Everyone’s gone to the movies

There’s always been a special symbiotic relationship between music and film. From the earliest examples — Al Jolson singing “My Mammy” in 1927’s “The Jazz Singer,” the first film with synchronized sound for both speech and singing sequences — through the decades of film musicals based on Broadway stage plays, popular songs have played a pivotal role in making films more successful, just as the use of songs in films has often spiked the chart success of the records.

By the 1960s and the influx of rock and roll in some Hollywood movies, the relationship between film and music really took off, so that by the ’70s and ’80s, many film soundtrack albums were virtually saturated with rock songs. Some films in the mid-’80s featured as many as three or four songs that became huge hit singles (“Footloose” and “Purple Rain” come immediately to mind).

For this week’s post, Hack’s Back Pages Lyrics Quiz #6, I have selected 24 snippets of rock lyrics from original songs written specifically for films of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. If you haven’t seen the film in question, certain lyrics may prove difficult to identify, but then again, these lyrics are from records that had a life of their own, independent of the film for which they were written.

Here’s what I suggest: Grab a pen and paper, and jot down your guesses (educated or wild-ass) as you peruse the list of two dozen lyrics. Once you’ve done all you can, then you can scroll down a bit until you find the answers and read a little more about them. I’d love to hear how well you did! I hope it’s as much fun taking this quiz as it was for me to assemble it!

Rock on!


1. “And it don’t take money, don’t take fame, /Don’t need no credit card to ride this train, /It’s strong and it’s sudden, it can be cruel sometimes, /But it might just save your life…”

2. “Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel, /A fortune won and lost on every deal, /All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel…”

3. “We take the pressure and we throw away, conventionality belongs to yesterday, /There is a chance that we can make it so far, we start believing now that we can be who we are…”

4. “I’m gonna live forever, I’m gonna learn how to fly high, /I feel it coming together, people will see me and cry…”

5. “Headin’ into twilight, spreadin’ out her wings tonight, /She got you jumpin’ off the deck and shovin’ into overdrive…”

6. “Let me tell you ’bout some friends I know, they’re kinda crazy but you’ll dig the show, /They can party ’till the break of dawn, at Delta Chi, you can’t go wrong…”

7. “A friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn, /What! What can I give you in return?…”

8. “I know I’m gonna know her, but I gotta get over my fright, /Well, I’m just gonna walk up to her, I’m gonna talk to her tonight, /Yeah, she’s gonna be somebody’s only light, gonna shine tonight…”

9. “Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk, /Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around since I was born…”

10. “So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone, you know I feel okay, /When I’m home, everything seems to be right, When I’m home feeling you holding me tight…”

11. “The way that you hold me whenever you hold me, /There’s some kind of magic inside you that keeps me from running, but just keep it coming, /How’d you learn to do the things you do?…”

12. “Will you recognise me, call my name or walk on by, /Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down, down, down, down…”

13. “My baby may not be rich, he’s watchin’ every dime, /But he loves me, loves me, loves me, we always have a real good time, /And maybe he sings off-key, but that’s alright by me, /’Cause what he does, he does so well…”

14. “What did it matter to you, when you got a job to do you got to do it well, /You got to give the other fellow hell…”

15. “Once in your life you’ll find her, someone who turns your heart around, /And next thing you know, you’re closin’ down the town…”

16. “Jesus loves you more than you will know, woh woh woh…”

17. “Time, I’ve been passing time watching trains go by all of my life, /Lying on the sand watching sea birds fly, wishing there would be someone waiting home for me…”

18. “It’s just a jump to the left, and then a jump to the right, with your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight, but it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane…”

19. “All alone, I have cried silent tears full of pride in a world made of steel, made of stone, /Well, I hear the music, close my eyes, feel the rhythm wrap around, take a hold of my heart…”

20. “And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on, /Don’t think of the danger, or the stranger is gone, /This dream is for you, so pay the price…”

21. “An invisible man, sleepin’ in your bed, /Ow, who you gonna call?…”

22. “You’re gonna make your fortune by and by, but if you lose, don’t ask no questions why, /The only game you know is do or die, ah-ha-ha…”

