By Ralph Greco, Jr.
The legend behind song meanings…
Who was actually in (or out) of a famous band at the time of some equally famous recording?
What is really being said in those seemingly spooky backward lyrics?
Did Mama Cass really die from choking on a ham sandwich? (Hint: it was actually a heart attack with nary a piece of pork anywhere near)
There is a copious amount of misinformation out there about the music we love and the musicians who make it. I am here to set you all straight with the skinny on some kinda rumors, some kinda misnomers, which I call rock and roll misrumors.
If I err anywhere, please let me know. Hell, let me know if you have any glaring misnomers or misrumors of your own.
1) “We Are The Champions” / “We Will Rock”– These hits from Queen’s News Of The World album are indeed two separate songs that follow one another, although many radio DJs and programmers typically play them back-to-back, leading some to believe they are one and the same.
2) Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hootie of The Blowfish are not actual names of any member of these bands.
3) Speaking of Jethro Tull, contrary to critics’ (and many fans at the time) belief, the band’s infamous 1971 Aqualung album is not a concept album. However, the follow-up, Thick As A Brick, is.
4) Abbey Road The Studio – The EMI recording studio where the Beatles and Pink Floyd recorded most of their material and can be seem somewhat on the famous Abbey Road album was not officially called Abbey Road Studios until 1970.
5) David Bowie is not from another planet.
6) Sticky Cover – That is not Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, or any of the other Stones’ junk behind the zipper on the cover of Sticky Fingers. It is none other than Joe Dallensandro, one of Andy Warhol’s models. In fact, as is often misreported, Warhol didn’t even photograph the famous crotch shot — he merely presented the concept for it. Here’s another interesting factoid: Sticky Fingers is the first Stones’ album where the infamous lips and tongue logo appeared.
7) Who is “You’re So Vain” about? – For years, there has been great speculation over just who Carly Simon is singing about in her 1972 hit “You’re So Vain.” I’m not here to give you the skinny, so I guess this isn’t as much a solved rock and roll misnomer as it is me speculating on one of the great popular song riddles of the day. Is it Mick Jagger? Is it Warren Beatty? Or even somebody else? Hell, if nothing else, isn’t it pretty darn cool that Jagger himself sings on the chorus of the song, regardless if the song is about him or not.
8) Alice Cooper’s chickens – There are lots of incidents of live animals not surviving their meet-ups with rock and roll royalty — or at least lots of not-so-factual accounts about these so-called meet-ups. According to legend, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson kills puppies (not true), Ozzy Osborne bites the heads off bats (true, though he thought a real bat tossed to him on stage was merely a rubber one. His reward were painful rabies shots). While Alice Cooper did not actually kill a chicken on stage (or bite its head off), he did ostensibly cause its untimely death. The Cooper band were fond of having what amounted to pillow fights on stage during their act back in the day. Feathers would fly everywhere and in this spirit someone in the audience threw a live chicken onto stage amidst all the feathers. As Cooper claims, being a Detroit boy, he simply threw the chicken back in the audience, thinking it would fly away. Instead, it got ripped to shreds by the crowd and Cooper’s reputation as a chicken killer was established. The day after, Cooper received a call from Frank Zappa, who asked if the incident was true. When the singer told the ultimate “Mother” what really happened, Zappa suggested he keep the truth to himself, and another rock and roll misrumor was born.
9) ‘Greatest Band In The Land’ aka a foursome critics love to slam – Yet to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Shame, KISS is a band that has seen lots of rumors written about them over the years. The tons of assumptions and bad press come their way simply because, like Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper above, they are wickedly popular and present a startling image. For one, KISS not an acronym for “Knights In Satan’s Service” or “Keep It Simple Stupid” (some of the band members have jokingly claimed the latter). There are a few official stories, too. One is that the band wanted to use the acronym for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ but that idea was shot down. Then, in 1973, KISS guitarist and singer Paul Stanley and drummer Peter Criss were driving through New York City when Criss mentioned he had been in a band called Lips. This supposedly inspired the soon-to-be perennially puckering Stanley to simply name the band after the action lips perform.
10) Paul is Dead? – The granddaddy of them all as far as I can tell is the Paul Is Dead misrumor. Though the rumors began as far back as 1967, stories of McCartney’s untimely passing in an auto accident came to the fore in 1969 when Abbey Road was released. With fewer public appearances and the Beatles break-up looming, a college newspaper at Drake University published a piece called ‘Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?,’ which described clues in various Beatles songs. Two disc jockeys got in on the craze, more clues (even some visual ones from album covers) surfaced and the fire was fueled. Whoever took Paul McCartney’s place seems to have developed into a pretty decent songwriter, singer and instrumentalist.