You’re A Mean One….

Mean Songs.

I mean, some songs are just plain mean.  Nasty.  Rude.

It must be a good way to get some things off your chest when you are cheesed off.  Mad.  Pissed.  Angry.  Furious. Fumi….well you get what I’m saying.

Here are some really mean songs:

-“Positively 4th Street” Bob Dylan-1965

Bob may be the king of mean songs.  “Like a rolling Stone” is pretty damn rude, but his absolute meanest is “Positively 4th Street”.  Now, nobody knows what the title refers to or who the song is about.  The tight lipped Dylan won’t say.

Rumor has it though that it was written about the “folkies” who were upset with him for “going electric”.  The last line is just…..well, mean:

“Yes, I wish that for just one time

You could stand inside my shoes

You’d know what a drag it is

To see you”

-“Go your own Way” Fleetwood Mac-1977

By now you should know that the entire “Rumours” album was about the band members all breaking up their romantic relationships.  Lindsey Buckingham won for the meanest of the bucnch.

“Packing up, shackin’ up’s all you want to do”

Stevie Nicks supposedly insisted that her then-boyfriend, bandmate Lindsey Buckingham, remove the line from this enthusiastic kiss off, which gave the Mac arguably their most enduring hit. Buckingham refused, and he had the added satisfaction of getting his soon-to-be-ex to sing backup on her own “screw you”.

-“Under My Thumb” The Rolling Stones-1966

“It’s down to me/The way she does just what she’s told, down to me”

Seriously: Did any girl ever push poor Mick Jagger around?  Hard to think, but if there’s truth in these lyrics, at least one did – until Jagger turned the tables. Now she’s either a contradictory “squirmin’ dog” or a “Siamese cat of a girl.” Either way, safe to assume this is not a big chart-topper on any feminist’s iPod.

-“Stay With Me”-The Faces (With Rod Stewart) 1971

A song about a one night stand.  And he might as well have asked her not to let the door hit her ass as she was leaving:

“In the morning don’t say you love me, cause I’ll only kick you out of the door”

“won’t need to much persuading I don’t mean to sound degrading, but with a face like that you got nothing to laugh about”


-“Short people”- Randy Newman 1977

You know this one.  And it’s a joke about prejudice in general, but it’s still mean.  Glenn Frey of The Eagles sings the bridge (“Short people are just the same as you and I”) and he can supposedly be a pretty mean person according to ex Eagle Don Felder.

‘They got little baby legs, That stand so low

You got to pick em up, Just to say hello

They got little cars, That go beep, beep, beep

They got little voices, Goin’ peep, peep, peep

They got grubby little fingers, And dirty little minds

They’re gonna get you every time”

Some short guy must have cut him off in traffic or something.  In his Mini Cooper.

-“Hound Dog”-“Big Mama” Thorton 1952, Elvis “The King” Presley 1956

The songs such a cliché now that it transcends the lyrics.  But think about it:

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, crying all the time”

and, “They said you was high class, well that was just a lie”.

That’s brutal.

And she’s never even caught a rabbit.

-“How do you sleep”- john lennon 1971

The meanest song on the list because it was personal.

The Beatles were going through a nasty divorce through the courts.  Paul McCartney had come out with his second solo album “Ram” and it had a few little digs within a few songs toward his former partner John Lennon.  If you didn’t know what was going on, you would have never known.  And even then, it could have been taken different ways.  Lines like “You took your lucky break and broke it in two” could have been written to Linda McCartney’s first husband just as much as Lennon.  But John took it personally and wrote a song to his ex partner.

And Mr. Lennon doesn’t do “subtle”:

“A pretty face may last a year or two

But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do

The sound you make is muzak to my ears

You must have learned something in all those years

Ah, how do you sleep?”

McCartney admitted that it hurt.  But he never countered.  They ended up on very friendly (if guarded) terms.

-“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash 1955

“I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”

Can you get any meaner than that?

Well can you?  Do you have any mean songs?

Very Subtle....


11 responses

  1. Dave

    You Oughta Know- Alanis Morissett
    God Save The Queen- The Sex Pistols

    January 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  2. 4th street is the street on the campus of the University of Minnesota where all the Sororities and Fraternaties are located. Given the fact the folk scene in Minneapolis was about two blocks from there, I suspect that’s what Dylan is singing about

    January 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  3. Ben

    You’re so Vain – Carly Simon

    January 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  4. Jenifer Hadraba

    The Stones are great at mean songs:

    Crazy Mama ~
    “Well your crazy mama
    With your ball and chain
    Plain psychotic
    Plain insane

    If you don’t think I’m gonna do it
    Just wait for the thud of the bullet”

    And the Black Keys’ “Psychotic Girl” isn’t too nice, either.
    But it’s a great tune;)

    January 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  5. Rachel

    Beatles, Run for your life!

    January 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm


    ‘Go Your Own Way’ wasn’t that “mean”; it was simply truthful. And with words like:
    If I could … Baby I’d give you my world
    Open up … Everything’s waiting for you

    How could that be considered mean, he was willing to give her everything.

    Now, mean is The Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl” and “If I Fall You’re Going Down with Me”. And maybe Joan Jett: “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. Eagles, “Dirty Laundry”

    January 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

  7. Tres

    Just about any song on Never Mind the Bollocks, but especially New York and Bodies — those songs are just plain mean.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:26 am

  8. Jay

    Queen – Death on 2 Legs

    “…do you feel like suicide, I think you should….”

    January 13, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  9. Ben

    Queen – Tie Your Mother Down

    “take your little brother swimming with a brick, that’s alright”

    January 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

  10. Damon

    What about “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan? I mean: I’ll stand on your grave when ‘m sure that you’re dead”? “Not even Jesus would forgive what you do”? That’s pretty harsh.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm


    “You’re No Good” Linda Ronstadt

    January 15, 2012 at 5:00 am

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