In this post we’ll be talking about classic rock songs in memes. We’ll be examining the 60s, 70s, and 80s
Once upon a time I used to make classic rock memes that were popular on a website called Tumblr. At the time I made them, they were called macros. I’ll show you a couple I made:
Because I’ve long since deleted my Tumblr, I don’t have most of them.
It was a fun way to pass the time and make myself laugh. Many of these were mixed with pop culture references from the noughties like Mean Girls and Spongebob. As much as I liked to call myself a classic rock purist, I wasn’t really one. I loved some things from my childhood.
How could I not? Spongebob is amazing and was a huge influence on meme culture.
Memes have revived classic rock songs. Just recently, “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac has returned to the charts thanks to a meme on Twitter. In this post we’ll be exploring the songs of yesteryear that are memes today:
I think it’s great that these songs have been revived for a fresh, new, young audience. Remember, if you see a video with these songs, please refrain from commenting “I knew this song before it was a meme”.
An intro to memes:
Memes aren’t something millennials came up with. Memes have been around as long as people have had a sense of humour. According to USA Today, a meme is a concept, catchphrase, or byword that spreads from person to person. The article this definition comes from is from 2003, back when Spongebob was at its peak.
However, the word, meme, was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain away cultural information spreads.
Some of the earliest memes of recent history include: “Kilroy Was Here” from WWII, “Frodo Lives” graffiti from the 70s, The “Obey” logo, and that S thing we used to draw in primary school. If we’re thinking in classic rock terms, You can say that “Clapton is God” graffiti was a meme.
“Africa” – Toto
It’s one of my favourite songs of all time. It sounds perfect and I can’t explain why. When it comes to physical copies, the shaped picture disc with a map of Africa with Africa superimposed in red letters and Toto superimposed in yellow letters, it’s pretty epic. The picture disc was recently rereleased, looking just like it did back in 1982, with the old country names like Zaire, Rhodesia, and Southwest Africa and all, and I sadly couldn’t get my hands on it. If anyone wants to send me a copy, be my guest! 😉
Why the comeback of everyone’s favourite 80s soft rock song? TV shows. In South Park the Memberberries were singing this song at the White House and listening to this song in the car. In season one of Stranger Things, this song is playing in the background while Nancy and Steve make out.
Even before 2016, some people recognised the greatness of this song. According to KnowYourMeme, in 2010, YouTuber Mike Massé uploaded an acoustic cover of the song that went viral, getting millions of views. A few years later, Angel City Chorale recorded their own version of it.
People recording their own version of “Africa” became such a big thing that there was a subreddit dedicated to it and the song really took off in Google search interest last year. I could go on and on all day about memes based on this song, so just go on the subreddit and see for yourself.
One version from last year that caught my attention was this Irish version. Now that’s a way to make learning Irish interesting! 😃🇮🇪
In August 2016, a Twitter account called “africa by toto bot” opened and it tweets the lyrics of this song cyclically. As I write this article, the account has over 41,000 followers and the tweets get hundreds of likes.
Toto formed in 1976 in LA and their sound mixes a lot of different influences from rock to jazz to soul.
This song was released in 1982 and was on the album, Toto IV. “Africa” is about a boy’s fascination with the continent as an outsider who has only seen it through the lens of the media. It topped the charts in the US in February 1983 and made it to #3 across the pond in the UK. It’s easily Toto’s most popular and commercially successful song. Toto continue to write and release songs even to this decade.
Now lets take the time to appreciate the original:
“Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty (1978)
That one sexy saxophone riff song, ’nuff said. You hear that song with that saxophone solo, it’s probably this song… Or “Careless Whisper”. Famously heard in vines and funny videos on YouTube.
