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View Full Version : Themes, messages, etc... that you had to be told about songs or videos


Nobody
02-22-2010, 02:59 AM
Sometimes I'll hear something about what a song is supposed to really be about, and it's something I never would have thought of on my own. For example, a few weeks ago I heard that the Beastie Boys "Fight for Your Right" was actually mocking frat boy mentality. I never would have figured that out on my own.

And then there are songs that some claim are about drugs, usually heroin. Some, like "There She Goes" are disputed, but there are others that the writer admits to being about drugs. Until listening to an interview with Anthony Kiedis, I never knew that "Under the Bridge" was about his past drug use.

And in the late 90's there was a show called "Pop Up Video" on VH1 which, among other things, told what the videos were about. There were a lot of them I never could figure out. I miss that show.

Markxxx
02-22-2010, 04:48 AM
If you can't figure something out that's obvious it may be that people are simply reading things into something that isn't there. Or it may be such an inside joke that few people will get it.

I grew up in the 70s and they used to claim the 5th Dimension, was full of references of drugs, sex and such. I really doubt, as the 5th Dimension was getting slammed from all sides, from promoting drugs to being "too white."

Nobody
02-22-2010, 04:51 AM
Well yeah, lots of songs are about what they seem to be about, but there are others that actually do use metaphors and imagery to sing about one thing while actually singing about something else.

flodnak
02-22-2010, 05:32 AM
If you can't figure something out that's obvious it may be that people are simply reading things into something that isn't there.Not necessarily, though. A dear friend of mine absolutely loves the song "Johnny B" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U_zkfjVs9M) by The Hooters - but until I mentioned the dual meaning of the song, it never occured to him that it was anything other than a twisted love song. To me the dual interpretation - Johnny is either in a very bad relationship with a hurtful woman, or destroying himself with drugs - is already clear in the lyrics and made unmistakable by the video.

And I was in college before some kind soul pointed out to me that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was not necessarily what John Lennon sang to little Julian at bedtime :p

E-Sabbath
02-22-2010, 06:08 AM
Psst. Flodnak? It was. Lucy's a girl. Lucy Vodden. Died from Lupus. A guy from Pink Floyd actually has the artwork Julian drew that the song was based on. I have no idea how he got it, though.

Manwich
02-22-2010, 06:09 AM
Sometimes I'll hear something about what a song is supposed to really be about, and it's something I never would have thought of on my own. For example, a few weeks ago I heard that the Beastie Boys "Fight for Your Right" was actually mocking frat boy mentality. I never would have figured that out on my own.

I have heard that too but I am not sure if it is true. The Beastie Boys were pretty young and silly then - maybe they are just embarrassed now they are all mature and Buddhist. They did want to call their debut album Don't be a Faggot. Sorry for the hijack.

Wait! It isn't a hijack if I add this. Sometimes artists will lie about the meaning of their works. There are a lot of reasons why they might do this - shame, regret, the made up reason is more interesting, they get bored in interviews...

You just can't trust what people say about their work.

Nobody
02-22-2010, 06:18 AM
I have heard that too but I am not sure if it is true. The Beastie Boys were pretty young and silly then - maybe they are just embarrassed now they are all mature and Buddhist. They did want to call their debut album Don't be a Faggot. Sorry for the hijack.

Wait! It isn't a hijack if I add this. Sometimes artists will lie about the meaning of their works. There are a lot of reasons why they might do this - shame, regret, the made up reason is more interesting, they get bored in interviews...

You just can't trust what people say about their work.
Sometimes you can. But yeah, not always. For example, I'm not sure if I believe Brian Adams when he says "Summer of 69" is about the sex act. I mean, it could be, but I'm kind of doubting it.

running coach
02-22-2010, 06:28 AM
Sometimes you can. But yeah, not always. For example, I'm not sure if I believe Brian Adams when he says "Summer of 69" is about the sex act. I mean, it could be, but I'm kind of doubting it.

