by George Heymann

Stories behind great songs

by Jon Pompia

‘Cribs Note’ version “Personal Jesus,” Depeche Mode

What some took to be a blasphemous stab at the King of Kings was actually inspired by a biography of The King. DM songwriter Martin Gore came across by Priscilla Presley’s book “Elvis And Me,” learning that Priscilla saw her husband as, that’s right, a personal Jesus.

“It’s a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It’s about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships — how everybody’s heart is like a god in some way, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone, is it?”

Johnny Cash did a stripped-down version on his 2002 album “American IV, The Man Comes Around.” Gore the band to be unaware that Cash had covered this song. When they learned of this fact, they were thrilled.
Said Gore: “I think when you’re somebody of Johnny Cash’s caliber, you don’t ask for permission.”

“I’m Too Sexy,” Right Said Fred.
This fun tune was written by Fairbrass brothers, of England, as a jab at preening male models in a gym. The groove drew inspiration from an instrumental break in the Jimi Hendrix tune “Third Stone from the Sun.”

“Angel of Death,” Slayer.
This aggressive death metal anthem was so overpowering it got the band labeled as neo-Nazis in some corners. Author Jeff Hanneman meekly protested that the lyrics are  but a history lesson detailing the atrocities of Dr. Josef Mengele — culled from a book he read on the dreaded Nazi monster.

“Black Water,” The Doobie Brothers.
This song is about the Mississippi River, with lyrics likely inspired by Mark Twain’s books “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” — both of which depicted rafting life on the “Black Water.”

“Ventura Highway,” America.
While there is no official Ventura Highway, songwriter Dewey Bunnell did garner inspiration for the song while stranded on a highway near Ventura, Cali.
“It was 1963 when I was in seventh grade, we got a flat tire and we’re standing on the side of the road and I was staring at this highway sign. It said ‘Ventura’ on it and it just stuck with me. It was a sunny day and the ocean there, all of it.”

“Brass Monkey,” Beastie Boys. Quite simply, an ode to a “ghetto fabulous cocktail” comprised of three parts malt liquor and one part Sunny Delight orange drink.

“Hair of the Dog,” Nazareth.
This famous naughty song with the great guitar line and cowbell couldn’t very well be called “SOB” so in a play on words, the band named it “Heir of the Dog” (get it?) It was later changed to the more reader friendly “Hair of the Dog.”
Popular slang notes that a hair of the dog is a beer that takes the edge off a bad hangover.

“Sweet Leaf,” Black Sabbath.
One of the first of many odes to cannibus. The band nicked the title from a pack of Irish cigarettes, Sweet Afton. The product’s slogan? “It’s the sweet leaf.”
The sound at the beginning is guitarist Tony Iommi coughing after inhaling from a bong.

“Get Together,” The Youngbloods.
Written in 1963 by Dino Valenti from Quicksilver Messenger Service. He signed away rights to it when he was imprisoned for marijuana possession.
The Youngbloods gave the composer credit to Chet Powers, a made-up person.
Released in 1967, “Get Together” initially flopped. It became a hit two years later when The National Conference of Christians and Jews distributed it to radio and TV stations to support “Brotherhood Week.”
The song first came out in 1965, performed by a group called We Five. A quick listen brings to light why that version remains virtually unknown.

“Black Betty,” Ram Jam. Ram Jam were a short-lived band from New York City, and this was their only hit.
This is a traditional song that kolk singer Leadbelly popularized, a cappella version commonly sung by laborers to pass the time while working.
Although they didn’t write this song, about a black woman from Alabama who has a “wild” child, Ram Jam took some heat because some felt the lyrics were disrespectful to black women.
Listeners, though, seemed to zone in on the powerful beat, strong vocals and driving guitars, rather than the lyrics.

“My Sweet Lord,” George Harrison. While many Christians were elated at this “pop song about Christ,” they practically flipped when the lyrics revealed that the Lord Harrison referred to was the one found in the Eastern religions he was studying. Hence the terms Hare Krishna, Gurur Brahma, Guru Vishnu and so on.

“Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Gordon LIghtfoot.  This is a factual retelling of a shipwreck on Lake Superior in November 1975 that claimed the lives of 29 crew members.
An initial investigation suggested that the crew was partly to blame for the disaster by not securing the ship’s hatches. Lightfoot’s song reflected the original findings in the verse, “…at 7 p.m. a main hatchway gave in.”
However, in 2010, a Canadian documentary claimed to have proven the crew of the ship was not responsible for the tragedy. It concluded that there is little evidence that failure to secure the ship’s hatches caused the sinking.
Reach out and touch face.
Mcmullen and ralph


Filed under: Media, Music, , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Tyron Lenort says:

    Good post guys. keep up the good work and hope to see more posts from you. Thank you

  2. […] Stories behind great songs ( […]

  3. […] Stories behind great songs ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Our Twitter Feed

Click to download our official Android App


%d bloggers like this: