Lou Reed - "Walk on the wild side"

Reed recorded this 2 years after leaving The Velvet Underground, a band that was very influential, but not commercially successful. This was Reed's second solo album. His first flopped, and for a while it looked like his music career was over. David Bowie produced the album.

This is about transvestites who come to New York City and become prostitutes. "Take a walk on the wild side" is what they say to potential customers. Each verse introduces a new character. There is Holly, Candy, Little Joe, Sugar Plum Fairy, and Jackie. The characters that are all cronies of the infamous Andy Warhol Factory, as was Lou. "Little Joe" refers to Joe Dallesandero, who was also one of Andy's kids in the factory. He was in several films by Warhol. "Holly," "Candy," and "Jackie" are based on Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Jackie Curtis. They are all real drag queens who appeared in Warhol's 1972 movie Women In Revolt. Woodlawn also appeared in Warhol's 1970 movie Trash, and Curtis was in Warhol's 1968 movie Flesh. Reed: "I always thought it would be kind of fun to introduce people to characters they maybe hadn't met before, or hadn't wanted to meet."
Reed struggled with his sexuality for most of his life. His parents even tried to "cure" his homosexuality.This came out at a time when audiences were intrigued by cross-dressing and homosexuality in music. "Glam Rock," where the performers wore feminine clothes, was big, and artists like Bowie and Elton John were attracting fans both gay and straight.
This was not banned by the notoriously conservative BBC or by many US radio stations because censors did not understand phrases like "giving head."

The sax solo at the end was played by Ronnie Ross, a Jazz musician who lived near Bowie in England. When Bowie was 12 years old, he wanted to learn the saxophone and begged Ross to give him lessons, which he eventually did. When they needed a sax player for this, Bowie made sure Ross was booked for the session, but didn't tell him he'd be there. Ross nailed the solo in one take and Bowie showed up to surprise his old friend.
The famous bass line was played by a session musician named Herbie Flowers. He was paid 17 Pounds for his work.


Norah Jones - "Don't know why"

This was written in 1999 by a songwriter and guitarist named Jesse Harris. A few weeks after he wrote it, he recorded it with a violinist and released it under the name Jesse Harris and The Ferdinandos. He sold the album on his web site.

Harris knew Jones because they were both musicians in New York City, but he didn't have Jones in mind to sing this because she was a Jazz singer. When he joined Jones' band in 2000, he considered using a female voice on the song and offered it to Jones. She changed the key to fit her voice and added a drum beat. She still thought of it as just a demo, but it got the attention of an executive at Blue Note Records, who offered her a record deal.

This was recorded as a demo in one take in October, 2000. Harris played guitar and almost stopped the take because he didn't like the mix in his headphones. He kept going and was glad he did, since that was the keeper. Jones and her band were willing to do another take, but the engineer, Jay Newland, thought it was perfect and wouldn't let them. They did try some more takes in another session, but the results were too convoluted, and Jones was assigned to a different producer, Arif Mardin. He had worked with many famous artists, including Aretha Franklin, and was brought in to capture Jones' distinctive sound. He did this by keeping the original demo take and adding some guitar and a vocal harmony, which made Jones harmonize with herself.


The Bangles - "Eternal flame"

Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs wrote this with songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. Says Steinberg, "Tom and I met Susanna Hoffs and we set out to write several songs for their next recording. When we got together with Susanna, she admired a song that Tom and I had written for Cyndi Lauper called 'Unconditional Love.' I think she liked the song because it was highly melodic and resembled a ballad that would not have been out of place on The Beatles' Revolver album. She was sort of envious of that song, she said she wished we could come up with something as good as that song. I told her, 'Susanna, we're going to write something better than that song.'"

There is an Eternal Flame at the gravesite of Elvis Presley in Memphis. Says Steinberg:"Susanna was talking about The Bangles having visited Graceland, and she said there was some type of shrine to Elvis that included some kind of eternal flame. As soon as those words were mentioned, I immediately thought of the synagogue in the town of Palm Springs, California where I grew up. I remember during our Sunday school class they would walk us through the sanctuary. There was one little red light and they told us it was called the eternal flame. When I was a child I remembered thinking it never burned out, that it was something like the sun or something beyond our capacity to even contemplate. It seemed like a very profound thought when I was a child. I thought, 'Well that's a great title for a song,' so very quickly I wrote the rest of the lyrics for the song based on that title."