23. “Maybe I’m just too demanding, maybe I’m just like my father, too bold, /Maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied, /Why do we scream at each other?…”

24. “The shadows are on the darker side, behind the doors, it’s a wilder ride, /You can make a break, you can win or lose, that’s a chance you take…”


















1. “The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis and The News, from “Back to the Future” (1985)

Lewis and his band were riding high on the multi-platinum success of their 1983 LP “Sports” and its four Top Ten hits when they were asked to write a theme song for Robert Zemeckis’s film “Back to the Future.” Lewis and band members Johnny Colla and Chris Hayes collaborated on “The Power of Love,” which Billboard called “an out-of-the-box monster hit” that topped the charts and got a Best Song Oscar nomination.

2. “Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley, from “Viva Las Vegas” (1964)

Presley managed to reach #29 on US Top 40 charts with this rollicking theme song from what critics have called one of his finest films out of more than two dozen he made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Thanks to the chemistry between Elvis and his sexy co-star Ann-Margret, “Viva Las Vegas” reached #14 on Variety’s list of top-grossing films in 1964.

3. “Grease,” Frank Valli, from “Grease” (1978)

Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees was commissioned to write a new title song for the 1978 film version of the 1972 Broadway stage play. Film director Randal Kleiser didn’t like it much because it used disco instrumentation and a Seventies beat, which he felt didn’t fit with the late ’50s plot setting. Nevertheless, Frankie Valli recorded it and took it to #1, one of three hits from the film soundtrack to top the charts (“You’re the One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” being the others).

4. “Fame,” Irene Cara, from “Fame” (1980)

Cara had begun acting in her teens on stage and on television, and she was only 20 when she was not only selected to portray Coco Hernandez in “Fame” but was given her recording debut singing the film’s theme song as well. She became a proverbial “overnight sensation” with the record, reaching #4 on the pop charts and winning an Oscar for Best Song.

5. “Danger Zone,” Kenny Loggins, from “Top Gun” (1986)

As half of the duo Loggins and Messina and then as a solo artist, Loggins wrote and recorded several pop hits including “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “House at Pooh Corner,” “Whenever I Call You Friend” and “This Is It.” He then began working in film music, scoring successes with “I’m Alright” for the “Caddyshack” comedy, the title song of “Footloose” and the #2 pop hit “Danger Zone” for the 1986 Tom Cruise action film “Top Gun.”

6. “Animal House,” Stephen Bishop, from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978)

The soundtrack of this landmark bawdy comedy was chock full of classic rock and roll and R&B tunes (Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Wonderful World,” Paul & Paula’s “Hey Paula,” Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance,” Otis Day & The Knights’ version of “Shout”). As the closing credits rolled, singer-songwriter Bishop sang the lyrics to the theme song he wrote in mock falsetto, calling out various characters and their nefarious adventures.

7. “To Sir, With Love,” Lulu, from “To Sir With Love” (1967)

the songwriting team of Mark London and Don Black wrote this melodramatic tune as the theme song for the Sidney Poitier vehicle “To Sir, With Love,” about a black teacher assigned to a British working class high school, and his attempts to win them over. British sensation Lulu took her rendition to the top of the US charts and in Canada (#11 in the UK) in 1967.

8. “Somebody’s Baby,” Jackson Browne, from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1983)

Browne had been a critical favorite from his debut in 1972, and his albums became increasingly successful over the next ten years. When asked to write a song for the 1982 teen flick “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” he came up with this catchy track, which reached #7 in the US, his highest-charting single of his career. The film is noted for early appearances by multiple award-winning actors, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whittaker and Nicolas Cage.

9. “Stayin’ Alive,” The Bee Gees, from “Saturday Night Fever” (1977)

The most successful film soundtrack of all time made The Bee Gees the quintessential disco act (which they would ultimately regret), giving them three #1 singles in the US in less than a year. Barry Gibb recalled, “Desperate songs — those are the ones that become giants. ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is the epitome of that. Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the things that can drag you down. And it really is a victory just to survive.”


