Nirvana photo courtesy of Sub Pop Records, Scott Weiland courtesy of Corey Hickok
Do you enjoy reading info about timeless rock tunes? If so, you should very well enjoy my new book, Facts on Tracks: Stories Behind 100 Rock Classics!
Go ahead and pick a genre, any genre – alternative, heavy metal, punk rock, grunge, hip-hop, classic rock, etc. – chances are, it is well-represented within.
Below are a few excerpts for your reading enjoyment…
“About a Girl”
Written by Kurt Cobain
From Bleach (1989)
Nirvana’s full-length debut, Bleach, was a prototypical grunge record—detuned riffs played on battered second-hand guitars, raw production, hard-to-decipher lyrics, etc. But this decidedly Beatle-esque/melodious tune was one that stood out like a sore digit. And while singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain is solely listed as the song’s author, it turns out that drummer Chad Channing played a significant role concerning the tune’s title.
Chad Channing [Nirvana drummer]: I remember we were rehearsing the song not long before we went in and recorded the record, Bleach. Kurt was just playing the song and we were working it out. I asked Kurt what the song was, and Kurt was like, “Well, I don’t really know.” And then I said, “Well, what’s it about?” And he says, “It’s about a girl.” And I said, “Well, why don’t you just call it ‘About a Girl’?” And he just kind of looked at me and smiled and said, “Okay.” We went with that.
Stone Temple Pilots
Written by Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland (lyrics), Robert DeLeo (music)
From Core (1992)
Admittedly, the Stone Temple Pilots’ debut album, Core, was a tad too derivative of what was popular at the time on MTV and rock radio (but this would be corrected on subsequent recordings, as STP began branching out more stylistically). And this acoustic number from Core served as a breather from the rest of the album’s high volume riffing.
Scott Weiland [Stone Temple Pilots singer]: That’s just the idea of being a young person somewhere, caught between still being a kid and becoming a young man. It’s that youth apathy, that second-guessing yourself, not feeling like you fit in.
Written by Blind Melon
From Blind Melon (1992)
It’s hard to believe that one of the sunniest-sounding songs of the ‘90s was, lyrically, anything but. But this turned out to be the case concerning the state of mind of Blind Melon’s bassist, when he originally penned their eventual breakthrough hit.
Brad Smith [Blind Melon bassist]: “No Rain” came from when I first moved to California and I was playing songs on Venice Beach for change. I was having to come up with material during the week after my construction job, and then I would get my guitar and go down to the beach and open up a guitar case. I’d play on the Venice Beach boardwalk for change, for enough money to pay for parking and chicken teriyaki. That was my weekend.
And it was inspired by just how tough it was in LA. I had bouts of depression and the whole, “What am I doing out here? Am I going to go back to Mississippi? I’m never going back to Mississippi.” I would just fight it and stick to my guns. Like, “I want to be a musician, I want to be out here in California. I don’t want to go back home.” I had nobody out here. There was no family, I didn’t know a soul out here at first.
So the song is about not being able to get out of bed and find excuses to face the day when you have really, in a way, nothing. It was like rock bottom. I wasn’t even on drugs or drinking. It was just tough. It was just a tough point in my life. And the cool thing about that song, I think a lot of people do interpret those lyrics properly and can connect with it on that level, where “I don’t understand why I sleep all day and I start to complain that there’s no rain.” It’s just a line about, I’d rather it be raining so I can justify myself by laying in the bed and not doing anything. But it’s a sunny day, so go out and face it.
So that’s where the lyric and the song was inspired from, is just having to write songs. Then being in the state of mind I was in and having to come up with material to go play down on the beach for change. I played that song on the beach for change for over a year before Shannon Hoon actually joined the band and really made that song a hit. I think that was a good song, and Shannon made it a great song.
You know, when we were shooting the video for “No Rain,” I felt like it was going to be a great video. Of course, I thought it was a great song and a hit. Of course, I thought the same thing about the three previous videos and songs that we did: “I Wonder,” “Tones of Home” twice, and “Dear Ol’ Dad.” We did four videos before we did the video to “No Rain.” [The second video for “Tones of Home” was actually released after “No Rain”]
At the time we were doing “No Rain,” it was like, “This is great.” But I felt this way about all the other videos. So you just never know. Sam Bayer was a killer director and shot an amazingly beautiful video that had a storyline in it, and people connected with that bee girl. We brought the bee girl to life that was on the front of the album cover.
There was just something about the video. I felt like all the other videos we shot were good, but not as good as that Sam Bayer video. You know, hindsight’s 20/20. That Sam Bayer video he made was really special, and I’m sure that’s probably on his reels somewhere when he’s going out there and tooting his commercial work or directing.
Enjoying what you’re reading thus far? Want an extra bonus? Well…today is your lucky day!
“Lake of Fire”
Written by Curt Kirkwood
From Meat Puppets II (1984)
Halloween has spawned quite a few rock tunes over the years—including songs simply titled “Halloween” by both the Misfits and King Diamond, “This Is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson, etc. But few were as spooky and crazed-sounding as this early Meat Puppets classic (which is probably most recognizable by its opening line, “Where do bad folks go when they die?”)—which eventually got its due over a decade later, when Nirvana covered it for their classic MTV Unplugged in New York set.
Curt Kirkwood [Meat Puppets singer/guitarist]: It was Halloween. Everybody wanted to go to a Halloween party—we all were living together in the same house with some girlfriends. I thought the Halloween party was a really dumb idea. I hadn’t been into Halloween for a while. I thought it was OK for kids—you get dressed up and go get candy. But I thought it was a retarded idea for adults.
Being a new adult myself at the time, I was like, “Adults are always in disguises. Everybody’s got a dumb costume on constantly. Whether they know it or not, they’re all in costume, and they want to go out and put on a different costume and act like children.”
I guess I was being kind of a party pooper. They all went to the party, so I dropped a hit of acid, and wrote “Lake of Fire” and “Magic Toy Missing.” I sat out in the backyard and wrote them, when it was a full moon, too. “Magic Toy Missing” was from looking at the moon and it was making a kaleidoscope happen, when you’re tripped out like that. I tried to make a musical version of the Spirograph sort of thing that the moon was doing. I wrote them both in about 20 minutes. “Lake of Fire” was kind of like, “Oh, the bad people! They’re out tonight—look, it’s Frankenstein and the Mummy!” Just making fun of my friends, really.
For ordering info for Facts on Tracks: Stories Behind 100 Rock Classics, click here.