BitchTapes: Creation Myths

Katie Presley
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Bitch Media's Music Editor. As heard on BBC, CBC, and NPR's All Songs Considered and, very occasionally, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I've always wanted to be a talking head in a feminist documentary or commercial, so if someone out there can make that dream a reality, I'm here for it.

I try not to read magazines like People and US Weekly too often; I don't want my money, attention, or time supporting the creeps that hang out in Angelina Jolie's bushes. But there is, pretty undeniably, a facet to human nature that likes to gossip, likes to know secrets, and likes to read between the lines. Instead of threatening the safety of overpaid, spoiled Hollywood types to get my scoop, though, I prefer to listen to music and create (or support) outrageous backstories about the musicians' lives. Some of the songs on this list are legendary already because of what they're allegedly about, but some of them are my own version of E! True Hollywood Story. Or VH1's Behind the Music. Or VH1 Storytellers. Or even MTV's Making the Video, which was always my favorite of the bunch, because it involved hi-tech gadgets and storyboards. If you've got stories (the more detailed and/or outlandish, the better) for your favorite music to share, leave 'em in the comments!

1. The Wolves- Bon Iver The cabin where it was recorded is as important to For Emma, Forever Ago as the guitar Vernon plays on the album and the beard he grew to play it. This song has tons of ambient noise in the background, sketching the room where he sat as we listen. Plus wolves are totally cabin-y.

2. Too Much- Sufjan Stevens Stevens was suffering from a mysterious and severe virus attacking his nervous system while composing 2010's Age of Adz, and also immersing himself in the life and art of Royal Robertson, an artist with schizophrenia who envisioned apocalyptic science fiction scenarios and depicted them in his work. The results were about as startling (and brilliant) as that background info might lead you to expect.

3. Riga Girls- The Weepies This story I learned at a Weepies concert, where Steve revealed that he opened a spam email with the title "Riga Girls Go Like This," because he sincerely wanted to know what exactly Riga girls go like. Listen to how sweet this song ended up being, and how lovely his harmonies are with Deb, his wife, while they sing about porn.

4. Burgundy Shoes- Patty Griffin Legend has it someone bet Patty Griffin, writer of all the saddest songs I have ever heard, that it was acutally impossible for her to write a happy song. "Burgundy Shoes" was supposed to be her response to the bet. Judge for yourself...

5. Nothing Matters When We're Dancing- Magnetic Fields Stephin Merritt mentioned that he wrote the album 69 Love Songs as a theatrical revue to be sung by four drag queens. WHY DID THIS NEVER HAPPEN??!?

6. You Oughta Know- Alanis Morissette Justin Vernon had his Wisconsin cabin, Alanis had her Uncle Joey. If you didn't know that's who Jagged Little Pill was written about, you will never hear this song the same way again. More importantly, you'll never watch Full House the same way again.

7. July Flame- Laura Veirs In the (very, very hot, for those who were here for it) summer of 2009, Laura Veirs went to a Portland Farmer's Market with a friend, and they both bought peaches that were called July Flames. They agreed to each write a song involving the phrase "July Flame," and Veirs ended up naming her entire album after it. The standout song on that cd, and a perfect juicy-sweet-sticky-humid-summer kind of song.

8. Then I Met You- The Proclaimers Ahhh, the old "Jesus-or-romantic partner" debate. I have argued about this song at more parties than I care to recount. No matter what The Proclaimers meant, I think they've got some unrealistic expectations for whomever they're singing.

9. Here I Dreamt I was an Architect- The Decemberists Decemberists songs are highly elaborate stories within themselves, but I like to think this one sprung from an ill-fated attempt by Colin Meloy to remodel his bathroom.

10. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk I think we can all agree here that Rufus dropped the ball on a New Year's resolution and punished himself by making a huge hit single out of his failure.

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