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10 hit songs you thought were about women (but aren't)

By Stacy Conradt, Mental Floss
The Beatles' "Sexy Sadie" and "Martha My Dear" were about  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and an English Sheepdog, respectively.
The Beatles' "Sexy Sadie" and "Martha My Dear" were about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and an English Sheepdog, respectively.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Songs like "Delilah," "Martha My Dear" and "Shannon" are actually about singers' pets
  • The song "Cracklin' Rose" by Neil Diamond was about a bottle of wine, not a woman
  • The Turtles wrote "Elenore" to poke fun at their record company
RELATED TOPICS
  • Music
  • Music Stars
  • The Beatles
  • Classic Rock

(Mental Floss) -- 1. "Cracklin' Rosie," by Neil Diamond

She's not a girl -- she's a bottle of wine. Neil Diamond told Rolling Stone that he got the idea from an Indian tribe in Canada with a much higher male than female population. When the guys with girlfriends all went out on dates, the bachelor guys got together and drank homemade hooch.

And actually, Cracklin' Rosie is pretty decent wordplay when you realize the song's boozy origins: "Crackling" is used in the wine world to describe a wine that's lightly sparkling. You can actually buy a crackling rosé.

2. "Elenore," by The Turtles

If you've ever listened to this song and thought the line "you're my pride and joy etcetera" felt like a pretty poor attempt at lyrics, well, you're right. "Elenore" wasn't a girl, but an anti-love letter to the Turtles' record label.

The label was demanding a hit just like "Happy Together," which had come out the previous year, so the band slapped together a song they felt was insanely clichéd, happy-go-lucky and generally crappy. To everyone's surprise, it was a big hit.

3. "Jane," by Barenaked Ladies

Jane St. Clair isn't a real girl, but an intersection in Toronto that piqued then-lead singer Steve Page's imagination: Jane Street and St. Clair Avenue.

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4. "Sexy Sadie," by The Beatles

Sexy Sadie was really Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song was about how they were disillusioned with him after he hit on Mia Farrow and some of the other girls studying with him. Mia Farrow and most of the group later felt bad for making these accusations, feeling they had probably misinterpreted his actions.

5. "Ana's Song (Open Fire)," Silverchair

At first glance, the lyrics pleading with Ana to die might seem shocking, but in reality, lead singer Daniel Johns suffered from anorexia nervosa and was writing about his experience with it.

6. "Delilah," by Queen

Delilah was one of Freddie Mercury's beloved cats.

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7. "Martha My Dear," by The Beatles

The lyrics to this one may have been inspired by Paul McCartney's girlfriend, Jane Asher -- he says they "probably" were -- but the name comes from his Old English Sheepdog.

8. "Shannon," by Henry Gross

Speaking of dogs, ex-Sha Na Na singer Henry Gross wrote this song about the tragic death of Beach Boy Brian Wilson's Irish Setter, Shannon.

9. "Helen Wheels," by Paul McCartney and Wings

Helen Wheels was McCartney's punny name for the Land Rover he and Linda McCartney owned.

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10. "Mony, Mony," by Tommy James and the Shondells

The band had the song, but needed a two-syllable girl name to stick in the lyrics. That's when Tommy James happened upon a Mutual of New York Insurance Company sign that had a dollar sign in the middle of the "O" and noticed that its acronym was MONY.

He and his songwriting partner had a laugh about what a great name MONY was for such a company, and ended up calling their fictional girl "Mony."

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