I was flipping channels this weekend and luckily found a high def broadcast of U2's Rattle and Hum documentary. The movie follows their Joshua Tree tour almost 20 years ago (1987-1988). I was happy to see the band in their top form, I can't beleive it is almost two decades old. Anyway, they do an awesome version of Sunday Bloody Sunday. Their performance fueled by an act of terrorism in Ireland that morning that got Bono fired up. It made me think about all the times they play that in concert and it's just a drunk sing-along. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the song is a bit deeper than frat boys rocking out.
This inspired me to come up with a list of the Top 5 songs that are often misunderstood. Here you go:
1) Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen – typically used by politicians as a pro-America song, it’s actually about Vietnam vets. Do people not listen? Amazing. A sample lyric:
I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man
I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
2) Short People by Randy Newman – Do you remember hearing this on the Sesame St. Place commercials? Maybe those only aired where I grew up. But Short People is NOT a kid’s song, just like Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland weren’t kid’s books.
Short People got no reason
They got little hands
They walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet
Obviously Randy doesn’t hate short people, but he’s creating a metaphor about bigotry and racism. At least I think he is… maybe he just has some issue with midgets. It’s so simple and clever and timeless. Pure genius.
3) American Woman by The Guess Who – This crappy song is by a Canadian band who should not be confused with The Who. It’s funny because if people realized it was actually an anti-American tune they would ban it (we love to ban stuff) instead of playing it ALL the time. Ok, maybe it’s not anti-American as much as it’s really comparing the state of Canada to the USA when it was written (during the time of the Vietnam draft). The lyrics are telling the US to stop encroaching on the culture and serenity of our neighbors to the North. The song’s meaning seems even more ridiculous when Lenny Kravitz covered it and turned the video into a pro-USA anthem with Heather Graham crawling on top of cars. The Heather Graham part was good, but all the American flags and imagery made Kravitz look kind of like … what’s the word… oh yeah…. like a real hoser. Only in America could we pull that one off.
American woman, I said get way
American woman, listen what I say
Don't come hanging around my door
Don't want to see your face no more
I don't need your war machines
I don't need your ghetto scenes
Colored lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else's eyes
Now woman, get away
God Bless America
4) Lola by The Kinks – You know that song you love to sing along with? Maybe you should start paying attention to the lyrics. It’s about accidentally hooking up with a transvestite. Nothing to be ashamed about, it’s happened to the best of us. The singing along part, not the hooking up with the transvestite part. Right?
Well I’m not the worlds most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well I’m not dumb but I cant understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Well I’m not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man
And so is lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
5) Every Breath You Take by The Police – I saw a great interview with Sting on one of those “Best Songs of All-Time” countdowns on VH1. Sting was mentioning how some people have told him they’ve used this song as their wedding song. Sting’s response, “Good Luck”. They even had Elton John saying what a beautiful song it was and "God I wish I'd written that song". That's why Bernie Taupin wrote most of his lyrics for him folks. Anyway, this song is about an obsessive person who appears to be stalking a woman. It’s got creepy written all over it. It’s definitely not a love song.
Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but its you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please...
And there it is, you’re Top 5 misunderstood songs. And just so you can be inspired as well, here is U2 performing Sunday Bloody Sunday as seen in the movie "Rattle and Hum: