Song Stories

“54-46 Was My Number”

Toots & the Maytals | 1969

Toots Hibbert coined the term "reggae," and Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff became the faces of the genre. But it might have been different had Hibbert not been arrested for marijuana possession in 1966. At the time, his group was planning a breakthrough European tour. But an 18-month jail term stalled Hibbert while others carried on. Hibbert, who wrote this song about the ordeal, suspects he was set up by a threatened competitor. "They flopped," he said. "They helped me more because I think about it, and I keep singing about it. And I get a Number One record about it."

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

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