Phew! Carly Simon has cleared up the whole ‘You’re So Vain’ debate – some said the 1972 hit was about Mick Jagger, or possibly James Taylor – and admitted this week, after decades of speculation, that it’s about none other than actor Warren Beatty.
Yet many lyrical mysteries remain unsolved. Join us as we don our deerstalkers and embark on a musical journey that takes us the furthest corners of the internet, via conspiracy theory blogs and videos of Meatloaf.
Who is ‘Angie’?
The song: The Rolling Stones, ‘Angie’
The background: Over the years, it has been claimed that the ‘Angie’ in question was Angela Bowie, David Bowie’s wife at the time of the song’s release in 1973. Appearing on The Joan Rivers Show in 1990, as a 10-year gagging order imposed upon her – a condition of her divorce from David – came to an end, Angela made the infamous claim that she once caught her husband in bed with Mick Jagger. The theory goes that Jagger wrote the song as an apology to Angela. Like, “Sorry I banged your husband, here’s a song that’s gonna go to Number One and make me loads of money.”
The findings: Keith Richards reckons he wrote the song, and that he did so a year before the alleged incident. He’s claimed he wrote the song in rehab overcoming heroin while his daughter, Angela, was being born. “I didn’t know Angela was going to be called Angela when I wrote ‘Angie'”, he said. “Sometimes you have a hook, a phrase or a word or a name or something, which maybe you don’t even intend to keep.”
WTF is a ‘Pompatus’?
The song: Steve Miller Band, ‘The Joker’
The background: Steve Miller Band’s classic 1973 song ‘The Joker’ features the lyric: “Some call me Maurice / ‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love”. We know Maurice is a reference to Miller’s 1968 ‘Enter Maurice’, but what the hell is a “pompatus”? The question has puzzled music fans for years, with a 1995 romantic comedy called Pompatus Of Love focusing on four blokes sitting around debating the meaning of the song and reflecting on their romantic misadventures.
The findings: In 1954, the R&B group The Medallions released a song called ‘The Letter’, which featured the word “puppetutes”. The man who wrote the song, Vernon Green, claimed he made the word up and that it referred to a fantasy woman. Despite him once saying, “It doesn’t mean anything – it’s just jive talk,” it’s been suggested that Miller heard the song, misheard the word and used it to excellent effect.
What wouldn’t Meatloaf do?
The song: Meatloaf, ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’
The background: “I would do anything for love,” Meatloaf bellows on this Grammy-winning 1993 power ballad, “but I won’t do that.” And what won’t ‘Loaf do? Because we’re assuming it’s an anal digit.
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The findings: It’s not an anal digit. The singer explained to Yahoo that the answers are right there in the song. “It’s the line before every chorus,” he said. “There’s nine of them, I think. ‘I’ll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life / I’ll do anything for love / But I won’t do that.’ He attributed the confusion to songwriter Jim Steinman’s idiosyncratic approach to lyrics. . “The problem lies because Jimmy likes to write… And so you forget what the line was before you get to ‘I won’t do that.'”
Who is Suzy Lee?
The song: The White Stripes, ‘Suzy Lee’
The background: As her well as getting her own song (released in 1999), the character Suzy Lee appears in the lyrics to the Detroit garage rockers’ 2002 track ‘We Are Going To Be Friends’: “Walk with me, Suzy Lee / through the park and by the tree”. The liner notes to 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan also read: “Dedicated to Suzy Lee, wherever she may be…”
The findings: There’s an internet rumour that Suzy Lee is a childhood sweetheart that White never got over, but he’s neither confirmed or denied the suggestion. We’re putting this one down to artistic license.
Who are the characters in ‘American Pie’?
The song: Don McClean, ‘American Pie’
The background: Let’s take a deep breath here. We must take a measured response to 1971’s era-defining ‘American Pie’, because in looking into the rumours around the song, NME stumbled into a conspiracy theory rabbit hole in which it’s claimed that lyrics revolve around the assassination of John F Kennedy. We’ve clambered out and dusted ourselves off and our question is this: who do the song’s characters “the King and Queen”, the “Jester”, “the girl who sang the blues” and “Satan” represent?
The findings: There’s only one person for this job: Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I mean ideally we’d have Velma, but whatever. Anyway, the late American DJ Casey Kasem, who also voiced the permanently stoned dog-over in the kids’ cartoon, once claimed McClean offered him the answer to this quandary. “The court jester he refers to is Bob Dylan. The Stones and the flames in the sky [which is where Satan comes in] refer to the concert at Altamont, California.” Sounds solid, but McClean later denied ever talking to Kasem, so the jury’s still out here.