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Song Stories

“Dirty Blvd. ”

Lou Reed | 1989

Lou Reed often drew inspiration from the streets of New York, but he seldom depicted the city's poverty as directly as he did on "Dirty Blvd.," representing the Big Apple through the eyes of a down-and-out character named Pedro. When it was issued as a single, the lyrics were toned down a bit, with the words "piss" and "suck" taken out. "I did the blipping," Reed told Rolling Stone. "I didn't want the promo people to feel defeated before they ever went in." Asked if the compromise bothered him, he replied, "It would bother me if the other version didn't exist."

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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