mix, liberty becomes a zero sum game. -- DIgby on open carry.

    by Rikon Snow on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:21:22 PM PDT

  •  Many years ago (12+ / 0-)

    I heard Mary Travers in concert.  She mentioned the exasperation of dealing with the persistent rumor  that "Puff the Magic Dragon" was about marijuana.  It's a song with no subtext at all:  a child's fantasy about a dragon.

    I've also heard the theory that "Me and Mrs Jones" is about heroin, since a drug habit is a "jones."

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:24:25 PM PDT

  •  Gaaah (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, jbeach, wilderness voice

    Hot Child in the City is NOT about child prostitution. Nowhere is a financial transaction mentioned, and indeed the subject of the lyrics is nothing more than an object of desire (the dream of the singer is never consummated - he only wants to make love, and never gets to go through with the act). Her age is never mentioned, except to say that she's young - the subject could be in her 20's for all the listener knows. The choice of words is unfortunate in today's understanding, but this song really is simply a song designed to get the singer laid on the road, nothing more - the 70's equivalent of "Damn You're a Sexy Bitch."

  •  Funny, I thought Hotel California was about (4+ / 0-)

    California, and how people go out there "on vacation" and never come back.  And, since I've met some of them (no disrespect) it made sense.

    People who think politics is stupid are doomed to be ruled by stupid people.

    by ban48 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:25:16 PM PDT

    •  As I understand it, it is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MHB, Aquarius40, ban48

      Specifically it's about the extremely decadent lifestyle found in much of SoCal in the late seventies. Remember, none of the Eagles were originally from there, so to them it may have really felt like some cosmic hotel they had checked into and now couldn't leave.

      Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

      by RamblinDave on Mon May 12, 2014 at 10:25:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  For the love of Pete (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, ER Doc

    "The album has as its underlying theme the corruption of impressionable rock stars by the decadent Los Angeles music industry."

  •  And the classic... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, Blueiz, aitchdee, VPofKarma, cheminMD

    Libertarianism, n: A political philosophy some people embrace after the roads have been paved. (Stolen from Kurt Weldon)

    by lineatus on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:31:53 PM PDT

  •  Donna Summer's 'Bad Girls" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, ER Doc

    Being used by Nickelodeon to huck Rug Rats episodes featuring Angelica....

    I just sort of thought about how the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" could be stiff-armed and contorted into having some sort of Science Fiction meaning. I've done it twice. William Gibson has done it once.

    "If this Studebaker had anymore Atomic Space-Age Style, you'd have to be an astronaut with a geiger counter!"

    by Stude Dude on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:32:43 PM PDT

  •  i always thought "horse w/ no name" (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude, palantir, aitchdee, ER Doc, Ender

    was about heroin addiction.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:33:53 PM PDT

  •  The ultimate mis-meaning of a song (6+ / 0-)

    But here's the truth:

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:34:02 PM PDT

    •  I wrote a piece called B.S. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, zenbassoon, aitchdee, wasatch, ER Doc

      Few believe me when I tell them it meant "Bass Solo".  But the entire melody is the bass line.  Eventually I decided I had to rename it "B.S. (Bass Solo)".

      Whatever.

    •  Sooooo TRUE (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      offgrid, tampaedski

      And Lennon wrote about a specific LSD trip - with no hidden context.

      It's called "She Said She Said". The "she" is Peter Fonda and it's about an acid trip where Fonda kept bumming everybody out by saying he knew what it was like to be dead.

      On the same album, "Revolver", is the OBVIOUS drug dealer reference song "Dr. Robert".

      And of course there's "Cold Turkey". Reportedly nixed from a Beatles album by Paul.

    •  John Lennon's explanations of his own lyrics (0+ / 0-)

      are notoriously unreliable.  

      Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

      by Big River Bandido on Tue May 13, 2014 at 06:30:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That may be, but there's not much doubt (0+ / 0-)

        about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

        The actual Lucy just died a couple of years ago.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Tue May 13, 2014 at 11:38:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Whether or not the Julian anecdote (0+ / 0-)

          is factually true or not is rather irrelevant to Lennon's post-interpretation.  As a composer myself, it strains all credibility to believe that such "coincidences" could occur in such a work without the author's real-time recognition.  It's just not believable.

          And even if it were, all of this brings up the larger point that the composer/author of a text is also not the final arbiter of its meaning.  Creators are a channel for a work of art, but we are not the "owners".  We are not even given carte blanche to decide or tell others what a work of art "means".  Meaning is purely in the eye (and ear) of the beholder/listener.

          Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

          by Big River Bandido on Tue May 13, 2014 at 12:45:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Congratulations, now you're a deconstructionist. (0+ / 0-)

            Enjoy life in a bizarro world where the recipient of a communication has no obligation to consider the intention of the sender, and anything may therefore mean anything.

            For myself, I believe this is attitude is arrogant solipsistry that strips all of the virtue, significance, and purpose from art.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Tue May 13, 2014 at 12:55:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Many years ago in Saudi Arabia (7+ / 0-)

    I heard what was probably the most incongruous choice of music I have ever encountered.  First a bit of background:  in many Third World countries, but especially in the Arab world, you will see video on news programs with no commentary at all, only music.  So, imagine watching two or three minutes of video where the cameraman pans up and down a row of Saudi princes sitting in Louis XVI chairs along the perimeter or a vast reception room while accompanied by the strains of Amazing Grace!  Had anyone realized it was a Christian song, the whole production staff would probably have been fired.  And in a way almost funnier, during another newscast they were playing Roll Out the Barrel, again a total no-no because of the stricture against alcohol in Islam.  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:34:31 PM PDT

  •  Like a Stone (Audioslave), also often thought (6+ / 0-)

    to be about religion, although the bands insists otherwise.

    I listened to it, and it clicked: "Hey. That's clinical depression."

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:37:36 PM PDT

  •  Radiohead "Creep" -- you don't often find (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, palantir, aitchdee, ER Doc

    a song that songs that creepy, and it's in a major key, no less!

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:40:24 PM PDT

  •  Great diary. One quibble. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, palantir, aitchdee, ER Doc, MHB, Ahianne

    The guy at Altamont was stabbed to death (not beaten) by a Hell's Angel after he waved a gun at the Rolling Stones while they were playing on stage.

    Obi Ben Ghazi to House Republicans: "Use the Farce."

    by edg on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:44:16 PM PDT

  •  "Happy Together" by The Turtles (9+ / 0-)

    This is always played at weddings, and I don't know why.

    The first word gives it away: "IMAGINE me and you. ... I think about you day and night." The rest of the song is about a guy who can't get the girl. At the end, it dissolves into small talk: "how is the weather?"

  •  Old farts like me remember "Louie Louie" ... (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, BYw, aitchdee, wasatch, ER Doc, MHB, Ahianne

    by The Kingsmen and the controversy about the lyrics. The vocals are extremely hard to understand and all sorts of interpretations were created. My older sister swore up and down that they played it at a lower RPM in gym class and the lyrics contained "To fuck a girl .. all kind of ways" and "Tell her I'll never lay her again".

    The band swears up and down there are no swear words and it's just an innocent remake of Robin Roberts and The Wailers version of song. But that didn't stop record burnings and an FBI investigation for obscenity.

    Obi Ben Ghazi to House Republicans: "Use the Farce."

    by edg on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:53:55 PM PDT

    •  The FBI investigated the song for about a year (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MHB, Ahianne

      and concluded they couldn't understand the lyrics. Your tax dollars at work.

      I played/sang it in garage and bar bands throughout the 60s, and the lyrics aren't that hard to figure out. There's no profanity or even anything suggestive - one of the lines you cite is actually "Tell her I'll never leave again" - it makes no sense at all the other way, and the song does make sense. You have to listen on decent audio equipment though, which most people didn't have back then.

      For example, there's a Beach Boys version (pretty bad, IMO) where you can understand the lyrics, and I think they have them right.

      There is (possibly) a "fuck" in the Kingsmen's version though - it's where somebody makes a mistake, but I just listened to it again and didn't hear it. You might hear it if you know where to listen, but it isn't too obvious. Or it might not be there.

      No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

      by badger on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:50:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pixies Gigantic used to sell iPhones? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, wasatch, ER Doc, Ahianne

    Recently Apple licensed the Pixies song Gigantic to sell its iPhones.    Apparently no one at Apple bothered looking at the lyrics of the song.

    "Gigantic, gigantic, gigantic
    A big big love

    Lovely legs they are
    What a big black mess
    What a hunk of love
    Walk her every day into a shady place
    He's like the dark, but I'd want him

    Hey Paul, Hey Paul, Hey Paul, let's have a ball"

    Meaning not clear enough?  Here is the woman who wrote the lyrics explaining what it's about.

    http://youtu.be/...

