Lazy Sunday in English: 5 Song meanings which are totally not what I always thought they were

Yep, back in English, I just re-read my Bears-entry and enjoyed it enough to believe that maybe I just appear funnier in English, after all, Germans are not known for their humor so I trick my brain into believing that I am actually English by writing in English. It makes total sense in my head and that’s all that matters, so stop the eye-rolling, haters!

Ok, so I was fumbling with this idea a while ago and thought that it would fit perfectly on here. So, music nerds and/or fans of the mentioned bands and artists probably already know what I will talk about but maybe there are at least 3 people out there who don’t – this is for you.

As a teen/kid you often just listen to music and don’t really care what the lyrics are about which is the only reason I have for the Top 100 being continously horrendous since the dawn of time (I bet even during the stone ages kids were only listening to the monotonous drum banging without appreciating the throat singing artrock bands).

And sometimes that leads to some shocking moments in your later life, for example, when the song that was “your song” together with your first love, was actually the only Michael Jackson song that was not about love and friendship and kids and hugging and jesus but about a rat.

No one is perfect, even I was mistaken on a couple of occasions, especially with the language barrier of not having English as mother-tongue but I learned and accepted that some songs in my life just weren’t the happy go lucky songs I thought them to be. This is their story.

1. Pearl Jam – alive

This might be a German thing and I was knee-deep into it until I actually looked up their lyrics but for most of us beer-loving leather-pants-wearers “alive” is one of the greatest motivational songs of all times. I mean, being drunk in a club, staggering accross the dancefloor whilst belching out “oooooooaaaaaaaaaooooooo I’m still alive” is what our alternative parties are made for.

However, as every hardcore and not so hardcore Pearl Jam fan knows, “alive” was one of three conceptual songs about a disturbed teenager who got to know that his father was not his biological father and that his biological father was dead. That was actually partially based on Vedders own experiences but rendered even worse by including the mother molesting her kid in that song because he looked so much like his biological father. Yes, Vedder is a great songwriter but I always want to down a bottle of cheap whine and cry on the subway whenever I listen to his songs.

Ok, so the part when he sings “I’m still alive”? It refers to the boy questioning why he is still alive, when his father is dead, so it’s rather the contrary to what people believe, it’s not motivational, except you needed motivation to kill yourself (don’t do that, though, I can’t handle another trial).

2. Coverdale & Page – Pride and joy

This is one of MY childhood traumas, Eddie Vedder step aside, this will make a great song. When I was younger (I was such a cute tween), my mom tried to get me into Led Zeppelin but because I have motion sickness and my mom always listened to Led Zep during long car drives which ended in me standing at the side of the road hurling out my breakfast, I had bad associations with this band. So she sneakily tried to convince me through the Coverdale album that featured Jimmy Page.

And she always quipped that this song was about me.

Until I years and years later got reminded of that song and listened to it – now grown and capable of the English language.

Everything about this is wrong and I will talk about it lengthily with my therapist for years to come. To cut things short: If you have a daughter of 10 and you like a rock song with the word “princess” in it – listen to all of the lyrics because “princess” in rock lingo almost always means “girl that totally gets laid throughout this song”. I’m gonna be sick again.

PS: I got over my Led Zep aversion and love them now, I have the intense feeling that this information is crucial to the mood on the comment section.

3. The Police – every breath you take

Ok, by now we’ve established that my English at some point in my life wasn’t really good which is ok because I was born in Germany, grew up in Germany and even still live in Germany. But I also didn’t really got into the English language and its importance (to get out of Germany) until I was about 16. Till then (ok, ok, even afterwards), I would listen to this song when I was unhappily in love. And you know what I am realizing as I am writing this? Unless you don’t dissect this song, that’s fine because it’s ambiguous and I bet Sting just laughed his ass off when P Diddy and Mary J Blige used it for their terrible terrible funeral song for Biggy.