It was just thrown in as a gag and then retained in the final recording. You can hear it near the end.

From Wiki. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_of_%2769#Lyrical_meaning)
When we recorded the demo in my basement, towards the end of the song Bryan sang a little naughty bit: "me and my baby in a '69". We had a laugh about it at the time, and Bryan decided to keep it when he did the final recording a month or two later.

Nobody
02-22-2010, 06:31 AM
It was just thrown in as a gag and then retained in the final recording. You can hear it near the end.

From Wiki. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_of_%2769#Lyrical_meaning)
Huh. I heard the last part only as "Me and my baby 69" which definitely sounds like he's talking about the sex act...but I didn't know it was "Me and my baby in a 69". OK, I can believe that a gag was thrown in at the end.

mbh
02-22-2010, 09:08 AM
"Turning Japanese" by the Vapors was supposedly about masturbation. The guy who wrote it denies this, but his explanation of the lyrics made no more sense than the schoolyard interpretation.

E-Sabbath
02-22-2010, 03:25 PM
If you read the whole quote?
Jim Vallence says,

"I wish this little "controversy" would just go away. First of all, when Bryan and I were writing the song, it was originally called "Best Days Of My Life". The words "summer of '69" only appeared once, right after "played it 'til my fingers bled". That was it! The song really was about the summer of 1969! It took us a week or two to fine-tune the lyric. At some point we realized that "Summer Of '69" was a better title, so we literally "shoe-horned" that phrase into a few more places in the song. At no time do I recall discussing sexual innuendo with Bryan ' except for one little thing. When we recorded the demo in my basement, towards the end of the song Bryan sang a little naughty bit: "me and my baby in a '69". We had a laugh about it at the time, and Bryan decided to keep it when he did the final recording a month or two later. Nobody seemed to notice, and that was the end of it until a few years ago when Bryan started introducing the song in concert by saying, "This song has nothing to do with the year 1969". The audience reaction was predictable. Let me qualify this by saying I don't pretend to speak for Bryan. Two of us wrote the song. Maybe he was thinking about something completely different ... but I was thinking about that amazing summer when I turned 17.


And it's only a little dirty. "a '69" can still mean a car made in '69.

Electric Warrior
02-22-2010, 05:04 PM
I had to be told about "Every Breath You Take." I thought it was a father singing to his daughter about how he'll be watching her grow up and feeling bittersweet that she has to leave him and go on to live her own life eventually.

I had to be told that people think "Hotel California" is a metaphor for anything, period. I just thought it was a bit of magic realism from the Eagles.

I've met people who don't realize that the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. is satirical social commentary (hint: it makes more sense if you watch the video).

"Turning Japanese" by the Vapors was supposedly about masturbation. The guy who wrote it denies this, but his explanation of the lyrics made no more sense than the schoolyard interpretation.

Isn't the guy just "turning Japanese" because he takes zillions of pictures of his girlfriend? Like a stereotypical "Japanese tourist"? That was my interpretation upon hearing the song. The masturbation "your eyes squint during orgasm so you look Asian" interpretation is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. (It's still kind of a dumb song either way you look at it.)

ministryman
02-22-2010, 05:13 PM
I don't know how many times I've to explain to people that Turning Japanese by the Vapors and She-Bop by Cyndi Lauper are about masturbation.

ministryman
02-22-2010, 05:30 PM
I had to be told about "Every Breath You Take." I thought it was a father singing to his daughter about how he'll be watching her grow up and feeling bittersweet that she has to leave him and go on to live her own life eventually.

I had to be told that people think "Hotel California" is a metaphor for anything, period. I just thought it was a bit of magic realism from the Eagles.

I've met people who don't realize that the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. is satirical social commentary (hint: it makes more sense if you watch the video).



