5 Songs With Weird Backstories

Ever wondered about the story behind some of the world’s most popular rock songs? I did some research, and put together a small list of what I found were the most bizarre. I’ll never hear them the same way again…

“Every Breath You Take” – The Police

117898460Most fans assume this is a sweet love song about someone who’s beyond infatuated with their partner…so much so, that they simply cannot stand to be apart from them. But according to Sting, the track is a bit darker than that. He wrote it during the aftermath of his divorce from his first wife, Frances Tomelty, and during the beginning of his relationship with Trudie Styler. (The women were best friends — yikes.)

In reality, the song is about a possessive lover who is obsessed with his ex. He becomes jealous of everything she does without him, so as a result, he watches her every move.

“One couple told me ‘Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!’ I thought, ‘Well, good luck’. I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite.” – Sting

So, if someone crushing on you sends you this song…run.

“Total Eclipse Of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler

total_freakin_eclipse-1Written by composer Jim Steinman in 1983, this song, paired with its haunting music video (left), is actually about vampires. (I love vampires, so I now love this song even more.) The original title was “Vampires In Love,” as it was composed for a Nosferatu musical. When Jim first played the song for Bonnie, it sent shivers down her spine. She was eager to get in the studio and record it as soon as possible. The song was originally seven minutes at full-length, but Bonnie cut it down to four minutes for radio-play. Jim said in an interview that the song is about “the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in the dark.”

Why wasn’t this song featured in Twilight?! Talk about a missed opportunity.

“Smoke On the Water” – Deep Purple

1-QrmtM44Us4r6ihV69Btl6wOn December 4, 1971, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were playing a show at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. About halfway through the gig, some crazy person in the crowd fired a flare gun at the wooden roof. It immediately went up in flames, and panic ensued. All of Zappa’s band equipment was destroyed. Nearby, the members of Deep Purple were recording music for their upcoming album. According to npr, “They were forced out of their rooms by the fire, but memories of the smoke billowing out across Lac Leman, or Lake Geneva, gave them a song title.”

Turns out, this go-to guitar track has a more somber history than you might have thought.

“Never Learn Not To Love/Cease To Exist” – The Beach Boys

the-beach-boys-never-kearn-not-to-love-capitolCharles Manson was an American criminal and cult leader in the 60’s. Manson and his followers, known as the “Manson Family,” committed a series of seven murders, all part of Charles masterplan to spark a race war.

Before the murders, Charles was a struggling singer-songwriter living in L.A. He became friends with Dennis Wilson, drummer and founding member of the Beach Boys, and in 1968, the group recorded one of Manson’s original songs, “Cease to Exist.” The Beach Boys re-titled the track “Never Learn Not to Love,” altered some of the lyrics, and released it as their own.

Try listening to THAT song in the same way. Creepy.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

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“Teen Spirit” was a popular deodorant brand in the 90’s, and you can still buy it! The title of this iconic song came from Kathleen Hanna, (a member of the band Bikini Kill) who wrote on Kurt Cobain’s wall one night. She gratified “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit,” teasing him and referencing the deodorant brand that Cobain’s girlfriend wore. When Nevermind was released in 1991 with this track on it, sales skyrocketed for Teen Spirit Deodorant.

 

“He actually didn’t know it was a deodorant. I felt like a bit of an asshole that I didn’t tell him, but I kinda thought it was funny. He just liked the ring of it, smells like Teen Spirit, but he also just had a good knack for picking out interesting phrases.” -Kathleen Hanna

Kurt Cobain totally gave Teen Spirit deodorant free PR without even knowing it!

3 Songs I Wish I’d Written

As someone who writes poetry and short stories often, I appreciate the complexity and beauty of songwriting. Although I’ve never written a song myself, I’ve always wanted to. So when I hear a song that strikes me or reminds me of a situation I can relate to, I often think to myself, “dang, I wish I’d thought to write that.” Here are three of those songs.

b441ef-20170906-phoebe-bridgers“Motion Sickness” – Phoebe Bridgers

This track isn’t about motion sickness, but rather, emotional sickness. Although there’s no legitimate definition for “emotional sickness,” I’d say it can be defined as the feeling you get when you’re overwhelmed with love for someone, or on the flip side, flooded with grief after your relationship with them has ended.

