Since the dawn of time, music has been used as a vessel to portray messages, ideals, narratives and beliefs to a wider audience. From religious hymns designed to sing the praises of their deities, to protest music which supports social causes, music has always been intended to carry meaning. Famous songs that show clear sentiment and purpose include the likes of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, ‘War’ by Edwin Starr and ‘Hell is For Children’ by Pat Benatar, to name but a few.
Some may argue that an oversaturation of lyrically meaningful music has made it harder for gifted lyricists to stand out from the crowd. Because of this, a handful of musicians have started hiding the true meaning of their music behind thin veils of mystery. Although an enticing tactic, it occasionally causes confusion for fans who completely miss the point of the song, as we will come to see here.
From Dave Mustaine’s oddly graphic description of a car, to love songs that are actually about dying, here are ten famous rock (and metal) songs that people have completely misunderstood.
10. Beastie Boys - Fight For The Right
Released as a single in 1987, this pioneering rap rock tune still holds up as a timeless, ageless classic even today. Originally featured as a regular track on Beastie Boys’ debut album ‘Licensed to Ill’ in 1986, the song quickly gained traction from listeners and was released as a single the following year. However, the meaning behind the song was completely lost on the majority of the audience.
Written by the band’s founding member MCA and friend Tommy Triphammer, ‘Fight For Your Right’ was originally intended to be a parody of edgy party songs which had been emerging from the glam rock scene like clockwork. In truth, the song ended up falling in line with anthemic party tunes like ‘I Wanna Rock’ by Twisted Sister instead of rebelling against them. In future interviews, MCA would express a disliking for the song, saying that it inadvertently turned Beastie Boys into the one thing they set out to make fun of, because people just didn’t get what it was about.
The unexpected success of the hit single caught everyone by surprise, not least the band themselves. ‘Fight For Your Right’ reached the top 10 in five different singles charts around the world, received silver certification in the UK and is one of the groups most recognisable tunes to this day.