Wednesday, November 9, 2022

VA - Songs Inspired by Newspapers and Magazines (A Butterboy Compilation) CD1+CD2 REPOST



VA - Songs Inspired by Newspapers and Magazines (A Butterboy Compilation) CD1+CD2 

There have been many songs developed after reading a newspaper and /or magazine article. Some famous some not so famous, but all are interesting and enjoyable

The first thing we see when we look at a newsstand are the headlines. And a memorable headline is like a catchy chorus.  Did You See His Name is a song Ray Davies based on a story in the Hornsey Journal, the tragic tale of a man who killed himself after his shoplifting conviction was publicized in the local paper. Perfect Kinks territory, and "real kitchen sink stuff".

It must be said that in general musicians, perhaps because of their experience in the public eye, aren't big fans of the press.

The Daily Mail takes a surprisingly Lennonesque pounding in a protest song characteristic of Radiohead. Where their lyrics are straightforward ("Where's the truth? What's the use?") they sound exasperated; where they're more elliptical ("The fish in the sea have lost command"), the meanings unclear. Some songs advising listeners to "read between the lines" to find the truth.

Loudon Wainwright III isn't much of a news junkie either. In Sunday Times, the master of the comic song goes through the pleasures of a good weekend read, section by section, and the news depresses him: "gives you the over-informed blues". Section Two (entertainment, leisure and arts) fares better: "Next time that things get this great is Sports, way up in Section Eight." You get the picture.

Here are 50 tracks which are inspired by newspaper or magazine articles. Enjoy!


Track lists

01 Beatles - She's Leaving Home
This was based on a newspaper story Paul McCartney read about a runaway girl. On February 27th, 1967, the London Daily Mail's headline read: "A-Level Girl Dumps Car and Vanishes." That girl was 17-year-old Melanie Coe, who had run away from home leaving everything behind. Her father was quoted as saying, "I cannot imagine why she should run away; she has everything here."

02 Mott the Hoople - All the Young Dudes
David Bowie recalled to Mojo magazine in 2002: "I literally wrote that within an hour or so of reading an article in one of the music rags that their breakup was imminent. I thought they were a fair little band, and I almost thought, 'This will be an interesting thing to do, let's see if I can write this song and keep them together.' It sounds terribly modest now, but you go through that when you're young." Bowie said 'All the Young Dudes' is a song about this news. It's not a hymn to the youth, as people thought. It is completely the opposite."

03 Harry Chapin - Mr. Tanner
He got the idea for this song after reading about Martin Tubridy, who was a cleaner from Ohio who loved to sing. Tubridy got the chance to perform in New York City but was panned in a review that appeared in The New York Times.

04 Mary Chapin Carpenter - 4 June 1989
"It was [inspired by] an article in the New York Times during the 20th anniversary week of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

05 Arlo Guthrie - Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

His father Woody composed this after reading, early in 1948, that a plane deporting migrant farm workers back to Mexico had crashed.

06 Jack White - Temporary Ground

White wrote this heartbroken Dixieland-like tune after reading in National Geographic about these giant Queen Victoria lily pads that could hold up to a hundred pounds, so a person could actually float on a lily pad, which seems like an Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass kind of idea. So coincidentally, two ideas about freedom, and the word 'lily' together."

07 Kings of Convenience - Boat Behind
Eirik Glambek Bøe of the duo said that the lyric was inspired by their German viola player, Toby. He explained: "He and (K of C partner) Erlend were reading an article about someone crossing the Atlantic on a surfboard, when Toby said – in English – they're must have been a boat behind. It was a great image.

08 Lucinda Williams - Little Rock Star
Williams told Rolling Stone magazine that this was inspired by an article on Pete Doherty in one of their previous issues. She explained: "It's an empathetic look at self-indulgent, little-brat rock stars. He's great, and you want to say, 'Snap out of it!'"