10. “A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles, from “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964)

The unmistakable opening chord of this fab track also opened the movie, and as The Beatles (in glorious black and white) cheerfully ran through a London train station just out of reach of fans chasing them, this indelible tune played in the background. Producers decided to use Ringo’s malaprop “it’s been a hard day’s night” as the film’s title, John wrote the title song overnight, and the band recorded it the next day. It became the group’s fifth of seven #1 singles on the US charts in 1964, also topping charts in the UK, Canada, Australia and five other countries.

11. “Nobody Does It Better,” Carly Simon, from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager were commissioned to come up with the theme song for the tenth James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Critics referred to their song as “a lust-drunk anthem to 007’s sexual prowess.” Hamlisch said that because the lyrics sounded so vain, they thought of asking Carly Simon to sing it because of her previous hit “You’re So Vain.” “Nobody Does It Better” peaked at #2 on the charts and was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy.

12. “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds, from “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

When first approached to record this song for “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack, Simple Minds declined, saying “We only record our own songs.” Producers then asked Bryan Ferry, Billy Idol and Corey Hart to sing it but they declined as well. Simple Minds was finally persuaded, and rearranged and recorded it in three hours and promptly forgot about it, believing it would be a throwaway song on the soundtrack to a forgettable movie. The song and the film ended up worldwide successes, with Simple Minds finally getting the recognition in the US they’d been seeking.

13. “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” Deniece Williams, from “Footloose” (1984)

Williams sang background vocals on Stevie Wonder’s biggest albums while in her early ’20s, had a huge hit with Johnny Mathis in 1978, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” and a #10 single, “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” in 1982. By 1984, she was asked to sing “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” written by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford for the “Footloose” soundtrack, and again she found herself at the top of the pop charts.

14. “Live and Let Die,” Paul McCartney and Wings, from “Live and Let Die” (1973)

Producers of the first James Bond film to star Roger Moore as 007 wanted a commercial rock song as the movie’s theme song. They approached McCartney, who accepted the challenge but found it difficult. “It was work for me, because writing a song around a title like that wasn’t easy,” he recalled. It reached #2 on the pop charts, earned an Oscar nomination, and has been a fixture on McCartney’s concert set list ever since.

15. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” Christopher Cross, from “Arthur” (1981)

Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli had marvelous chemistry in this romantic comedy that was a big box-office success in 1981. The title song — a collaborative writing project between Cross, film scorer Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen — was recorded by Cross, reached #1 on pop charts and won the Best Song Oscar.

16. “Mrs. Robinson,” Simon and Garfunkel, from “The Graduate” (1967)

Director Mike Nichols turned down three of the four songs Simon wrote for “The Graduate,” instead choosing to use older Simon tunes like “The Sound of Silence” and “Scarborough Fair.” He obviously liked “Mrs. Robinson” and included it in the film, but only in partial segments because Simon hadn’t finished it. In the movie, you hear only the chorus, as the verses were written after the film’s release. The movie was a success, but the finished Simon and Garfunkel song, which appeared on their “Bookends” LP, was an iconic #1 hit single in the summer of 1968.

17. “It Might Be You,” Stephen Bishop, from “Tootsie” (1982)

Bishop was a soft rock singer/songwriter in the mid-late 1970s with original hits like “On and On,” but in 1982, he was asked to sing the theme song (written by David Grusin and Marilyn Bergman) for the Dustin Hoffman film “Tootsie.” It reached #25 on the pop charts that summer, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

18. “Time Warp,” Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn, from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1974)

This campy musical horror-comedy, originally a stage play in 1973, became a feature film two years later, using much of the same music. It later became a sensation on the midnight movie circuit at art-film houses around the US and Europe, a phenomenon that continued into the 2000s. “Time Warp” is the film’s signature dance number, with lyrics that offer instructions on how to do the dance in question.

19. “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” Irene Cara, from “Flashdance” (1984)

Following her success with the “Fame” theme music, Cara was asked to sing the title track to “Flashdance” four years later, and she took this one to the top of the charts.

