Behind the Lyrics of Some of the Greatest Classic Rock Songs

Do you think lyrics are the most important part of a song? Many people believe that what truly matters in a song or any musical project is the melody, the technicality, the rhythm, etc. and everything else pretty much comes at a second place. To me however, things don’t always stand in such order. As a music enthusiast myself, I do really appreciate and value great melody, superb technical skills and complexity when it comes to making music. However, since as long as I can remember, I have always been one of those people who first tend to listen carefully, appreciate and understand the lyrics above anything else in a song. In my opinion, deep, well-phrased, powerful and truly meaningful lyrics can have a much greater impact on us than any melody or rhythm. Lyrics are simply conveying a very special message – a message that is telling a story that can touch the hearts of so many people. That’s why I believe they are the essence and the heart and the soul of every song.

How many times have you been listening to a song and thought that those words were written especially for you and that they perfectly describe your situation, your troubles, your happiness, your existence? Me – many times… The words of a song are what inspire me, personally. They manage to create a whole new fantasy world inside my head and help me relive, re-examine or get over a situation I’ve been through. They make me feel all kinds of emotions – emotions I cannot get from an instrumental, for example.

Every person, of course, has different opinions and feelings when it comes to the topic of what is most important in a song. That’s why I want to emphasize that these are just my opinions and my thoughts. In the spirit of my love for song lyrics, I decided to dedicate a publication to classic rock songs with brilliantly-written powerful lyrics. The following 10 songs are the perfect example of why lyrics can turn into the most essential component of every song – I believe they are the main reason why those songs succeeded and are still remembered and sung by people all over the world, even today. The list is a little bit subjective and of course, quite limited. Nevertheless, I hope my readers will appreciate and enjoy the selection.

Let’s dive into the lyrics….

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Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

“Stairway to Heaven”– like it or not, has been the most popular classic rock tune for the past 40 years. What truly made this song so special, except the legendary riffs and the magical, rather mythical atmosphere it carries, are the lyrics. Robert Plant basically spent the 70s answering questions about the meaning of the words. He said that what made this song so popular was its “abstraction”. “Depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way – and I wrote the lyrics,” he says. The lyrics are indeed very poetic and gentle, however they also take many turbulent paths. For instance, at the beginning the song talks about a woman, who has a lot of money, only to find out that that’s not what life is all about – having money won’t buy you a ticket to heaven. Pretty much this first part of the song is the only part Robert likes to talk about – “…a woman getting everything she wanted without giving anything back,” he says. Furthermore, Plant also revealed that a major inspiration for the lyrics were the works of the British antiquarian Lewis Spence he was reading during the making of the song.

“The lyrics came to Robert Plant in a flash of inspiration when he and Jimmy Page were sitting by the fireplace at Headley Grange with Page strumming the intro chords. “I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold/And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat,” said Plant.

“Plant’s implication that something else was moving his pencil for him led to speculation that it was Satan who was dictating the words, and along with the backward messages and Page’s Aleister Crowley connection, there was enough evidence for many listeners that the devil had some role in creating this song.” (Abstract taken from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=328)

“Stairway To Heaven”

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven. There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune,
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

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Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

This masterpiece, consisting of several sections is without doubt one of the greatest songs that was and will ever be made. One of the biggest secrets of this smashingly successful six minute sonata, however, remains the meaning behind the fatalistic lyrics. Freddy never actually explained in detail what the lyrics are all about – he just said that it was all about relationships. However, to many the words were simply reflecting the troubled life of Freddie – his insecurities, hardships and problematic childhood. Other critics and fans think that the song is about a suicide murderer who is haunted by his many demons just before the time of his execution. Based on this interpretation, the song can be seen as a last-minute confession. Finally, some say that the lyrics reflect Freddie’s vulnerable state at that time – he was married to a woman, however he had his first love affair with a man and wanted her to let him go- ‘Mamma Mia let me go’. We cannot say for sure what Freddie talks about, however for one thing we can be sure – the lyrics are a true masterpiece and it’s pretty clear that they possess a very strong and emotional aura.

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality. Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me. Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away. Mama, ooh,
Didn’t mean to make you cry,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters. Too late, my time has come,
Sent shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth. Mama, ooh (anyway the wind blows),
I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all. I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico.

I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Oh, yeah, oh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Anyway the wind blows.

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Pink Floyd – Brain Damage

Pink Floyd are one of those bands that don’t have even a single song with meaningless or superficial lyrics – there’s always something hidden – deep down inside the words that makes you think about yourself and your existence. I could’ve chosen many other songs of PF, however I decided to talk about “Brain Damage” because the lyrics are clearly addressing the mental disability of Syd Barrett – the founder member of Pink Floyd who also named the band. The most powerful line in this song is “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” – through this phrase, Roger Waters was simply stating that he feels for Syd and relates to him in terms of his mental breakdown. The following line – “And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes…” also reflects some previous experiences in which Syd would start playing a different song in the middle of the concert. The insanity-themed lyrics are obviously quite personal but at the same time very detailed and explicit. The infamous opening line – “The lunatic is on the grass” refers to the signs that say “Stay off the Grass” and how he thought that anyone who disobeyed the signs was crazy. I don’t know about you guys, but to me the lyrics are quite depressing, however very effective and compelling at the same time.

“Brain Damage”

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path
The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more
And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ’till I’m sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon “I can’t think of anything to say except…
I think it’s marvellous! HaHaHa!”
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Dio – Holy Diver

I cannot talk about lyrics in classic rock songs without mentioning Dio. “Holy Diver” is not one of those songs that possess a very strong and influential meaning that can dictate your emotions and/or moods. However, to my surprise, many people I’ve talked with are not quite so familiar with the story of the lyrics – that’s why I decided to include it. To some fans, including myself, the song may just another one of Dio’s mythical, mysterious medieval-themed songs. However, there’s more to it than that. I’ve found a few interpretations. Firstly, many people say that the song is about Satan and his descent to Hell. Others say that the lyrics are in fact talking about Jesus and his descent into Hades, after being crucified. Some people say that it is about heroin addiction. Furthermore, there’s another interpretation I found from http://songmeanings.com/
“Holy Diver” refers to the person listening the song.
The midnight sea are the trials of life; These are choices
we make between good and evil. It also refers to the night time
that our character is walking through in the song. It might be that
Ronnie is singing to us because he feels some distress
about the choices he’s made in the past. I support this by
saying that each line has a special meaning to him and
” What’s becoming of me ” is a reflection upon one’s self.”

I also did a little interview and this is the answer I got: “To me, the song is about a holy diver, being a deluded guy who dies or suffers for his religious delusions , in a sense “diving ” to his death,” Velislav says.
Whatever the interpretation – the lyrics are quite dominant and dynamic. Whether it’s religious or not, I think the song is mostly about people’s choices and inner strength, being able to confront our fears and demons that are fighting to come out of us and inflict suffering and pain.

“Holy Diver”

Holy Diver
You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh what’s becoming of me Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean
Oh don’t you see what I mean Gotta get away
Holy Diver Shiny diamonds
Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue
Something is coming for you Race for the morning
You can hide in the sun ’till you see the light
Oh we will pray it’s all right Gotta get away-get away Between the velvet lies
There’s a truth that’s hard as steel
The vision never dies
Life’s a never ending wheel

Holy Diver
You’re the star of the masquerade
No need to look so afraid

Jump on the tiger
You can feel his heart but you know he’s mean
Some light can never be seen

Holy Diver
You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh what’s becoming of me

Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean
Oh don’t you see what I mean

Gotta get away
Holy Diver

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Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A

