FM96 Top 10 Metaphors in Rock
- #1 Eagles Hotel California
- #2 Beastie Boys So What-cha Want
- #3 Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven
- #4 Red Hot Chili Peppers Scar Tissue
- #5 Guns ‘N Roses Welcome to the Jungle
- #6 Alice in Chains Man in the Box
- #7 AC/DC Highway to Hell
- #8 Foo Fighters Monkey Wrench
- #9 Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze
- #10 Smashing Pumpkins Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Some FM96 song-writers are so powerful with their ideas that they use their words as weapons. See what I did there?
This weekend we’re taking a look at some of the best lyrical comparisons in Rock ‘n Roll whether it be a Metaphor, a simile, personification, an analogy or an allegory. Here’s a little refresher from high school English class (Shout outs to Mr. Falkenberg):
a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.““I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,” said Mark, who was fond of theatrical metaphors”
a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.“the amounts of money being lost by the company were enough to make it a metaphor for an industry that was teetering”
a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox ).
a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.
a figure intended to represent an abstract quality
a person, animal, or object regarded as representing or embodying a quality, concept, or thing.
#1 Eagles - Hotel California
From Ultimate Classic Rock:
The band itself has described the six-minute song as its “interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles,” with Don Felder, who wrote the music, explaining, “If you drive into L.A. at night … you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images [are] of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have.”
Don Henley, the song’s primary lyricist, once said, “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”
But all that aside, listener imaginations ran wild. One group of Christian evangelists insisted ‘Hotel California’ referred to a San Francisco hotel converted into a Church of Satan, while other people thought the song’s title was about a state mental hospital.
Henley’s always been resistant to explaining exactly what the metaphors in the song mean, but here’s what we do know: the word “colitas” in the first stanza is Mexican slang for the buds of the Cannabis plant (oh stop looking so surprised), and the phrase “steely knives” was a playful nod to Steely Dan, who referenced the Eagles in their song ‘Everything You Did.’
Enjoy one of the best live versions of this song:
#2 Beastie Boys - So What-cha Want
Beastie Boys music is FILLED with great metaphors and similes. A few of my favourites include:
“Shake Your Rump”
“A puppet on a string I’m paid to sing or rhyme/ Or do my thing I’m in a lava lamp inside my brain hotel/ I might be freakin’ or peakin’ but I rock well”
“If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked / I’ll stir fry you in my wok / Your knees will start shaking and your fingers pop / Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock”
“No Sleep till Brooklyn”
“Born and bred, Brooklyn U.S.A. / They call me Adam Yauch but I’m MCA / Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon / I sip the def ale with all the fly women”
“Pass The Mic”
“Everybody’s rapping like it’s a commercial
Actin’ like life is a big commercial
So this is what I’ve got to say to you all
Be true to yourself and you will never fall”
“So What’cha Want”
“Well I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/ You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause/ Well if you’re hot to trot you think you’re slicker than grease/ I’ve got news for you crews you’ll be sucking like a leech”
#3 Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
An allegory – there’s some sort of hidden meaning here that comes along with great story-telling and the imagery that there’s an actual stairway long enough to lead up to heaven.
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven
#4 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Scar Tissue
If you’ve read Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue you know a little more about this song.
I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl and
With the birds I’ll share
This lonely view…
Crawling to the moon on a long lonely journey is a metaphor for his desperate quest for a fix, for his drugs.
#5 Guns 'N Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
There seem to be quite a few songs that contain a metaphor or allegory for “the pretty people” in Los Angeles and the idea of Hollywood sucking you in. L.A. is the jungle, in this case.
Welcome to the jungle
It gets worse here everyday
Ya learn ta live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see
You’ll take it eventually
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me
#6 Alice in Chains - Man in the Box
A song that’s really about animal cruelty with some dark lyrics:
I’m the dog who gets beat
Shove my nose in shit
Won’t you come and save me
Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut?
Jesus Christ, deny your maker
He who tries, will be wasted
Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut
And way to take the ‘box’ literally, NHL arena game-day production crews. The song is often played when a player is in the penalty box.
#7 AC/DC - Highway to Hell
If there’s a Stairway to Heaven, well of course, there’s a Highway to Hell.
#8 Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench
What a great metaphor for an unhealthy relationship…Don’t want to be your Monkey Wrench
#9 Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze
While Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t confirm this song had anything to do with an acid trip…he was doing an awful lot of drugs at the time it was written.
Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky
Purple haze, all around
Don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
What ever it is, that girl put a spell on me
#10 Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet with Butterfly Wings
The World is a Vampire…
And somehow, something as cold and dark as a bullet, has wings like a butterfly. How poetic is that?