By Chance Welch
Sometimes former bandmates and lovers turn on their own for inspiration and not exactly the most flattering kind of songs. We could add another article completely devoted to diss songs in hip-hop, but we’ve confined the hatred to mostly rock music.
1. “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette
Allegedly written for “Full House” star and former lover Dave Coulier, the song was the turning point for Alanis, who previously was a bright and cheery singer from Canadian. Released at the time when so-called “grunge” music was at its nadir, Alanis went from being on pre-“American Idol” talent show “Star Search” and opening for Vanilla Ice to being the anthem of trendy coffee shops everywhere. Who knew that someone would get so tied up in knots over Uncle Joey? The flipside to this is that because of this song, he’s still semi-famous.
2. “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
The subject of Simon’s poison pen has been debated since it was released in 1972. It could be Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, it could be actor and sex symbol Warren Beatty or it could be non-sex symbol and music executive David Geffen. Unless you have the cash, Simon isn’t telling anyone anytime soon. In 2003, Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, made the winning bid in a charity auction that sold off a private performance of the song and the revelation of who it was written about by Simon herself on the condition that he never tell anybody either.
3. “Starf@#&ers Inc.” by Nine Inch Nails
Although the title was pared down to “Starsuckers Inc.” the vitriol contained in the song and the video stay pretty much intact. The song is rumored to be about Courtney Love, widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and the singer for the band Hole, for whom a grotesque caricature appears in the music video. Once you read the lyrics, you might see that the song could be about almost any self-obsessed starlet at the time.
In the video, we see Trent Reznor smashing plates adorned with the faces of other celebrities like Fred Durst.
4. “Too Many People” by Paul McCartney
In one of the first of several little revenge songs in the wake of the Beatles’ break-up, McCartney took some shots at John Lennon and everyone’s favorite scapegoat Yoko Ono in this song from 1971’s Ram. The wounds were still fresh as the Fab Four had only released its final song, George Harrison’s “I Me Mine” at the beginning of 1970. In the song, McCartney talks about “Too many people preaching practices” and how “You took your lucky break and broke it in two.” He later acknowledged in a 1984 interview with Playboy that the dig was pointed in his former bandmate’s direction.
5. “How Do You Sleep?” by John Lennon
Written as a kind of response for some perceived digs at him and his wife (see above), Lennon wrote this diss of a song on Imagine There are numerous references to songs that McCartney wrote like “Yesterday” and his solo song “Another Day.”, which is primarily known for being his most commercial work. Also worth noting is “Those freaks were right when they said you was dead,” a less-than-subtle reference to the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory from the Beatles’ heyday.
The video, filmed during the recording sessions captures former bandmate George Harrison’s reaction to the song.
6. “Wah-Wah” by George Harrison
What seems less like a breakup and more like a three-way cage match, George Harrison entered the fray with a song aimed at Paul.”Wah-Wah” was released on Harrison’s brilliant solo album All Things Must Pass.
7. “Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” by Sonic Youth
The song, later renamed “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” probably after the ruffling of record label feathers, mentions some very unflattering things about her. Her breakdown on Total Request Live, her failed relationship with Eminem and her record label’s attempt to reshape her image were all fair game.
8. “Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake
Breaking up is hard to do. Timberlake retells his side of the split with Britney Spears, even going so far as to accuse her of cheating on him. Spears acknowledged in a 2003 Rolling Stone profile that Timberlake kind of gloated that his video about her was controversial. Whoever is in the right is irrelevant, the way celebrities fight things out in the media only guarantees one winner: the media.
9. “Pull My Strings” by the Dead Kennedys
Written as a satirical comment on mainstream music at the time, the band performed this at the 1980 Bay Area Awards show with dollar signs on their shirts. Singer Jello Biafra sarcastically says they are a New Wave band to prove they are mature adults. The song itself is pretty tame when put alongside “California über Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia,” but it’s worth noting because of the barbs also directed at the Knack, the band whose new single “My Sharona” was inescapable. In the bridge, they play the chorus of “My Sharona” and replace the lyrics with “my payola,” seeing how that was the only explanation for the song getting played on the radio.
(NSFW for some of the lyrics)
10. “C@#&sucker Blues” by the Rolling Stones
Written as the final song recorded for their label Decca Records at the time, the title and the lyrics were designed to anger and offend its executives. Just one look at the lyrics and you’ll probably think, “Good job.” The title also belongs to an infamous documentary of the Stones’ hedonistic antics on tour supporting their seminal Exile on Main Street, which were so depraved that due to a lawsuit, the film has been banned from being shown unless the director Robert Frank is present. But a simple search on YouTube brings up the whole movie broken up into parts, so you can enjoy (?) watching your rock and roll heroes utterly destroy themselves backstage.
(NSFW for lyrics and content)