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Song Stories

“Heartbreak Hotel”

Elvis Presley | 1956

Elvis Presley’s moody first single for RCA was not cut from the same rockabilly cloth as his Sun Records material: Sun founder Sam Phillips called “Heartbreak Hotel” “a morbid mess.” Written by Mae Boren Axton (who was Elvis’ former publicist) and Tommy Durden, Presley’s first of many Number Ones and the biggest-selling song of 1956 was based on a true-life tale. A news story in the Miami Herald reported a man’s suicide in a hotel: He left a note consisting solely of the line, “I walk a lonely street."

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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