Real-life crime! In music form

Some people say you should write what you know. Those people generally aren’t writers, ’cause what most people know is not worth writing about.

Most criminals are probably too dumb to write a good song, but here are a few spectacular exceptions – and others who knew rather than write about whatever dull thing was happening in their ‘hood, decided to write about someone else’s gross misdeeds.

8. BEEN CAUGHT STEALING – JANE’S ADDICTION

Apparently Jane’s Addiction considered this track a bit of a joke. That certainly explains the backing barking vocals.

“We can’t really get behind a song that might encourage shoplifting and the video encourages shoplifting.”

That, apparently, was one Warner suit’s reaction to the track, which became the band’s best-known song. For the record, Perry Farrell said he doesn’t expect people to do anything he does.

“I didn’t get into this to make sermons or set up structures for others to live by. My intent has nothing to do with teaching. It’s to amuse myself on this completely boring planet.”

7. ILLEGAL ATTACKS – IAN BROWN

Not all crimes go unpunished – but not all are committed by presidents and prime ministers in charge of the world’s most powerful militaries.

No one but King Monkey could get away with rhyming ‘Texas’ with ‘Lexus’ – with a straight face at least.

6. JOHN WAYNE GACY JR – SUFJAN STEVENS

Porbably the creepiest song you’ll ever hear that has close to 3 million plays on YouTube.

John Wayne Gacy Jr was a monster, no doubt – you have to be pretty out there to serve as the template for a Stephen King villain – but I’m not sure he killed “10,000 people” as Sufjan sings at the two-minute mark. Probably one of them clever metaphors songwriters better than I like to use.

5. POLLY – NIRVANA

When I was younger, I figured this was a song about a parrot. Well, maybe not exactly a parrot, but my young brain couldn’t parse Cobain’s prose well enough to figure out he was singing about a real-life rape.

The guy who carried out the sickening act described in the song had already served 20 years in prison for a similar crime in 1960, before being released on parole and resuming his activities. Like many people who don’t deserve to live to old age, he’s still alive.

4. SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN – THE SMITHS

The judge in the trial of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady said they were “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”. So of course, there had to be a song written, and the job fell to Morrissey.

The song only mentions three of Brady and Hindley’s victims – they didn’t even confess to all of the mid-’60s murders until 1985, a year after the Smiths’ debut album was released.

And TIL Hole used to cover the song live. Click at your own risk.

3. JENNY WAS A FRIEND OF MINE – THE KILLERS

Of all the artists on this list, you’d have to say good Mormon boy Brandon Flowers would be the least likely to commit a real-life crime.


The first track from their 2004 debut is about a 1986 New York murder, in which the defendant claimed he had no motive, because the victim was a friend of his.

He also tried the ‘These scratches on my face? My cat did those’ and ‘no, she raped me‘ defences, without luck.

2. I DON’T LIKE MONDAYS – THE BOOMTOWN RATS

An excellent song for dragging yourself into work on a Monday morning, at least until someone asks why you’re humming a tune about a fatal school shooting in the US, from back when they were rare enough to actually make the news.

Brenda Spencer was 16 at the time, and like another celebrity killer of the era, a common theme on this list, is still alive and in prison. Bob Geldof on the other hand is still at large, inflicting the public with new versions of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ every decade or so.

1. CAUGHT BY THE FUZZ – SUPERGRASS

The band’s name is literally in the dictionary as ‘a police informer who implicates a large number of people’, yet their debut single was about being arrested for smoking… super grass. *groan*

The closest I came was this time I got caught in a bar when I was about six months away from the legal drinking age. They changed it a few months later.

This is why I write songs about stuff I don’t know.

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And if you like what you’re reading and seeing here, kindly consider checking out the author’s own attempt at a music career – koshrecords.net.

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