If songs are poetry put to music, then interpreting even your run-of-the-mill pop tune can be tricky. Unraveling the more abstract examples can be like trying to make sense of Penrose stairs, with the results being by turns hilarious or disheartening.
Take for, example, ‘Get Back’ by The Beatles. A whimsical, nonsense ditty, the song has been interpreted as being about a man named Jojo who met a drag queen lost in his own delusion. In reality, Paul McCartney is on record as stating that Jojo is imaginary. On the other hand you have Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA,’ which sees its serious, even tragic, meaning smothered by a conveniently selective focus on a lone line in the chorus.
The beauty of music is that it is open to interpretation, and in that beauty lies a power that can be cathartic, even transformative. But however passionate (or learned), fans and aficionados can get their interpretation wildly wrong and when the true meaning is lost then the record needs to be set straight. Here are ten examples where long-standing confusion is finally cleared up, and in the artists’ own words.