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Song Stories

“White Riot”

The Clash | 1977

When riots occurred in the Notting Hill section of West London in 1976, Clash members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon joined in, hurling rocks at police. The riot, sparked by racial divide and the attempted arrest of a pickpocket, inspired this punk tune about white complacency in the face of oppressive government. While some criticized the band for lyrics they thought advocated violence ("I wanna riot"), Strummer told Rolling Stone the band wasn't violent -- even if their music was. "We're against racism and fascism," he said. "I'd like to think that we're subtle."

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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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