09 James Taylor the Frozen Man
This was inspired by an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine. The body of this unfortunate man was found a hundred years after he was lost on an expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the North Canadian coast.

10 John Fogerty - Headlines
A ferocious world-gone-wrong jeremiad from Fogerty’s unjustly maligned “Eye of the Zombie.” The song opens with a savage parody of international conflict: “I read it in the paper today / Two cars howling ’til the break of day.”

11 Brandi Carlile - Fulton County Jane Doe
This was written by Brandi Carlile's brother Phil Hanseroth. "He had just had a little baby girl, and he was reading a story in the newspaper about a woman who was found in a field. She was unidentifiable, and thirty-six years later, no one has ever claimed her. So, she died, and is left without a name. As a new dad, that bothered him fundamentally, so he wrote her a song."

12 Loudon Wainwright III - Sunday Times

Unreleased until the “BBC Sessions” album, this is a tour through America’s most famous paper. Favorite couplet: “You need a job? That’s Section 9. You’re not jobless? Hey, that’s fine / Section 10 is Real Estate. You’re not homeless? Hey, that’s great.” There’s no video available of “Sunday Times,” so here’s a worthy replacement: “T.S.M.N.W.A.,” (also known as “They Spelled My Name Wrong Again”), which appears to be more about newspaper ads than journalism proper, but still exhibits an interest in accuracy.

13 Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine
Lyricist Shelley Pinz wrote the words to this song after reading a newspaper article about an elder UK street musician who used a tambourine to collect money as he performed in front of a bank.

14 Janis Ian - At Seventeen

I was reading a New York Times article about a debutante, and the opening line was 'I learned the truth at 18.' I was playing that little samba figure, and that line struck me for some reason. The whole article was about how she learned being a debutante didn't mean that much. I changed it to 17 because 18 didn't scan."

15 Harry Chapin - 30,000 Pounds of Bananas

Originally it was a poem that Harry wrote, it was just words on a page. It was based on a true story he had read about an accident in Scranton, Pennsylvania where a driver lost control of a truck full of bananas he was delivering. He was killed in the crash, and bananas were strewn all over the place.

16 Beatles - Mean Mr. Mustard
Lennon got the idea for this song from a newspaper article he read about a miser who hid his cash everywhere so nobody could find it.

17 Bruce Hornsby - The Black Rats of London
Lyrically, it was inspired by a National Geographic article on Jamestown where it talks about how - were it not for these crazy bacterial strains and rodents infecting the locals - American history would have been very different.

18 Tony Orlando & Dawn - Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree
This song was written by Irwin Levine and Larry Brown (credited as L. Russell Brown), who wrote the previous #1 hit for the group, "Knock Three Times." The song is based on a story called "Going Home" that Levine read in the January 1972 edition of the magazine Reader's Digest. The story was originally published in the New York Post on October 14, 1971, appearing in a column called "The Eight Million" written by Pete Hamill.

19 Johnny Cash - Big River
Johnny Cash was on a touring break when he picked up an article titled "Johnny Cash Has the Big River Blues in His Voice."

20 Kinks - Did You See His Name?
Sort of a cross between “A Day in the Life” and “Crime and Punishment,” this song was written by Ray Davies for the television show “At the Eleventh Hour” before it was recorded by the Kinks—it tells the story of a man who stole “a tin of beans” from a discount grocery and was driven to suicide by the resulting publicity.

21 Dickey Lee - Laurie (Strange Things Happen)
This was written by psychologist Dr. Milton "Mitt" Addington and recorded as a single (TCF Hall 102) by Dickey Lee. The song was inspired by a story that ran in a Memphis newspaper in 1964, written by a 15-year-old girl named Cathie Harmon. Dr. Addington credited her and shared his royalties from the song with her.

22 Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Make You Love Me
This was written by songwriting team of Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. Reid got the idea from a newspaper article about a guy who got drunk and shot up his girlfriend's car. When the judge sentenced him and asked him what he had learned, the guy said, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't."

