There is no question that Alanis Morissette puts a great deal of thought into her lyrics and the meaning behind them, but don’t expect her to explain them to you. She said in no uncertain terms in a 2008 interview that she would never talk about who inspires her songs because it is a very personal expression of her experiences. That hasn’t stopped people from speculating, of course. One name that comes up a lot is Dave Coulier, the actor and comedian of Full House fame who dated Morissette for a while before her fame took off. He has admitted that some of the lines in the song are uncomfortably familiar, including the line about her calling in the middle of dinner and the “older version” part. Other rumored subjects of the song include NHL hockey star Mike Peluso, actor Matt LeBlanc of Friends, and musician Leslie Howe.
Alanis Morissette started off as a dance-pop singer in her native Canada with two albums in the early 90s, where she achieved considerable success. She was dissatisfied with her artistic direction, so she moved to Los Angeles, where she wrote the songs that would become “Jagged Little Pill,” the album that made her an international alt-rock superstar.
“Our House” by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell were both very well-known singers and songwriters in the 1960s and 70s, so when they moved in together in 1968, it was like a family of folk-rock royalty. They lived in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles along with Mitchell’s two cats. “Our House” is a charmingly simple chronicle of the ordinary events on one day of their lives. They had gone out for breakfast, then stopped on the way home to buy a cheap vase at an antique store. When they came home, Mitchell picked some flowers for the vase, Nash sat down at the piano, and an hour later, a folk-rock classic was born.
Graham Nash, in addition to his solo career, was a founding member of both the classic rock group the Hollies, as well as one of rock’s first supergroups, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Joni Mitchell is among the most famous singers and songwriters of all time. Her songs have been covered by hundreds of artists. Among her best-known songs are “Both Sides Now,” “Woodstock,” and “Big Yellow Taxi.”
“867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone
The origins of “Jenny” have been a source of disagreement and controversy for a long time. The argument extends as far as whether the eponymous Jenny existed or not and whether 867-5309 was a real phone number. Tommy Tutone’s lead guitarist and the co-writer of the song, Jim Keller, claimed in 1982 that Jenny was a real normal girl (not a prostitute) and that he had actually dated her. He further claimed that she was really upset with him overwriting the song and making her phone number public. This claim was supported by the band’s lead singer Tommy Heath in 2008, who said that, as a joke, he had written a girl’s number on a bathroom wall, leading to years of laughter.
The other songwriter, Alex Call, has a very different story to tell, however. He said in 2009 that he wrote the song in his backyard and that both the name and the phone number simply came to him out of nowhere. He alleges that Jim Keller simply added the story to the framework that Call had come up with. So what is the truth? We may never know. “867-5309/Jenny” is the only Tommy Tutone single that achieved any significant airplay. It was a monster hit in 1981, making Tommy Tutone one of the archetypal one-hit wonders. It led to a rash of prank calls all over the USA with people calling the phone number, leading to a lot of irritated innocent people and a lot of police complaints as well as lawsuits.
“Something” by The Beatles
George Harrison married Pattie Boyd and started writing love songs for and about her before Eric Clapton even met her. Back in 1968, Harrison wrote the song “Something” that would eventually be included in the Beatles’ 1969 album "Abbey Road." It’s a song of tremendous passion and longing, and Boyd describes how much she loved it when he first sang it to her in the kitchen. Harrison eventually distanced Boyd from being the primary inspiration for the song, possibly due to negative feelings associated with her being stolen away by Eric Clapton. Being really into eastern spirituality, he claimed the song referred to the Hindu god Krishna, and that godly love and physical love are inextricably linked. By 1996, Harrison was saying that the idea of Boyd being the inspiration for the song was just made up by everybody else who assumed it must have been true, especially since she was featured in the promotional video.
“Something” was a tremendous hit. It was #1 in many countries and possibly the best-known Beatles song not written by Lennon-McCartney. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney heaped praise upon the song, the former saying it was the best song on "Abbey Road" and the latter saying it was the best song Harrison ever wrote.
“Coyote” by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell’s 1977 song “Coyote” is all about the challenges two people face trying to make a connection if they come from different circumstances. In the song, Mitchell sings about a one-night stand between the narrator (presumably herself, based on clues in the song) and a farmhand she dubs “Coyote.” Executive assistant to the stars Chris O'Dell alleged in her 2009 autobiography that the subject of the song is none other than actor and playwright Sam Shepard. O'Dell claims to have had an affair with the married Shepard, who then left her for Mitchell. Confirmation of the allegations has not been forthcoming, however.
“Coyote” marked a return of sorts by Joni Mitchell to her roots. While her songs had been growing lusher and fuller over the years, featuring more instrumentation and a bigger sound, “Coyote,” by comparison, is stripped to its bare essentials: voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass.