Song Stories

“Casey Jones”

The Grateful Dead | 1970

The real-life Casey Jones, a conductor with the Illinois Central Railroad, crashed his passenger train into a stalled freight locomotive on a foggy night in 1900. But drugs had nothing to do with it. In fact, Jones — the wreck’s lone fatality — became a legend for refusing to bail when he saw trouble ahead. But in his fictionalized account, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter’s rail accident had a Sixties twist: a coked-up conductor. “I always thought it’s a pretty good musical picture of what cocaine is like,” Jerry Garcia told Rolling Stone. “A little bit evil. And hard-edged.”

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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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