Thursday Tunes with Anna The BPG: Songs with Dark Backstories

Well the spooky holiday is almost upon us and I decided today to give you not "scary" songs per se but music that has some interesting tidbits about their origins or back stories. Ready to dive in to the music? 


Here's the breakdown...

1) 3 AM by Matchbox 20

While we've heard this song many times on the radio, the lyrics were actually inspired by the lead singer's cancer-stricken mother. It turns out that at age 13 he had to care for his mother and he feels the lyrics really embody the anxiety, stress and dynamic of that time in his life. 1

2) You Learn by Alanis Morrissette

This song was on one of the biggest albums for Alanis, but what it is really about is the terrible experiences that a 19 year old went through while working on her album in L.A. Per reports, she experienced being robbed at gunpoint, being hospitalized, suffering PTSD, going through a break up...and yet coming through on the other side. 1

3) Never Learn Not to Love by The Beach Boys

A song that is actually a reworking of an original song written by a person the band once knew, Charles Manson originally titled "Cease to Exist". Apparently when the lyrics were re-written or altered, it angered Manson...a year later, he and his cult went on to pursue their murder spree.1

4) Zombie by The Cranberries

The wonderful and sadly passed-on singer Dolores O'Riordan wrote this song about the travesties committed in the violence that used to ravage Northern Ireland killing children and injuring dozens. The specific incident she's crying out against is one in Warrington City where a 3 year old and 2 year old had been shopping for Mother's Day cards when the bombs detonated.1

5) John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Sufjan Stevens

Well this one is much more obvious and self-explanatory in it's origins. It's written as a possible how maybe this notorious serial killer came to be. Delving into his childhood and brain injury that may have lead to his murderous nature. 1

6) Pretty by KORN

Lead singer wrote this song about the traumatizing experience of working as an autopsy assistant. Apparently this song is about an incident where he had to witness a baby who had brought into the coroner's office and the experience haunted him well into his adult life. 1

7) Diamond Smiles by The Boomtown Rats

Released in some ways after their hit "I Don't Like Mondays", this song tells the story of a woman heading to a party but the debutante eventually reveals her paranoia and this song details the result of her committing suicide in the end. Also it's reported that this retelling is based on a true story. 2

8) 99 Red Balloons (99 Luftballons) by Nena
A song written about the ongoing cold war between East and West Germany and the possibility of something as simple as 99 red balloons being set into the air from East Berlin crossing over into West Berlin's airspace and causing a red alert resulting in the potential ignition of nuclear war. Yeesh. 3

9) Shiny Happy People by REM

While this song always had the tongue-in-cheek aspect going for it, it's actually written about the inspiring propaganda posters plastered in China following the Tienanmen Square massacre. Because as you know, everyone wants to pretend everything is "fine". 4

10) Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People

If you listen to the lyrics, you can figure out why this song is uber creepy. It's written from a first-person perspective of someone planning to go into a school and shoot it up. After all the school shootings, you wonder if it clearly demonstrates the dissonance between the up-beat sound of the song and the disturbed lyrics which I feel clearly represents the ongoing violence in America. 5

11) Here Comes Your Man by The Pixies

I'll be honest, I didn't know where the inspiration of this song came from. I always thought it was just a happy little ditty. Well, no. According to the lead singer, it's actually about "Winos and hobos travelling on the trains, who die in a California earthquake". Which in the end results in killing the main characters. Charming no? 6

12) One Way or Another by Blondie

Much like the Police's classic song "Every Breath You Take" this song is about a stalker, in fact an ex of Debbie Harry's was the person the song was written about. 7

13) These Are the Days of Our Lives by Queen

This last song isn't a sad song, and the lyrics aren't about anything bad or evil. The darkness comes from the reality that this song, and most importantly the song's video was the last time that the wonderful human known as Freddie Mercury was on camera. You could see how much HIV/AIDs had ravaged his body, yet he was still bright and beautiful and the last line uttered was "I still love you". Gah. 1


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