Phoebe Bridgers tells a vivid story of the birth of an unusual relationship: “you said when you met me you were bored,” “and you, you were in a band when I was born,” and its chaotic end: ” I’m on the outside looking through. You’re throwing rocks around your room. And while you’re bleeding on your back in the glass, I’ll be glad that I made it out, and sorry that it all went down like it did.” The soft guitar reverb and subtle harmonies in this track compliment its lovely lyrics.

The driving lyric/phrase in this song, “I have emotional motion sickness. Somebody roll the windows down. There are no words in the English language I could scream to drown you out,” are what got me. Phoebe captures a very familiar experience– feeling trapped by your emotions, even dizzy with them, and wishing there was some sort of escape. We’ve all wished at one point or another that we could roll down the “windows” of life and take a break from reality.

e972fc17c9186112bbb962ee03762bb7.600x600x1“Lose It” – SWMRS

Any sentimental music-lover will connect with this song: “Tell me why’d you have to have such a damn good taste in music? Yeah, if all my favorite songs make me think of you, I’m gonna lose it.” I’ve been there.

The first verse intrigued me, as it told the story of two people who made mixtapes for each other, not knowing that the other person had done the same thing. You’d think that this would probably mean both of them have similar, strong feelings for one another. This may be true, but it’s revealed that something went wrong in the relationship and it ended.

“When I first saw you I made a mixtape. I didn’t know you’d do the same damn thing. When I said goodbye to you it went quiet, cuz I didn’t wanna feel any pain.”

This song has a prominent bass guitar, which adds to the mysteriousness of the relationship, situation, and two people.

Fun fact: Lead singer of SWMRS, Joey Armstrong, is the son of of Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer and lead guitarist of punk rock band Green Day. Joey and his pals formed SWMRS after watching School of Rock in school!

500x500“Parma Violets” – Jealous of the Birds

The metaphors in this song are strikingly beautiful. There are themes of insects, light, colors, and death through out the whole track, which reminds me of some poems I’ve read in the past. This is why I chose “Parma Violets” to add to my growing list of songs I wish I’d written.

Parma Violets themselves are a popular British candy that fizz in your mouth. (We have a similar candy here in America called Zotz.) In this track by Jealous of the Birds, the main lyric is “Oh please, don’t you swallow those pills like Parma Violets again,” which alludes to someone who may have had suicidal tendencies in the past. Lead singer Naomi Hamilton suggests that this person swallowed pills as if they were candy–quickly and nonchalantly. The quiet piano and guitar in the track reflect its somber, delicate tone.

It’s interesting to me that Naomi would choose Parma Violets candy to use as a metaphor for prescription pills. Because this type of candy fizzes in your mouth, wouldn’t it be counter-intuitive (and uncomfortable) to pop one after the other into your mouth without much thought?

Naomi continues to describe her interactions with this person, using a moth as a metaphor for a secret shared between them: “Once you showed me a secret, delicate as a moth. It barely shivered, its wings were so soft. Then it flew up to the fluorescent light. I knew right then that you would be alright.” This is the only lyric that suggests the person Naomi is singing about may be doing better.

The second to last verse is my favorite. Naomi sings about every person in the world being connected by color. Light travels through us and we all reflect different shades of the same, “true” blue.

“Our lives are prisms, the light beams through. Refracting colors is what we do. We’re different shades of the same blue. But at least we’re true, at least we’re true.”

Whenever I write poetry, I always gravitate towards themes of light and color, so these lyrics really inspired me.

I made a playlist of every song that has struck a chord with me over the years. Check out the full playlist here:

 

-Sophie