23 Thin Lizzy - Mama Nature Said
According to Mark Putterford's biography of Phil Lynott, this song was inspired by an article Lynott's stepfather Dennis Keeley read in a newspaper. It had "an environmentalist message which pre-empted by several years the trend towards 'green' politics in music".

24 Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel
The lyrics were written by a steel guitar player from Nashville named Tommy Durden, who was once a dishwasher repairman. Durden, who died in 1999, said he was inspired by a newspaper story about a man who killed himself and left behind a note saying only, "I walk a lonely street."  The book Untold Gold: The Story Behind Elvis' Number One Hits claims the song was inspired by a 1955 Miami Herald story about a man who leapt from a hotel window after burning all evidence of his identity. His suicide letter had a single line: "I walk a lonely road."

25 John Prine - Dear Abby

I wanted a newspaper and all they had was the International Herald Tribune which is all the tragic news in the world crammed into six pages with no sports results and no comics. And yet here’s 'Dear Abby.' She was the only relief in the whole paper. and that’s where I wrote most of the song - in Rome, Italy that is."



26 Beatles - A Day in The Life
The beginning of this song was based on two stories John Lennon read in the Daily Mail newspaper: Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his lotus into a parked van, and an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall.

27 Willie Nelson - Still Not Dead
Here, Willie Nelson pokes fun at the constant rumors about his impending death. "I got up two or three times in the last couple of years and read the paper where I'd passed away," Nelson said of the inspiration for the song. "So, I just wanted to let 'em know that's a lot of horses--t."

28 Shins - No Way Down
I was reading this article about the American trade deficit and the lyrics just came out of me - which was cool as that song was causing a lot of trouble."

29 Fastball - The Way
This song is based on the true story of Lela and Raymond Howard, an elderly couple from Salado, Texas who drove to the annual Pioneer Day festival 10 miles away in Temple and didn't return. She had Alzheimer's disease, and he was recovering from brain surgery.

30 Stooges - Search and Destroy
"Search and Destroy" was written by Stooges' front man Iggy Pop and lead guitarist James Williamson. The name of the song comes from a Time magazine article Iggy Pop saw about the Vietnam War. The lyrics are rife with references to the war, including napalm, nuclear bombs, fire fights, and radiation. The title refers to a military tactic used by the US military in the Vietnam War: to seek out the enemy, destroy them, and withdraw.

31 Pat Benatar - Hell Is for Children
"That song was inspired by an article that I read in the New York Times about child abuse.

32 John Prine - Paradise

Prine wrote this track after his father sent him a newspaper clipping about a quaint town in Kentucky called Paradise, where the singer had spent summers with his grandparents as a teen, that was bought by a coal mining company.

33 Simple Minds - All the Things She Said
Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr wrote this song after reading a story about Polish political prisoners who had been in Russia since the end of WWII. "There was an interview with wives of guys that had been away for a long time, taken away, and some of the beautiful quotations that the women had used became sort of the background for that song,"

34 Beatles - Happiness Is a Warm Gun
The title came from an article in a gun magazine John Lennon saw. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" was the slogan of the National Rifle Association. It struck Lennon as "fantastic, insane… a warm gun means you've just shot something." Said Lennon, "I thought it was so crazy that I made a song out of it."

35 Johnny Marr - The Crack Up
This song was inspired by a news story that Johnny Marr read about the apparent suicide of Russian model Ruslana Korshunova, who died after falling from the ninth-floor balcony of her Manhattan apartment.

36 AC/DC - Jailbreak
It's about a crim named "Chopper." He was sent to jail for murdering a gang leader. Chopper and crime partner Jimmy Loughnan planned an escape, but because of Jimmy's fear of tight spaces, they were caught and given solitary. Bon Scott read about this in a newspaper and started writing lyrics for a song. Everyone in AC/DC loved the idea of a criminal-themed song, and they finished it in about a week.

