10 Rock Songs About Rock Icons


The Flavorwire inbox recently took delivery of a press release about a song called “Mick Jagger,” courtesy of NYC band Baked. The song itself is not bad at all, notwithstanding the fact that its lyrics don’t appeal to have a great deal to do with Jagger himself, and it catalyzed one of our endless intra-office geekouts: what about other songs named for and/or about music industry icons? So, it’s list time! Here are ten particularly notable examples, for better or worse.

The Dandy Warhols — “Cool as Kim Deal”

Kim Deal was (and is) cool as fuck, so she’s a pretty good benchmark as far as a simile for estimating coolness goes. The Dandys themselves never quite got to the top of the Kim Deal Coolness Scale™, but this is definitely one of their memorable moments.

Ramones — “Danny Says”

The “Danny” of the title is music industry living legend (and all-round excellent guy) Danny Fields, who managed the band in the 1970s. The song is the Ramones at their most reflective, cataloging tour bus ennui and being away from loved ones over the festive season: “It ain’t Christmas,” notes Joey Ramone sadly, “if there ain’t no snow.”

Belle and Sebastian — “Seymour Stein”

This song also touches on the travails of the music industry, discussing a meeting with legendary Sire executive Seymour Stein. Or, more accurately, not meeting with him — the song’s narrative revolves around blowing out a meeting with The Man in favor of a date with a girl. It’s quite possibly based on the band’s actual meeting with Stein.

Murder City Devils — “Johnny Thunders”

There’s more than a touch of rock ‘n’ roll mythologizing here, and really, it does no favors to the memory of a man whose death is still surrounded in mystery: he was diagnosed posthumously with leukemia, but the circumstances of his death gave more than a little credence to rumors that he may have been murdered. He didn’t die with his guitar in his hands — he died curled into a ball under a coffee table, with most of his possessions missing. It took a city like New Orleans to kill Johnny Thunders? Pffft. Keep it.

Aerosmith — “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”

It’s about Vince Neil, y’know.

Pink Grease — “Lou Reed”

“Wanna sound like Lou Reed! Make my voice real sleazy!” So proclaimed Rory Lewarne of neo-glam party starters Pink Grease on this song from their debut EP. (Sadly, there’s only a live version on YouTube.) For a while, at least, they did exactly that — the band’s debut album proper, 2004’s All Over You, was one of the great underrated records of the ’00s, and is perfect for soundtracking any party where sleaze is on the agenda.

U2 — “Elvis Presley and America”

Bono apparently once said that the one thing he’d change about U2’s career is to take this off The Unforgettable Fire. This only goes to show that it’s a good thing bands don’t get to rewrite history, because it remains one of U2’s best — and most unusual — tracks. It was famously recorded in one take, with producer Brian Eno pronouncing it “finished” straight away, much to the bewilderment of the band. It’s hard to see how they could have improved on it, though.

Veruca Salt — “With David Bowie”

Pro tip for musicians: if you compare yourself to David Bowie, the results are likely to be depressing. This song’s lyric is somewhat downbeat — “Will it ever come like it did for you?” wonders the opening line — but ultimately, it’s a gesture of appreciation for the great man.

David Bowie — “Song for Bob Dylan”

Bowie himself isn’t entirely flawless, though. There’s something a little masturbatory about the songs-for-famous-people theme that characterized the second side of Hunky Dory — this song, along with “Andy Warhol” and the Lou Reed pastiche of “Queen Bitch.” Mind you, has there ever been a better description of Dylan’s vocals than “a voice like sand and glue”?

David Bowie (again) — “Ziggy Stardust”

So what if Ziggy didn’t actually exist? Bowie did a better job of writing about him than any real rock star.