Songs About Songs
March 14, 2005 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Chatting with a muscal friend, I was stumped on a topic we wandered into: Excluding the obvious (American Pie, Sweet Home Alabama) what are your favorite songs about other songs (or failing that music in general)?
posted by jalexei to Media & Arts (116 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"(Just Like) Music" by Eric Sermon featuring Marvin Gaye & "Nightshift" by the Commodores.
posted by equipoise at 7:08 AM on March 14, 2005

Not a favorite, but it is a great song: 'Sara' by Bob Dylan:

"I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells,
I'd taken the cure and had just gotten through,
Stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel,
Writin' "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" for you."
posted by skwm at 7:12 AM on March 14, 2005

When Smokey Sings.

Definitely not my favorite, or anyone's really. It may not even fit the question entirely, but I'm sure some of you now have 'be near me. be neeeeear' going through your heads.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:18 AM on March 14, 2005

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Saddest. Song. Ever. Especially when The Pogues do it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:21 AM on March 14, 2005

What bondcliff said. I was just gonna post it myself.

'Mama's Opry' by Iris DeMent isn't bad.
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on March 14, 2005

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song

Roberta Flack
posted by Jikido at 7:29 AM on March 14, 2005

apology for the obvious, just like the song....
Based on the feelings of Lori Lieberman. At first, the tune was called 'Killing Me Softly with His Blues.' Similar, but not really the same song. Then Lori went and had the experience of seeing Don McLean perform at the Troubadour." The song that moved Lori so much was "American Pie."
posted by Jikido at 7:36 AM on March 14, 2005

The Greatest Song In the World (Tribute)!
posted by agropyron at 7:39 AM on March 14, 2005

Oh, and Ralph Vaughan Williams's setting of Orpheus With His Lute.
posted by agropyron at 7:43 AM on March 14, 2005

It's not about a song per se, but it is about a singer. "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements. . . "Children by the million scream for Alex Chilton when he comes round, they sing I'm in love, what's that song? I'm in love with that song."
posted by jodic at 7:44 AM on March 14, 2005

I dig the Posies tribute to the Huskers, entitled Grant Hart.
Or, the Dandy Warhols' Cool as Kim Deal.
posted by psmealey at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2005

You Were Right by Built to Spill.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:52 AM on March 14, 2005

"Al Bowlly's in Heaven" by Richard Thompson. Sort of.
posted by kenko at 7:59 AM on March 14, 2005

"Defenders of the Faith" - Judas Priest
Heavy Meta!
"Judas Priest are 'defenders of the faith', the faith being heavy metal music". -Rob Halford

Hey, someone has to do it...

I only know the Johnny Cash version, but Springsteen's really sad "Highway Patrolman":
while the band played The Night Of The Johnstown Flood.
I believe it's a fictitious reference, so maybe that doesn't count.

an obvious one: The Who's "You Better You Bet":
but I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T-Rex

"Party for Your Right to Fight" - Public Enemy (referring to the Beastie Boys song "Fight for Your Right to Party")

it's seems once you get into hip-hop, there are thousands...
posted by hellbient at 8:06 AM on March 14, 2005

jodic - I'll continue the chain by pointing out that They Might Be Giants not only did a song called "We're The Replacements" but a song called "They Might Be Giants" (not to mentioned "XTC vs. Adam Ant").

And if we're counting songs about other bands, there's Mott the Hoople/David Bowie's "All The Young Dudes" which name drops T. Rex, The Beatles and The Stones.

Is "Back in the USSR" too obvious? If it is, I'll say "Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard" by !!!.
posted by StopMakingSense at 8:21 AM on March 14, 2005

how bout Fayretale of new York by the Pouges? It mentions two songs: The Rare Old Mountain Dew and Galway Bay

posted by cosmicbandito at 8:27 AM on March 14, 2005

The Hootie & The Blowfish song "Only Want To Be With You" was partially about listening to Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue"

(on preview, spell check suggests "bootie" for "Hootie")
posted by Capn at 8:28 AM on March 14, 2005

And TMBG also did a song called 'They Got Lost': I heard They Might Be somewhere in this town / They Might Be Giants got lost driving around.

