Some songs are laced with detail which is so refined that it’s easy to miss things even after several listens – but isn’t that often the mark of timeless music? Whether it’s weird instruments, references to other songs, cameos or accidents that were kept in the final cut, we decided to examine some cool facts about eight classic tracks.
These are the songs you love and the stories you haven’t heard. Arm yourselves for the next trivia night with these 8 classic song facts.
The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
Most people know that The Beatles borrowed from the French national anthem at the start of this track. However, several other pieces of music are subtly referenced later in the song. As the track descends into calamity at the end, a brief snippet from the vocal melody of another Beatles single, She Loves You, can be heard. Other songs, including Greensleeves, Glenn Miller’s In The Mood and a piece by J.S. Bach are also referenced.
Nirvana – Polly
Probably Nirvana’s most restrained track, Polly is about a real kidnapping case that singer Kurt Cobain is alleged to have read about in the newspaper. The middle section features a fittingly subtle bridge which is basically just Cobain singing “Polly says” over bass guitar. However, this bridge came about by accident, as Cobain came in at the wrong time during recording.
The band members and producer Butch Vig (who is also the drummer for Garbage) liked the mistake, however, and so it was kept. Interestingly enough, the song is also the only one on Nevermind to feature original drummer Chad Channing. Channing’s contribution is brief, however, coming in the form of a handful of cymbal crashes which add colour to the song.
Las Ketchup – The Ketchup Song
Ok, so maybe, The Ketchup Song doesn’t really qualify as a classic track. It was, however, a cornerstone of school discos and So Fresh CDs in all of our childhoods, so we’ve decided to include it.
The chorus of the song (yes, sing it to yourself now), is thought to be a Spanglish version of The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. Though the lyrics do not literally translate, the distinctive rhythm and scat-style vocals nod distinctively to the classic hip-hop track.
The Police – Roxanne
Said to have been inspired by prostitutes that the band encountered in a visit to Paris, Roxanne was the single that launched The Police’s career.
Early in the song, before the lyrics start, a short laugh can be heard. This laugh belongs to lead singer, Sting, who tripped over a keyboard in the studio while the band were recording the track. The band liked it, and so the laugh was kept.
Crowded House – Everything Is Good For You
One of three new songs included on their 1996 greatest hits collection Recurring Dream, this track features backing vocals from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. What’s more, when it was released as a separate single, its B-Side included a live version of Split Enz’s History Never Repeats which also features Vedder on vocals.
Tenacious D – Tribute
This song is about producing “the best song in the world”, but then forgetting how to play it, and subsequently writing a tribute to the forgotten song. The video clip is shot in a mall, and features a brief cameo from Ben Stiller, who walks past the camera as a shopper.
Interestingly, the events described in Tribute would also go on to form the basis of the final scene in Tenacious D’s movie, The Pick of Destiny.
Barenaked Ladies – One Week
One Week by Barenaked Ladies is a veritable orgy of extraneous pop culture references and confusing vocal melodies. Among the pop icons name-checked are country singer Leann Rimes, Sting, Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, Snickers chocolate bars and superhero Aquaman.
As if this wasn’t confusing enough, the song’s lyrics, as found in the liner notes, features verses which aren’t actually in the song. A deliberate attempt to further confuse fans, or just lyrics that didn’t make the final cut? You decide!
Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
Several songs from Gorillaz’ self-titled debut feature a somewhat atypical instrument- the melodica. A keyboard which is blown into using a mouthpiece, the instrument produces an ominous, harmonica-esque sound.
This sound is put to use on Tomorrow Comes Today and Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo), as well as Clint Eastwood. The latter being named for its similarities to the theme music from Eastwood’s film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and the melodica is a key contributor to this effect.