Gerry Rafferty was born in Scotland and was best known for “Baker Street”. A few years earlier, he was in the group Stealer’s Wheel and sang vocals on the song “Stuck in the Middle With You”. His influences range from traditional Irish and Scottish music to The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
As for “Baker Street,” the song is named after the street in London and topped the charts in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. As of 2010, “Baker Street” has been performed over 5 million times.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen (1975)
Queen are just a meme friendly band. While this song wasn’t necessarily in any memes, you’ll see it quote a lot in picture memes that do word play with the lyrics or just quote it. Some examples include “Fanta Sea” and “I’m just a Poe Boy”. This song was popularised in the movie Wayne’s World, just after Freddie Mercury’s death. You can see Wayne, Garth, and their pals headbanging to it in the car during the opening credits. The song got popular again, charting at #2 just behind “Jump” by Kris Kross (Kriss Kross who? 😂) thanks to that movie.
Since then, people have made their own versions and remixes, but the most famous one is when the Muppets did their own version with Animal (likely inspired by Keith Moon) on drums. The song made it back to the top 40 thanks to the Muppets’ cover.
All I know is you can’t trust people who don’t headbang or sing along to this song in the car every time it comes on in the car.
In just a few words, Queen were formed by four very educated men and arguably, they’re the most formally educated of the classic rock bands: Freddie Mercury went to art school, Brian May has a PhD in Astrophysics, Roger Taylor originally studied dentistry and then switched to biology before dropping out, and John Deacon earned a 1:1 degree in Electronics from Chelsea College. The band were originally called Smile until Freddie Mercury joined and suggested they change their name to Queen. The rest is history.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was released as a single in 1975 and was off the album A Night at the Opera. It’s an epic made up of an intro, a ballad, an operatic segment, a guitar solo, and a coda. As a result, this song was the most expensive single ever made at the time and no one knows how much it cost to produce. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a sound investment and the song topped the charts in the UK for 9 weeks and sold over a million copies in just a couple of months. Incredible!
“Careless Whisper” – George Michael (1984)
Wonder where that other sexy saxophone solo (that is not “Baker Street”) comes from? It’s from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” You’ll hear this bit from the song used ironically or humorously in vines and YouTube abridged series.
George Michael was one of the most famous gay icons of the 80s. He made up half of Wham! You probably know the song “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”.
The song came out in 1984 and was George Michael’s first solo single and a huge success, reaching #1 in 25 countries. One out of every 3 copies of the single (of which 6 million copies were sold) was sold in the US.
Appreciate the full song here:
“Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis (1981)
Usually played when there’s a slo-mo. You might have seen this used in the movies Chariots of Fire during the opening scene and National Lampoon’s Vacation when the Griswolds arrived at Walley World (channelling Chariots of Fire). You’ll see many people parodying the scene over the years.
Vangelis, born Evángelos Pappathanassíou, is one of the most famous Greek musicians. He started off in the band Aphrodite’s Child and then went onto have a solo career in the 70s and 80s. He is a self-taught pianist. Since the early 80s, he has collaborated with former Yes frontman Jon Anderson.
“Chariots of Fire” was the theme of the film of the same name and one of Vangelis’s most famous works. The song topped the charts in the US and was a success in Europe, Australia, and Canada. The song is often used in coverage of The Olympics.
“Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
One of the most recent memes, this one was a boon for the band, getting them back in the charts 40 years later and making them some more money. The tweet with a video of a drill team from Alcorn State University doing a routine well timed to Dreams was posted on 22 March 2018 and since then has gone viral, receiving over 300,000 likes and over 100,000 retweets. . You can find the original video here. At 14 minutes in, you’ll see what was in the meme.
Maybe this will get people more interested in the band and maybe we’ll get a cheerleading routine to Dreams. All I have to say is can we get a cheer or drill team routine to “Rhiannon”? Or why not some old Fleetwood Mac songs from the Peter Green era?
In short, Fleetwood Mac have changed their lineup and sound over the years going from the Peter Green blues rock era to the pop era with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The pop era was full of soap opera style drama, but good songs. I love Stevie Nicks’ witchiness and her aesthetic, how could you not? Unless you’re some sort of hipster elitist who only likes bands before they “sell out”.