I included Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Born in the U.S.A” because many people are confused about the true meaning of the song. When you hear the title, you think that it’s going to be a very patriotic and uplifting song; however that’s not the case. Through great lyrics and the strong message they convey, Bruce Springsteen’s song simply deals with the numerous negative effects of the Vietnam War and the way Vietnam veterans have been treated upon their arrival back home. It’s a clear anti-war song that talks about a veteran, coming back home and dealing with many hardships, including unemployment and many other personal loses. What also make the lyrics so great is the fact that they are a personal tribute to all Bruce’s friends who went to Vietnam, some of whom never actually came back home. He makes us think about what happens with all the soldiers coming home damaged and troubled and how is the country going to help them!? Furthermore, another reason why I chose this song is because the lyrics are still relevant nowadays with all the wars going on as we speak.

“Born In The U.S.A.”

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “son don’t you understand now”
Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there he’s all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.
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Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight

This has got to be my personal favorite among all the songs here – and it’s all because of the lyrics. The words are so gentle, so beautiful and can simply make you smile because you just feel how much this man loved his woman. Any fan of Clapton, I’m sure, is well aware of the story behind this song and its touching lyrics. In her book, Pattie Boyd says: “One night, unusually, me and Eric were going out, and I couldn’t decide what to wear. I was taking a very long time to do my makeup and hair, putting on one dress, then another and another, throwing them all into a pile on the floor. Poor Eric had been ready for hours and was waiting patiently. He was so sweet- at least, in the early days. The worst he would say if I annoyed him was ‘you’re a silly clown….Suddenly, as I was flinging dresses on and off, inspiration struck. When I finally got downstairs and asked the inevitable question, “Do I look alright?” he played what he’d written: It’s late in the evening; she’s wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her makeup and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, “Do I look alright?”
And I say “Yes, you look wonderful tonight.”
The lyrics may not be so complex or deep, however if you ask me there’s absolutely no need to explain real love with complicated and sophisticated expressions. The words should be direct, easy and simply come from the heart… The song is quite suitable for a romantic evening with your wife/girlfriend but only if you truly love her.

“Wonderful Tonight”

It’s late in the evening; she’s wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, “Do I look all right?”
And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight.” We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that’s walking around with me.
And then she asks me, “Do you feel all right?”
And I say, “Yes, I feel wonderful tonight.” I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you. It’s time to go home now and I’ve got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, “My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight.”
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 John Lennon – Imagine

Can you “imagine” talking about great lyrics of classic rock songs and not include John Lennon’s ultimate masterpiece and probably one of the most relevant and meaningful song of all time? I don’t think so. “Imagine” has one of the most beautiful and important lyrics of all time and there’s no one to question it. Each and every single world sends a very strong message to all of us – we need to stop fighting and hating each other because of things like religion, politics and money. Humans should realize that the world needs to “live as one” without any division. It’s true – it does sound a bit impossible, especially in 2016, but Lennon was a dreamer and I do hope he’s not the only one. Through very simple but extremely vital and influential words, he talks about world peace and hope for a better world. Of course, there have been many controversies and a lot of people are accusing him of being hypocritical – I mean after all he was a millionaire with a lot of possessions and he did make his band a “religion”. Anyhow, back to the story of the lyrics – Lennon got the idea of the song from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book “Grapefruit”, which is a book of instructions, such as “imagine you’re a cloud” or “imagine the sky is crying…”.
This is what Lennon says in an interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine.

“The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed (me) they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.”

Rolling Stone magazine also describes the lyrics as “22 lines of graceful, plain-spoken faith in the power of a world, united in purpose, to repair and change itself”.
There have been many controversies in terms of whether or not Lennon was trying to propagate his “communist views”. He responded to those accusations by saying: “Imagine”, which says: “Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics,’ is virtually the Communist manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement.” (Blaney 2007, p. 52.)
Regardless, it is a beautiful and very idealistic song with powerful and soul-touching lyrics that inspire us to make this world a better place.

