George Michael - "Careless whisper"

“Careless Whisper” was George Michael’s first solo single, although it was actually co-written with his Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley when they were 16, on a bus (Wham!’s first demo actually contained 40 seconds of “Careless Whisper”). Contrary to popular belief, the song was not based on an actual event in George Michael's high school dating life, George himself admitting that he “knew nothing about romance and certainly nothing about love”. It was a fictitious story, but the song still was a hit.

The song was deemed too 'low-key' for a release by a teenage pop sensation like Wham!, and that’s why George released it on his own. More importantly, by 1984, George was making plans for a post-Wham! career - and “Careless Whisper” had a big role to play in those plans.
It was billed as a George Michael solo single in the UK, although in America it was credited to Wham! featuring George Michael. Michael was being groomed for a solo career and the record company wanted to get his name out. But regardless of the name on the cover, the single was a huge success, taking the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic.

It’s a simple song with just four chords. The track’s main features are the mournful saxophone intro and George’s anguished vocals as he pleads for forgiveness from the lover he’s cheated on.
It was recorded in Paris. The song was arranged and produced by George. He also did the backing vocals. George claims that he has gotten more compliments on his writing of the sax solo at the beginning of the song than on anything else he has ever written.

The irony inherent in thousands of love struck couples smooching to a song about infidelity appears to be lost on most people. Not George though – after all, his “guilty feet have got no rhythm”.
Available on the Wham! album "Make it big"


Milli Vanilli - "Girl you know it's true"

Ironically, the song “Girl you know it’s true” reached its peak American chart position of #2 on April Fool's Day in 1989.

Ironically, because Milli Vanilli are notorious for being the only group to have their Grammy Award stripped from them after it was revealed that they had not been involved in the creation of their breakthrough album and did not sing in concert.
Rapper Charles Shaw and singers John Davis and Brad Howell were the ones whose voices actually appeared on the record. Frank Farian (the man who created the group) used Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan to front Shaw, Davis and Howell because he felt that these musicians were talented but unmarketable.

Shaw was the one who first spilled the beans about Pilatus and Morvan (the faces of the group) not being the voices on the record and lip-synching during live representations. Embarrassed by the situation, Morvan and Pilatus confronted Farian and insisted that he allow them to sing on their next album. Farian, however, had no interest in agreeing to this, so revealed the truth to reporters on November 15, 1990 after the record of Girl You Know It's True skipped during a live performance on MTV : at a concert in Bristol, Connecticut, the tape skipped, repeating the line "Girl you know it's..." over and over. Pilatus and Morvan sung with it for a little while, and then ran off stage. The crowd didn't seem to care, but the media made a big deal out of it, and they were exposed soon after Farian’s revelation. The Grammy was rescinded four days later, Arista (the record company) dropped the act from its rosters and a court ruling in the US allowed anyone who had bought the album to get a refund (!!!).

For many cultural critics, Milli Vanilli’s story seemed to be a perfect representation of the artificial, pre-packaged nature of the pop music industry itself.

Shaw, Davis and Howell later released an album as “The Real Milli Vanilli”.
Morvan started a solo career, performing light alternative music that is far from his glory days with Milli Vanilli.
Pilatus began a series of criminal acts, arrested for assault and vandalism, among other crimes, in Los Angeles. He died in 1998, at the age of 32, after overdosing on a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Available on “Girl you know it’s true”


Blur - "Song 2"

“Song 2” is also known as “Whoo-Hooo”.

With loud guitars and cryptic lyrics, Blur wrote the song to make fun of grunge music that was big in America at the time. The band recorded it in about 30 minutes, and the band tried to add more production to the recorded version and finish it off, but without success. They saw this as a learning experience. Alex James (bass) says it was “The realization you don't have to polish everything. Sometimes the thing you do first of all is when you mean it”.

At one point, Blur weren't sure if this was even a contender to be included on the album, thinking it too short. However, their US record company loved it. It ended up being Blur's biggest hit… in the US.

It is the second track on the CD, the second single from the album, it hit #2 in the UK, and it is 2 minutes long.
Available on the album "Blur"


Elton John - "Your song"

"I don't think I've written a love song as good since." As is the case with so many artists, Elton John’s first hit is also one of his best loved.