  •  How about the song by Melanie, (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aitchdee, Blueiz, wasatch, ER Doc, badger, Ahianne

    Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma, about her music being misused...ending up in a commercial! For oatmeal, wasn't it? This happened in the late 1980s or early 1990s, so I forget the details.

    I think the line in the ad was "Look what they've done to my oatmeal." It seemed surreal to me, to take a song about twisting the artist's lyrics, and turning it into a commercial about food. Most consumers didn't know or care, I suppose.

  •  are there really satanists? (0+ / 0-)

    i mean yeah there are people that claim they are satanists

    but is there really like a satanic cult that does horrible things?

    is there a nice form of satanists?

    i am really ignorant about things like this

  •  Every Breath you Take (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krush, aitchdee, wasatch, Aquarius40, Ahianne

    It was originally interpreted to be about someone stalking their ex (local DJs in Boston frequently made snark remarks about this when introducing it).

    However, it's also interpreted to be a comment on British surveillance society, which was just emerging at the time.  The two themes actually play well together -- how many stalkers have resorted to using advanced technology to watch their victims?

    Conservatives and corporate America, in particular, are notorious for picking up on popular songs without actually listening to the lyrics (and without asking permission or paying royalties).  Ask Sarah Palin's music director about "Barracuda."

  •  Maurice Jarre and David Lean (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aitchdee, wasatch, ER Doc

    As he explains in a concert video, Maurice Jarre wrote a 'wedding suite' for one of David Lean's marriages, blending the themes he had composed for several of Lean's films.  The fact that two of those films, Dr. Zhivago and Ryan's Daughter, are about adultery seems to have eluded him.  But that's Hollywood.

  •  Speaking of Losing My Religion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MI Sooner, aitchdee, Doctor RJ

    I love how the song sounds in a major key:
    (As a side note--no pun intended--the song "Beat It" definitely does NOT work in the converted major key--it ruins the motif.)

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:09:59 PM PDT

  •  i dont care what michael stipes says (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, Doctor RJ, aitchdee

    I'm still keeping the refrain as my better half's ringtone.  her daughter made the ringtone for me.  

    -- Just the the first line of the chorus...

    for my darling baby sister (no mention of her age -- she'd kill me right quick, but we were both just graduating from college at the time of the song), her ringtone is from another REM song:  

    It's the end of the world as we know it.
    when asked what i picked for her -- she guessed, without a hint.

    Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

    by MI Sooner on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:17:22 PM PDT

  •  okay Doctor RJ (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, ER Doc, Doctor RJ

    just for reminding me about the rest of REM's for the one i love, riddle me this:

    what on god's (not so) green earth does Aqualung mean and the rest of the song?

    Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

    by MI Sooner on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:20:42 PM PDT

    •  IMO it's a straight forward story song (6+ / 0-)

      Some of my favorite songwriters write stories in other's voices or give you a slice of another's life.

      "Aqualung"

      Sitting on the park bench --
      eyeing little girls with bad intent.
      Snot is running down his nose --
      greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
      Aqualung
      Drying in the cold sun --
      Watching as the frilly panties run.
      Aqualung
      Feeling like a dead duck --
      spitting out pieces of his broken luck.
      Whoa, aqualung

      Sun streaking cold --
      an old man wandering lonely.
      Taking time
      the only way he knows.
      Leg hurting bad,
      as he bends to pick a dog-end --
      he goes down to the bog
      and warms his feet.

      Feeling alone --
      the army's up the road
      salvation a la mode and
      a cup of tea.
      Aqualung my friend --
      don't you start away uneasy
      you poor old sod, you see, it's only me.
      Do you still remember
      The December's foggy freeze --
      when the ice that
      clings on to your beard was
      screaming agony.
      And you snatch your rattling last breaths
      with deep-sea-diver sounds,
      and the flowers bloom like

      Some humans ain't human some people ain't kind. They lie through their teeth with their head up their behind. You open up their hearts and here's what you'll find - Some humans ain't human some people ain't kind. John Prine

      by high uintas on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:35:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  so (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas

        aqualung is an old friend who has had a rough go of it?  it is the term aqualung that always threw me off.  

        i agree it seems to be a story of a guy down on his luck, homeless, broken, to the point not caring anymore.

        okay, i was a young lad when this one came out -- that's my story and i'm sticking to it.

        Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

        by MI Sooner on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:41:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  okay -- i broke done and googled it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          foresterbob, high uintas

          ian and his wife were taking pictures in an area of London not on the tourist must hit places.  sort of like going through the poorer parts of any major city and then having the ability to write about it.

          Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

          by MI Sooner on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:56:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You may notice (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Thorby Baslim, offgrid, Ahianne, MI Sooner

            that I use John Prine lyrics for my sig lines. I love his story telling and a good example is this song from his first album.

            "Angel From Montgomery"

            I am an old woman named after my mother
            My old man is another child that's grown old
            If dreams were lightning thunder was desire
            This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

            [Chorus:]
            Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
            Make me a poster of an old rodeo
            Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
            To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

            When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy
            He weren't much to look at, just free rambling man
            But that was a long time and no matter how I try
            The years just flow by like a broken down dam.

            [Chorus]

            There's flies in the kitchen I can hear 'em there buzzing
            And I ain't done nothing since I woke up today.
            How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
            And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.

            [Chorus]

            Some humans ain't human some people ain't kind. They lie through their teeth with their head up their behind. You open up their hearts and here's what you'll find - Some humans ain't human some people ain't kind. John Prine

            by high uintas on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:15:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Aqualung is about homelessness. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tampaedski, Ahianne, MI Sooner

      The title refers to the line "and you snatch your rattling last breaths with deep-sea-diver sounds". Now, what the hell is Thick as a Brick about?

      warning: snark probably above

      by NE2 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 10:02:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are so many (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, MHB

    Jackson Browne's Rosie . The chorus (after losing a girl to the drummer):

    But Rosie you're all right - you wear my ring
    When you hold me tight - Rosie that's my thing
    When you turn out the light - I've got to hand it to me
    Looks like it's me and you again tonight Rosie
    Cyndi Lauper's She Bop is the same subject, other gender (you can guess why they're all blind at the end of the video)..

    Aerosmith's Walk This Way has pretty explicit lyrics that a lot of people don't seem to notice. From the 80s, Toni Basil's Hey, Mickey that I've seen high school cheerleaders use in a routine.

    AC/DC's Big Balls is similar to the much older Lil Johnson's (love the name, too) Hot Nuts ("you get 'em from the peanut man" - right). For real oldies, there's also Bullmoose Jackson's Big 10 Inch (it's about a vinyl record - really), or Dinah Washington's Long John Blues about going to her dentist to get drilled.("He told me not to worry, my cavity just needed fillin'")

    Plenty about drugs too, for example, The Las' There She Goes Again covered by almost-Christian band Sixpence None the Richer ("There she blows again/Pulsing thru' my vein"), Talking Heads And She Was, Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man (about LSD) and some would even say Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon.

     

    No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

    by badger on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:29:29 PM PDT

    •  Aren't thise last four about fellatio? (0+ / 0-)

      I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

      by labradog on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:52:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Could be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aitchdee, Pale Jenova

        In some post-modernist interpretations, the meaning resides in the observer, not the artist or the media.

        David Byrne says his song is about drugs, and I can still do all 4 verses of Tambourine Man (the Byrds only used 1) and I think it's about drugs, for example: "Take me disappearing down the smoke rings of my mind/Down the foggy ruins of time". I think Dylan says it's not about drugs, but a lot of people think it is.

        Puff could be about anything - I have no opinion - but I think the rest of There She Goes lyrics are more about heroin than anything romantic or sexual.

        I once wrote a freshman English essay about interpretations of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" by various types, and a druggy could say "white as snow" refers to heroin or cocaine. People actually wrote books in the 70s that made similar claims about pop songs, mostly from a right-wing or religious perspective.

        No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

        by badger on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:09:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Paul did a routine where he made fun of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YellerDog

          the idea that "Puff the Magic Dragon" had anything to do with drugs.

          "You see, all songs are about drugs. Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light. C! That stands for cocaine!"

          Meanwhile . . .

          And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

          by Pale Jenova on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:52:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of old time blues (0+ / 0-)

      ... made heavy use of coded double entendres. Memphis Minnie had over a dozen of them including "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" and two variations on "Bumble Bee."

      Won't you be my chauffeur?
      Won't you be my chauffeur?
      I wants him to drive me
      I wants him to drive me downtown
      Yes, he drives so easy
      I can't turn him down

      And he makes better honey, any bumble bee I ever seen
      And he makes better honey, any bumble bee I ever seen
      And when he makes it, oh, how he makes me scream
  •  Jackson Browne's ode to masturbation... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, aitchdee

    ...Rosie.

