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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.

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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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