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Song Stories

“IRM”

Charlotte Gainsbourg | 2009

Fashioned to mimic the sound of a magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, "IRM" (the French designation for the brain scan) grew out of Gainsbourg’s love of the sound of the clickety-clack of medical machinery. The IRM album project also marked the fulfillment of two goals for the singer: to document a traumatic experience, and to record an album with Beck. Though her co-creator and producer didn’t necessarily know the details of her water-skiing accident and resulting cerebral hemorrhage (which lead to the IRM of the song's title), he somehow knew how to handle the material. "Beck had a way of guessing what I was thinking and feeling without me telling him," said Gainsbourg. "We never discussed these things explicitly."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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