Creedence Clearwater Revival is considered one of the top classic rock bands, but during their time, they were called things like “bayou rock” or “swamp rock.” Despite being from California. Anyway, their song “Green River” had a certain swamp tinge to it, but there’s no Green River in either California or Louisiana.
The name came from a popular brand of soft drink that John Fogerty remembered, and his favorite flavor was ‘green river.’ You would pour the syrup over ice and fill the glass with soda water. It might be possible to find some of that soda flavor even today.
“Taxman” by The Beatles
Lots of the songs that Liverpool lads came up with were strange, but some of them managed to have backstories regardless. George Harrison was only allowed to write two songs per album with the band, but his talents were still good enough to lead their 1966 album, “Revolver.”
“Taxman” alluded to a United Kingdom tax policy that targeted star-level income, like what rock stars might make. High earners might get taxed for up to 95% of their income. Harrison was also a fan of the “Batman” TV show, which is where the harmonized callout before the guitar solo comes from.
“Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C.
In 1986, rap was little more than a fad to most people, destined to disappear like all the other musical fads. Run-D.M.C. was prepared to make history with their third album, but they needed a lead single. Their producer suggested covering Aerosmith's “Walk This Way,” and even though the band thought it was hippie nonsense (and had, incredibly, never heard of Aerosmith), Aerosmith agreed to collaborate.
The resulting song shot Run-D.M.C. to worldwide fame, gave Aerosmith's career new life, and made rap one of the most popular genres in the musical community, a status it still enjoys to this day.
“I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing” by The Hillside Singers and the New Seekers
In 1970, Coca-Cola advertising exec Bill Backer scribbled a few lines about buying the world a Coke, eventually turning it into an ad that was so popular, people started calling into radio stations to hear the full version. One problem. There was no full version.
Coca-Cola recruited a team of songwriters to write one, and we got two different versions: The Hillside Singers in 1971, which was just for that single song, and the New Seekers in 1972. The ad is still one of the most popular and influential of all time.
“Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
Sung from the perspective of an appliance delivery man, “Money for Nothing” is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to musical hits. The song ridicules rock stars that earn tons of money for doing something simple like singing and playing music while the working man barely scrapes by. Songwriter Mark Knopfler wrote it while eavesdropping on two appliance store employees.
Many of the lines are unedited and word-for-word complaints. It became a big hit thanks to the CGI music video, the lyrics, and the playing, which just goes to show that sometimes the world isn't fair.