Also don't forget 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'
posted by nathan_teske at 8:29 AM on March 14, 2005

"The Greatest Song in the World" wins, in my book. You may need to see the video to really appreciate it though. Does "Hallelujah", by Leonard Cohen, count?
posted by coelecanth at 8:30 AM on March 14, 2005

"Major Tom" by Peter Schilling.
posted by kenko at 8:31 AM on March 14, 2005

"Drift Away" Dobie Gray.
"It Will Stand" Showmen.
"Tattooed Millionaire" Bruce Dickinson.
"The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll" Mott The Hoople.
"Thirteen," Big Star (It does contain the line "wont you tell your dad, get off my back/tell him what we said 'bout 'Paint It Black'...")
"Ready Steady Go" Generation X.
"The Seeker" The Who. ("I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles....")
posted by jonmc at 8:32 AM on March 14, 2005

I don't know about you, but I just can't get Blue Monday out of my head.
posted by jon_kill at 8:32 AM on March 14, 2005

The first one that pops into my head is Elton John's "Sad Songs Say So Much." I also like "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal" by They Might Be Giants.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:35 AM on March 14, 2005

"Who's gonna play that song? / Who's gonna stand that tall? / Who's gonna play the Opry? / and the Wabash Cannonball?"
posted by scratch at 8:36 AM on March 14, 2005

Elvis Costello, Motel Matches ("Somewhere in the distance I can hear 'Who Shot Sam?'")

Dexy's Midnight Runners, Jackie Wilson Said

Aztec Camera, Walk Out To Winter ("Pictures of Strummer that fell from your wall...")

Yeah. I know. All Eighties, All The Time.
posted by baltimore at 8:42 AM on March 14, 2005

"The Wait" by Jackson Brown
posted by bozichsl at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2005

"Yer Blues", The Beatles. ("Just like Dylan's Mr Jones".)
posted by kenko at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2005

Dexy's Midnight Runners, Jackie Wilson Said

I think you'll find that Van Morrison did that number first, please don't leave the children with the impression that Dexy's was responsible for that song.
posted by jonmc at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2005

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?" Not about a specific song, but more about the whole rude boy culture & movement that grew out of ska music.
posted by logovisual at 8:48 AM on March 14, 2005

I wouldn't say it's completely about other songs, but Elliott Smith does reference a Beatles album, the song "Crimson and Clover", and the "London Bridge" nursery rhyme in these lines of Baby Britain:

the light was on but it was dim / revolver's been turned over
and now it's ready once again / the radio was playing "crimson and clover"
london bridge is safe and sound / no matter what you keep repeating
posted by Turd Ferguson at 8:52 AM on March 14, 2005

"Honaloochie Boogie" Mott The Hoople ("My hair gets longer as the beat gets stronger/wanna tell chuck berry my news..."), also "Rock And Roll Never Forgets" Bob Seger ("all of Chuck's children are out there playin' his licks...."

"Havin' A Party" Sam Cooke (Sam requests that the DJ plays "I Know" and "Soul Twist.")

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" Kitty Wells (explicit answer to "Wild Side Of Life.")
posted by jonmc at 8:55 AM on March 14, 2005

Mos Def: "Rock N' Roll"
Elvis Presley ain't got no soul
Chuck Berry is rock and roll
David Bowie: "Song for Bob Dylan"
Oh, hear this robert zimmerman
I wrote a song for you
About a strange young man called dylan
With a voice like sand and glue
Also, this askme thread from yesterday.
posted by nobody at 8:56 AM on March 14, 2005

Jimmy Eat World -- "A Praise Chorus" (Not my favorite song, but pretty laden with references)

Crimson and clover, over and over.
Our house in the middle of the street, why did we ever meet?
Started my rock 'n roll fantasy.
Don't don't, don't let's start, why did we ever part?
Kick start my rock 'n roll heart.
I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go.
So come on Davey, sing me something that I know.

posted by strikhedonia at 8:57 AM on March 14, 2005

Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" is a response song to Elvis Presley's "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You." ("I want you/I need you/but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you.")

Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" is a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man." ("And I hope Neil Young will remember/a southern man don't need him around anyhow.")
posted by kirkaracha at 8:59 AM on March 14, 2005

"The Humpty Dance" - Digital Underground:
I sang on "Doowutchyalike"

Bowie's "Sound and Vision" is about writing songs (I think):
waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Also, his "Lady Stardust" is supposedly about Marc Bolan.

Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water":
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around

LCD Soundsystem - "Losing my Edge" and "Daft Punk is Playing at My House"

everyone's favorite:
Right Said Fred - "I'm Too Sexy":
I'm too sexy for this song
posted by hellbient at 9:00 AM on March 14, 2005

Also, listening to it again, Jimmy Eat World's "Authority Song" has a bunch of references on it, too.
posted by strikhedonia at 9:02 AM on March 14, 2005

LaVern Baker's "Hey Memphis," is a played to the tune of Elvis' "Little Sister" and is basically a goof directed at Presley.

"Little Sister," of course, contains the lyric "I went for some candy/along came Jim Dandy/and they strut right out the door..." which is a reference to Baker's hit "Jim Dandy To The Rescue."

All this interracial cross-song flirting must've been quite scandalous back in the 50's.

Back in the Mod era in the UK, Mike Stevens And The Shevelles did a rockin' number called "Go-Go Train" (scroll way down) in which they name check many of their Brit R&B cohorts like Eric Burdon, Georgie Fame, Rod Stewart & John Mayall.