“Dreams” is just one of a few hits off the classic album Rumours. That album is a must have in any vinyl collection. It happens to be my luckiest cheapest vinyl find and I got a perfect copy for just 75 cents. Stevie Nicks wrote “Dreams” in only 10 minutes in a black and red room with Victorian drapes and a black velvet bed. The song went to #1 in the summer of 1977.
Let’s appreciate the song that got us here:
“Down Under” – Men at Work (1981)
People have made memes of the bottle intro and have used it in vines and funny videos on YouTube, mostly of people hitting their heads or dropping things to the rhythm of the bottle intro.
Men at Work were founded in Melbourne in 1979 and they got a hit with “Down Under” in 1981. They were the first Australians to simultaneously have a #1 single and album on the Billboard charts. Two years later they won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
You might think they were one hit wonders, but they actually were not, as they got other hits with the songs “Who Can It Be Now”, “Overkill”, and “It’s a Mistake”.
“Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor (1982)
This song was famously used as the theme song for Rocky III. You’ll see this song used in memes depicting training montages or athletics.
Survivor were formed in Chicago by Jim Peterik of Ides of March Fame. So that means the guy behind “Vehicle” was behind “Eye of the Tiger”. Strange how things change in a matter of a decade! They were not a one hit wonder and they had other successful singles like “Burning Heart”, “High On You”, and “Is This Love?”.
“Eye of the Tiger” was not Sylvester Stallone’s first choice for a theme song for Rocky III. Rather, his first choice was “Another One Bites The Dust”, but Queen did not give permission to use the song in the film. Interestingly enough, “Eye of the Tiger” was not originally intended for Rocky III, but for The Karate Kid. The latter film instead used “You’re The Best” by Joe Esposito for the fighting montage. “Eye of the Tiger” was #2 on the end of year charts in 1982.
“Fortunate Son” – CCR (1969)
Twenty-five years after it was released, this anti-war song was used in the Forrest Gump soundtrack during Vietnam War scenes. The repeated lyric, “It Ain’t Me” was also used in 4chan memes in green text about Vietnam War movies.
Some people think Creedence Clearwater Revival were southerners because of their country rock sound, but they were founded by brothers John and Tom Fogerty in California. They famously performed at Woodstock. Three years later, they broke up.
“Fortunate Son” is one of the most famous anti-Vietnam War songs. The title, as you can tell in the lyrics, is a reference to being the privileged son of a rich family or a politician. Working class men were the ones most affected by the draft, as more affluent men could afford to go to university and get a deferral or run away to Canada. The song was a top 20 hit in the autumn of 1969. On an unrelated note, the song was used in adverts for Wrangler Jeans.
“I Am Very Glad, As I’m Finally Returning Home” – Eduard Khil (1976)
Also known as the “Trolololol Song”, a 1976 performance of a non-lexical vocable version of this song was one of the biggest viral videos of 2010. You don’t need to know Russian to appreciate the weirdness of this song.
Russian musician Eduard Khil was born in Smolensk and grew up during WWII. A difficult childhood, his kindergarten was bombed and he ended up separated from his mother and not reunited with her until 1943. It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he got famous singing. He sang in various contests in the 60s and he was known as “The Symbol of Leningrad”.
“In The Air Tonight” – Phil Collins (1981)
One of those adored songs of the 80s, everyone adores the drum break from this song and you can find edits to this song. One popular Spongebob meme features Patrick hitting his stomach to the beat of the drum break. The song is often used in TV shows and movies like Miami Vice, Family Guy, and The Hangover. The song was also often sampled in rap songs.
Phil Collins was the drummer and (after Peter Gabriel’s departure) singer for prog rock band Genesis. He has a successful solo career and is well known for the songs “Easy Lover”, “In The Air Tonight”, and “Sussudio”. He also did the soundtrack for Tarzan.
“In The Air Tonight” was Phil Collins’ debut single and was played often on MTV when it debuted. It’s mostly a slower song with a melodramatic drum break at 3 minutes, 17 seconds into the song.