Remarkably, lyricist Bernie Taupin was just 17 years old when, in 1967, he wrote the words, although it was not until four years later that the song became a hit.
The duo’s partnership came about by chance. Both Elton and Taupin had replied to a record label advert seeking new talent. Neither did quite enough to impress on their own, but the label saw potential in both and suggested they team up. The pair hit it off straight away and one of pop’s most enduring collaborations was born. Taupin soon moved in with Elton and his mum in north-west London and began furiously bashing out lyrics. “Your Song” was actually conceived one breakfast, while he was eating scrambled eggs. The original lyrics have coffee stains on them.
The most striking thing about the song is its innocence – it couldn’t have been written by anyone other than a teenager who, in Taupin’s own words, “had never got laid in his life”.

Elton wrote the music in about 20 minutes, as he often did with Taupin's lyrics in their early days. Elton’s uncomplicated music complements Taupin’s unpretentious lyrics and that really sums up why “Your Song” has remained such a favourite.

Elton's "We All Fall In Love Sometimes" is about the writing of this song.

Elton John performed the song on The Simpsons. Apu had asked him to serenade his wife, Manjula. The lyrics 'for you' were replaced with 'from Apu'.
Available on the album "Elton John"


Pink Floyd - "Wish you were here"

The song is about the detached feeling most people go through life with. It is a commentary on how people cope with the world by withdrawing physically, mentally, or emotionally. Roger Waters (bass & vocals) has said this song was based on a poem he wrote about Syd Barrett's (former guitarist) fall from reality. It was said that Syd's friends would lace his coffee with LSD, which eventually lead to his mental breakdown.

David Gilmour (guitars) wrote the music based on Water's lyrics. It is one of the few Pink Floyd songs written this way, as Waters usually had music in mind for his lyrics when he took his songs to the band. Gilmour, who latched onto the elegiac quality of Waters’ lyric and fashioned a simple folky melody.

Syd Barrett, their old band mate, had been in seclusion for years due to drug induced psychosis. During the recording sessions, a fat, shaven-headed person wearing grey Terylene trousers, a nylon shirt and string vest wandered into the studio. The band ignored the visitor and kept on playing and it was the visiting Andrew King who finally recognised their guest: 'Good God, it's Syd! How did you get like that?' To which Syd replied, 'I've got a very large fridge at home and I've been eating a lot of pork chops.' The whole event was slightly un-nerving since the theme of the album was based on Syd and his subsequent madness."

The intro fades in from a car radio, as if the song was appearing from the airwaves, further accentuating the lyrical theme of dislocation and absence. David Gilmour then begins to play along to the radio - in stereo. Waters had the idea to "bunch up" the sound to mimic an AM radio, and Gilmour played along with it. You can hear extraneous noises from Gilmour, sniffling and others noises.
At the end, listeners with perfect hearing may just be able to discern a violin amongst the wind effects on the fade, performed by an un-credited Stephane Grappelli, famous jazz musician who was recording in nearby studios.
Musically, the song is in constant pivot between an optimistic G Major and a downcast E Minor. The song fades out before this change can ever be fully resolved.

It is the only song co-written by Waters and Gilmour that Waters continued to play at his shows after leaving Pink Floyd.
Available on the album "Wish you were here"


U2 - "One"