    It's in the chorus/hook:
       

    But Rosie you're all right - you wear my ring
    When you hold me tight - Rosie that's my thing
    When you turn out the light - I've got to hand it to me
    Looks like it's me and you again tonight Rosie

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:47:43 PM PDT

  •  Taking a step back... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aitchdee

    It doesn't surprise me that ads are full of classic, subversive songs. The ad agencies are full of creative types who came of age listening to non-traditional music, and now they're selling cars, cruise lines & iCrap.

    It's not Apple who is picking the music, it's the Madmen (& Madwomen, hopefully) of today...

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:11:51 PM PDT

  •  Mozart's Requiem (5+ / 0-)

    Microsoft used it as background in one of their ads. As the music played "the damned and the accursed are convicted to the flames of hell", the narrator said "Where do you want to go today?".

    Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:22:50 PM PDT

  •  Jimi Hendrix - Scuse me while I kiss this guy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tampaedski

    It's Kiss The SKY!!!!

    Don't be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen. --- Matt King

    by hobie1616 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:25:14 PM PDT

  •  Route 66 (0+ / 0-)

    I was in a garage band in high school.  We made a lot of money playing frat gigs at Stanford.  The fratties would always go nuts when we played Route 66 because we ended it with, "Get your kicks on Route 66, you'll feel great on Route 68, you'll eat fine on Route 69."

    Ya gotta know your audience.

    Don't be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen. --- Matt King

    by hobie1616 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:29:48 PM PDT

  •  Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" (0+ / 0-)

    This is not a song about encouraging people to commit suicide, no matter what many people tried to say during the anti-heavy metal hysteria of the 1980s. The title is provocative, no doubt, but the lyrics make it abundantly clear that the song is about the inevitable destruction of alcoholism, which was Ozzy's great demon to wrestle for much of his career:

    Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker
    Suicide is slow with liquor
    Take a bottle drown your sorrows
    Then it floods away tomorrows

    Evil thoughts and evil doings
    Cold, alone you hang in ruins
    Thought that you'd escape the Reaper
    You can't escape the master keeper

    Cause you feel life's unreal and you're living a lie
    Such a shame, who's to blame and you're wondering why
    Then you ask from your cask is there life after birth
    What you saw can mean hell on this earth

    Now you live inside a bottle
    The Reaper's traveling at full throttle
    It's catching you but you don't see
    The Reaper's you and the Reaper is me

    Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker
    Suicide is slow with liquor
    Take a bottle drown your sorrows
    Then it floods away tomorrows

    "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

    by Lost Left Coaster on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:43:31 PM PDT

  •  Semi Charmed Life - 3rd Eye Blind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xanjabu, MHB
    I'm packed and I'm holding
    I'm smiling, she's living, she's golden
    She lives for me, says she lives for me
    Ovation, her own motivation
    She comes round and she goes down on me
    And I make her smile, like a drug for you
    Do ever what you wanna do, coming over you
    Keep on smiling, what we go through
    One stop to the rhythm that divides you

    And I speak to you like the chorus to the verse
    Chop another line like a coda with a curse
    Come on like a freak show takes the stage
    We give them the games we play, she said...

    I want something else, to get me through this
    Semi-charmed kinda life, baby, baby
    I want something else, I'm not listening when you say good-bye

    Doo doo doo, doo doo-doo doo...

    The sky was gold, it was rose
    I was taking sips of it through my nose
    And I wish I could get back there, someplace back there
    Smiling in the pictures you would take
    Doing crystal meth, will lift you up until you break
    It won't stop, I won't come down
    I keep stock with the tick-tock rhythm, I bump for the drop
    And then I bumped up, I took the hit that I was given
    Then I bumped again, then I bumped again
    I said...

    How do I get back there, to the place where I fell asleep inside you
    How do I get myself back to the place where you said...

    I want something else, to get me through this
    Semi-charmed kinda life, baby, baby
    I want something else, I'm not listening when you say good-by

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:47:24 PM PDT

  •  Cyndi Lauper's She-Bop (0+ / 0-)
    Well I see them every night in tight blue jeans
    In the pages of a blue boy magazine
    Hey I've been thinkin' of a new sensation
    I'm pickin' up good vibrations
    Oop she bop she bop

    Do I wanna go out with a lion's roar?
    Huh, yea, I wanna go south and get me some more
    Hey, they say that a stitch in time saves nine
    They say I better stop or I'll go blind
    Oop she bop she bop

    She bop he bop a we bop
    I bop you bop a they bop
    Be bop be bop a lu bop
    (I hope he will understand)

    She bop he bop a we bop
    I bop you bop a they bop
    Be bop be bop a lu she bop
    Oh she do she bop

    Hey, hey they say I better get a chaperone
    Because I can't stop messin' with the danger zone
    I won't worry, and I won't fret
    Ain't no law against it yet
    Oop she bop she bop

    Bottom line: most people do NOT really listen to song lyrics.  