Burdon and the Animals did a similar history lesson/shout out with "The Story Of Bo Diddley" as does Arthur Conley on (the Otis Redding penned) "Sweet Soul Music."

I'm a dork for knowing this.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on March 14, 2005

And of course, the most unneccessary answer record of all-time would have to be "Yes, I'm Lonesome Tonight," by Dodie Stevens (the same girl who did "Tan Shoes With Pink Shoelaces,").

There were also at least two sequels to Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA," done by other artists that I've heard, neither of which were any good really.
posted by jonmc at 9:12 AM on March 14, 2005

Bo Diddley has tons of songs about himself ("Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger", eg) and there are other songs with titles in a similar vein (Camper van Beethoven, or van Chadbourne, or Eugene Chadbourne had a song "Bo Diddley is a Communist", I think).

PopCanon has a song about themselves called "PopCanon Fight Song".
posted by kenko at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2005

The Beatles' "Glass Onion" has references to several of their other songs: "I told you about strawberry fields...I told you about the walrus and me...Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet...I told you about the fool on the hill...Fixing a hole in the ocean."

Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music" refers to Wilson Pickett singing "Mustang Sally" and Otis Redding singing "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)." It also refers to Lou Rawls, Sam and Dave, and James Brown.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2005

Peter, Paul and Mary, "I Dig Rock and Roll Music."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:15 AM on March 14, 2005

Mama's and The Papa's "Creeque Alley"
posted by jonmc at 9:16 AM on March 14, 2005

"This is Not a Love Song"
a second for "When Smokey Sings"
and "Yesterday Once More" (every sha-la-la, every whoa-o-o still shines...)
posted by amberglow at 9:22 AM on March 14, 2005

The Clash's "White Man In Hammersmith Palais"
Prince's "Musicology"
Daft Punk's "Teachers"
Velvet Underground's "Rock & Roll"
Indeep's "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life"
posted by hellbient at 9:25 AM on March 14, 2005

Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues" talks not only about the king, but "John Henry." Lots of her music is referential like that.
posted by transient at 9:28 AM on March 14, 2005

"AM Radio," by Everclear contains Art Alexakis' teenage fantasy of Jimmy Page teaching him to play guitar.
posted by jonmc at 9:33 AM on March 14, 2005

Schooly D's "I Don't Like Rock & Roll (I Love Rap and I'm Proud)"
Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk", "Planet Rock" (though a bit out on a limb)
posted by hellbient at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2005

King Crimson - Lament.
posted by kenko at 9:47 AM on March 14, 2005

"So Long" by Jason Anderson: "This is one of those awesome dreams / When you get to hang out with the guys from Fugazi / And you're so frustrated and angry that it was just a dream."
posted by ludwig_van at 9:48 AM on March 14, 2005

Lori Lieberman actually wrote "Killing Me Softly" after she head McLean play "Empty Chairs, Empty Tables" or some similarly titled song about divorce.

One of my favorite songs about songs/musicians is from a band I don't really care for: Barenaked Ladies. "Brian Wilson," from their first album, is really touching:

So I'm lying here, just starting at the ceiling tiles.
and I'm thinking about what to think about.
Just listening and relistening to Smiley Smile,
and I'm wondering if this is some kind of creativee drought
because I am
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I'm lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did.
And if you want to find me I'll be out in the sandbox,
wondering where the hell all the love has gone.
Playing my guitar and building castles in the sun,
and singing "Fun, Fun, Fun."
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I'm lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did.
I had a dream that I was three hundred pounds
and though I was very heavy,
I floated 'til I couldn't see the ground
I floated 'til I couldn't see the ground
Somebody help me, I couldn't see the ground
Somebody help me, I couldn't see the ground
Somebody help me because I'm ...

I've also always loved Mike Doughty's under-two-minutes history of soul music from Skittish:

Oh I have felt
Cobain's sarcoma
Growing on
This will of mine
To drag me down
Into the water
The joy i feel
Before i drown

And the Lord's hand moves on the scheme of my nerves
In the chemicals swimming and the substance of the earth
His love so great but the soul singers spurn Him
To sing their love to some unknown reckless girl

They sing to great
Queen Heroina
The comfort that
She warms them with
Their music swells
With all their yearning
They are ashamed
To sing for Him

Who has built these shells that our spirits knock inside
And weep for their release in the onrush of the tide
Of the Lord's great seas that will boil when He returns
To pluck us off the face of this sad and dirty world

I saw Sam Cooke
And Ian Curtis
At the door
Of His golden realm
They sang His name
Sweet Lord in heaven
And then the Lord
He let them in

posted by blueshammer at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2005