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

Talking about motivational and life-changing rock song lyrics and not mentioning Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” would be a sin, at least in my opinion. In addition to being the theme song to Rocky III – the biggest movie of 1982, it has one of the most inspirational lyrics ever to be written for a rock song. It basically tells us to never give up on ourselves and on our dreams regardless of how impossible the goal may seems. Furthermore as long as we have “the eye of the tiger” – setting our mind on something and pursuing it with all our heart and soul, we can make it come true.
In an interview with Songfacts, Jim Peterik (one of the songwriters of the song) shared:

“At first, we wondered if calling it ‘Eye of the Tiger’ was too obvious. The initial draft of the song, we started with ‘It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the spirit of our rival, and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night, and it all comes down to survival.’ We were going to call the song ‘Survival’. In the rhyme scheme, you can tell we had set up ‘rival’ to rhyme with ‘survival’. At the end of the day, we said, ‘Are we nuts?’ That hook is so strong, and ‘rival’ doesn’t have to be a perfect rhyme with the word ‘tiger’. We made the right choice and went with ‘Eye of the Tiger.”

“Frankie (Sullivan) came in with the lines, ‘Back on the street, doin’ time, taking chances.’ I loved those lines immediately and suggested, ‘Rising up, back on the street, did my time, took my chances’ to make it fit with the story line and to make the rhythm of the words fit the music I was hearing in my head. That was certainly the lyrical spark that got the song started. The next two hours flew by in a flash as we jammed, cassette recorder running nonstop to catch anything good we did for future reference, and at the end of the day, the music was about 80% complete and the lyric about 30%. Over the next few days, I worked hard on the lyrics, remembering pieces of movie dialogue like, ‘Went the distance,’ referring to the central phrase of the first Rocky movie.” (“Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor”. Songfacts. Retrieved May 26, 2014)

I know this song is mainly associated with the movie, however to many people, including myself; it goes beyond that – to a very personal level. Each and every one of us should find their inner confidence and strength and not be afraid to catch their dreams!

“Eye Of The Tiger”

Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive So many times it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger Face to face, out in the heat
Hanging tough, staying hungry
They stack the odds still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

The eye of the tiger (x4)

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Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water

“Smoke on the Water” – the rock song with the MOST FAMOUS guitar riff and the most memorable and enduring lyrics of all time. The reason why I chose to talk about this song was because to my surprise, many people are not quite familiar with the story and the events that inspired the lyrics. They tell a very specific and detailed occurrence, which happened back in 1971 – the band was supposed to record their Machine Head album in the Casino at Montreux, Switzerland, right after a Frank Zappa concert. However, during the show, someone fired a gun at the ceiling and eventually the whole casino burnt “to the ground”, along with all of Frank Zappa’s equipment.

“Deep Purple was in the audience for the show, and lead singer Ian Gillan recalls two flares being shot by someone sitting behind him which landed in the top corner of the building and quickly set it ablaze. Zappa stopped the show and helped ensure an orderly exit. Deep Purple watched the blaze from a nearby restaurant, and when the fire died down, a layer of smoke had covered Lake Geneva, which the casino overlooked. This image gave bass player Roger Glover the idea for a song title: “Smoke On The Water,” and Gillan wrote the lyric about their saga recording the Machine Head album.” (Paragraph retrieved from Songfacts, http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1284)

“It was probably the biggest fire I’d ever seen up to that point and probably ever seen in my life. It was a huge building. I remember there was very little panic getting out, because it didn’t seem like much of a fire at first. But, when it caught, it went up like a fireworks display,” said bass guitarist Roger Glover.

There you have it – the story behind the lyrics. In terms of quality and depth, the words are far from being inspirational or emotional. However, what makes them so outstanding and brilliant is that they tell a story and a very scary, I might say, experience.