“It’s Your Move” – Diana Ross (1984)
This 80s song is better known to people of my generation as that one vaporwave song, something about computing Lisa Frank 420. Simply put, vaporwave is a hodgepodge of nostalgia marrying 80s and 90s aesthetics with ancient Roman sculptures and Japanese characters. The music often samples obscure 80s music from the US, elevator music, and Japanese music of the 80s.
I can’t speak for everyone else, but when I heard the original song it just sounded wrong to me and overly sped up. I guess that’s what happens when you’re used to hearing the slowed down vaporwave version.
Vaporwave is significant because it is the first genre to be completely globalised instantly because of the internet. Vaporwave started in 2010 and by the middle of the decade, it became an internet sensation, and shall we say a meme?
In 2011, the groundbreaking album, Floral Shoppe, by Macintosh Plus (also known as Vektroid) came out. It’s a strangely relaxing album and it makes great study music. The most famous song, mentioned above, has gotten tens of millions of views on YouTube.
Diana Ross went from being the lead singer of The Supremes to having a successful solo career in the 70s. In fact she was one of Motown’s most successful acts In fact, The Supremes were the best charting girl group in US history. Yes, that means better than The Spice Girls, sorry Spice Girls fans! 😉
The song, “It’s Your Move” was from the album, Swept Away. It was a cover of an America song from 1983. At the time it didn’t chart. Nearly 30 years later it was rediscovered by vaporwave fans.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi (1986)
The song is usually used as a meme when we’re talking about battery life percentages. You know the lyric:”Whoa! We’re halfway there! Whoa oh! Living on a prayer!” You might also see puns relating to these lyrics like “lemon and a pear”.
Bon Jovi are an obviously New Jersey band led by namesake Jon Bon Jovi. Jon Bon Jovi was in bands starting when he was a teenager, but he started Bon Jovi in 1983.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” was released in 1986 And it went to #1 in the US and Canada. It was their second song to go #1 and it was on the album Slippery When Wet. This song was commonly played on MTV and it’s known as their signature song.
“Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” – Tiny Tim (1968)
Spongebob Squarepants popularised “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” for this generation in their first episode, “Help Wanted”, aired back in 1999. A meme factory show basically made this song a meme. It’s a bizarre sounding song, but we love it. Sadly Tiny Tim was not around to see this song be adored by a new generation.
Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury in New York to a Lebanese/Belarusian family. He started playing string instruments as a kid, playing violin and mandolin, before picking up the ukulele, what he’s best known for. Later on he discovered he had an ability to falsetto.
“Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” was originally written by Al Sherman and Al Lewis for the 1930 movie, The Big Pond. That same year, Bing Crosby and Al Bowily recorded their own versions of it.
Nearly 4 decades later, Tiny Tim recorded his own version of it. Not only would it be popularised by Spongebob, it would also be used in video games.
“Moskau” – Dschinghis Khan (1979)
“Moskau” is a bizarre German disco song by a band called Dschinghis Khan (Genghis Khan). People have been memeing the Soviet Union, like with their national anthem. This is just one of those goofy and bizarre, but catchy songs.
Dschinghis Khan competed in the Eurovision Song Contest with a song of the same title as their group name. Ralph Siegel formed the group and oddly enough, most of the members were not German. The band were international and had members from The Netherlands, South Africa, and Hungary.
“Moskau” was their other popular song and it was released in 1979, a year before the Olympics were in Moscow. An English-language version topped the charts in Australia (Eurovision is quite popular here too). While a lot of their songs had a Russian theme, the group were banned from the USSR.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley (1987)
One of the classic memes/viral videos, doesn’t require any explanation. You all know what Rickrolling is.
Rick Astley was born in England and got famous at the age of 21 with the song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Back then, that song had a totally different connotation. He originally performed as a drummer with a band called FBI. The lead singer left and he took over as lead singer. He was discovered by a record producer and got a job at a recording studio. At first, he was a tea boy, but he ended up recording music.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” went to #1 in 25 countries. He retired only six years later. 20 years after “Never Gonna Give You Up” was on top of the world, the song was used as a meme called Rickrolling. It’s totally harmless, funny, and a good excuse to dance to this song. That wasn’t his only song. 1987 was a big year for Rick Astley and he got a string of top 10 hits from 1987-1989. In recent years, he has come back to singing and this year he released a single called “Walk Like a Panther”.