I think "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division is an answer to "Love Will Keep Us Together" by, uh, the Captain and Tenille?
posted by evinrude at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2005

that Galang-alang-alang-a song too maybe
posted by amberglow at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2005

The Dream Academy's Life In A Northern Town. The song's specifically about the band's lead singer meeting Nick Drake when he was younger.
posted by Pufferish at 9:56 AM on March 14, 2005

Richard Thompson's "The Poor Boy is Taken Away" is about Nick Drake, and John Cale's "(I Keep A) Close Watch" is based on the line from the Johnny Cash song "I Walk the Line".
posted by kenko at 10:01 AM on March 14, 2005

blueshammer, two awesome calls, especially the Doughty tune. I hate this thread because you all keep stealing my ideas. That I can't think of.
posted by yerfatma at 10:01 AM on March 14, 2005

I think you'll find that Van Morrison did that number first, please don't leave the children with the impression that Dexy's was responsible for that song.

D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!

No wonder it sounds so much, um, like a Van Morrison song.

How many years have I NOT known that?

posted by baltimore at 10:09 AM on March 14, 2005

The sequence "Southern Man", "Sweet Home Alabama" continues with Warren Zevon's "Play it all night long".
Daddy's doing Sister Sally
Grandma's dying of cancer now
The cattle all have brucellosis
We'll get through somehow
"Sweet Home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Rush's Force Ten is only a favorite for being so pretentious. But I repeat myself.
Tough times, demand tough talk
Demand tough hearts demand tough songs

Cracker had a better sense of it with Teen Angst:
Cause, what the world needs now
Is another folk singer
Like I need a hole in my head.

posted by Aknaton at 10:11 AM on March 14, 2005

and Weezer (that Happy Days video)--"oh-whee-oh, I feel just like Buddy Holly..."
posted by amberglow at 10:15 AM on March 14, 2005

"I got a head full of feeling higher and an ear full of Patsy Cline. There is just nothing like her -- hell, I hang on every line"
-- Jimmy Buffett Miss You So Badly
posted by joaquim at 10:17 AM on March 14, 2005

Radiohead's My Iron Lung is about their resentment over Creep.
posted by abcde at 10:27 AM on March 14, 2005

I was waltzing with my darlin' to the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend I happened to see
I introduced her to my loved one and while they were dancing
My friend stole my sweetheart from me.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:29 AM on March 14, 2005

an obvious one: The Who's "You Better You Bet":
but I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T-Rex

and the next line is "...and Who's Next" so they're also namechecking themselves.
posted by jonmc at 10:29 AM on March 14, 2005

Already mentioned but worth underscoring for sheer brilliance: the Clash, "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and the Replacements, "Alex Chilton."

- House of Love, "The Beatles and the Stones"
- The Jam, "When You're Young" (Life is timeless, days are long when you're young / You used to fall in love with everyone / Any guitar and any bass drum / Life is a drink and you get drunk when you're young...) and "Beat Surrender"

Also, "Press Darlings" by Adam and the Ants is the only song I know that (sneeringly) namechecks music journalists -- namely, Nick Kent and Gary Bushell.
posted by scody at 10:44 AM on March 14, 2005

I don't know that it's my favorite song, but was it TMBG's "Why Must I be Sad?" that consists almost entirely of titles of Alice Cooper songs?

Anyways, I can't really think of a better example of this than UTFO's Roxanne, Roxanne vs. Roxanne's Revenge/ The Real Roxanne/ etc. As a matter of fact I'm sure all the best examples of this are in hip-hop; I just can't remember them offhand.
posted by furiousthought at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2005

Also, "Press Darlings" by Adam and the Ants is the only song I know that (sneeringly) namechecks music journalists -- namely, Nick Kent and Gary Bushell.

Actually, "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)" by the Ramones namechecks (his majesty) Lester Bangs.
posted by jonmc at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2005

I like Cake's "Commissioning a Symphony in C", about a European noble who... commissions a Symphony. In C.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:09 AM on March 14, 2005

The Ruins do lots of insane medleys, like a Black Sabbath medley, or a prog medley, in which they cover 15-20 songs in about 2 minutes.

Their Black Sabbath medley is the same backwards and forwards.
posted by kenko at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2005

"Vine Street" by Randy Newman, as played by Harry Nillson. A song about a song that appears within the song. YES!
posted by adamkempa at 11:11 AM on March 14, 2005

Jon, thanks -- I just knew there had to be more I wasn't thinking of!
posted by scody at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2005

Janis Ian's "If I had Boots Like Emmylou's."

