This is the thirty-first in a series of examinations of music legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous music urban legends.
MUSIC LEGEND: Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” was about the real life suicide of Kurt Cobain.
Besides finding satanic references in various band names and songs, people like looking for pretty much any sort of odd references in the lyrics of songs.
When it came to Filter’s 1995 hit “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” though, folks did not really need much reading into the lyrics to know that the song was about a suicide.
The song, which appeared on their 1995 album Short Bus…
included the lyrics:
I wish I would’ve met you;
now it’s a little late.
What you could’ve taught me,
I could’ve saved some face.
They think that your early ending was all wrong;
for the most part they’re right,
but look how they all got strung.
That’s why I say, “Hey man, nice shot.”
“What a good shot, man.”
So it’s pretty clearly about suicide.
However, fans soon felt that the band (seen below) was not just referencing a typical suicide with their song, but specifically the suicide of the prior year of Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain…
Cobain killed himself in the middle of 1994, so when a song pops up the very next year (just a little over a year later) talking about suicide, then people are gonna figure that you’re talking about Kurt Cobain.
However, other fans also thought that the song was about the 1987 suicide of Pennsylvania State Treasurer Budd Dwyer.
Why you would automatically think of Budd Dwyer is beyond me, but even odder is that they were RIGHT!
The song was, in fact, written in honor (if you want to use that term) of Dwyer.
Dwyer, you see, was the State Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and he was also more than a little bit…how do you say…corrupt?
He accepted roughly $300,000 in kickbacks for allowing a multi-million dollar state accounting job to go to a specific accounting firm (the conspiracy was wider than just Dwyer – the Chairman of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania also went down for the charge).
Dwyer fought the charges heavily, but he was convicted. Oddly enough, he was allowed to continue to be the State Treasurer until his actual sentencing (some weird bit of state law).
In early 1987, one day before his sentencing, Dwyer called for a press conference where he would “update” people on the situation. After a rambling speech about how he was innocent but he was certain he would be railroaded by the judge the next day, he then had his assistants take some envelopes (an organ donor card, a suicide note for his wife and a note to the incoming Governer of Pennsylvania).
Dwyer then took out a handgun.
Amid shouts from the crowd, he told the audience “Please leave the room if this will affect you.”
And as people kept shouting for him not to do it, and some tried to approach him, he warned them “Don’t, don’t, don’t, this will hurt someone.”
He then placed the gun in his mouth and shot himself. He was declared dead on the scene.
Anyhow, the guys from Filter did acknowledge in 1996 that the song was about Dwyer.
In a statement they released to the press, they said:
The song ‘Hey Man Nice Shot’ is a reaction to a well-documented public suicide. It is not a celebration or glorification of taking one’s own life. The phrase ‘hey man, nice shot’ is a reference to the final act itself, an expression of guts and determination of a person standing up for what they believe is right. We are extremely sensitive and respectful to the family and friends of Mr. Dwyer. We have both lost friends to suicide and felt nothing but sympathy and loss for the victims, and those involved in such a tragedy.
Pretty weird stuff…
MUSIC LEGEND: Stone Temple Pliots took their band name from an attempt to keep the same initials as their earlier, extremely “unsafe for radio” band name.
NOTE: You might want to skip this one if you don’t wish to hear their earlier, fairly graphic, band name. – BC
Stone Temple Pilots is a rock band that is often referred to by their initials, STP.
Besides a number of hit records during the 1990s (and a Grammy in 1994), the band is probably best known for the behavior of their erstwhile lead singer, Scott Weiland, who had severe drug addiction problems.
After breaking up in 2003, the band re-united a couple of years ago and is planning on releasing a new album this year, their sixth studio album.
The band’s origins are bizarre, in that they first got started when Scott Weiland met Robert DeLeo at a concert and, upon discussing various things, realized that they were both dating the same girl!! They each broke it off with the woman and she then moved out of town. The two new friends ended up moving into her now vacant apartment.
That’s pretty damn weird already, right?
Anyhow, they eventually formed a band called Mighty Joe Young. They put out a demo tape and got positive feedback on their work.
When they were getting ready to record their debut album, they were informed that the name “Mighty Joe Young” was already being used, so they needed a new name.
Perhaps in a fit of “oh yeah, let’s see pick a name that NOone would ever use!,” the band adopted the name Shirley Temple’s Pussy.
Yes, Shirley Temple’s Pussy.
The name came from them trying to think of a name that fit the initials STP, which they liked due to being inspired by the popular brand of motor oil by those initials…
As you might imagine, that was not looked upon favorably by the record company (Stinky Toilet Paper was also briefly considered).
However, Stone Temple Pilots was next in line, and that name was acceptable to everyone.
Years later, Weiland recalled the naming process, specifically the Shirley Temple’s Pussy name, in an interview with John Sellers of Spin Magazine…”I was very young. Young, dumb and filled with dumbness.”
Thanks to John Sellers and Spin (and Weiland) for the quote! Thanks also to Spin for an earlier interview in 1993 where Weiland confirmed the motor oil aspect of the band’s initials.
MUSIC LEGEND: The hit song “The Poor People of Paris” got its name through a mistaken translation.
Talking about the lyrics of a song that is most famous as an instrumental is a bit funny, but hey, it’s still a good story!
In 1956, Les Baxter and his orchestra had a #1 hit single with the song “The Poor People of Paris.”
It was an instrumental piece (back when instrumental pieces being #1 hits on the Billboard charts was not at all uncommon) and it lasted as #1 for six weeks!
A few weeks into Baxter’s run on the top of the US charts, Winifred Atwell began a three-week run of her own at the top of the BRITISH charts with a piano version of the instrumental piece…
However, the song was originally written in 1954 with lyrics by Jack Lawrence, best known for writing the English lyrics to the song that became “Beyond the Sea.”
Here, Lawrence was again writing the English lyrics to a French song. However, the name of the song (and basically all of Lawrence’s lyrics) were affected by a translation screw-up!
On Lawrence’s website (Lawrence just passed away last year at the age of 96), he discussed the origins of the song’s title (and lyrics)…
Marguerite Monnot was a famous French songwriter who had written practically every Edith Piaf hit, including this one. The American publisher who acquired it called me from the west coast to say he was sending me a demo instrumental and wanted me to write an English lyric. He said the song was titled: “Pauvre Gens de Paris”.
Well, in my high school French that translated as “Poor People of Paris”. Immediately I started thinking of lines I could use to make this an ironic satire: “those poor French people who had nothing to live on but love and wine and love and music!” So when the demo arrived I was ready and started to create the lyric above.
Imagine my chagrin when I finally got a copy of Ms. Monnot’s original French and it read: Pauvre JEAN de Paris! Poor Jon! Not Poor PEOPLE! However I can’t be faulted.
JEAN and GENS are pronounced alike in French. Fortunately, the publisher liked my amusing lyric and this is what this hit has remained through he years.
Pretty hilarious, no?
Lawrence recommended the Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney version of the song…
Thanks to the late, great Lawrence for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org