Wednesday, December 11, 2013

TMFW 14 - Lorde's Mega-Song "Royals" was Inspired by a 1976 Picture of George Brett (Really!)

If you pay attention to the pop music charts, or (purely hypothetically) if you have a daughter in grammar school, you no doubt are familiar with Lorde's giant song "Royals," which reached number 1 on the Billboard chart in October and stayed there for 9 weeks. Lorde is just 17 years old, and hails from New Zealand.  The song is a commentary on modern musical priorities, with lyrics that criticize obsession with "Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece // jet planes, islands, [and] tigers on a gold leash."  
It is almost self-evident, then, that the song must have been inspired by an almost 40 year-old picture of George Brett.   In an interview earlier this year with VH1, the singer talked about what moved her to write the song.  In a "this must be a joke, right?" soundbite, she explained: "I had this image from the National Geographic of this dude signing baseballs, he was a baseball player, and his shirt said 'Royals.'"
After the interview made the rounds, The Internet found a picture of George Brett from the July 1976 issue of National Geographic, and the magazine recently confirmed that it "appears to be" the only picture of a Royal that has ever graced its pages.  The magazine tracked down and interviewed the photographer, who seemed amused (though not, apparently, humbled) by his photo's odd turn as muse.  
The news about Lorde's inspiration has given some new momentum to the long-circulating rumor that The Black Crowes' 1990 hit "She Talks to Angels" is about a love triangle involving Chili Davis and Wally Joyner. (ba-dum ching)
BONUS FACT:  In another terrific example of "unlikely, whimsical inspiration," the (one-and-done?) band The Pizza Underground recently cut a "demo" that is available for streaming on Bandcamp.  Who and what is The Pizza Underground, you ask?  Well, they are of course a Macauley Culkin-lead psuedo cover band that re-imagines Velvet Underground songs, but with a pizza focus.  Let your brain soak that in for a minute.  The Pizza Underground's demo includes snippets from their songs "Papa John Says," (original) "I'm Beginning to Eat the Slice," (original)  "I'm Waiting for Delivery Man," (original) "Cheese Days," (though technically that one is by Nico rather than the Velvet Underground), and "Take a Walk on the Wild Slice" (and that one's Lou Reed).  Check out their Tumblr for some inspired art.  Or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  Or watch the demo as a soundtrack to looped footage of young Macaulay waving, cut with an 80s-esque pizza commercial snippet.  The whole thing is pointless and bizarre and wonderful.  It's exactly what I would hope Macauley Culkin is doing with his time cheese days - er, I mean these days. 
BONUS FACT 2:  In addition to her dominance of the Billboard Hot 100, Lorde also topped the Billboard Alternative charts for seven weeks.  She was, unbelievably, the first female solo artist to do so since June, 1996, when Tracy Bonham hit number 1 for three weeks with her song "Mother Mother."  Bonham's song was already off the chart when Lorde was born in November of that year.
BONUS FACT 3:  "These Days" was first recorded by Nico, but it was written by Jackson Browne when he was just 16 years oldHis version is just fantastic.

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