“Once in a Lifetime” – The Talking Heads (1981)
The music video is totally goofy and the song lyrics are totally quirky. It’s what we love about The Talking Heads and David Byrne. In the video you’ll see David Byrne in a suit dancing erratically with videos of religious rituals playing in the background. David Byrne is a meme.
Gotta love the totally 80s production quality with the green screen and the awkward white people style of dancing. The lyrics have been memed in the style of “Hey girls… did you know?” and the music video has been parodied a bunch of times.
One famous performance of the song was done by Kermit the Frog 15 years after the song was released. Kermit the Frog is wearing a big suit like David Byrne’s from Stop Making Sense.
My favourite parody is the Donald Trump one, because it’s memes meet memes. A living meme in a meme music video.
Frontman David Byrne was born in Scotland. His family moved to the United States when he was a kid. He also has an interest in world music, especially music from Africa and Latin America. Byrne formed the Talking Heads with Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison in New York City in 1975 and the band broke up in 1991. They were considered new wave pioneers and they weren’t afraid to try new things. Byrne, Frantz, and Weymouth were alumni of Rhode Island School of Design and they were in a group called The Artistics. On 5 June 1975, they opened for The Ramones at CBGB, imagine being at that show!
“Once in a Lifetime” was released as a single in February 1981. The song is on the album, Remain in Light. The song was co-written by the Talking Heads and Brian Eno and takes influences from Afrobeat musicians like Fela Kuti. While the song was a hit in Canada, the UK, and Australia, Brian Eno did not initially think the song was very strong. Anyways, this song is a fan favourite.
“Rasputin” – Boney M (1978)
Another bizarre and glorious Russian-themed disco song. In 2016, people made animated videos with the song playing in the background. With Putin as President of Russia, people sometimes use this song when making fun of him. Perhaps because he likes to show off his body or because you can’t spell Rasputin without Putin. You decide.
Boney M were made up of singers from Jamaica, Montserrat, and Aruba. The concept of the vocal group was the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian. They have sold over 150 million records.
“Rasputin” was one of many hits for the group. The song was on the 1978 album, Nightflight to Venus. While not as big as “Rivers of Babylon”, it was #1 in Germany, Australia, and Austria and #2 in Switzerland and the UK and #3 in Ireland. The song is about none other than Grigori Rasputin, friend of Tsar Nicholas II. How true was the story told in the song? Not exactly, much of the story is based on rumours.
“Roundabout” – Yes (1971)
No one expects a song from a rock subgenre with a pretentious reputation like progressive rock to become a meme. Well, that is until anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure came along and used it as their ending theme.
You’ll see in the ending theme that there is this arrow with the words, “to be continued” written on it. People parodied this and made videos with an awkward ending frame cliffhanger with the arrow with “to be continued” on it and “Roundabout” playing in the background. This meme was popular on Vine and YouTube.
Yes were founded in 1968 by Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, and Bill Bruford. In the 50 years they’ve been around, the lineup has changed a lot and a total of 19 people call call themselves “Yes Men”. In the 70s, they had a progressive rock sound and they were one of the top progressive rock bands. With the 80s, came major lineup and sound changes. Musicians Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes, and Trevor Rabin brought their own ideas to the table and shaped the band’s sound, making it more poppy (which is a direction many prog rock bands went in). This has led to controversy and arguments among Yes fans. It gets a bit dramatic and messy, we’ll leave it at that.
“Roundabout” is Yes’ other big hit, besides “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. At 8 minutes, 31 seconds long, it’s a good bit longer than your average pop hit of the time, but it’s no 40 something minute long Thick as a Brick, so you can play it on the radio and not annoy people. Everyone loves “Roundabout” and each band member truly shines in this song: Jon Anderson with his vocals, Chris Squire with that bassline, Bill Bruford with his drumming, Steve Howe with his guitar, and Rick Wakeman with that organ solo. It’s a masterpiece.