And how about one that doesn't mention songs or artists, but a couple clubs: "This ain't no Mudd Club/This ain't no CBGB." (Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime")
posted by booth at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2005

Jon, thanks -- I just knew there had to be more I wasn't thinking of!

and then there's probably the nastiest journalistic diss on record
posted by jonmc at 11:26 AM on March 14, 2005

Response by poster: Wow - what a fantastic collection of tunes! I knew the MeFi Musicologists would come through. Thanks again.
posted by jalexei at 11:30 AM on March 14, 2005

Part of Billy Bragg's "Levi Stubbs' Tears" is about listening to the Four Tops (Levi Stubbs was their singer), and the chorus mentions Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, and Holland/Dozier/Holland.

The Who's "Who Are You" is about Pete Townshend getting drunk with the Sex Pistols.

Elton John's "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" and Paul McCartney's "Here Today" are tributes to John Lennon.

Lennon and McCartney fueded in the early '70s, with Paul's "Too Many People" (from Ram, whose back cover features a photo of a beetle fucking a beetle) criticizing John. John's response, "How Do You Sleep?" (from Imagine) says, "The only thing you done was Yesterday/And since you've gone you're just Another Day," and prompted a bitchy exchange of letters in Melody Maker.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:33 AM on March 14, 2005

Tullycraft's "Pop Songs (Your New Boyfriend Is Too Stupid To Know About)" references lots of early 90s indie pop bands. Such a cute song.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 11:36 AM on March 14, 2005

Supposedly "Solsbury Hill," by Peter Gabriel is about him deciding to leave Genesis after seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert and realizing that his sound's days were numbered, and this is obliquely indicated in the line "I saw the eagle in it's flight..."
posted by jonmc at 11:38 AM on March 14, 2005

"fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n" in Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" is a wink to The Beach Boys' "Fun Fun Fun".
posted by hellbient at 11:42 AM on March 14, 2005

Johnny One-Note
posted by leafwoman at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2005

"Johnny's Gonna Die," by the Replacements (a tribute to Johnny Thunders) and The Replacements also did "Something To Du" a tribute to...well, take a wild guess.
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2005

Speaking of Dexy's Midnight Runners, "Come On, Eileen" mentions "Poor old Johnnie Ray."

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you."

Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet": "He's underneath the window/She's singin' 'Hey la, my boyfriend's back.'"

Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight" is about The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" ("Just like Ronnie sang/Be my little baby") and The Ronnettes' singer Ronnie Spector sings the "Be my little baby" line.

John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.":
There was Frankie Lyman-Bobby Fuller-Mitch Ryder
(They were rockin')
Jackie Wilson-Shangra-las-Young Rascals
(They were rockin')
Spotlight on Martha Reeves
Let's don't forget James Brown
posted by kirkaracha at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2005

"Sweatloaf" by the Butthole Surfers is really less a cover of "Sweetleaf" than it is a tribute? spoof?... I don't really know what it is, besides awesome.

I guess if they use the riff of the song, it shouldn't count. That would have to open the floodgates for a whole new batch of stuff. I think this could be one of the few exceptions, IMHO.
posted by hellbient at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2005

Neil Young: "Out of the blue/Into the black"
This is the story of-a Johnny Rotten

Too Much Joy:
"If I was a Mekon" and "That's a Lie" (in which they lie about LLCoolJ having stolen the song from them)

and of course

Tom Tom Club: "Genius of Love"
Clinton's musicians such as Bootsy Collins
Raise expectations to a new intention
No one can sing quite like Smokey, Smokey Robinson
Wailin' and shakin' to Bob Marley
Reggae's expanding with Sly and Robbie

posted by soyjoy at 12:28 PM on March 14, 2005

Oh, and of course, the Bonzos' homage to The Sound of Music...
posted by soyjoy at 12:31 PM on March 14, 2005

Sweet Soul Music
by Arthur Conley

Do you like good music
That sweet soul music
Just as long as it's swingin'
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Out here on the floor now
We're going to a go go
Ah dancin to the music
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Spotlight on Lou Rawls y'all
Ah don't he look tall y'all
Singin' loves a hurtin' thing now
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Spotlight on Sam and Dave now
Ah don't they look boss y'all
Singin' hold on I'm comin'
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Spotlight on Wilson Pickett
That wicked picket Pickett
Singin Mustang Sally
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Spotlight on Otis Redding now
Singing fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa
Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Spotlight on James Brown now
He's the king of them all, yeah
He's the king of them all, yeah
Oh yeah, oh yeah
posted by wsg at 12:54 PM on March 14, 2005

"A Simple Desultory Phillipic" by Simon & Garfunkel mentions several musicians and industry figures, and riffs on a few Dylan lyrics as well.

And to follow on part of kirkaracha's theme, "All Those Years Ago" by Harrison was his ode to Lennon (yeah, obviously, but just trying to be exhaustive here). And Ringo did "Early 1970" about his former bandmates.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2005

"Summer Rain" by Johnny Rivers namechecks Sgt. Pepper (the album)

"Splish Splash" by Bobby Darrin mentions Bony Maronie, Peggy Sue, and Miss Molly.

"Substitute" by the Who was inspired by Smokey's pronunciation of the word in "Tracks of My Tears."

If we're counting references to artists, then the Righteous Brothers' "Rock & Roll Heaven," glurgefest that it is (written by the guy who did "Undercover Angel" and Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby") has to be mentioned.

Is TMBG's reference to "The Longines Symphonette" in "Birdhouse in Your Soul" an actual piece of music?

Squeeze's "Dr. Jazz" makes a number of references to New Orleans jazz gods, mainly Jelly Roll Morton.

Someone mentioned "I'm Too Sexy"; ever notice how that bridge steals the riff from Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From The Sun"?

Finally, and I *think* we all know this means I win this thread, I give you Reunion's "Life Is a Rock But The Radio Rolled Me":
B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers
Lonnie Mack and twangin' Eddy, here's my ring we're goin' steady
Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire
Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction
Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin' hotter
Sammy's cookin', Lesley Gore and Ritchie Valens, end of story
Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama
Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry
Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin'

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

FM, AM, hits are clickin' while the clock is tock-a-tickin'
Friends and Romans, salutations, Brenda and the Tabulations
Carly Simon, I behold her, Rolling Stones and centerfoldin'
Johnny Cash and Johnny Rivers, can't stop now, I got the shivers
Mungo Jerry, Peter Peter Paul and Paul and Mary Mary
Dr. John the nightly tripper, Doris Day and Jack the Ripper
Gotta go Sir, gotta swelter, Leon Russell, Gimme Shelter
Miracles in smokey places, slide guitars and Fender basses
Mushroom omelet, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, stop and kick it

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Arthur Janov's primal screamin', Hawkins, Jay and
Dale and Ronnie, Kukla, Fran and Norma Okla
Denver, John and Osmond, Donny
JJ Cale and ZZ Top and LL Bean and De De Dinah
David Bowie, Steely Dan and sing me prouder, CC Rider
Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders
Eric Clapton, pedal wah-wah, Stephen Foster, do-dah do-dah
Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl and Little Honda
Tighter, tighter, honey, honey, sugar, sugar, yummy, yummy
CBS and Warner Brothers, RCA and all the others

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Listen--remember, they're playing our song!
Rock it, sock it, Alan Freed me, Murray Kaufman, try to leave me Fish, and Swim, and Boston Monkey,
Make it bad and play it funky.
(Wanna take you higher!)
posted by kimota at 1:32 PM on March 14, 2005

Supposedly, the Grateful Dead's "Hell In A Bucket," was a rip on Joan Baez after she clucked in disapproval at the band's lifestyle.

And of course Cheap Trick's "Surrender," (one of the 5 or 6 greatest moments in the history of recorded sound) includes a namecheck to their former tourmates Kiss.
posted by jonmc at 1:36 PM on March 14, 2005

Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything) by Dead Milkmen came to mind, though it's more about bands than specific songs.

"I met Andy Warhol at a really chic party!"
Blow it out your hairdo cuz you work at Hardee's.

posted by jmcmurry at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2005

"Late Greats" by Wilco is a fantastic song about a fictitious band (the Late Greats) as a means of beautifully poeticizing (and/or gently mocking) the rock geek's love of the obscure ("The best song will never get sung / The best life never leaves your lungs").

And Wilco's "Heavy Metal Drummer" is a tribute to a whole genre ("I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands / I used to go see on the landing in the summer").

Uncle Tupelo's got a song about storied Nashville music publishers "Acuff-Rose" ("Name me a song that everybody knows / And I'll bet you it belongs to Acuff-Rose").

And the best song ever about listening to rock & roll in general is "Rock & Roll" by the Velvet Underground ("Despite all the computations / You could just dance to a rock & roll station / And it was all right"; nothing before or since has ever been as totally, completely, incontestably all right as the "ahhhhlllllll right" Lou Reed proclaims in that song).
posted by gompa at 1:56 PM on March 14, 2005

Oh, and what jonmc just said. "Surrender" was one of the unofficial theme songs of the pub where I worked in university, I've heard it a billion times, and I'm still pumping my fist and bellowing along ("we're all all right, we're all all right, we're all all right!") every time I hear it.
posted by gompa at 2:02 PM on March 14, 2005

I really like Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing."

"He don't give a damn, about no trumpet-playin' band.."