The band wrote the song in Berlin after toiling there for months trying to record Achtung Baby. The Edge (guitars) : "It was autumn 1990. We were in Berlin, at Hansa Studios (formerly a Nazi mess hall) where Bowie recorded 'Heroes', trying to get traction with some new songs. It wasn't going well. Adam (Clayton, bass) and Larry (Mullen, drums)'s rather jaundiced view of Bono's and my songwriting ability was becoming more and more evident as our various experiments went nowhere. We were listening to a lot of industrial music, and the sounds we were making were quite intense".
The Edge : "It was a very pivotal song in the recording of the album -- the first sort of breakthrough in what was an extremely difficult set of sessions in Berlin. I like the lyric a lot because it treads a very fine line between becoming too clear, too jingoistic, but in the end it never does... stays personal".
The song apparently came from nowhere. Bono had a couple of middle-eights that fitted together, and it was while fiddling around with these mongrel tunes that the inordinately emotive lyrics of "One" began to seep through. "They just fell out of the sky," says Bono. "A gift from above." This much he knows: the Dalai Lama had asked U2 to participate in a festival called "Oneness." Having sensed the unsavoury whiff of hippiedom, Bono sent back a note saying, "One -- but not the same." Unconsciously, this became his hook.
Bono (singer) : It is a song about coming together, but it's not the old hippie idea of "Let's all live together." It is, in fact, the opposite. It's saying, 'We are one, but we're not the same'. It's not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It's a reminder that we have no choice".
"The lyric was the first in a new, more intimate style. It's two ideas, essentially. On one level it's a bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who've been through some nasty, heavy stuff: 'We hurt each other / Then we do it again.' But on another level there's the idea that 'we get to carry each other.' 'Get to' is the key. The original lyric was 'we have to carry each other' and it was never quite right -- it was too fuckin' obvious and platitudinous. But 'get to'… it's like our privilege to carry one another. It puts everything in a different perspective, introduces that idea of grace. "It opened up new horizons for U2. It's not a song we would ever try to rewrite. We wouldn't want to go there again. But the small scale of it, the intimacy, has been revisited for various other records and songs. The restraint was something new -- we learned how holding back can be even more powerful than letting go."
The Edge came up with the guitar track while working on "The Fly". The Edge : "In the midst of all the recorindg, I went off into another room to put together some ideas for 'The Fly'. I came back with two, neither of which worked where they were meant to, but on Daniel Lanois's suggestion we put them together and Bono was really taken with it. So we all went out into the big recording room -- a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war -- and everything fell into place. Bono's melodies and phrases were following, and by the end of the day we basically had everything, the whole form of the song : they had recorded the bare bones of what some call "the greatest song ever written." Bono : "The humbling bit about songwriting is that anything above good usually feels like an accident. A lot of U2 songs are first drafts".
"'One' was played over the radio a lot during the Los Angeles riots. At least, that's what I heard from some friends," Bono says, "which is surprising because I never saw the song as something hopeful or comforting".
Available on "Achtung Baby"


Pearl Jam - "Given to fly"

The song borrows its structure from Led Zeppelin's "Going To California". Mike McCready (guitars) : "It's probably some sort of rip off of it I'm sure. Whether it's conscious or unconscious, that was definitely one of the songs I was listening to for sure. Zeppelin was definitely an influence on our song".
Mike McCready : "I just wanted him (Eddie Vedder, singer) to sing on it ! (laughs) That was enough. I did have the intention of making a dynamic song with a sense of flow. I built it like a wave on the ocean. It starts out slow and small, then builds until it gets really large, then breaks like a wave and gets small again". And over again.
Available on the album "Yield"


The Cure - "Killing an Arab"

"It was a short poetic attempt at condensing my impression of the key moments in 'L'etranger'" (Robert Smith, singer).
Indeed, the song was inspired by Albert Camus' book The Stranger (also known as The Outsider). Camus published The Stranger in 1942. The song the Cure wrote is not a racist song, but still caused a lot of controversy because many people assumed it was, due to the title. The book deals with existentialism, and the title "Killing An Arab" was taken from a passage where the main character thinks about the emptiness of life after killing a man on a beach.
Arab groups protested this song because of the title. For The Cure, it wasn't worth the trouble to defend it so they asked radio stations to stop playing it. At the time, any music considered controversial could get you on lists created by conservative groups who would then pressure radio stations not to play your songs and stores not to sell your music. Smith: "The song was written in 1976, when I was 16. We used to play it in a pub in Crawley and it didn't seem that earth shattering at the time, and it seemed quite ludicrous to me that it suddenly became an issue afterwards. It was only when someone suggested that it was somehow some sort of publicity stunt that I thought, 'This has really gotten out of hand,' and that's when I asked for it to be withdrawn from airplay, just to make it obvious that we had no interest in perpetuating it as an onrunning issue. It was just unfortunate that the real world intruded".
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee raised objections to the air-play of the song when "Standing on a Beach" (a Cure best of) was later released. Smith and his record company (Elektra) drew up a cover sticker explaining the song's intent and requested that radio stations discontinue airing the song.
Available on the album "Three Imaginary Boys"


Muse - "Space dementia"