20. “You Only Live Twice,” Nancy Sinatra, from “You Only Live Twice” (1967)

John Barry, who wrote the iconic James Bond theme music and the title songs for the first four Bond films, also wrote this stunner for the fifth in the series, “You Only Live Twice.” Producer Albert Broccoli wanted Frank Sinatra to sing it, but he suggested his daughter Nancy instead, who was basking in the glow of the huge hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Barry wanted to use Aretha Franklin, but they went with Nancy Sinatra, whose version stalled at #44 on pop charts but reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart.

21. “Ghostbusters,” Ray Parker Jr., from “Ghostbusters” (1984)

Parker was given a short deadline to write the film’s theme song, and was inspired by late night commercial jingles urging viewers to “call right away.” allegedly didn’t look too far to come up with the theme song to the #1 box-office comedy of 1984. He was clearly inspired by Huey Lewis and The News’s big hit “I Want a New Drug,” and Lewis received a settlement in a 1985 lawsuit. Parker’s song, with lyrics that claimed “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” actually performed better than the Lewis tune, sitting at #1 on US charts for three weeks in the summer of 1984.

22. “Superfly,” Curtis Mayfield, from “Super Fly” (1972)

Producers of “blaxploitation” films like “Super Fly” drew criticism for their glorification of black male characters as pimps, dealers and gangsters, but this movie was praised for an all-black technical film crew and a plot in which the lead character was looking to get out of the drug culture. It turned a profit, but even more successful was the soul/funk music soundtrack, composed entirely by Curtis Mayfield, which exceeded expectations by reaching #1 on US pop charts in the fall of 1972, with two Top Ten singles including “Freddie’s Dead” (#4) and the title song (#8).

23. “When Doves Cry,” Prince and The Revolution, from “Purple Rain” (1984)

It took Prince a lot of persuading to get “Purple Rain” made. No one, it seemed, wanted to make a movie about the hard life of a musician from Minnesota who would rise to the peak of his profession, but sure enough, he got it done, and it exceeded every expectation (except perhaps his own). The soundtrack album sat at #1 for 24 weeks and stayed in the Top 200 for more than two years. “When Doves Cry” was the most successful of four Top Ten singles from the album.

24. “The Heat Is On,” Glenn Frey, from “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984)

Harold Faltermeyer, a German musician/composer who had already contributed the instrumental piece “Axel F” to the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, wrote “The Heat Is On” with lyricist Keith Forsey, and they asked ex-Eagle Glenn Frey to record the vocals. Frey readily agreed, also adding the guitar solo, and the song ended up reaching #2 on US charts in early 1985, the highest charting solo single by any member of The Eagles.


Lord, do you know what I mean?

A good friend recently told me he thought it was a shame that, thanks to Google and cell phones, the days of hanging out debating facts and meanings behind various news events, moments in sports, popular films and more are long gone.  “We used to have a blast arguing for hours about which year some team won the Super Bowl, or what the words were to some song, or what they meant.  Now you can just look it up.  What’s the fun in that?”

He has a point.  I remember listening to albums over and over trying to discern the lyrics, or struggling to figure out what the writer meant, but we could only guess.  These days, there are websites that provide lyrics for every song in an artist’s catalog, and others that offer definitive accounts from songwriters regarding the meaning behind their tunes.  It may be nice to know the answer to what’s on your mind, but it removes some of the mystique about the music.

It almost makes it silly for me to devote a blog post to discussing the meaning of song lyrics from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.  Anyone can look up this stuff on their own now.  The thing is, most of you can’t be bothered to do so, and that’s why I provide that service for you.

I’ve picked out eight well-known songs from 50-or-so years ago, songs you’ll know and can probably sing along with, but you might not know exactly what they’re about.  Now, you will.


“All Along the Watchtower,” Bob Dylan, 1967

Many of Dylan’s early songs were wordy to the extreme, with as many as six or seven lengthy verses on songs like “My Back Pages,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”  In contrast, following his 1966 motorcycle accident and subsequent convalescence, the songs he wrote for his 1967 LP “John Wesley Harding” were notable for their brevity.  One critic termed “All Along the Watchtower” as “a masterpiece of understatement,” with only three short stanzas that told a concise story with “implications of cataclysm.”  A number of observers noted Dylan’s “audacity of manipulating chronological time” — in other words, the story is told almost in reverse order.  It’s remarkable, really; using imagery from the Book of Isaiah, he writes about keeping watch in dread as something potentially evil this way comes.  The third verse is where the story begins, as “two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl.”  Two characters (the thief and the joker) debate whether they have anything to worry about (“There must be some way out of here” versus “No reason to get excited”) and it ends with the last line of the first verse (“None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”).  Dylan felt Jimi Hendrix’s fiery rendition improved it, “and I’ve been doing it his way ever since.”

