Q: In the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Down on the Corner,” John Fogerty sings about Willy and the Poor Boys. Was he writing about a real person and band?
A: One of CCR’s most-recognizable tunes, “Down on the Corner” appeared on their fourth studio album, “Willy and the Poor Boys,” which was released in 1969. It’s such a happy song you really wish there had been an actual band by that name, but the song was about a completely fictional band. In 1985, however, Bill Wyman, then-bassist for the Rolling Stones, sought to rectify that by forming an all-star band called Willie and the Poor Boys. The band featured, among others, his Stones bandmates, Charlie Watts (drums) and Ron Wood (bass), as well as former Led Zeppelin lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, and Paul Rodgers, the former lead singer for Bad Company. They released one eponymous album in 1985 and a live album in 1994.
Q: I was flipping the radio dial recently and heard an old song by the Velvet Underground on a classic rock station, but a woman was singing the lead instead of Lou Reed. Who is the woman?
A: You are most likely referring to “Femme Fatale” from the band’s 1967 debut album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico.” The album is often referred to as “the banana album” because of its distinctive cover art by Andy Warhol, who also produced the album. The woman you hear on “Femme Fatale” is Christa Päffgen, otherwise known as Nico. Warhol, who had taken the Velvets (which included Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker) under his wing as part of his mixed-media Exploding Plastic Inevitable, had also recently extended his patronage to the mysterious fashion model-turned singer, and thought that her inclusion in the band would liven things up a bit. Nico was born on Oct. 16, 1938, in Nazi-controlled Germany. In 1946, she and her mother fled the Russian occupation and found refuge in the American Sector of Berlin. By age 14, Christa was working as a model with a Berlin fashion house. At 15, a modeling assignment took her to the Spanish island, Ibiza, where she met photographer Herbert Tobias who christened her “Nico” after his ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nico Papatakis. She only appeared with the Velvets on this one album, although she would continue an association with both Reed and Cale on subsequent solo albums. She died in July 1988 while visiting friends on Ibiza.
Q: Is the Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing,” based on a real event?
A: According to Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits’ singer, guitarist, and songwriter, the song is based on an actual worker in an appliance store. In the presence of Knopfler, the worker was moving boxes while watching MTV. Some of the lines from the song (most notably “Maybe get a blister on your little finger” and “What’s that? Hawaiian noises?”) were actually uttered by the worker. Although the band was extremely popular during the 1980s, “Money for Nothing” became Dire Straits’ only No. 1 hit.