Isn't the guy just "turning Japanese" because he takes zillions of pictures of his girlfriend? Like a stereotypical "Japanese tourist"? That was my interpretation upon hearing the song. The masturbation "your eyes squint during orgasm so you look Asian" interpretation is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. (It's still kind of a dumb song either way you look at it.)

"Turning Japanese" is derived from a joke (long forgotten by me) in which the teller appears to mimic the stereotypical facial features of an Asian, while performing masturbation.

End of story. It's not about the stereotypical Japanese camera-wielding person (Like the ones in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker video).

Look at the lyrics.



I've got your picture of me and you
You wrote "I love you" I wrote "me too"
I sit there staring and there's nothing else to do
Oh it's in color Your hair is brown
Your eyes are hazel And soft as clouds
I often kiss you when there's no one else around

Umm....Clown Puncher, party of one.

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
No fun, no sin, no you-know-what when it's dark

I know what and so do you.....What else can he be talking about?

Electric Warrior
02-22-2010, 06:52 PM
No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
No fun, no sin, no you-know-what when it's dark

I know what and so do you.....What else can he be talking about?

"No fun, no sin, no you - no wonder it's dark"

GuanoLad
02-22-2010, 07:05 PM
I don't know how many times I've to explain to people that Turning Japanese by the Vapors and She-Bop by Cyndi Lauper are about masturbation.What about Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol?

cjepson
02-25-2010, 12:10 PM
I recently heard Mickey Dolenz (I think) explain that "Last Train to Clarksville" was about someone going to Vietnam, but that might be an attempt to make the song seem [even] cooler than it was.

Marley23
02-25-2010, 12:16 PM
I have heard that too but I am not sure if it is true. The Beastie Boys were pretty young and silly then - maybe they are just embarrassed now they are all mature and Buddhist. They did want to call their debut album Don't be a Faggot. Sorry for the hijack.
They were young and silly at the time, but Fight For Your Right fits into the album better if it's a parody of frat boys. So I think they're probably telling the truth.

pancakes3
02-25-2010, 01:28 PM
i always thought "every breath you take" was about sting stalking his exwife

GESancMan
02-25-2010, 03:47 PM
There have been many people I've had to explain Peter Gabriel's "Solisbury Hill" to. It is not about The Rapture, or some other religious experience. It's simply about his decision to leave Genesis.

Lamia
02-25-2010, 08:03 PM
A lot of people my age were confused about the video for Pearl Jam's "Jeremy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS91knuzoOA)". It's my memory that I immediately grasped the intended meaning (Jeremy shoots himself in front of his class), but the video as aired on MTV was rather ambiguous and many people thought Jeremy opened fire on his classmates. This confusion was actually due to censorship -- the unedited video showed Jeremy putting the gun in his mouth -- but MTV zoomed/cropped the scene (about 5:00 into the video) so all that could be seen was Jeremy taking something out of his pocket and then closing his eyes. Both versions of the video shows Jeremy's classmates splattered with blood, but only in the unedited version is it 100% clear whose blood it is.

I can understand why MTV was uncomfortable with showing a video where teenager puts a gun in his mouth, but I guess it didn't occur to them that by editing the video they were leaving the door open for an even MORE violent school shooting interpretation. In fact, in the 1996 Frontier Middle School shooting case (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier_Middle_School_shooting) it was claimed in court that the "Jeremy" video had influenced the killer.

An Gadaí
02-25-2010, 08:17 PM
I only realised about two years ago that Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen isn't a bombastic, boneheaded, triumphalist tribute to America, but rather a nuanced sugared pill commenting on the plight of those left behind by the American Dream(tm).

Lamia
02-25-2010, 08:31 PM
Thinking of school shootings, for a long time I had no idea what Boomtown Rats hit "I Don't Like Mondays (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Don%27t_Like_Mondays)" was actually about. The shooting in question happened before I was born, and although I could tell the song was about a girl/woman who was crazy I didn't associate it with any real-life event or get that it was about a literal shooting at all. For some reason I Googled the song several years ago and learned the backstory.

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