Monday 5 December 2016

Pop's ultimate mysteries from 'Common People' to 'You're So Vain'

The mystery over Pulp's 'Common People' has been answered - but what about pop's other unsolved questions

Published 13/05/2015 | 02:30

Musical mystery: Jarvis Cocker's Common People
Musical mystery: Jarvis Cocker's Common People
Don McLean
Taylor Swift

One of pop's enduring mysteries has reportedly been solved with a Greek newspaper claiming to have identified the subject of Pulp's 1995 hit Common People.

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In the song, Jarvis Cocker paints a playfully scathing portrait of a spoiled Greek heiress studying art in London who is attracted to Cocker because he is working-class and completely outside her cosseted field of experience.

"She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge. She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College, that's where I caught her eye," Cocker crooned, his off-hand delivery not quite concealing his resentment of a class system that condemned him to be looked upon as a novelty oik.

For years, speculation has raged as to the identity of the woman - or if she was even real (Cocker has never commented either way). Now, a Greek newspaper has declared the puzzle solved, suggesting that the object of Cocker's gentle derision is the wife of the country's dashing finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

The daughter of wealthy Athens magnates, Danae Stratou indeed studied at St Martin's College between 1983 and 1988 - which coincided with Cocker's time at the institution. But whether or not Stratou is truly is the subject of Common People, the fuss the claims engendered is a reminder that nothing hooks us like a rock 'n roll mystery.

It has, for instance, been rumoured that much of Taylor Swift's most recent LP, 1989, was inspired by her split from One Direction's Harry Styles. Is it true? Possibly. Is it fun to guess? Without question. Here then, are our top unsolved mysteries in music.

1 Who is Carly Simon singing about in 'You're So Vain'?

Initially, it was assumed that Simon was putting down then husband James Taylor. Later, it was speculated that the song was about another paramour, the preening Warren Beatty - someone you could indeed imagine stepping into a room as though he had "walked onto a yacht". Simon never commented - though it was widely reported that she whispered the name of record company guru David Geffen when performing the tune acoustically several years ago.

2 Is 'In The Air Tonight' about a drowning man?

The theory that Collins was motivated to pen this brooding ballad (containing what scientists have confirmed as the greatest drum solo of all time) after watching a stranger sink to a watery grave was prompted by the lyric "if you told me you were drowning/I would not lend a hand". Actually, Collins wrote In The Air Tonight at a low moment following the failure of his first marriage.

3 Is 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' a sly drugs anthem?

John Lennon swore it wasn't and that the 'LSD' acronym contained in the title was a complete coincidence.

"My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted about a school friend of his named Lucy.

"He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Simple."

4 What Is 'American Pie' about?

Everything and nothing, according to Don McLean. The eight-minute ballad is a commentary on the decline of the American dream but, a Buddy Holly reference aside, the lyrics do not address anything or anyone specifically. The song is about what's between the lines, McLean has insisted, not the lines themselves.

5 Is 'Norwegian Wood' a valentine to soft furnishings?

No, it's about an affair John Lennon was having behind the back of his wife Cynthia. He couldn't address the romance directly in his lyrics so he opted to cloak his feelings in metaphor.

"I was very careful and paranoid because I didn't want my wife, Cyn, to know there really was something going on outside of the household."

6 Which ex is Taylor Swift dissing on 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together'?

Jake Gyllenhaal, most likely. She'd broken up with him shortly beforehand and the actor playing her mystery 'ex' in the video bears a more than passing resemblance. He even gives Taylor a scarf as a gift, as Gyllenhaal did in real life.

7 Why is everyone lying on the ground in the video to Radiohead's 'Just'?

Nobody knows for sure, aside from the director of the promo, James Thraves. Even the band are in the dark as to why random members of the public, having been whispered a mysterious 'secret', feel compelled to calmly stretch on the floor. "I've never told anyone the idea," says Thraves. "Not my friends, not the band and not even my wife."

8 Is Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' a tribute to 'The Wizard of Oz'?

This theory has raged ever since stoners in the mid '70s discovered that if you played Pink Floyd's bleak opus while watching the film, the two seem perfectly synced. This was news to the band, baffled that anyone would even think of listening to their album in concert with a hammy 1939 musical.

Irish Independent

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