Matt Bellamy (singer): “Space dementia is the term NASA uses for what happens if you’re left out in space for a long time, because if you truly conceptualise the situation of being there and looking back on earth, it can drive you mad. The song is about a person whose quite important in my life and who gives me space dementia when I look at them. It’s about being intensely engrossed so that you become obsessive and almost nasty”.
The first word of the song is not “height”, as it is written in the lyric-book of the album (Origin of Symetry), but it’s “H8”. H8 is a microcomputer. Matt: “Using a microcomputer (Hitachi H8 / 3048F) which can be built into the industrial machines, you can learn and understand the inputs/outputs of the microcomputer as a basis of robot control”.
Matt: “Space Dementia was supposed to be the big ending to the album. If you stick it on really loud speakers, it reaches the absolute limit of what is the sub and what is the height of your ear. So it hits the extreme of what our hearing range is. We were going to secretly increase the dB to the point where it was illegal”.
“It didn't work at the end of the album, so we put it further to the front, and had a big argument whether to have this big ending or not to the song. We actually recorded the first section of the song in the earlier session, and then we recorded the ending as a completely different thing. We had the song playing and then we came in playing as it finished, with a different instrument set up and everything”.
“It was supposed to be a shock thing because up until then it was all piano, and then go all dirty guitars and death”.
Available on the album "Origin of Symmetry"


Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to heaven"

Robert Plant used to indroduce this piece on stage with the words "This is a song of hope". He has often refused to explain the song further, leaving it up to everyone to make their own interpretation.

That being said, a lot can still be said about the song.

It is rumored to contain backward satanic messages, as if Led Zeppelin sold their souls to the devil in exchange for "Stairway To Heaven." Supporting this theory is the fact that Jimmy Page bought Aleister Crowley's house in Scotland, which had become a well known Satanic church and was known as "The Toolhouse." In his books, Crowley advocated that his followers learn to read and speak backwards. Robert Plant addressed the issue in an interview with Musician magazine: "'Stairway To Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music. It's really sad. the first time I heard it was early in the morning when I was living at home, and I heard it on a news program. I was absolutely drained all day. I walked around, and I couldn't actually believe, I couldn't take people seriously who could come up with sketches like that. There are a lot of people who are making money there, and if that's the way they need to do it, then do it without my lyrics. I cherish them far too much."
Robert and Jimmy wrote the song in an old mansion called Headley Grange in Worcestershire, England, where they recorded most of their 4th album. It was a huge, old, dusty mansion with no electricity but great acoustics. Bands would go there to get some privacy and focus on songwriting. One night, in front of a roaring fire, Page strummed the chords to this for Robert. Plant wrote 90% of the lyrics right there in front of the fire. He has said in many interviews that he didn't seem to be writing, that something else was moving his pencil for him. Plant is a great admirer of all things mystic, the old English legends and lore and the writings of the Celts. He was immersed in The Lord Of The Rings around this time and many of his lyrics reflect that.

The acoustic intro was borrowed from the song "Taurus" from the band Spirit, who toured with Led Zeppelin when they first played the US. The band Spirit has acknowledged this, and is okay with it.
Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones decided not to use a bass on this because it sounded like a folk song. Instead, he added a string section, keyboards and flutes. He also played wooden recorders that were used on the intro. Bonham's drums do not come in until 4:18.
The guitar solo, now considered a classic that most aspiring lead guitarists try to learn note-for-note, was never actually played that way in the studio. It was pieced together out of several different takes by Jimmy Page, who then learned the solo after the fact to be able to perform it live. If you listen closely on the album, you can hear the "punch-ins," places where the recording engineer, Eddie Kramer, edited the tracks.

Jimmy Page considers this a masterpiece, but Robert Plant does not share his fondness for the song. Plant has referred to it as a "wedding song" and insists that his favorite Led Zeppelin song is "Kashmir."
Every youth who picked up a guitar has tried to play this. In the movie Wayne's World, it is banned in the guitar shop where Wayne starts playing it.


The Beatles - "While my guitar gently weeps"

George Harrison was reading the 'I Ching', the Chinese book of changes, and decided to apply its principles of chance to his songwriting. At his parents' Lancashire home, he picked a novel off the shelf with the intention of writing a song based on the first words that he came across. The words were 'gently weeps' and so George began to write.

Eric Clapton played lead guitar. He and George Harrison were good friends, but George had to convince him to come to the studio because Clapton was worried the other Beatles wouldn't want him there.
Clapton's presence actually eased the mood in the studio at a tense time for The Beatles. They were at each other's throats during recording of The White Album, but they all relaxed when Clapton showed up.
The song was the first song Ringo played on after leaving the band in frustration a few weeks earlier. He returned to find flowers on his drums to welcome him back.

The strange guitar sound on the album is a guitar being played backwards. They recorded a guitar separately from the rest of the song, and reversed the track to create the music for the song.

According to legend, it's supposed to sound like George is saying, "Paul, Paul..." at the end (because Paul had supposedly died.)