Because “every breath you take” is about stalking and that basically means that P Diddy and Mary J Blige wanted to stalk a dead person which is really easy or difficult, depending on whether you believe in ghosts/zombies or not.

And a song about stalking is great, I always thought I would be a good stalker (I look very inconspicious) but if I want to sing this song aloud in front of the bedroom of this one guy I once saw at the library and who just looked at me like he was saying “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” then I want to know whether this will be a theme song for the following dead pets on his pillow and weird letters he gets or whether this will be the love song I am going to sing when he is tied down in my basement. It’s all about context, Sting, don’t be a douche and let people think this is less than a psychopath’s ode and then years later laugh about it in your snobbish English accent.

4. Bob Geldof – Song of indifference

This song is a little different because when I listened to this song, I was usually in a car, thinking of my happy place (which was simply any place where I wouldn’t puke into a plastic bag and hope that it wouldn’t leak) and I was too young to even care about the lyrics. What I cared about was the nice chirpy melody and the fact that weirdly enough I never associated this song with stomach acids urging their way up my throat.

I always thought this was a cute Irish song about fairies and unicorns, I seriously did, shut up, I was 6 or 7 I bet you already were into cooler stuff like my little pony, right? Well, not everyone started out as a cool kid.

My mom loved this song as well, probably not because she thought of faires and unicorns, though. So, when I told her that this song was actually about the lack of passion of humanity and how we don’t care about all those poor souls that are suffering, she was really mad at me for ruining one of her favourite feelgood songs. Well, at least I saved her an awkward moment in case she gets invited to the inevitable next Band Aid (was that Geldof or was that Michael?). Bob Geldof takes his despise for us seriously. Because we are real dicks, aren’t we, and Bob Geldof never will shut up about it.

5. Dan Mangan – starts with them ends with us

How about a song that is not only current (if you’re reading this in 2012 it kinda is, after that…not so much) but also involves lyrical ambiguity that is neither douchy nor dangerous? Hell yeah. Thanks go to Dan Mangan and this one didn’t take me years to realize, mainly, because this song was released 2011.

When I listened to this the first couple, let’s say 20, times, I thought this was a love song only based during a zombie apocalypse (it’s not that unusual, Gavin Castleton did it!) or some other post-apocalyptic world. But when asked, Mangan admitted that this song was originally called “Guatemala” based on his travels there.

This is a song about war (but without the zombies, insert frowny face) and oppression and the hope that still lingers despite all. Mangan changed the title because he didn’t want to push his meaning onto the listener and wanted to make them experience the song with their own interpretations but that’s ok because he didn’t make it ambiguous to make fun of them like a certain British dude who usually NEVER writes lyrics that are all too subtle and therefore obviously just wanted to fuck with us because he hates us nearly as much as Bob Geldof.

And this is the reason why I enjoy learning the original meanings because they tell me more about the musician and they can add so much depth to the song. Except maybe for Pokerface whose real meaning just changed one possibly dirty interpretation to another.

However, the embarrassment of finding out still stings and I would go to any lengths to convince anyone that I never mistook the meanings in the first place. Even if that means inventing a time-machine, travelling back in time and kill myself to keep me from writing this article, which apparently I failed. I am such a loser, and one, and two, and oooooooaaaaaaaaaooooooooo I’m still alive!


5 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday in English: 5 Song meanings which are totally not what I always thought they were

  1. The only vaguely similar experience I had was with “wild rose” by Nick Cave. I always liked the song when it played in the HP holding loop and was very pleasantly surprised when I found out what it’s about and that he made a whole album of Murder Ballads.


      1. Of course I know Nick Cave (my uncle is a fan) and even if I didn’t I wouldn’t admit it. Nice review, by the way, good that you got it on your blog, the other one is gone with the wind.


      2. I’ve always been kind of jealous about my content.
        On Murder Ballads, I’d probably call “O’Malley’s Bar” my favourite, although I’d have to admit it might be a bit of an acquired taste, so “Death is not the End” runs a close second. But then, that’s a cover.


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