By now, we know that most of the popular music of the last century was either about or inspired by love, sex or getting wasted. But churning out song after song on the same subject isn’t easy, which is why a lot of artists used their creative freedom to write about subjects very few people know about, and hide it beneath layers of melodies and generic verses about break-ups and flings. From The Beatles to Lady Gaga, they’ve all got some pretty interesting back stories.
Here are the unexpected stories behind some really famous English songs!
1. ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ by Bob Marley is a song against contraception
“Every time I plant a seed / He said kill it before it grow”
Esther Anderson, Bob’s girlfriend revealed that the song actually referred to Bob’s anger at her doctor. She had been prescribed birth control pills by him, and contrary to most people’s view of Bob’s tolerant nature, he actually was extremely conservative about several things, including birth control. Rastas don’t just believe in birth control in fact, they are also deeply against homosexuality.
2. ‘Summer of 69’ by Bryan Adams is actually about the sex position
While many consider this song to be nostalgic tune close to Bryan Adams’ heart, he was actually 10 years old in 1969. The song is about the sex position, which is arguably a lot more fun than the song.
3. ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple was about a fire in Switzerland
Deep Purple were in Switzerland to record their album ‘Machinehead’. A nearby concert by Frank Zappa at Montreux Casino ended in a massive fire accident that burnt the casino to the ground. The fire also lent the entire of Lake Geneva a massive hazy covering, hence the name.
4. ‘Jump’ by Van Halen is actually about a person about to jump off a building
David Lee Roth, the lead singer of Van Halen, was watching new of a person about to commit suicide by jumping off a building. While the people there were trying to convince him to not do it, all David could think of was ‘Jump’. What a weirdo.
5. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana was inspired by perfume
Kathleen Hanna, punk singer and friend of Kurt Cobain, actually wrote the words “Kurt smells like teen spirit” on his bedroom wall after one drunken afternoon. The ‘teen spirit’ was actually the name of a perfume that Kurt’s ex-girlfriend used to put on.
6. ‘Ticket to Ride’ by The Beatles was about health cards carried by prostitutes
This happy go lucky tune that most of our parents can also hum is actually about the cards prostitutes in Hamburg carried that proved they had a clean bill of health. Major chords can make any topic sound like rainbows and butterflies.
7. ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles was written by Paul for John’s son
Julian was just a little boy when his dad, John Lennon, was getting a divorce from his mother. Paul Mcartney wrote the song to help Julian get over the trauma of having a slightly broken family.
8. ‘Freedom’ by George Michael is a song dissing MTV
Angry at MTV for dolling him up like the epitome of a white stereotype, George Michael lashed out at them with the song ‘Freedom’. He hated the image MTV created of him, and for ruining the song ‘Faith’ with that horrendous video.
9. ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ by Pink Floyd was about the tragedy of Syd Barrett
Original Floyd member Syd Barrett was kicked out of the band in 1968 for his increasingly eccentric behaviour. In 1975, Syd walked in on them recording and looked unrecognisable. He also needed a lot of psychological help. Roger Waters wrote the song about him, and the loss of a friend to drugs and madness.
10. ‘Pokerface’ by Lady Gaga is about her hiding her homosexual tendencies
Before she opened up about her bisexuality, Lady Gaga used to hide it from her boyfriends, as it apparently made them uncomfortable and she felt bad about it. She wrote a song about it however, and it’s a good little anecdote as well.