“Tiny Dancer,” Elton John, 1971

My daughters (age 30 and 27) have been crazy about this magnificent song ever since it was used prominently in 2000 in Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age rock film “Almost Famous.”  They were amazed to learn it hadn’t been a success as a single in the US or the UK at the time of release, on John’s 1971 LP “Madman Across the Water,” although it received FM radio airplay.  Elton’s gorgeous melody instantly grabs you, but the lyrics are a bit vague:  “But oh, how it feels so real, lying here with no one near, /Only you, and you can hear me when I say softly, slowly, /Hold me closer, tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, /Lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today…”  Like many lyricists, Bernie Taupin was reluctant to discuss the meaning behind his songs until many years later.  Turns out his inspiration for “Tiny Dancer” came from two sources:  California, and his first wife, Maxine, who was, in fact, “the seamstress for the band,” among other duties.  During Taupin’s first visit to the US, he was taken by “the spirit, the radiance, the sunshine of California, the freedom of ‘dancing in the sand,’ which was in stark contrast to England.  I was particularly captivated by the women we met in the clothes stores and restaurants and bars and clubs on the Sunset Strip.  They had this thing at the time about embroidering their clothes and sewing patches on their denim.  I called them ‘blue jean babies.'”

Jon Anderson

“Roundabout,” Yes, 1971

Even devout fans of Yes have acknowledged that many of the lyrics in the band’s catalog are obtuse and challenging to grasp.  (Here’s a sample from their opus “Close to the Edge”: “Space between the focus shape ascend knowledge of love as song and chance develop time, lost social temperance rules above…”  Huh?)  Lyricist Jon Anderson said he was just as keen on the way words sounded as much as what they meant, which actually served the group’s dense song structure well, even if much of the listening public had no idea what he was singing about.  Their early Top Ten hit “Roundabout” begins by admitting their lyrics will have you scratching your head:  “I’ll be the roundabout, the words will make you out and out…”  Fans in their native U.K. are well aware what a roundabout is (a traffic circle), but U.S. fans in the ’70s were unfamiliar with the term.  Anderson said the song was born during the band’s lengthy road trip through Scotland and England, and Anderson wrote his thoughts down in free-form style as they traveled.  They encountered “probably 50 roundabouts” along the way, and many beautiful lochs and stark mountain scenery (“In and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there…”).  Anderson was eager to return to his wife in London the next day (“Twenty-four before my love I’ll be there with you…”), and his notes became lyrics with minimal editing, he recalls.


“Her Town Too,” James Taylor, 1981

There’s really no way else to interpret this tune than as “a gentle, incisive divorce song,” as the Rolling Stone Album Guide put it.  Since Taylor’s own marriage with singer Carly Simon was breaking up at the time of the song’s release, most folks assumed it was autobiographical, but Taylor denies this, saying the lyrics were inspired by what producer Peter Asher’s ex-wife was going through in the aftermath of their split.  But it’s not merely about the end of a specific couple’s relationship; as Taylor explains, “it’s a well-meaning song about how difficult it is to be friends with both parties after a breakup.”  Indeed, “Her Town Too” is about the sad broader picture where third parties are affected when they’re expected to choose sides, and friendships with one partner or the other disintegrate.  The lyrics refer to the dividing of property (“She gets the house and the garden, he gets the boys in the band…”) but also the tricky business of what happens to alliances:  “Some of them his friends, some of them her friends, some of them understand…”  To Taylor’s credit, the song’s title looks at how things can be tougher for the woman if the man is a celebrity:  “She always figured that they were her friends too but maybe they can live without her, /It used to be her town, it used to be her town, too…”