Steinberg: "Tom started to write the chords and the melodies on an acoustic guitar at my house. The bridge to the song, or the middle eight as the British would say, the part that starts, 'Say my name, sun shines through the rain,' that part in particular is very Beatlesque. Tom, who's a great lover of harmonies, worked with Susanna to create almost a tribute to The Beatles and Beach Boys background harmonies in our demo and The Bangles recreated them on their record. One of the unusual things about that song, which is also attributable to its Beatlesque roots, is the fact that it really doesn't have a chorus. The part that starts, 'Close your eyes, give me your hand, do you feel my heart beating, do you understand,' that part sets out to be the verse of the song and then the title is incorporated in the last line of the verse when it says, 'Am I only dreaming, or is this burning an eternal flame.' By the end of the song when all The Bangles chime in and resing the first verse at the end of the song, the whole verse feels like a chorus. The Beatles used to write in that way, for example, 'We Can Work It Out.' The line, 'We can work it out,' is sort of a tag in the verse. The verse ends with, 'We can work it out, we can work it out.' It isn't a chorus, it doesn't begin with the line, 'We can work it out,' which would be more traditional pop hit structure. The whole song 'Eternal Flame' is so melodic that it doesn't really miss a traditional chorus, it just works the way it is. In one more Beatle type arrangement decision we do the bridge after two verses and then there's a guitar solo and then we do the bridge again. Again, The Beatles would often do that. In the song 'We Can Work Out,' the bit that begins, 'Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friend' - I think that happens twice in the song. Sometimes if you have a bridge that's really good, it's nice to repeat it, and also if a song doesn't have a traditional Pop chorus you almost need to repeat the bridge so that the song is long enough and that's what we did in 'Eternal Flame'."

Steinberg: "One of the main differences between our demo and what was to become The Bangles' record is that we based our demo on the acoustic guitar while The Bangles' record, which was produced by Davitt Sigerson, is based on a simple piano. I think we based our demo on the acoustic guitar because there was no keyboard player in The Bangles. When you're a songwriter and you're trying to write something for a particular project, you very self-consciously do whatever you can do to see that it gets on the record and to ensure getting it on the record you want to make it sound like something the band could play. For that reason we tried to leave keyboards off our demo, but then we were very pleased with Davitt Sigerson's production and the way it featured the piano. I know Tom and I both loved Davitt's production, we both loved Susanna's lead vocal and all The Bangles' harmonies and were very pleased with the way the song turned out."

The Bangles broke up soon after this was recorded.


Jimi Hendrix - "The wind cries Mary"

Jimi wrote this in 1967 for Are You Experienced?, inspired by his girlfriend at the time named Kathy Mary Etchingham. He'd gotten into an argument with her about her cooking. She got very angry and started throwing pots and pans and finally stormed out to stay at a friend's home for a day or so. When she came back, Jimi had written "The Wind Cries Mary" for her.

Jimi wrote the song quietly in his apartment and didn't show it to anybody. After recording "Fire" (which was about his sexual relationship with Kathy), he had 20 minutes to spare in the recording studio, so he showed it to the band. They managed to record it in the 20 minute period they had.


Steve Earle - "John Walker's blues"

Written from the perspective of John Walker Lindh, an American who converted to Islam and ended up fighting for the Taliban.
Earle doesn't condone the actions of Lindh, but feels that it could have happened to just about anyone growing up in America. When this was released, Earle's son was 20-years-old, about the same age as Lindh.
The chorus comes from a verse from the Qur'an, "I am a witness, there is no God but God."
The song created a great deal of controversy before it was even released. Based on the lyrics, some members of the media blasted it for sympathizing with Lindh, although that was not Earle's intention. The New York Post ran the headline: "Twisted ballad honors Tali-Rat."


