Messages From the Underground

For Twisted Mixtape this week, it’s dealer’s choice, and I’d like to share five great songs with hidden messages.

1. “American Pie” by Don McLean

Many rock fans know that rock and roll history is hidden in “American Pie,” but it’s still fun to check out all the guesses on what each line means. (The Grand Rapids Lip Dub, a 9-minute long single take of the song involving thousands of people, was the city’s rebuttal to being put on a “dying cities” list. Awesome.)

“Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast”

2. “Your Southern Can is Mine” by the White Stripes

My jaw dropped open when I first heard the horrific lyrics of this misogynistic song:

“Now, looky here, momma, let me explain you this,
You wanna get crooked, I’ll even give you my fist.
You might read from Revelation back to Genesis,
You get crooked, your Southern can belongs to me.”

But then I heard that the song, a cover of an old Ragtime song by Blind Willie McTell, is actually about something else, and that its lyrics are in code. As a man, Willie McTell could sing of his power to abuse a woman and get away with it, but as a black man, Willie McTell could not have gotten away with singing about Southern whites being violent toward Southern blacks. That’s one interpretation at least; not everyone agrees. Either way, it’s a great song with some troubling lyrics.

3. “The Race is On” by the Grateful Dead

This clever song, popularized by George Jones, tells of a man’s heartbreak after being dumped by describing racehorses with names such as My Heart, True Love, and Another’s Sake:

“Now the race is on,
and here comes Pride up the backstretch,
Heartache’s a goin’ to the inside,
My Tears are holding back, tryin’ not to fall.
My Heart’s out of the running,
True Love’s scratched for Another’s Sake,
The race is on, and it looks like Heartache’s,
and the winner loses all.”

4. “Squeeze Box” by the Who

I suspect it’s not really Mama’s accordion that’s keeping Daddy up all night:

“She goes, squeeze me, come on and squeeze me
Come on and tease me like you do
I’m so in love with you
Mama’s got a squeeze box
Daddy never sleeps at night”

5. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles

John Lennon always insisted that it was a coincidence that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” spelled out LSD, but a listen to the lyrics points to a different conclusion:

“Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high”


Check out more great songs at Twisted Mixtape.

My Skewed View

Related post:

What are your favorite songs with double meanings?

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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14 Responses to Messages From the Underground

  1. Dream says:

    These are all such great songs, though I’d only heard the Blind Willie version before. Great mixtape this week!
    Dream recently posted..Where Did You Sleep Last NightMy Profile

  2. Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds actually was written when John’s son Julian brought home some artwork he’d done in school of a girl from his class named Lucy. He said told his dad it was “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”. I recently read an article about the real Lucy and she said she never liked the song. lol BUT – he also did a lot of LSD, so I’m guessing it was a little of both. 😉
    Linda Roy – elleroy was here recently posted..I Don’t Like Mondays Link Up #45 – Monday MorningMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      I’ve heard that story too, but I always found it hard to believe that the letters were a coincidence. Then again, it seems like John would have been ok with admitting it after everything came out. Great song, either way. I didn’t know Lucy didn’t like it though, lol. Did you hear that Lucy, the Australopithecus, was named after the song?

  3. Oooh. My music too. I remember having a friend who was VERY into music explain every line of American Pie. If he hadn’t explained it I wouldn’t have recognized half the history in it. I remember listening to American Pie on the radio on my way to work, then sitting in the car in the parking lot waiting for the song to end before going inside. I don’t listen to live radio anymore. I don’t know any of the artists. It’s not MY music anymore. Someone’s. Just not for me.
    Marilyn Armstrong recently posted..DAILY PROMPT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!My Profile

  4. Kate Hall says:

    Ha! Your list is kind of like mine, except all mine are about s-e-x. I had Squeeze Box, of course. I love Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!
    Kate Hall recently posted..Songs I Didn’t Know Were About…”Doin’ It”My Profile

  5. “The Race is On” makes me sad.
    that cynking feeling recently posted..Twisted MixTape Tuesday: Dealer’s Choice — again!My Profile

  6. Cheri says:

    OMG I am so cracking up! Your’s is the 2nd to list Squeezebox and I swear it just NEVER occurred to me and I know every word to the song hahahahahahahahahahaha
    Cheri recently posted..Twisted Tuesday’s Mix-Tape: The Color of MusicMy Profile

  7. Loved this. I picked up on Squeezebox early on in life. Me and my brother used to giggle about it. Fun post!
    Quickstepp Melissa recently posted..Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: Dealer’s ChoiceMy Profile

  8. I love this list! It is a great idea! I love the backstory on Your Southern Can is Mine!
    Jen Kehl – My Skewed View recently posted..Twisted MixTape 38 – A Capella Christmas Music PlaylistMy Profile

  9. DonettaS says:

    Great list. I never realized Grateful Dead had a version of “The Race Is On” Getting ready to check it out now.

  10. Hey, Lucy in the Sky is on of those songs that our parents have always said we should not be listening to, though I’m not sure why! Thank for sharing!
    Michelle Liew recently posted..Tunes about givingMy Profile

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