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:49:56 PM PDT

  •  Steely Dan - Kid Charlemagne (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tampaedski
    While the music played you worked by candlelight
    Those San Francisco nights
    You were the best in town
    Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
    You turned it on the world
    That's when you turned the world around
    Did you feel like Jesus
    Did you realize
    That you were a champion in their eyes

    On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
    But yours was kitchen clean
    Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home
    Every A-Frame had your number on the wall
    You must have had it all
    You'd go to L.A. on a dare
    And you'd go it alone
    Could you live forever
    Could you see the day
    Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away

    [Chorus:]
    Get along, get along Kid Charlemagne
    Get along Kid Charlemagne

    Now your patrons have all left you in the red
    Your low rent friends are dead
    This life can be very strange
    All those dayglow freaks who used to paint the face
    They've joined the human race
    Some things will never change
    Son you were mistaken
    You are obsolete
    Look at all the white men on the street

    [Chorus]

    Clean this mess up else we'll all end up in jail
    Those test tubes and the scale
    Just get them all out of here
    Is there gas in the car
    Yes, there's gas in the car
    I think the people down the hall
    Know who you are

    Careful what you carry
    'Cause the man is wise
    You are still an outlaw in their eyes

    Of course -- Steely Dan's name in and of itself is quite risque...

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:52:50 PM PDT

  •  Two more: (0+ / 0-)

    "Lola" by the Kinks

    and "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"

    The former is about falling in love with a transvestite...the latter is about a couple who go behind each others back and place personal ads in the paper (Hey, it's from 1979 give him a break!) and find ...each other.

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:55:55 PM PDT

  •  Howzabout House of the Rising Sun as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vyan

    a wedding processional?  At least a dozen brides-to-be came into my dad's music store in Eugene, Oregon with that request.  (Well, it does have the same meter as Amazing Grace...)

  •  What about Sarah McLachlan's "Angel"? (0+ / 0-)

    It's nearly impossible to find an instance of anyone at all singing the damn thing on tv over the past few years without covering it like a a beautiful song about angels.

  •  CCR's "Fortunate Son" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryduck

    was used to sell Wrangler jeans. In that case they knew exactly what they were doing, because they cut out all the cynical lyrics.

    Fogarty doesn't own the right to that one anymore, BTW.

  •  Pat Benetar's "Hell is for Children" (0+ / 0-)

    My mother demanded we stop playing that "Satanic" song until we pointed out the song is about child abuse - and the lyrics are really clear. It's just the title is so provocative.

    Cruelty might be very human, and it might be very cultural, but it's not acceptable.- Jodie Foster

    by CPT Doom on Tue May 13, 2014 at 04:07:47 AM PDT

  •  Insurance commercial (0+ / 0-)

    I know I'm terribly late here but Human by Human League, a song about infidelity, being used to huck car etc insurance.

  •  For The Love Of Money car commercial (0+ / 0-)

    Buy that Toyota and start Saving "Money money money money, MONEY"

    Some people got to have it
    Hey, Hey, Hey - some people really need it

    Hey, listen to me, y'all do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - bad thangs with it
    Well, you wanna do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - good thangs with it - yeah

    Un Huh, talkin' bout cash money, money

    Talkin' bout cash money - dollar bills y'all - come on, now

    Yeah, yeah
    Yeah, yeah

    For the love of money
    People will steal from their mother

    For the love of money
    People will rob their own brother

    For the love of money
    People can't even walk the streets
    Because they'll never know who in the world they're gonna beat
    For that mean, oh mean, mean green

    Almighty Dollar!

    Cash Money

    For the love of money
    People will lie, rob, they will cheat

    For the love of money
    People don't care who they hurt or beat

    For the love of money
    A woman will sell her precious body

    For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight
    Oh, that mean, mean, mean, mean, mean green

    Almighty Dollar!

    Talkin' bout, talkin' bout - cash…"

    It doesn't get more positive after that.

    "You know, just because the thing I saw wasn't there doesn't mean there wasn't something there that I didn't see." Ann Althouse, Conservative Thoughtmeister

    by Bill Section 147 on Tue May 13, 2014 at 08:14:50 AM PDT

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