The Beatles - "Yellow submarine"

This was used as the B-side of "Eleanor Rigby."
Paul McCartney wrote it as a children's story. The story goes that Paul was lying in bed late one night, and an idea popped in his head to write a children's song - the actual song may have been a spin-off from Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women #12 And #35." Paul purposely used short words in the lyrics because he wanted kids to pick it up early and sing along.
Ringo sang lead, as he did on many of the lighter Beatles songs, including "Octopus's Garden" and "Act Naturally."
The sounds of bubbles, water, and other noises were recorded in the studio. John Lennon blew the bubbles through a straw, George Harrison swirled water in a bucket. The vocals were sped-up to make it even more quirky. Vocals of the submarine crew are John and Paul in the studio.
Some people felt this song had deeper meaning about drugs or war. The Beatles said it did not, but they were used to people reading too much into their songs. On The White Album, there is a song called "Glass Onion" that addresses this issue.
The chorus at the end consists of the studio crew, as well as their friends Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, producer George Martin, and Patti Harrison.
According to Steve Turner's book A Hard Day's Write, about a month after the album was released, there were barbiturate capsules that started to be known as "yellow submarines." McCartney denied any comparison to drugs and said the only submarine he knew that you could eat was a sugary sweet he's come across in Greece while on holiday. These had to be dropped in water and were known as "submarines."
After he got the idea for the song, McCartney dropped by Donovan's place and asked him for suggestions to close the tune. Donovan came up with "Sky of blue, sea of green." Donovan went with The Beatles on their retreat to India in 1968.


Deftones - "My own summer (shove it)"

"My Own Summer" was written in Seattle, during the hot summer of 1994. Trapped inside of his room by the heat and sun, Chino Moreno (lead singer) boarded up his windows with aluminum foil and wished for "an apocalyptic-type thing" where all of the people on the streets would disappear and the sun would go away. He called this dreamworld "his own summer," which is where the song title comes from.

Chino said in an interview once, that he wrote this song once when he was sitting in a room. He hates day-time and light.... he always preferred night time (who doesn't)... so while he was in the room, he put foil or a blanket or something over his window so it was all dark, and wrote a song about if it was his choice, how summer would be (thus, 'my own summer'). "there are no crowds in the streets, and no sun in my own summer" proves that.

While they were recording "Around the Fur", Chino said something like he couldn't get to sleep because the sun was in his face. He said something like it was bugging him [the sun] and it reminded him of Armageddon, and we should all know what that means. Here's an example of why it would mean that: "Hey you big star, tell me when it's over, 'cause I'm through when the 2 hits the six and it's summer cloud. Come the sun aside" and then there's: "There's no crowds in the streets and no sun in my own summer" He wants to know when it's over because well, everything would be dead.
Armageddon would mean that no people would be left, therefore no crowds in the streets and no sun for anyone to see.


Linkin Park - "Breaking the habit"

This is about someone who has the tendency to do things to hurt himself physically and mentally. "You all assume I'm safe here in my room unless I try to start again" - this means he spends a lot of time in his room, where everyone thinks he can't do anything to hurt himself, but little do they know that he could at any time start hurting himself without them knowing. He regrets all the things he has done or had done to him in the past and he constantly picks himself apart for it. "I don't wanna be the one the battles always choose cause inside I realize I'm the one confused," is saying he gets a lot of problems thrown at him and he doesn't understand why this always seems to happen to him.

"Clutching my cure, I tightly lock the door" - The cure for emotional pain is to cause physical pain."You all assume I'm safe here in my room, unless I try to start again" - That is showing that the person prefers solitude, and although others think he's safest by himself, it's really when he's worst off, because he will start his self harm all over again. Also, he doesn't seem to understand his pain and all he wants is for it to go away, but the only known way for it to go away is to cause more. It's a vicious cycle.

Mike had been trying to write a song around this lyrical idea for for over five years but nothing seemed to work. While the album was being put together, Mike began working on an interlude, crossing a digitally manipulated beat with strings and piano. Brad and Joe suggested that Mike make the small interlude into a whole song. The piece was extended to three minutes and sixteen seconds and went under the name "Drawing." When Mike took it home to write lyrics, it only took him less than 2 hours to get the song that he was trying to write for years. With some finishing touches of live piano and live strings, the song was finally complete - six years in the making.


The Smashing Pumpkins - "Today"

This reflects the mood of lead singer Billy Corgan, who was very depressed when he wrote it. Corgan was in therapy, suffering from writer's block, and struggling with expectations that The Smashing Pumpkins would be the next Nirvana.
Corgan: "I was really suicidal. I just thought it was funny to write a song that said today is the greatest day of your life because it can't get any worse."
Corgan played almost all the instruments on this, partly because he was a control freak and partly because drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was unreliable due to drug problems.
The record company put a lot of pressure on the band to complete this album, which put Corgan in a tough spot because he was having trouble writing songs. This came to him pretty quickly and his demo appeased the record company because they thought it would be a hit.
Corgan never thought much of this song. He thought of it as a light pop song, even though many listeners thought it was quite meaningful.


