Music tends to be a "names changed to protect the innocent" kind of business. That's why it's so easy to miss that some of the most famous songs in history were written as direct insults to actual people. The following songs take on a whole new meaning once you realize ...
#6. "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" Is About Steven Tyler Hitting on Vince Neil
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We know what you're thinking -- what's insulting about this song? It's Steven Tyler's tender ode to a cross-dressing paramour. Good for him for being so open about it in the notoriously close-minded and forbidding mid-'80s, when such things were still taboo even though every damn dude on MTV looked like a woman.
And that's exactly how the confusion started.
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Tyler was actually the third manliest musician on TV during the '80s.
The story goes that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were hitting the bars in their pre-sobriety days, so let the meaning of that "Cruising to a bar on the shore" line be a mystery no longer. During their night out, Tyler spotted a beautiful woman and, even though she was facing away from him, fell instantly in love. He was getting all set to lay his swollen-rodent charm on her when she turned around and ... she wasn't a she at all, but famously pretty Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil.
Hanging out with the band after the incident and listening to their limited vocabulary gave Tyler the inspiration he needed to put words to the hook that had been knocking around in his head, which became the familiar "That, that, dude looks like a lady!"
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OK, yeah. We get it.
Neil was so embarrassed about it that he denied the story for years, claiming it was about a night with Tyler at a drag bar, because that's way less embarrassing. He eventually came clean, though, admitting in his autobiography that, yeah, Steven Tyler wanted that ass.
Let us be thankful that the only result of this mix-up was one of Aerosmith's less terrible late-era songs and not one of those sex tapes that Vince Neil used to be so fond of making.
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Incredibly, this is not a screengrab from one of those tapes.
#5. The Only Feel-Good Oasis Song Is About Kurt Cobain's Depression
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Back in the halcyon days of the '90s, when misery was in and hygiene was decidedly out, appropriately named Oasis had one of their first hits with the uncharacteristically positive "Live Forever." It was a refreshing departure from the otherwise angst-ridden airwaves, with lyrics about the joy of living, picking yourself up, finding meaning, and "just want[ing] to fly."
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An urge well-known to most people born in the United Kingdom.
Of course, if you're at all familiar with the bratty, foul-mouthed antics of the fraternal backbone of Oasis, Liam and Noel Gallagher, you know it's also quite a departure from their usual brand of surliness, so there had to be a catch.
Indeed, Noel had taken an issue with this douchebag who was making quite a name for himself with his dirty, pessimistic little songs -- Kurt Cobain, maybe you've heard of him? In an impressive display of completely misunderstanding what depression is and how it works, Noel decided that Kurt was taking his incredible success and life in general for granted. After all, Noel had less than he did, and he was still happy to wake up every day, so what was this asshole's problem? He wrote the song in 1991 as a way of telling Cobain, "Hey, life is pretty cool, buck the fuck up."
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"How can a man with sweaters so large be so sad?"
Obviously it didn't work, which could be blamed on a few different factors. For one, having a Gallagher brother tell you to stop being so grumpy is like the comic Gallagher telling you to stop being so rough with fruit (or to stop being racist). It's easy to see how someone might blow off a "Do as I say, not as I do" suggestion like that one.
Possibly playing a larger role in the communication breakdown that kept Noel Gallagher's life-saving advice from reaching its intended target (Kurt Cobain's head) was the fact that by the time the song was released it was August 1994, which eagle-eyed readers will note is the year that Kurt's suffocating depression (or wife) finally did him in. Probably would have been better to have just sent him a letter or something.
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If only they'd trained the pigeons living in Liam's hair to drop Prozac.
#4. John Lennon and Paul McCartney Secretly Taunted Each Other on Record
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You might not be aware of it, but after the breakup of the Beatles, the relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was a teensy bit strained. When Lennon heard a new McCartney song called "Too Many People," in which he reeled off a laundry list of complaints that included "too many people preaching practices," he was primed to overreact a little to what he rightly assessed as a suggestion that maybe he and his wife were a touch overzealous with the enlightened bullshit. And that's exactly what he did with the aptly titled "How Do You Sleep?"
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In reality, both men slept on piles of money so large that they outweighed several island nations.
Lennon kicked McCartney where he knew it would hurt the most: right in the talent. He informed his former songwriting partner that "all you done was yesterday," a sly reference to the classic Beatles hit, and called his new sound "Muzak to my ears," while calling McCartney himself a narcissistic mama's boy who surrounds himself with yes-men. He even goes so far as to pronounce McCartney's solo career DOA, saying "those freaks was right when they said you was dead," referring to the conspiracy theory that McCartney had died and been replaced by a lookalike in the Beatles' heyday. It's as vicious as a hippie is allowed to get without being politely but firmly asked to leave the commune.
While McCartney has always denied it, it was rumored that he hit back with "Let Me Roll It," whose Lennon-like sound gave listeners suspicion that McCartney was parodying his style. McCartney isn't exactly above such things: The Beatles classic "Helter Skelter" was written after being underwhelmed by the hype surrounding the groundbreaking, eardrum-rupturing sound of the Who, and deciding that he could do it better.
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"I had worse hair than any of them."
Lennon was no stranger to slipping personal attacks into Beatles songs, either: "Baby You're a Rich Man" was a mocking tribute to manager Brian Epstein, and at one point in the song, Lennon slurs "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew" over the chorus, possibly to take the heat off the rumors that he and Epstein had been having an affair. Lover's quarrel or homophobic, anti-Semitic douchebaggery? It doesn't really matter, we already knew Lennon was a huge asshole.