Lots of folks have written great testimonials to rock and roll - I like Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Velvet Underground's, too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2005

Kanye West's "Slow Jam" - the best song about songs to feature an Oscar-award winner.
posted by Gortuk at 3:10 PM on March 14, 2005

Harry Chapin's Sequel references his own Taxi.
posted by astruc at 3:59 PM on March 14, 2005

Emmylou Harris, "Raise the Dead" (the entire song, but particularly this: "Robert Johnson had a hellhound on his trail / Drove him to the coffin like a hammer and a nail/ It takes a powerful man to carry that load/ When you're trying to beat the devil / to the old crossroad"). Lucinda Williams, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" ("Loretta singin' on the radio"). Steve Earle, "Nothin' But You" ("Everybody's talkin' 'bout Maybelline/Yellow Rose of Texas and Sweet Sixteen"). Junior Brown's riff on Jimi Hendrix on "Sugarfoot Rag."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:36 PM on March 14, 2005

U2 "Bullet the Blue Sky" from RATTLE AND HUM.
"So I'm back in my hotel room/with John Coltrane and a Love Supreme"
(Though the part is actually spoken)
posted by ColdChef at 6:41 PM on March 14, 2005

And the best song ever about listening to rock & roll in general is "Rock & Roll" by the Velvet Underground

I love that song, gompa, it's my favorite Velvets number, but it's bested for best song about rock and roll by the aforementioned "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray & "It Will Stand," by the Showmen. Lou Reed would probably agree, if my instincts about him are correct.
posted by jonmc at 7:23 PM on March 14, 2005

Late to the party, but here's mine:

"Dig Down" by Bobby Bare Jr. angrily laments that there's nothing left to do in rock music. (Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry you wrote the last original song/Some white boys stole it we all still sing along) There are a lot of call-outs in there, to Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Black Francis, and "Fred Bisquit"

"Turqouise Jewelry" by Camper Van Beethovan (Take off that jumpsuit, you look like Grace Slick)

"Big Day Coming" by Yo La Tengo (We can play a Stones song, sitting on a fence/And it'll sound pretty good, til I forget how it ends)

"Haiti" by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (Não importa nada: nem o traço do sobrado/nem a lente do Fantástico, nem o disco de Paul Simon)

"Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" by The Minutemen. See also "History Lesson Pt. 2"

"Soul Travelling" by Gary Byrd (There's a dude I know here in Chicago, you'll like him too, he's deep in the head/Curtis Mayfield, the one who wrote "Superfly" and that other tune "Freddie's Dead") plus Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Isaac Hayes, and the Jackson 5

"I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow
posted by hydrophonic at 7:38 PM on March 14, 2005

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds , There She goes, my Beautiful World:

Johnny Thunders was half alive when he wrote 'Chinese Rocks'
posted by bunglin jones at 7:42 PM on March 14, 2005

Elton John had a terrible song on the Songs from the West Coast album in which he compares himself with Robert Johnson.

Also, I like "Brian Wilson".
posted by SoftRain at 7:48 PM on March 14, 2005

I'm also kind of amazed that we've gotten this far without somebody mentioning Dickie Goodman and company. Their whole raison d'etre was referencing other songs. In an accidental way he was one of the forefathers of the modern music scene.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 PM on March 14, 2005

I might have missed them above, and they are about other musicians more so than songs, but there are always Rock and Roll Heaven and The South's Gonna Do It. Not necessarily my faves, but they did get a lot of airplay when I was younger.
posted by TedW at 7:52 PM on March 14, 2005

U2's "Angel of Harlem" is about Billie Holiday, and mentions John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:28 PM on March 14, 2005

Way late, but This Song by George Harrison is about not being about He's So Fine.(And it mentions Rescue Me)...

This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain't black or white and as far as I know
Don't infringe on anyone's copyright, so . . .

This song we'll let be
This song is in E
This song is for you and . . .

This tune has nothing 'Bright' about it
This tune ain't bad or good and come ever what may
My expert tells me it's okay

As this song came to me
Quite unknowingly
This song could be 'You' could be . . .
(Could be 'Sugar Pie Honey Bunch')
(No! Sounds more like 'Rescue Me')

This riff ain't trying to win gold medals
This riff ain't hip or square
Well done or rare may end up one more weight to bear
But this song could well be
A reason to see - that
Without you there's no point to . . . this song

posted by ?! at 8:45 PM on March 14, 2005

Weird Al's got a bunch, e.g. "This Song's Just Six, Words, Long", "Still Billy Joel to Me" (betcha didn't know Al could be that nasty -- apparently he's rather embarassed about it), "Smells like Nirvana". I'm sure there are dozens more.
posted by Aknaton at 8:59 PM on March 14, 2005

Elliott Smith's "Waltz #2" mention's "Cathy's Clown" & "You're No Good".

X's "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" mentions The Minutemen, the Flesh Eaters, DOA, Big Boys. and Black Flag, and alludes to Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty".

Yo La Tengo's "We're An American Band" is named after another song, plus mentions a Flamin' Groovies song.