Radiohead - "Street spirit (Fade out)"

"'Street Spirit' is our purest song, but I didn't write it.... It wrote itself. We were just its messengers... Its biological catylysts. It's core is a complete mystery to me... and (pause) you know, I wouldn't ever try to write something that hopeless... All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve... 'Street Spirit' has no resolve... It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition. We all have a way of dealing with that song... It's called detachment... Especially me.. I detach my emotional radar from that song, or I couldn't play it... I'd crack. I'd break down on stage.. that's why its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning... I used images set to the music that I thought would convey the emotional entirety of the lyric and music working together... That's what's meant by 'all these things are one to swallow whole'.. I meant the emotional entirety, because I didn't have it in me to articulate the emotion... (pause) I'd crack.... Our fans are braver than I to let that song penetrate them, or maybe they don't realize what they're listening to.. They don't realize that 'Street Spirit' is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes... and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he'll get the last laugh...and it's real...and true. The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that to long, I'd crack. I can't believe we have fans that can deal emotionally with that song... That's why I'm convinced that they don't know what it's about. It's why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell everytime I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it's meaning, like when you're going to have your dog put down and it's wagging it's tail on the way there. That's what they all look like, and it breaks my heart. I wish that song hadn't picked us as its catalysts, and so I don't claim it. It asks too much. (very long pause). I didn't write that song."
Thom Yorke.


Counting Crows " Mr Jones"

"- I love this song because there's so many levels to it. On one level, it's a simple guy song -- but it also has to do with all the things you dream about as a young musician, and how silly and sad and helpless it is to think that everyone's going to love you if you're famous. What do you think is going to be satisfying to get these dreams fulfilled? I can't tell you why I want some of the things I want, but I want...I want...I want... The song is about how strange it is to feel like the thing that makes your dream come true and the thing that makes you appear to the world is also what makes you feel like you're sort of disappearing to yourself. I think I felt very much like I was slipping away. It didn't feel like, `wow, I'm everywhere.' It just felt kind of crappy. "I think Mr. Jones, in a lot of ways, is about dreams, but there's a cautionary element to it. The guy keeps saying, `when everybody loves me, I'll never be lonely,' and you're supposed to realize that that is probably a mistake. It's a ridiculous statement."

(From Storytellers) : This is a song that has been misinterpreted greatly, to say the least. I think people too often look for symbolism in songs when they're simpler than they seem. This, in particular, is much simpler than it must seem to a lot of people. I have heard everything from it being about some ancient blues man who taught me to play music, which is completely ridiculous (but like somebody's movie fantasy). And I've also heard it's about my dick, which is even more ridiculous. Why do people go there, you know?

When we did the interview for "Rolling Stone" I walked with David Wilde into the Musée d'Orsay in Paris one day and the first thing that happened was these two kids ran up to us and said, "Hey! You're the guy from Counting Crows, right?" And I said, 'yeah.' And he said, " Is Mr. Jones about your dick?" I wanted to kill the guy because I knew where that was going to end up, which is the first paragraph of the article in "Rolling Stone."

It's really a song about my friend Marty and I. We went out one night to watch his dad play, his dad was a flamenco guitar player who lived in Spain, and he was in San Francisco in the mission playing with his old flamenco troupe. And after the gig we all went to this bar called the New Amsterdam in San Francisco on Columbus and we got completely drunk. And Marty and I sat at the bar staring at these two girls, wishing there was *some* way we could go talk to them, but we were, we were too shy. And we thought, we kept joking with each other, that if we were big rock stars instead of such loser, low-budget musicians, we'd be able to, this would be easy. And I went home that night and I wrote a song about it.

And I joke about what's it about, that story. But it's really a song about all the dreams and all the things that make you want to go in to , you know, doing whatever it is that like seizes your heart, whether it's being a rock star or being a doctor or whatever it is, you know. And I mean, those things run from like 'all this stuff I have pent up inside of me' to , 'I want to meet girls' you know, because I'm tired of not being able to. And it is a lot of those things, it's about all those dreams. But it's also kind of cautionary because it's about how misguided you may be about some of those things and how hollow they may be too. Like the character in the song keeps saying, 'When everybody loves me I will never be lonely.' And you're supposed to know that that's not the way it's gonna be, probably. I knew that even then. And this is a song about my dreams."
Adam Duritz