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11 Songs That Aren’t About What You Think. #4 Blew Me Away!

There are songs we’ve heard all our lives and thought we knew what they meant. Here are eleven that have stunning origins unlike what you ever would have believed.

  1. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head – The 1969 hit by B.J. Thomas sounds at first like a simple tune about staying positive, but it has a much darker origin. The “raindrops” referenced in the song are really radioactive fallout from a nuclear holocaust, and Thomas is considering his options for survival. If you listen to the lyrics closely, it all makes more sense.
  2. Call Me Maybe – Most people would recall Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 smash hit as a come-on to someone she had just met. In reality, the song documents tense moments during the Cold War when U.S. and Soviet leaders would balk at making first contact on their red phone hotline. Events sometimes escalated to dangerous levels before one side or the other would blink and pick up the phone. If you scrutinize the lyrics carefully, you will find multiple allusions to international tensions and nuclear brinksmanship.
  3. Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who’s 1971 rock anthem is popularly believed to be about growing political vigilance, especially in the face of past betrayal. However, songwriter Pete Townshend has said that he was inspired to pen the song after his dog repeatedly fell for “faking the throw” and that it reminded him of how western civilization seems to creep inevitably toward nuclear annihilation.
  4. I Melt With You – A critical reading of the lyrics from the 1982 Modern English hit reveals that it is not about a couple perishing in a nuclear blast, but instead it recounts an overly hot day in which a man keeps company with a blow-up doll. The opening lyric, “moving forward using all my breath” gives it away.
  5. Tik Tok – Ke$ha made a splash with her 2010 dance track that seems at first like a superficial romp about partying all night. The real story is more sobering, however. Ke$ha was responding to concerns about growing international tensions and the position of the so-called “Doomsday Clock” that represents the perceived closeness to global catastrophe. When she sings “I’m gonna hit this city” she is referring to the vast number of warheads aimed at major population centers.
  6. I Want to Hold Your Hand – Just one year after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, The Beatles wrote and recorded this innocent-sounding chart topper about restraint for those who have their fingers on the nuclear button. Many fans at the time assumed it was just a pop song about puppy love.
  7. Moves Like Jagger – The Beatles were not alone in their anti-nuke activism. Rolling Stone singer Mick Jagger, unbeknownst to most music fans, was a top secret British MI6 agent (like James Bond) and was quite a nimble one, instrumental in thwarting nuclear disaster several times. This information was classified for decades, however, and only came to light when Maroon 5 turned it into this 2011 song that was ostensibly about the rocker’s legendary dance moves.
  8. Yakety Sax – Very few people are aware that this 1963 Boots Randolph song, made famous as the theme for The Benny Hill Show, actually has lyrics. Known mostly for accompanying zany sped-up foot chases, the full song makes a plaintive call for nuclear disarmament.
  9. Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees made this 1977 disco song a hit along with many other songs on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, but not many know how the song came about. Written by brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, who were born in Australia, the song contains a solemn warning about their homeland that was the setting for Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel “On The Beach”, in which residents of the southern hemisphere await the arrival of deadly radiation from a nuclear holocaust that has taken out the rest of the world. When they sing “Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin'” they are referring to underground fallout shelters where the last remnants of a devastated city scramble to survive.
  10. Whoomp! (There It Is) – In 1993, Tag Team made this the unavoidable catch phrase of the year. Look real close at the lyrics. Yep. Nukes.
  11. 99 Red Balloons – For decades, people have thought that the 1983 song by German band Nena was about misunderstanding the Star Trek phenomenon, but it is actually about a kid who drinks too much cough syrup and spends all his allowance on balloons. He then hallucinates and gets lost on the way home.

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