10 Songs You Probably Didn’t Know Had Hidden Meanings

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Songs were scrutinized in the 1980s for conveying hidden messages to naïve children. The Christian right chastised groups like Judas Priest for allegedly smuggling in hidden satanic messages pushing young fans to attempt suicide. Rob Halford, the band’s leader, wisely noted that there’s no reason why we’d want to wipe off our fans; if nothing else, the subliminal messaging would encourage fans to spread the news and purchase more records.

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Below are the 10 Songs You Probably Didn’t Know Had Hidden Meanings:

‘Every Breath You Take’ – The Police

The message here exemplifies the phrase “hiding in plain sight.” If you envision the following words without the instrumental score spoken by Liam Neeson, the song’s true meaning becomes clear: “Every breath you take, and every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”

Throughout a time when Sting felt his wife was cheating, he penned the song in an obsessive mood. With phrases like “Every smile you fake,” there are clear indications, yet the message appears to be disguised for some, who are dazzled by the joyful melody of striking guitars.

 

‘Imagine’ – John Lennon

John Lennon’s plea for peace rose to the status of a worldwide anthem. It is still regarded amongst the most renowned protest songs (if such a term can be applied) of all time. Nevertheless, the track, as per Lennon, was significantly more detailed than a simple message of peace.

One of the song’s main principles is a pro-Communist message, where many people seemed to overlook as the piece became a smash even in firmly capitalist areas like America. As Lennon explained, “Because [Communism] is sugar-coated, it’s accepted. Now I understand what you have to do — put your message across with a little honey.”

 

‘You Are My Sunshine’ – Johnny Cash

Millions of children have been soothed to sleep by the music “You Are My Sunshine.” Its flowing lullaby melodies are as lovely as they come, yet the tenderness in Cash’s version emanates from a state of complete despair. His radiance has faded to the point where he looks like an Alaskan vampire.

More lyrics, further than the ones you say to your child, end with lines like “You have shattered all of my dreams” and “You’ll regret it all some day.” It’s a social peculiarity that a song so totally terrible has been expanded by society in general to symbolize calming paternal affection.

 

‘One Way or Another’ – Blondie

Albert Ellis, a psychologist, famously stated,  “the art of love is largely the art of persistence.” There is some truth to this, although there is a negative aspect to it: tenacity that is wrong and one-sided is reprehensible. That would be the case with Blondie’s heartbreaking story, which she masked with the cheery tune of ‘One Way or Another.’

Debbie Harry penned the lyrics from the viewpoint of a stalking ex-boyfriend. As a result, Blondie’s flowery turn is practically a contemporary strategy for capturing the deranged mind of an unreliable witness.

 

‘Polly’ – Nirvana

Nirvana are no amateurs to melancholy, and their Nevermind tune ‘Polly’ features a chilling back-and-forth tale. The track is more about the abduction of a 14-year-old girl after a performance in Tacoma, Washington, despite the fact that it is veiled. Before she became able to flee, she was tortured and raped with a whip, razor, and blowtorch.

Cobain took a progressive approach to this, but the music was unfortunately used as an influence in a subsequent attack. As a result, in the production notes to Incesticide, Cobain wrote: “Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song ‘Polly.’ I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience.” Later, he performed at rape survivor benefit concerts, such as the Rock Against Rape event in 1993.

 

‘I Shot the Sheriff’ – Bob Marley

‘I Shot the Sheriff’ is one of very few tracks on this list in which the listener can tell that anything is going on lyrically. So who is this sheriff, and why and how was he symbolically assassinated, given that Bob Marley was obviously not a murderer?

In the documentary Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend, Marley’s ex-lover says that the sheriff was actually a doctor who supplied her contraceptive pills. Of course, Marley didn’t shoot the doctor, but he actually told her not to take the pills since he saw them as a sign of the county sheriff “elements of wickedness.” As a result, lines like “Every time I plant a seed/He said kill it before it grow.” appear in the lyrics.

 

‘Closing Time’ – Semisonic

‘Closing Time’ might well have added an another few songs to a countless drinking sessions, but the fact is that the indie disco classic didn’t have something to do with a night on the flooring, at least not in the imagination of composer Dan Wilson.

Wilson noted that the song is a comedic take on birthing hesitation, something you wouldn’t realize from the lyrics. “My wife and I were expecting our first kid very soon after I wrote that song. I had birth on the brain, I was struck by what a funny pun it was to be bounced from the womb,” he later revealed.

 

‘Summer of ‘69’ – Bryan Adams

It’s a figure that, like a mathematical psychological abnormality, develops immaturity in a split second. Thankfully, Bryan Adams’ song appears to have circumvented this, allowing hundreds of inebriated uncles to scream about Adams’ catchiest song without tarnishing the wedding.

But, as it turns out, our juvenile thoughts were correct all along. Bryan Adams isn’t reminiscing about his boyhood so much as he is reminiscing about his sexual escapades. “A lot of people think it’s about the year, but actually, it’s more about making love in the summertime. It’s using ’69 as a sexual reference,” he explained in 2008.

 

‘Delilah’ – Tom Jones

It’s a song that’s gone beyond the realm of music and into the wider culture. It’s currently yelled on football stadiums, and it captures the spirit of a past era. While the words aren’t particularly obscure, the song’s radio-friendly public appeal is at contrast with the violent story it depicts.

Jones basically tells the narrative of a guy who goes insane and murders his dearly cherished wife, and he does so with his distinctive thunderous vocals. The statement “I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more” may be evident, but there are undoubtedly those people who simply hummed along, lost themselves in the waltzing song, and overlooked the grim facts therein.

 

‘Run for your Life’ – The Beatles

Influenced by Elvis Presley’s track “Baby, Let’s Play House,” wherein the hip-swinging rocker sings, “I’d rather see you dead little girl than be with another man,” Lennon opted to share his personal dark domestic abuse story. Whenever the irony of the concealed narrative was slightly perverted, and the tune was hanged by one’s own glossy petard, Lennon came to despise the song.

The botched attempt to denounce the obvious evil contained within resulted to it being banned by radio stations for preaching a horrible message of violence against women in the following years. In a nutshell, it’s The Beatles’ most dreadful tune.