“September” – Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)
This song was popularised again as a meme in 2014. YouTube user Closet Pankin uploaded a video called “Kenny’s Hat” and in the video, the first bit of “September” plays. The video was uploaded to Vine later. From there, people made memes of that song.
Maurice White founded Earth, Wind & Fire in Chicago. Other famous members of the band include Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Larry Dunn. The band have gotten many hits in the 70s and 80s and have been nominated for a Grammy 20 times.
“Shadilay” – Pepe (1986)
Because of the green frog reminiscent of the “Pepe” meme and the artist name of Pepe, 4chan made a meme of this 80s Italo disco song 30 years after it came out, calling it the “National Anthem of Kekistan” and calling it a prophecy.
I don’t agree with the politics of the people who made this song a meme, but I have to say this song is pretty good. Coincidentally, there is a green frog on the single artwork. Did Manuele Pepe predict this? Who knows? I’m sure he’s just happy to get some royalty cheques and extra time in the spotlight. At the time, it was not a hit in Italy.
This song has nothing to do with far right politics or Donald Trump or the made up land of Kekistan. So if you can manage to separate it from its association, it’s an actually pretty catchy pop song.
Manuele Pepe was born Marco Ceramicola in Italy. He released his first LP in 1980. Not much else information about him is available in English.
“Stayin’ Alive” – The Bee Gees (1977)
“Stayin’ Alive” was famously used in the intro of the movie Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta as Tony Manero walks down the street. Not too long after the movie came out, the intro was parodied by John Belushi on SNL as Samurai Night Fever. The movie Airplane! parodied the dancing scene from Saturday Night Fever. The walking scene was also parodied in Night at the Roxbury, 20 years after Saturday Night Fever came out.
In my opinion, The Bee Gees are one of the best pop bands because they wrote all their own songs. They are arguably the most famous people from the Isle of Man.
“Stayin’ Alive” was one of the songs on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Almost half the songs on the soundtrack were written by The Bee Gees, so you can call it a Bee Gees album. Anyway, go listen to their songs before they went disco, because they’re definitely worth listening to.
“Take on Me” – A-ha (1984/1985)
This synthpop hit was memed in two different ways. Firstly, with the music video, one that combines live action with illustration. About 20 years after the music video came out, Family Guy parodied the music video in a scene where Chris Griffin is at the shop and he gets pulled into A-ha’s music video when he’s trying to grab milk. On the internet, the video was parodied on YTMND.
The beginning of the song was used in a Vine where this girl with frizzy hair wearing a tie dye shirt is dancing awkwardly and then at the end turns around and smiles awkwardly. That Vine has been parodied and remixed over time.
A-ha were formed in Oslo and were not a one-hit wonder. “Take On Me” was their biggest hit, but it took a couple of tries for the song to achieve success. The music video won many awards at the MTV VMAs in 1986. The song topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US.
“The Boys Are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy (1976)
“The Boys Are Back in Town” came out in 1976, but decades later was used in commercials for Wrangler Jeans, referenced in shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Powerpuff Girls, and used in the soundtrack for the video game Saints Row IV.
Of course, the song has been memed a lot.
Like with “Jailbreak” (“Tonight, there’s gonna be a jailbreak somewhere in this town” – no duh it’s gonna be at the jail 😂😉), people take the piss out of the song’s lyrics. “The Boys are Back in Town?” Who are the boys? What town? Where is the context? In the end, who cares?
In 2009, a Twitter account called @intownagain, much like the “Toto Africa Bot”, started auto-tweeting the lyrics to “The Boys Are Back in Town” over and over again.
2015 was a big year for the song on the internet.
That year, a Vice article was published titled “I Played ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ on a Bar Jukebox Until I Got Kicked Out”. It’s one of those funny and bizarre articles you’ll find on Vice, and for me, relatable, #NextAprilFoolsJoke.