“Smoke On The Water”

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty, cold and bare
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights, a few old beds
We made a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know, I know we’ll never forget

Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

 

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Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

I saved this one for last, because it’s probably the song with the most peculiar, weird but entertaining at the same time lyrics of all the songs in this list. In addition, so many people I’ve talked with have no idea what are those guys actually singing about. The co-founder of the band – Mark Knopfler talked about the lyrics in an interview with critic Bill Flanagan:

“The lead character in “Money for Nothing” is a guy who works in the hardware department in a television/​custom kitchen/​refrigerator/​microwave appliance store. He’s singing the song. I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him, because it was more real….” (“Review of the Atlantic Regional Panel decision in CHOZ-FM re the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits”. Canadian Broadcast Standards Council,2011)

Basically, Knopfler was so amused by what the man, working in the appliance’s store, was saying that he just couldn’t let it pass by him. At the back of the store, there was a wall of TV’s, all tuned to MTV and the man working there was cracking up lines such as “what are those, Hawaiian noses?…that ain’t workin”, etc.. Eventually, he turned the employee’s provocative observations into music. In an interview, Knopfler says that at that time, the TVs were all playing Mötley Crüe. Basically, the lyrics express the ordinary people’s dissatisfaction with the “easy life of the rockstar” in comparison to all the people doing “real work” – such a unique and humorous idea, don’t you think?

“Money For Nothing”

Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free
Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour TV’s See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he’s a millionaire We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchens deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour TV’s I shoulda learned to play the guitar
I shoulda learned to play them drums
Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera
Man we could have some fun
And he’s up there, what’s that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongoes like a chimpanzee
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Get your money for nothin’ get your chicks for free

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour TV’s, Lord

Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

———————————————–

This is it for now – 10 songs all possessing extraordinary lyrics for one reason or another. I would love to make part 2 and part 3 and so on – it’s such an interesting topic to examine and cover, don’t you think? I hope many of you guys learned a lot about the background stories of each of those songs and had fun while playing them again.

Till next time!

——

Credits:
Davis, Stephen (4 July 1985). “Power, Mystery and the Hammer of the Gods: The Rise and Fall of Led Zeppelin”. Rolling Stone (451). Retrieved 15 January 2008.
Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/
LED ZEPPELIN LYRICS, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ledzeppelin/stairwaytoheaven.html
QUEEN lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/queen/bohemianrhapsody.html
PINK FLOYD lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pinkfloyd/braindamage.html
DIO lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dio/holydiver.html
Dio – Holy Diver, retrieved from http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/56044/
Bruce Springsteen Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/brucespringsteen/bornintheusa.html
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A, retrieved from http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/8013/
Eric Clapton Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ericclapton/wonderfultonight108887.html
Eric Clapton – “Wonderful Tonight”, retrieved by http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/18281/
John Lennon Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html
John Lennon – Imagine, retrieved from http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/8671/
Imagine by John Lennon, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1094
Survivor Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/survivor/eyeofthetiger.html
Survivor – Eye of The Tiger, retrieved from http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/957/
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3938
Deep Purple lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/deeppurple/smokeonthewater.html
Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1284
DIRE STRAITS LYRICS, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/direstraits/moneyfornothing.html
Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, retrieved from http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/5855/
P.S I don’t own any audio or visual material in this publication. All the credits go to the owners/publishers of the materials.

5 thoughts on “Behind the Lyrics of Some of the Greatest Classic Rock Songs

  1. Hi, 
    That was an enjoyable article. It was interesting to find out some more about these lyrics, even for a couple of songs I don’t know (Clapton and Floyd). Surprised but good to see a gem like Eye of the Tiger included in your list!
    I liked the lines about Robert Plant spending the rest of the 70s explaining Stairway and another mythical medieval song by Dio. There are a couple of those types of songs in his catalogue.
    Good read
    Cheers

    Like

    1. Hey, Ian!
      Thank you so much for the comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – I really liked the whole Robert Plant/Crowley thing – i didn’t know haha – it was so fun to find out….
      Cheers!

      Like

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