Wikipedia defines an Easter egg as a “hidden message, or a secret feature.” In software, it could be a simple game that appears when a certain keyboard combination is used, or on a DVD, hidden features are revealed when a menu image is selected.
Rock and roll is filled with wonderful Easter eggs. An Easter egg is not when a sample is used in a song, like how “For What it’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield is sampled in the brilliant “He Got Game” by Public Enemy. A Rock and Roll Easter Egg (as defined by me, Larry) is a reference. It’s a clue that another song served as an inspiration for the song we are listening to. It’s a wink and a nod to the knowing listener.
These are a few Rock and Roll Easter Eggs I have come across in listening to music I like. There are not necessarily my favorites, or even the best examples, just little treasures I have come across. And so, presented in no particular order:
- “Blue Period” by The Smithereens > “In My Life” by The Beatles
Off their amazing third album 11 (there’s something magical about third albums sometimes, perhaps more on that in another blog post) is the beautiful ode to sadness “Blue Period.” The Smithereens are huge Beatles fans, and later in their career would release great song for song covers of Beatle albums. “Blue Period” features a taste of what was to come with a lovely harpsichord instrumental break, immediately recognizable as directly lifted from “In My Life” by The Beatles.
2. “Hangin’ Around Here” by John Hiatt > “The Weight” by The Band
Regular readers of my blog should not be surprised to see Nashville troubadour singer/songwriter John Hiatt included on this list. Always one of my favorites. When first listening to “Hangin’ Around Here” on his 2001 album The Tiki Bar is Open, I immediately thought I was listening to a cover of “The Weight” by The Band, one of my very favorite songs. Though it was sadly not a cover, the intro of “Hangin’ Around Here” is an unmistakable homage to a wonderful song, in fact a song that Hiatt would go on to perform regularly with original Band vocalist Levon Helm.
3. “Sense of Purpose” by The Pretenders > “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen
Chrissie Hynde, lead vocalist and songwriter of The Pretenders, has never shied away from her love of classic rock and roll. The Pretenders did a great cover of “Stop Your Sobbing” by The Kinks and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” by The Persuaders. Though the 1990 “Sense of Purpose” is far from The Pretenders greatest song, it is another example of how they recognize the ongoing inspiration they get from those great early rock and roll songs. At the very end of the song, Chrissie Hynde yells out the immortal words “Let’s get on out of here now. Let’s go!” which is almost, word for word, the same way the amazing 1963 recording of “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen ends. Inspiration endures.
4. “The Ballad of the Kingsmen” by Todd Snider > “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye
As long as there has been rock and roll, there has been censorship, a topic Todd Snider examines with intelligence, humor and exasperation in his amazing 5:03 epic ode to how songs have been misunderstood through the years. “The Ballad of the Kingsmen” begins with “Louie Louie,” then goes on to Marilyn Manson, Marvin Gaye and beyond. As the song fades out, Snider can be heard singing the chorus from “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye…a controversial song if there ever was one.
5. “Hard Core Troubadour” by Steve Earle > “Rosalita” by Bruce Springsteen
Steve Earle released the I Feel Alright album after dealing with drugs, weapons and prison in the early 1990’s. The center piece of this redemptive, therapeutic album is “Hard Core Troubadour.” Besides a biting reference to Romeo and Juliet with the line “Girl, better figure out which is which. Wherefore art thou Romeo you son of a bitch?” (LOVE that line!). Earle also references Bruce Springsteen, who perhaps wrote the classic “Rosalita” with Romeo and Juliet in mind as well, as Steve Earle includes the line “He’s the last of the all night, do right. Hey Rosalita, won’t you come out tonight?” Shakespeare and Springsteen, all in one song. Not bad.
6. “Young Americans” by David Bowie > “A Day in The Life” by The Beatles
There are few songs in the David Bowie canon as joyous and celebratory as “Young Americans,” released in 1975 off the album of the same name. I don’t know what this song is about.
“Do you remember President Nixon?”
“Took him minutes, it took her nowhere.”
David Sanborn’s saxophone is wailing. Luther Vandross harmonizes behind Bowie. And then, towards the end, as if to unite us all, we remember the ending of Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band when Bowie sings the first lines from “A Day in The Life.”
“I read the news today, Oh boy”
7. “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie and the Blowfish > “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan
Rock and Roll Easter Eggs exist due to inspiration. The song, the melody, or the message inspired an artist, and referencing the source of that inspiration connects the artist, and us, to the source of that inspiration. Hootie and the Blowfish reference Bob Dylans’ 1975 “Tangled Up in Blue” in their 1995 monster smash “Only Wanna Be With You.” Featuring several complete lines from the song, there can be no mistake where the inspiration came from.
These seven songs only scratch the surface. Rock and Roll has been around for over 60 years. What are your favorite Rock and Roll Easter Eggs?