37 Billy Joel - Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
On October 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford gave a speech where he made it clear that the US government would not bail out New York City to keep it from bankruptcy. The next day, the headline in the Daily News read: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD" (Ford never said these words, and the sensationalist headline hurt him in the next election, which he lost to Jimmy Carter). Joel wrote this from the point of view of an old man who moved to Florida in the year 2017 after New York was destroyed in an apocalypse.

38 Tom Waits - Don't Go into the Barn
The song was inspired by a 2003 New York Times story about an old barn used as a rural slave jail.

39 Switchfoot - Happy Is a Yuppie Word

This song was inspired by Bob Dylan's answer to a 1991 Rolling Stone question about whether he was happy. "These are yuppie words; 'happiness' and 'unhappiness," he replied. "It's not happiness or unhappiness; it's either blessed or unblessed."

40 Harry Chapin - Sniper
Harry Chapin wrote this nearly 10-minute song after reading a newspaper article about Charles Whitman, who went on a shooting rampage at the University of Texas, killing 14 people and wounding 32 before he was killed by police.

41 Frank Turner - 1933
The song was inspired by articles Frank Turner saw that suggested the alt-right was punk rock.

42 Sinéad O'Connor - How About I Be Me
Sinead O'Connor wrote three articles for an Irish newspaper where she expressed her desire to find a new man and listed her requirements. This song was inspired by these public solicitations for sex and the media's frenzied response.

43 John Grant - Metamorphosis
The opening listing of trivia and terror was inspired by the English free newspaper The Metro, which Grant picked up on the London tube. His attention was grabbed by the headline "14-year-old rapes 80-year-old man."

44 Cure - Birdmad Girl
Written about a young girl in a mental institution Robert Smith read about in a British newspaper.

45 Alicia Keys - Girl on Fire
The song and album title were inspired by an Essence article Keys read about herself in which senior writer Jeannine Amber used "girl on fire" to describe the songstress.

46 Maximum Balloon - Apartment Wrestling
The song is f--king twisted. There's actually an old porno magazine from the '70s called Apartment Wrestling - it featured scantily clad girls grappling and having pillow fights with each other. Pretty far out."

47 Human League - Don't You Want Me

It was inspired by an article in a woman's magazine. Lead singer Phil Oakey claims this is not a love song but about power politics between two people.

48 Duran Duran - Blame the Machines

Based on a story in the Herald Tribune about a German driver who was killed when his GPS sent him the wrong way up a freeway off-ramp. Blame the machines indeed."

49 Joe Jackson - Sunday Papers
It’s a portrait of an elderly mother who is confined to her home, and about the way that the newspaper keeps her connected to the world or more specifically, to the worthless gossip in the world. “Well, I got nothing against the press / They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

50 Paul McCartney - Despite Repeated Warnings
He was prompted to write this song about global warming denials when he was in Japan and picked up a newspaper.



  1. Thanks for sharing. More great HMC`s here: ... Enjoy.

    1. Thanks, Maren.
      Hope you will enjoy it.

    2. Harry Chapin is one of my favourite artists :)

  2. I think Simon & Garfunkel's "A Most Peculiar Man" was from a newspaper story. For Volume 2...

  3. Maybe the ultimate magazine inspired song: "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Inspired by a "Newsweek" article. Read more here:

    1. Hi Mat.
      A great song. It should have been here on this set.
      Thanks for highlighting this and for the article.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, mrRadio.
      “There’s a kink in the link”:
      There’s a kink in the link but it’s not what you think.
      It’s not a flaw or a glitch and there is no hitch.
      There’s a kink in the link but it’s not a dare.
      It’s not a trap and definitely not a snare.

      There’s was a kink in the link but now it’s fixed.
      And now you can enjoy the content that I've mixed.
      I hope you like our new and improved link.
      And I thank you for choosing Butterboy's web kink.
      All Fixed now.