“Killing Me Softly With His Song,” Roberta Flack, 1973

Little-known singer songwriter Lori Lieberman came up with the phrase “killing me softly” when she was in the audience at the Troubadour Club in West Hollywood one night in 1971, watching Don McLean sing his poignant break-up tune “Empty Chairs.”  She had written it on a cocktail napkin, and later took it to her songwriting collaborators Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, who helped her complete it with words that emphatically spoke of the power a singer and a song can have on the listener:  “I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd, /I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud, /I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on /Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song…”  Lieberman recorded it and released it in 1972, and although it went nowhere, she always mentioned the song’s inspiration when she performed it.  Later in 1972, Roberta Flack gave it a more uptempo feel, and it became not only a #1 hit single but won the Grammy for Record of the Year (for Flack) and Song of the Year (for the songwriters).  McLean said the following year that he was stunned to learn that he was the muse for the lyrics. “I’m absolutely amazed.  I’ve heard both Lori’s and Roberta’s versions, and I must say I’m very humbled about the whole thing.  You can’t help but feel that way about a song written and performed as well as this one is.”  Its lasting impact continued into the 1990s, when a new version by hip-hop group The Fugees, featuring Lauryn Hill on lead vocals, again reached #1.

“Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones, 1969

Keith Richards remembers the day he began work on this definitive Stones anthem.  “I had been sitting by the window of my friend’s apartment in London with an acoustic guitar when suddenly the sky went completely black, and an incredible monsoon came down.  It was just people running about, looking for shelter.  That was the germ of the idea.”  Later, when Mick Jagger joined the effort, it became much more, “a kind of end-of-the-world song, really.  It was such a violent period in history, with a nasty war going on, protests, police, all on TV screens.  We went further into it until it became, you know, ‘Rape!  Murder!  It’s just a shot away.’”  “Gimme Shelter,” together with the serial killer piece “Midnight Rambler,” came to define The Stones’ reputation as the band that sang dark, threatening music, and they did little to dissuade that notion in the years that followed.

“You’re So Vain,” Carly Simon, 1972

Few songs in the popular music canon have been as speculated about as Simon’s furtive tune that topped the charts in early 1973.  Her lyrics are brutal in their criticism of the man’s arrogant behavior:  “You walked in to the party like you were walking on to a yacht… You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte…”  He goes on to be callous with the female narrator’s feelings:  “You said that we made such a pretty pair, and that you would never leave, /But you gave away the things you loved, and one of them was me…”  Worst of all, he’s a liar and a cheat:  “You’re where you should be all the time, and when you’re not you’re with… the wife of a close friend…”  Okay, so who was Carly singing about?  She still won’t say, except that it’s really a composite of three men, one of whom is actor Warren Beatty, who famously once said, “Let’s be honest.  That song was about me.”  Simon’s response?  “He certainly thought it was about him.  He even called me and said, ‘Thanks for the song!’  The second verse is about him, but not the other two.  That’s all I’ll say about that.”  Mick Jagger sings uncredited harmonies with Simon on the recording, giving rise to rumors that he was one of the others, but both deny that.  I’m not sure we’ll ever know the truth.

“I Am the Walrus,” The Beatles, 1967

At first blush, the lyrics to this notorious John Lennon tune are about as nonsensical as they come, and not just the “goo goo g’joob” bit.   Much of it just seems like random word play:  “Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess…” “Corporation t-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday…” “Sitting on a corn flake, waiting for the van to come…”  Actually, it WAS random word play.  Lennon had heard that college professors had been dissecting Beatles lyrics looking for deeper meaning, so he came up with this purposely bizarre track and said to his bandmates, “Let those fuckers work that one out!”  “Mister city p’liceman sitting pretty little p’licemen in a row” was written to go with the two-note drone music that he heard from a police siren one night, as was the song’s opening line, which sounds like a Maharishi mantra: “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”  The phrase “elementary penguin” referred to those who chant naive phrases and put their faith in one idol.  Lastly, the title comes from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and The Carpenter,” and Lennon admitted later he should’ve paid closer attention to the fact that the Walrus was the villain.  “I should’ve picked the other guy…but “I Am the Carpenter” wouldn’t have been the same, would it?”