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.
- What’d you do with the money? (Singing “American Pie”)
What are your favorite songs with double meanings?