Song Stories

“Pay to Cum”

Bad Brains | 1982

While the Bad Brains were penning this rapidly paced hardcore classic, an unlikely critic showed the tune's songwriters — singer HR and guitarist Dr. Know — that they may have been on to something. "We were sitting down at my mother's dining room table, started playing it, and [my sister] started singing along with it," Dr. Know said. "She must have been like three or four years old. I'll never forget it [starts singing the riff]." In the Martin Scorsese-directed film After Hours, "Pay to Cum" is heard in a scene when Griffin Dunne's character narrowly escapes getting his hair shaven into a Mohawk.

Song Stories Main Next

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »