Some of Our Favorite Hits with Unlikely Origins

Some of Our Favorite Hits with Unlikely Origins
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Some of our favorite songs come from the unlikeliest places. As straightforward as some of the lyrics might be, their origins are far from typical. From literal writing on a wall to hallucination-inspired lyrics, we've rounded up some of the biggest hits with the most interesting origin stories.
"867-5309 / Jenny" — Tommy Tutone (1961)
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It might seem amazing how someone's phone number could become such a tremendous hit — but it might not have really gone down that way. Tommy Tutone guitarist Jim Keller told People he wrote the song with songwriter Alex Call after some friends (or leader Tommy Heath, depending on the story) wrote "Jenny" and the number on a bathroom wall. Keller continues his story to People by saying he called the number and ended up dating the famous Jenny for a while, though she allegedly "hated" him for writing the song. But Alex Call says that's all just a fanciful yarn, claiming in two separate interviews — one with the Fort Morgan Times and one with Songfacts— that Jenny never existed. The name and phone number just came to him when he was brainstorming chord ideas.


"Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running" — Foo Fighters (2007)
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Dave Grohl told MTV that the Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (2007) marked a turning point where the band started exploring more serious music — but "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)" isn't part of that. Its position in the middle of the album comes from a few different areas according to Grohl — and none of them actually have anything to do with his love-hate relationship with emo culture or the labels attached to it. The legendary drummer-turned-frontman says in the same MTV interview that the title is completely unrelated to the song itself, and that it's a lighthearted song the band wanted to include because it helps release some of the tension and darkness from the rest of the album. Why keep the title as an apparent jab at emo bands of the era? Because Grohl thought "it was fucking hilarious."


"My Sharona" — The Knack (1979)
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Los Angeles rock band The Knack wrote their famous song "My Sharona" because 25-year-old singer Doug Fieger became enamored with 17-year-old store clerk Sharona Alperin. Which makes lyrics like "I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind" at least a little bit unsettling. According to an interview Alperin gave with NPR, Fieger's girlfriend at the time introduced them, and — a month or so later — Fieger declared his undying love to Alperin and claimed she was his soulmate. Alperin said in the NPR interview that she had a boyfriend at the time and didn't want to leave him (although the complications from the age difference may have factored into that as well). Either way, she said she left her boyfriend a year later at some point after hearing her song "My Sharona" for the first time and posed on the famous album cover. Alperin went on to tell NPR she didn't really dress up for the shoot either, but just wore her normal clothes.


"Don't Worry, Be Happy" — Bobby McFerrin (1988)
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Jazz singer Bobby McFerrin had a full career long before he wrote his best-known song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," but — as he says in an interview snippet on his official website — penning and recording the hit was like nothing he'd ever done before. It took McFerrin just one hour to write and record "Don't Worry, Be Happy," a song he claims he never really intended to write. Whether that's completely true or something McFerrin said out of irritation with people refusing to examine his other works isn't clear, but the popular view is McFerrin came across the phrase "Don't Worry, Be Happy" from Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba and was inspired by the concept.  Even still, McFerrin says in the interview that he never planned for the song's inclusion on Simple Pleasures and just wrote it at the last minute.


"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" — The Rolling Stones (1965)
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We've all heard stories of people doing bizarre things in their sleep, but The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards actually penned the band's hit "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" while partially asleep — and there's reportedly a tape to prove it, according to Rolling Stone. The tape recording has Richards waking up after allegedly hearing the song's three-note foundation, mumbling "I can't get no satisfaction" and then going back to sleep. Mick Jagger later said there was no real melody, and he wrote the rest of the song despite concerns over how similar it was to Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing In The Street" and Chuck Berry's "30 Days."


"A Day In The Life"  — The Beatles  (1967)
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Nostalgic bus rides, LSD, and the death of a friend all played a role in The Beatles' classic "A Day In The Life" from 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. John Lennon's half of the song came from a mixture of his LSD visions — he started taking the drug several years earlier by accident — and reflecting on the death of the band's friend Tara Browne. Despite that, Rolling Stone says "A Day In The Life" originally started as the group reminiscing about growing up in Liverpool, hence the part about Paul McCartney's bus rides. Still, Rolling Stone goes on to say McCartney didn't like how it made the band seem like a bunch of children, which might explain the song's many other oddities, like alarm clock sounds for counting bars as well as references to drugs and Lennon's work as an actor.


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