Elton John's "Your Song", Badly Drawn Boy's "This Song", Belle & Sebastian's "This Is Just a Modern Rock Song" and, perhaps, Verbena's "The Song That Ended Your Career" and Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" are songs about themselves.

Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue" and Wings' "Silly Love Songs" are songs about themselves and others.

The Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl" erroneously calls The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" a Beach Boys song.

Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne", for obvious reasons.

And just for fun: The Moldy Peaches' "D.2. "Boyfriend" mentions every original member of Duran Duran by name.
posted by obloquy at 11:44 PM on March 14, 2005

"Midnight Radio" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch:
Here's to Patty and Tina and Yoko, Aretha
And Nona and Nico, and me
And all the strange rock and rollers

(side note: I know all the others, but who's Nona?)

Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell":
I'm gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Phil Ochs mentions Dylan in the intros to a couple of his songs (and imitates his voice in another), and has a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Billy Bragg has "I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night," which is a bit of a double-header, with both a song reference and an artist.

Then Dar Williams does the same with Ochs and Dylan in "All My Heroes Are Dead":
The '68 convention was a singing the times they are a-changing,
Well I guess they a-changed back.
Oh I miss those peaceful folk, love and humor when they spoke, hey
Phil Ochs you still sound great, should've stuck around to hear it.
They say that compact disc makes songs come true.
But Phil I never expected that I'd miss you like a friend
Cause I never expected we'd be marching again

(That last line is a reference to Ochs' "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore.")

kimota, I think you do win. But for sheer drunken, excessive tribute to a single band, it's hard to beat Pavement's "Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence":

Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster's art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don't Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restraint.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,
And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia
They're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
and there stands REM

posted by hippugeek at 11:59 PM on March 14, 2005

"Teenage Fanclub" by Tennis.
posted by seanyboy at 12:15 AM on March 15, 2005

And if we're speaking of namechecks, see also:
Bruce Springsteen: "Thunder Road" (Roy Orbison)
They Might Be Giant's "Twistin'" (the dBs & the Young Fresh Fellows)
Pavement "Range Life" (Smashing Pumpkins & Stone Temple Pilots)
The New Radicals "You Get What You Give" (Dust Brothers, Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love & Marilyn Manson)
The Flaming Lips "Chrome-Plated Suicide" (Iggy Pop)

on Preview, Hippugeek: Nona Hendryx, maybe?
posted by obloquy at 12:35 AM on March 15, 2005

'When we was fab' by George Harrison (again) namechecks "it's all over now baby blue" and "you've really got a hold on me" .
posted by the cuban at 6:38 AM on March 15, 2005

Country music has about a million examples. Just a few:

John Melloncamp – Key West Intermezzo – “This loud Cuban band is crucifying John Lennon”

Garth Brooks - Every Time That It Rains - “I played ‘Please Come to Boston’ on the jukebox”

Alan Jackson – Midnight In Montgomery – “I could hear that whistle moaning ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’”

Brooks and Dunn - Mexican Minutes – “Now we know why J.T. sang ‘Oh Mexico’”

Marc Cohn - Walking In Memphis – “And Reverend [Al] Green be glad to see you / When you haven't got a prayer”

Johnny Lee - Cherokee Fiddle – “He'd play upside down the Orange Blossom Special”
posted by Doxy at 5:00 PM on March 15, 2005

Billy Bragg's Little Time Bomb: "as the juke box says 'It's All Over Now.'"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:46 PM on March 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Dave Van Ronk's "Did You Hear John Hurt?" --the chorus lists some of Hurt's greatest songs, and was itself capable of bringing grown men to tears when Van Ronk was alive to perform it.

Dylan's "Song to Woody" is more about Woody, obviously, than about any particular song, so I hope I won't get flamed by Comic Store Guy for mentioning it.
posted by Polonius at 8:35 PM on March 15, 2005

The decidedly nasty "California Songs" from a band called Local H.

Also, I don't know if this qualifies, but... there's a song by the Oakridge Boys called "The Ya'll Come Back Saloon;" It's about a singer, an audience member, and a (fictional, as far as I know) song that he requests every night.

Oh, and then there's The Cowboy Junkies' "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)." Not entirely sure what to make of it.
posted by Clay201 at 9:33 PM on March 15, 2005

So late, as usual (I have had to cut back on my AkeMe) I got one- Hurtin' Crue by the Descendents tells of their early tour woes:
Fifteen hippies drinkin' Coors,
Telling us to play Free Bird
/two days late
posted by bdave at 2:55 AM on March 17, 2005

I don't know if anyone said this... KRS-One by Sublime?
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:52 AM on November 11, 2005

New Found Glory's "Hit or Miss" references Michael Jackson's Thriller, also.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2005

« Older Help me pick my poker chip set colors   |   Digital photography workflow on a Macintosh Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.