I love when songs mention other songs, mainly because they seem to give us insight into the teen years of our favorite songs.
Necessarily, these songs tend toward the nostalgic. Let's face it, if you're throwing around references to other songs, you'd better be referring to something more than just the song, or you're just being a show-off.
Don McLean - American Pie
The many references in "American Pie" add to its specific brand of nostalgia. Of course the song mourns the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, but it uses those tragedies as a frame for a more general longing for the past, for the joy of teenage years. And so McLean cites the hits of his own teen years, including "Book of Love," "Eight Miles High," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and "That'll be the Day."
Big Star - Thirteen
"Won't you tell your dad, "Get off my back"?
Tell him what we said about "Paint it Black"."
One of the most sweetly wistful songs ever written, I don't think anyone can beat Alex Chilton's evocation of a first crush, when everything seems possible, and the most important fights we pick are with the parents of our loved ones over the music we love.
Okkervil River - Plus Ones
No one wants to hear about your 97th tear, so dry your eyes or let it go uncried, my dear. I am all out of love to mouth into your ear, and not above letting a love song disappear before it's written. And no one wants a tune about the 100th luftballoon that was seen shooting from the window of your room, to be a spot against the sky's colossal gloom and land, deflated, in some neighbor state that's strewn with 99 others.
If this list were a contest, this song would win, hands down. Will Sheff takes 6 famous "number songs" and adds +1 to all of them, telling us the tale of the 97th tear, the 100th luftballon, the 51st way to leave your lover, the 9th mile high, 8 chinese brothers, and many, many more.
The B-52's - Deadbeat Club
Going down to Allen's for
A twenty-five cent beer
And the jukebox playing real loud,
We're wild girls walkin' down the street
Wild girls and boys going out for a big time
This is the second song on our list that references "96 Tears." Which is an absolutely terrible song, if you ask me, but hey. "Deadbeat Club" is one of my favorites songs of all time, a surprisingly sober number for the normally outré band.
Watch for the Michael Stipe cameo!
Jimmy Eat World - Praise Chorus
"Praise Chorus", from Bleed American, throws around a litany of song titles in the bridge, including "Crimson and Clover," Madness's "Our House," Bad Company's "Rock 'N Roll Fantasy," They Might be Giants' "Don't Let's Start," and Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart." It's far from my favorite JEW song, but when that bridge kicks in, its hard to deny the surge of happiness in your heart. Also, it's a very danceable tune.
Honorable Mention (I know I'm only allowed 5, but I gotta let this one in):
Def Leppard - Rocket
First of all, I'm still working hard to spread the gospel of the Leppard (and I suspect that I always will, and that's a topic for another blog post. In one phrase: one-handed drummer). Second, this song mentions some of of the very best of British pop: "Benny and the Jets," "Ziggy Stardust," "Jack Flash," "Jean Genie," "Killer Queen," and more. This is not my favorite Def Leppard song, but it does sound most like something that would come out of the synthesizer in Masters of the Universe.
Weigh in! What are your favorite songs that mention other songs?