As we all know from our many intense readings and re-readings of Dave Marsh's landmark study THE HEART OF ROCK AND SOUL, all of the greatest rock and roll songs are actually about sex.
All of them. We KNOW this.
And yet, some aren't about sex. Some are about ... other things.
Here's a few examples:
* Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" appears to be about the end of the world. In reality, it's about how CCR's leader John Fogerty couldn't find a bathroom when he needed one badly during an endless Creedence one-nighter in Lodi. But a fan finally got him pointed in the right direction: Note the repeated lines at the end of the choruses -- "There's a bathroom on the right." And as we all know, sometimes not being able to find a bathroom can FEEL like the end of the world....
* Electric Light Orchestra's "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" is actually about the U.S.-government-forced breakup of AT&T's nationwide phone network in the mid-1970s. ELO's captain Jeff Lynne was disgruntled because the breakup added complications to his trans-continental phonecalls searching for more string-players for the band. Marc Bolan of T. Rex allegedly plays the stark, jagged lead guitar on this track. Bolan had his own issues with phones, AT&T's breakup making it harder for the Boppin' Elf to keep in touch with his girlfriend in New York City. That the long-ago phone-system breakup is still a controversial topic is proven by how seldom you hear this rocker on classic-rock radio.
* Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" appears to be about how a lonely man found friendship and wonder and new meanings in life by immersing himself in a totally new, wondrous, completely alien culture. But it's really about how nobody in South Africa could pronounce Paul's name right, so he asked them to call him Al just to keep it short and friendly. (Sorry about that "short" crack, Paul.)
* George Michael's "Faith" appears to be about holding on until True Love comes along. But in truth it's a heavily autobiographical piece about George's younger days, during which at one point he was attracted to a cute blonde next-door-neighbor girl named Faith. "Gotta have Faith, Faith, Faith, baby!"
* Bob Seger's "Feel Like a Number" seems to be a desperate rocker about a guy who's sick and tired of being ground-down by The System. But it's actually about how Bob couldn't find a joint when he really wanted one during a tough night performing at Detroit's Cobo Hall. (Did you know Bob's '60s band was called The System? Really.)
* Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti" is actually about how Little Richard Penniman couldn't get the flavor of ice cream he wanted in a Southern small-town ice cream shop back in the early '50s. You can hear the frustration breaking loose in his voice as he finally permits himself to talk about it.
* Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" is about how the frustrated, globetrotting guys in the band couldn't make love to the Statue Of Liberty -- a woman big enough to take them all on at once. Don't believe me? Check out the heavily-coded lyric sheet. ...Oh, wow, guess this IS a song about sex after all.
* Bob Dylan's "One of Us Must Know" is about Bahb's many emotionally-fraught Relationship discussions with Joan Baez back in the '60s. Just ask either of them. But make sure you've got a few hours to spare for just listening....
* Spirit's "1984." Well, this has all come true now, hasn't it?
* The Monkees' "Tapioca Tundra." I have no IDEA what the HELL this song is about. Great guitar and vocal by Mike Nesmith, though. I feel much the same way about The Monks' "Your Auntie Grizelda," "Gonna Buy Me a Dog," "The Porpoise Song," "Daily Nightly," "Randy Scouse Git," "No Time," and some of their other absolutely classic album tracks.
More revealing studies in this area coming soon, he threatened....