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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You probably think this blog is about you

I mentioned Pearl Jam's Jeremy a few entries back, and how back in my teen years, I was convinced this song was about me.
But what's it about? The lyrics don't tell us, exactly, just that it's about a very troubled kid who did something shocking and violent. It's the video that tells the story of a boy who, tortured by neglectful parents and mocking schoolmates, shoots himself in front of a classroom full of kids. I was thinking about that, because the song was made so long before the video, I wondered if the song wasn't about something else entirely, you know? 
Except that the great sage Wikipedia tells us that the song is, in fact, based on a true story about a boy named Jeremy who walked into school and shot himself in front of a classroom full of kids.

Here's some other songs that may or may not be about what we think they're about. Most of this came from VH1 shows, backed up by Wikipedia.
You're So Vain: So, early on, Carly Simon told a reporter that this song was about men in general, not a specific man. Still, rumors have always abounded as to who it was that was so vain. When you think about it, that's the ultimate act of passive aggression. It's brilliant really. People say passive aggressive like it's a bad thing. Not true. In this case, it's art.
So Carly Simon has teased and hinted at the subject of the song over the years. At one point, some dude paid $50,000 at a charity auction for the privilege of learning the subject of the song, but was sworn to secrecy. Simon also says that the subject of the song has an A, an E, and an R in his/her name, and that you can hear the name if you play one cut of the track backwards or something like that. 40 years and people still care. Me, not so much.
Safety Dance: I heard on a VH1 special that this song was about this one time, when the Men Without Hats were out dancing, and someone told them they weren't allowed to dance and that this was for their own safety. I have had the same line of bull pulled on me, this one time when I was dancing on the table at Denny's at 5am. 
Hotel California: When I was a kid, I always thought this song was so pleasant and pretty, until I listened to the lyrics and got a little freaked out. At some point, somebody explained to me that it was about drugs, and that made sense. Kind of. Actually, the song is about California. The members of The Eagles have said that it's about the destructive excesses of the culture of the California music industry, and in some ways, just California in the 1970s. What I love about this - this song is both metaphor and not. It is about California, which is a metaphor for California. That rocks. 
And here's an added bonus because, okay, you know how sometimes you figure out exactly the right comeback as soon as it's too late? Not Don Henley. This is taken directly from Wikipedia:

In a 2009 interview, Plain Dealer music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley this about the lyrics:
On "Hotel California," you sing: "So I called up the captain / 'Please bring me my wine' / He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969.'" I realize I'm probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn't a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?
Henley responded,
"Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you're not the first to bring this to my attention—and you're not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had heard that "You're So Vain" was about Warren Beatty.... but it must have been someone's speculation.