You never know when inspiration will strike. For every hit song forged by hard studio work, endless jamming and a helpful algorithm, other classic tunes just hit like a ton of bricks. Here are some of the wildest inspirations behind those songs.
“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive had a wild run in the 1970s with hit songs like “Takin’ Care of Business” and “Let It Ride.” But their biggest single “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was inspired by an unlikely source: Helen Keller. Singer Randy Bachman took in a community theater production of The Miracle Worker, and wrote the Billboard #1 song in the intermission.
“With or Without You” U2
The lead single from U2’s mammoth hit album The Joshua Tree was written after the touring band accidentally left their original guitarist Declan “Tonky” Argyle behind at a gas station and just never went back for him.
“Never Turn Your Back on Mother Nature” Sparks
The brother team of Ron and Russell Kael released this glam-rock classic in 1974, but it took nearly thirty years for Russell to reveal in a 2001 Spin Magazine interview that it was based on an incident in which he turned his back on his girlfriend at the time, Mother Nature, and she stabbed him with a garden fork.
“Song #2” Blur
Britpop darlings Blur were unsure of where to go artistically in 1997 after they had finally poisoned their arch-rivals Oasis and replaced them with lookalikes. “Song #2” was inspired by singer Damon Albarn’s attempt to explain to the Liam Gallagher stand-in how numbers work.
“Rock Me Amadeus” Falco
Johann “Hans” Hölzel, also known as Falco, had the only #1 Billboard Hot 100 in the German language in the history of American charts with this fusion of rock, dance music, and early hip hop. It was based on Star Trek.
“Dirty Work” Steely Dan
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan wrote this song in a frustrated heroin fog, after that rascal Tom Sawyer convinced them to whitewash his Aunt Polly’s fence for him by telling them it was a lot of fun. It was not fun.
“Silly Love Songs” Wings
After the dissolution of The Beatles, Paul McCartney attempted to vent his frustrations via early, avant-garde noise rock group Wings. However, his inherent mastery of songwriting transformed every song into a pop masterpiece. “Silly Love Songs” nearly drove him to madness before his surrender to the darkness.
“All of the Lights” Kanye West
Controversial rapper/producer/fashion designer Kanye “Ye” West spent over $3 million recording this album at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu. It took that much money because West insisted on purchasing all existing lighting devices on the planet to satisfy his vision of the track.
“Bulletproof” La Roux
British singer lly Jackson, who performs under the moniker La Roux, is actually the last survivor of the planet Rouxon, sent to Earth in an interstellar birthing matrix, gaining enormous power and responsibility from the yellow light of the sun. “Bulletproof” is about that.
“Love is a Battlefield” Pat Benatar
1980s rock icon Pat Benatar wrote this song after discovering producer Neil Giraldo’s stash of historical fan fiction. In particular, it was based on his short story “Aegospotami, My Love” in which two opposing soldiers in the 5th Century BCE Peloponnesian War end up fucking.
“‘6 in Tha Morning” Ice-T
Before he starred on Law & Order: SVU as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, Ice-T was an accomplished, acclaimed, and controversial hardcore rapper. But before that, he had a lucrative career as the guy in a hotel who calls people’s rooms when they ask for a wake-up call, which inspired this autobiographical song.
“Love Story” Taylor Swift
Megastar Taylor Swift wrote this song after reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and realizing that “public domain” meant she didn’t have to pay anyone, ever. Cha-ching, Taylor! All her songs have been based on Jacobean playwrights since.