Later that year, famous shitposter @dril tweeted about the song:
Gotta agree with you @dril! Too many Christmas songs!
Minor correction: there is another song called “The Boys Are Back in Town” by The BusBoys – totally unrelated and no more clear about who the boys are and what town they returned to. Funny enough, when I mentioned “The Boys Are Back in Town” to my dad, my dad first thought of this song.
“The Boys Are Back in Town” even inspired a few memes on Tumblr, like these:
Thin Lizzy started off as a trio: Phil Lynott, Brian Downey, and Eric Bell. After a couple of albums, they revamped their lineup and sound to that trademark tough twin guitar attack sound we know and love, becoming one of the best (and criminally overlooked) hard rock bands and later on, an early metal band.
According to guitarist Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy found out “The Boys Are Back in Town” was a hit when they were touring America and their manager suddenly came in and told them it was a hit. They were stunned because they didn’t think it was their best song. It wasn’t even a song that was originally going to be on the album, Jailbreak. Ultimately it was #1 in Ireland, #8 in Canada and the UK, and #12 in the US. They would never replicate that success again stateside.
Phil Lynott was a brilliant songwriter, a published poet even with the book Songs For While I’m Away. “The Boys Are Back in Town” isn’t his most brilliant songwriting, but it’s easy to see why it was a commercial success. It’s that twin lead guitar attack. Sure they didn’t invent it, but did they make it better? Abso-bloody-lutely.
Now let’s appreciate the amazing guitar work of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham:
“The Sound of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel (1964/1965)
It’s not often you hear a 60s song being used in a meme, but here you go, the oldest song on this list.
The part of this song that became a meme was the lyrics “Hello darkness my old friend”. People remember that lyric so much that they think that it’s the title of the song, kind of like what people do with “Baba O’Riley”, thinking it’s called “Teenage Wasteland”. My reaction is this (disclaimer: I hate Donald Trump):
The use of this song is in Vines or YouTube funny short videos where something sad/depressing happens or when someone is disappointed or sad about something that happened to them. This is usually used ironically.
Picture memes even quote this and usually accompany it with a sad pepe frog face.
The meme made Simon & Garfunkel some cash because in April 2016, “The Sound of Silence” reached #6 on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart. Wow!
Simon & Garfunkel were one of the most famous folk rock musicians. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first started working together in the 50s in New York. They were childhood friends and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. They had a common interest in folk music and rock and roll music. They first called themselves Tom & Jerry, and then became Simon & Garfunkel.
There are two versions of “The Sound of Silence”. The original from 1964, is an acoustic version on the album Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, and the re-recorded overdubbed version from 1965 was also on the album, Sounds of Silence and heard in the soundtrack of the 1967 film, The Graduate. Song producer Tom Wilson remixed the song to attract airplay and make it more radio friendly. Simon & Garfunkel did not know about this until after the fact.
“You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” – Dead or Alive (1984)
Decades after this song came out, derivative memes on YTMND and YouTube went viral. The usage was a literal reference to objects spinning around. Pretty self-explanatory.
This song was also sampled by Flo Rida. Personally, I’d rather not hear the song he made sampling it because the original is superior.
Dead or Alive, fronted by Pete Burns, were formed in Liverpool and were one of the best known one-hit-wonders of the 80s (Todd in the Shadows made a great video about this song). Well maybe they weren’t exactly a one-hit-wonder, but it’s probably the only song the average person knows they did. Pete Burns started off doing punk and post punk music, but later on changed to a more new wave/hi-NRG sound.
“You Spin Me Round” went to #1 in the UK in the beginning of 1985. When writing the song, Pete Burns was influenced by Luther Vandross and Richard Wagner. This song is another example where the producers weren’t feeling too confident about the song being a success, but radio, music fans, and sales proved them wrong. In fact, Pete Burns had to pay out of pocket to record the song and the music video
And now for the last song on this list, but certainly not the least…