Released originally prior to their first album as a single, “Pumped Up Kicks” was the massive hit from Foster The People’s 2011 debut release Torches. The album rose to #8 on the Billboard 200 Album charts and garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. While the album included production from such notables as Paul Epworth (who also worked with Adele), Greg Kurstin, Rich Costey, and Tony Hoffer, it was group leader Mark Foster who produced this track, which was actually the demo version. One of the most misunderstood songs of the last 20 years, the lyrics to “Pumped Up Kicks” are written from the perspective of a troubled and delusional youth with homicidal thoughts. The lines in the chorus warn potential victims to “outrun my gun” and that they “better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” Foster said in a statement to CNN.com, “I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.” In writing the song, Foster wanted to “get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid” and “bring awareness” to the issue of gun violence amongst youth, which he feels is an epidemic perpetuated by “lack of family, lack of love, and isolation.” The song’s title refers to shoes that the narrator’s peers wear as a status symbol.
For play on the television channels MTV and MTVu, the words “gun” and “bullet” were removed from the song’s chorus. Foster believes many have misinterpreted the song’s meaning, and have written letters to his record label and called radio stations to complain. He explained, “The song is not about condoning violence at all. It’s the complete opposite. The song is an amazing platform to have a conversation with your kids about something that shouldn’t be ignored, to talk about it in a loving way.”
Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, “What’s Goin’ On” was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself. Bassist James Jamerson was pulled into the session after Gaye located him playing with a band at a local bar. Respected Motown arranger and conductor David Van De Pitte said later to Ben Edmonds that Jamerson “always kept a bottle of [the Greek spirit] Metaxa in his bass case. He could really put that stuff away, and then sit down and still be able to play. His tolerance was incredible. It took a hell a lot to get him smashed.” The night Jamerson entered the studio to record the bass lines to the song, Jamerson couldn’t sit properly in his seat and, according to one of the members of the Funk Brothers, laid on the floor playing his bass riffs.
“Shiver” is a track off Coldplay’s debut album, Parachutes, released in 2000. The track followed “Yellow” as the second single released and rose to #35 on the UK Singles chart and #26 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. The album was recorded at Matrix and Wessex in London, Parr Street in Liverpool and Rockfield Studios in Rockfield, UK and was produced by Ken Nelson and Coldplay.
Chris Martin admitted that “Shiver” was written for a specific woman, but hasn’t revealed a specific name. Martin actually wrote the song in a “glum” day, when he felt he would never find the right woman for him. He described it as something of a “stalking song”, admitting he wrote it for a specific woman. In addition, Martin wrote the song while listening to music of Jeff Buckley, and had claimed it is their “most blatant rip-off song”.
Written by Lorde in half an hour then refined with Joel Little, the single’s producer, “Royals” was intended as a “response to everything that’s on pop radio”, with lyrics that revolve around aspirationalism, counterpointing popular artists’ luxurious lifestyles.The track and lyrics largely received critical acclaim from international media, with widespread praise of both production and message. The eventual commercial success of “Royals” exceeded most expectations: occupying the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart’s top spot for nine consecutive weeks, with Lorde the first New Zealander solo act to top that chart. In the US, the single has been certified seven times platinum by RIAA and has topped mainstream charts in New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom – plus reaching the top five in Australia and Switzerland.
The Who’s Pinball Wizard was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. When you listen to Pete Townshend’s isolated guitars, you’ll hear there are two acoustic guitars, one playing the low 8th note pedal note on the intro parts, which then doubles the other acoustic during the strumming. The electric guitar, which plays on the intro, first verse and chorus.
Townshend once called Pinball Wizard “the most clumsy piece of writing [he’d] ever done.”
Rod Stewart performed the song for the 1972 orchestral version of Tommy, and it is included on several of Stewart’s greatest hits compilations. According to the book The Duh Awards by Bob Fenster, Rod Stewart asked Elton John if he should accept an offer to sing in a film version of “Tommy.” John replied no way, “Don’t touch it with a barge pole.” A year later, The Who asked John to sing the same song, and he agreed. “I don’t think Rod’s quite forgiven me for that,” he commented years later.
Released on their 2002 album, Songs for the Deaf, “No One Knows” was also released as a single and topped the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The tune was co-written by lead vocalist Josh Homme along with Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, who also sings background vocals on the recording. The track also received a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 2003 Grammy Awards.
Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” was released in 1992 as the third single from Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten. Inspired by a newspaper article Eddie Vedder read about a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class on January 8, 1991, he went on to say:
“It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you’re gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-four degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That’s the beginning of the video and that’s the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing … nothing changes. The world goes on and you’re gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.”
it reached the number five spot on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Billboard charts. It did not originally chart on the regular Billboard Hot 100 singles chart since it was not released as a commercial single in the U.S. at the time, but a re-release in July 1995 brought it up to number 79.
Jeff Ament’s Isolated Bass Guitar
Stone Gossard and Mike McCready’s Isolated Guitars
R.E.M. released “Orange Crush” in 1988 on their Green album. Despite not being released as a single in the U.S., the track went to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts and to #28 on the UK Singles chart. The song’s title is a reference to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange manufactured by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical for the U.S. Department of Defense and used in the Vietnam War. On the “Green” world tour, Michael Stipe opened the song during The Green World Tour by singing the famous U.S. Army recruiting slogan, “Be all you can be… in the Army.”
From The Beatles’ 1966 Revolver album, “Taxman” was written by George Harrison. Unusually, it actually featured Paul McCartney on bass and lead guitar (the latter of which is not heard here in this rhythm-only track). Topping most world music charts at the time including the Billboard 200 and U.K. album chart, the classic album was produced by George Martin and recorded at EMI Studios in London.
“I Can See for Miles”, written by Pete Townshend of The Who, was recorded for the band’s 1967 album, The Who Sell Out. It was the only song from the album to be released as a single, in October, 1967. It remains The Who’s biggest hit single in the US to date, and their only one to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.