1The Hollies, ‘Carrie Anne’
The Hollies, ‘Carrie Anne’: Although the song was released in May 1967, the identity of the muse wasn’t revealed until 1995 when Graham Nash was being interviewed for a documentary TV series. The song was written about Marianne Faithfull, who had had a brief fling with the band’s singer Allan Clarke. Nash had written the song about her, but was “too shy” to use her real name.
2Dory Previn, ‘Beware Of Young Girls’
Dory Previn, ‘Beware Of Young Girls’: Dory wrote this song after she discovered her husband, composer Andre Previn, was having an affair with Mia Farrow. Upon learning that Farrow was pregnant with his child, she ended her marriage and suffered a major breakdown. Dory wrote this song as part of her therapy.
3Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, ‘Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus)’
Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, ‘Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus)’: This was inspired by actress/model/singer Brigitte Bardot. Bardot, who had performed songs with Gainsbourg on her TV show, asked him to write her “the most beautiful love song you can think of.” But when word of their mutual attraction got around to Bardot’s husband, Gainsbourg asked Birkin to step in for the recording.
Coldplay, ‘Moses’: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their second child Moses (after the song Martin had written for his wife shortly before their wedding). Before playing the song at a show in Sydney, Martin said, “This is a song about falling in love with the most beautiful woman in the world.”
5Leonard Cohen, ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’
Leonard Cohen, ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’: Cohen has admitted that he wrote this song about the brief affair he had with Janis Joplin (a time which he later called “the sole indiscretion of my professional life”).
6David Bowie, ‘Life On Mars?’
David Bowie, ‘Life On Mars?’: The line “The girl with the mousy hair” refers fo Hermione Farthingale (Bowie’s first serious girlfriend), whom he had met at a Lindsay Kemp mime workshop. He later said of her, “I was totally head-over-heels in love with her, and [the breakup] sort of demolished me… It set me off on the ‘Space Oddity’ song.”
7Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’: Written about Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend Erin Everly, this was the “first positive love song” Rose had ever written. “I had never had anyone to write anything about before,” he said. “A lot of rock bands are too fucking wimpy to have any sentiment or any emotion in any of their stuff unless they’re in pain.”
8Eric Clapton, ‘Layla’
Eric Clapton, ‘Layla’: This song was released when Clapton was a member of Derek And The Dominos, and was inspired by his love for George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. The title was based on Nezami’s book Layla And Majnun, which told the story of a man who fell in love with a woman who loves him but isn’t free.
Oasis, ‘Wonderwall’: Oasis released this song in November 1995, a year after Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews had started dating. “It’s about my girlfriend,” Noel said, “because she had just lost her job and didn’t have any money and all the rest of it.”
10The Velvet Underround, ‘Femme Fatale’
The Velvet Underround, ‘Femme Fatale’ : Edie Sedgwick was a Warhol ‘Superstar’ and the artist, who was managing The VU at the time told Lou Reed to pen a song about her. The title refers to a comment Warhol made: “Don’t you think she’s a femme fatale, Lou?”.
Toto, ‘Rosanna’ : After her first marriage, actress Rosanna Arquette began dating Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro. She was around whilst the band were recording ‘Toto IV’ “bringing the band juice and beer.” The bands other keyboardist David Paich wrote the track and said: “‘Roseanna’ is about three girls that I knew rolled into one.” He admitted he “stole her name stuck it on there.”
12Fleetwood Mac, ‘Sara’
Fleetwood Mac, ‘Sara’: It’s believed that the song was a reference to Sara Recor, Stevie Nicks’ best friend (who was having an affair with a married Mick Fleetwood – the two eventually got married to each other). Nicks, however, has said that it’s not entirely about Recor. “It’s about me, about her, about Mick, about Fleetwood Mac,” she said. “It’s about all of us at that point.”
13Bob Dylan, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’
Bob Dylan, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ : Dylan got together with Joan Baez after she saw him play in 1961. She called him: “a jewel of some kind”. The two split in 1963 with Dylan ex Suze Rotolo commenting: “I think (Baez is) an example of a woman who really knew what she wanted and how to get it, and to everybody else, the hell with you”.
14Lenny Kravitz, ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over’
Lenny Kravitz, ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over’: This song was written for his then-wife Lisa Bonet, as an apology for his indiscretions and a plea to win her back. “I was trying to redirect myself and say ‘Hey I blew it, but I’m going to get it right’,” he said. “At that point it was kind of too late, I suppose.”
15James Taylor, ‘Fire And Rain’
James Taylor, ‘Fire And Rain’: The first verse is a eulogy for his friend Suzanna Schnerr who committed suicide. He said: “The first verse if about my reactions to the death of a friend.” He later said: “I knew Suzanne well in New York and we used to hang out together and we used to get high together; I think she came from Long Island. She was a kid, like all of us”.
16Paul Simon, ‘Hearts And Bones’
Paul Simon, ‘Hearts And Bones’ : Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher met in 1978 and were married in 1983. According to both their union was traumatic. Fisher was battling with substance abuse and undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
17Bob Marley, ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’
Bob Marley, ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’: Marley’s affair with Miss Jamaica aka Cindy Breakspeare was the inspiration for this track. She said: “I knew from the first time that I ever spoke with him that a deep relationship would change me life permantently. I knew that.”
18The Rolling Stones, ‘Miss Amanda Jones’
The Rolling Stones, ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ : The girl about town of the title was friends with Dali and was romantically linked with Brian Jones. The lyrics of this Richards/Jagger penned tune hints at rumours that Jones was in fact transgender. ‘She’ would later date Bryan Ferry.
19The Knack, ‘My Sharona’
The Knack, ‘My Sharona’: 17 year old schoolgirl Sharona Alperin was the obsession of 27 year old Knack singer Doug Fieger. He said: “She had an overpowering scent, and it drove me crazy.” But the two did not become romantically involved until she posed for the cover of the single and it went to Number One in the US. The two were married but later divorced.
20Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, ‘Our House’
Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, ‘Our House’ : Written about the shared Laurel Canyon abode of Graham Nash and beau Joni Mitchell. The two split about Mitchell refused to marry Nash.
The Girl In The Song, published by Portico at £9.99, www.anovabooks.com.