Not all musicians write their own music, but the ones that do often have interesting stories behind their songs. Sometimes the true meaning of a song is hidden behind metaphors and analogies, while others are a lot more literal than listeners may realize.
Also the crazy life of a rock star lends itself to some outlandish origin stories. So which of your favorite songs have a crazy back story? Here are six rock songs that were inspired by wacky circumstances.
1. Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” is about birth control
You might have heard the song a dozen times thinking it was probably inspired by a newspaper story or a dream. The 1973 song tells a story about a narrator admitting to killing the sheriff while denying killing the deputy. However, the song might actually be about a more controversial issue.
The reggae legend’s ex-girlfriend, Esther Anderson gave an interesting meaning behind it. Anderson explained that she was on birth control pills which Marley saw as sacrilege, according to Miami New Times. He went on to write the song where the doctor became the sheriff.
“Sheriff John Brown always hated me/For what, I don’t know/Every time I plant a seed/He said kill it before it grow,” are the lyrics that really back up this claim. Marley’s “seed” wouldn’t grow because the “sheriff” who is the doctor or the pills itself hate him.
2. Guns N’ Roses’ “Rocket Queen” is inspired by Axl Rose having sex with Steven Adler’s Girlfriend
Every band has their messed up fights, but this one is pretty crazy. Adriana Smith was dating the band’s drummer, Steven Adler and she found out he cheated on her. For the ultimate pay back she had sex with Axl in the vocal booth and he had them recorded. The sounds of her moaning was then used in “Rocket Queen.” Adler of course was upset, but she ultimately wasn’t happy afterwards either. She told The Rolling Stone, “I ended up drinking and using drugs over this for a really long time, because I had this extreme shame and guilt and stuff.”
3. Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah” might have been a failed plan to win over a girl
Many people who have heard this song probably thought it was inspired by a long distance relationship. But the writer didn’t have much of a relationship with the muse although that may have been his plan. “When we first met, she had a boyfriend,” Tom Higgenson explained to InStyle. “We kept in touch every once in a while, and then the song blew up. Before I even wrote it, I joked with her that she was going to be my date to the Grammys, and when we got nominated, I had just broken up with my girlfriend at the time, and I was like, ‘I gotta call Delilah and ask her — this is the self-fulfilling prophecy of the song.’ So I called her, and she agreed to come.”
However this didn’t lead to any romance. By the time the award show came the two were back with their significant others so they went just as friends.
4. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is kind of inspired by the deodorant
A lot of people probably thought it was a coincidence that this song sounded like deodorant, but it’s not! The lead singer of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna, wasn’t a fan of Cobain’s girlfriend at the time. She wrote “smells like teen spirit” on a wall in his apartment because his girlfriend tended to wear the deodorant, according to The Guardian. He reportedly didn’t take too kindly to this at first, but wrote the song weeks before the album’s release and used the words for its title.
5. R.E.M.’s “Seven Chinese Brothers” is about breaking up a couple then dating them
If this list teaches us anything it’s that infidelities tend to inspire rock songs. Michael Stipe opened up that this song was about a very complicated dating situation he was in. “There are songs I wrote in the past that were gender-specific,” Stripe told Spin. “‘7 Chinese Bros.’ was about me breaking up a couple — and then dating both of them, a man and a woman, which is a terrible thing to do, but I was young and stupid.”
6. Van Halen’s “Jump” was inspired by David Lee Roth wanting someone to jump off a building
The front man for Van Halen has a very morbid reason for his inspiration to write the song. “I was watching television one night,” explained Roth in an interview “and it was the five o’clock news and there was a fellow standing on top of the Arco Towers in Los Angeles and he was about to check out early, he was going to do the 33 stories drop – and there was a whole crowd of people in the parking lot downstairs yelling “Don’t jump, don’t jump” and I thought to myself, ‘Jump.'”