Songs that reference other songs


There’s probably a goldmine if you start searching through Saint Etienne stuff, but as a starter, from Erica America off Good Humor:

“so tired of their small town games /
Whistle a tune of A Horse With No Name”


Manics’ ‘Why So Sad’ references Sonic Youth in the lyrics with the line “Burns an expressway/ to your skull”.


The title (and chorus) of John Cale’s ‘I Keep A Close Watch’ is the opening line of Johnny Cash’s ‘I Walk The Line’.

Kraftwerk reference The Beach Boys ‘Fun Fun Fun’ on ‘Autobahn’ with the “Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der autobahn” line.

Roxy Music’s ‘Remake Remodel’ deliberately references Beatles ‘Daytripper’, Eddie Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody’, and Richard Wagners ‘The Valkyrie’.


Hopefully this counts even though it doesn’t directly call out the titles.


The Gaslight Anthem’s High Lonesome references Counting Crows’ Round Here

“And Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis”

The original:

“Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
She said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis”


Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Deep Kick references Butthole Surfers’ Sweat Loaf

“But the butthole surfers said
It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do”


No one will care about this one, but 311’s Misdirected Hostility references Frank Black’s Calistan

“You should take a tip from the one Frank Black
Play some pachinko play some parcheesi
Cause all the angst shit is just cheesy”


And girls like status:

“it was song number 3 on John’s last cd/gonna make it through this year/if it kills me”


‘You were famous, your heart was a legend’, from Chelsea Hotel #2 by Leonard Cohen.

Unless I’m wrong (possible) it’s a reference to Take Another Little Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, whom the song was written about.


A Crimson and Clover twofer

(Elliott Smith’s featuring a lot ITT)


The Divine Comedy’s Our Mutual Friend references Tom Jones and The Walker Brothers:

We played old 45’s
And said it’s like the soundtrack to our lives
And she said, “True, it’s not unusual
Then privately we danced
We couldn’t seem to keep our balance
A drunken haze had come upon us
We sank down to the floor
And we sang "The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore"
And then we kissed and fell unconscious

In the studio they realised that singing that Walker Brothers lyric would mean they’d have to pay royalties, so on the album that second line runs “And we sang the song that I can’t sing anymore” which, in the context of the song, works surprisingly well. The above is sung whenever he performs it live mind.


Californication references quite a few artists/songs/albums

So does Slide Show by Travis

Cause there is no design for life
There’s no devil’s haircut in my mind
There is not a wonder wall to climb
To climb or step around


Pulp, Bad Cover Version - thought this would have loads but the only specific reference is here:

Like Planet of the Apes on TV
The second side of 'Til the Band Comes In
Like an own-brand box of Corn Flakes
He’s going to let you down my friend

Quite a fun dig, as Scott Walker produced the album and is a huge influence on Jarvis.

Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music references several other songs of the time (and their singers) - Mustang Sally, Hold On I’m Comin’, Going To A Go-Go, Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).


Not 100% sure, but I always thought the “I want to turn you on” in The Smashing Pumpkins’ Today was a reference to The Beatles’ A Day in the Life but with a different meaning.


Love that song! It also references Tom Petty and Springsteen later on

There was “Southern Accents” on the radio as I drove home
And at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
It’s a pretty good song, baby you know the rest
Baby, you know the rest

More Springsteen later on the album with the line

No surrender, my Bobby Jean


Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Twisted Road

First time I heard ‘Like A Rolling Stone’
I felt that magic and took it home

He mentions Hank Williams and Roy Orbison later in the song, too.

For referencing other artists (rather than particular albums or tracks):

  • The National’s So Far Around The Bend: ‘praying for Pavement to get back together’,
    which dates it. Dark Was The Night is ten years old in a few days’ time. Where has the last decade gone?


“Youth Of Today and the early 7 Seconds taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons”

“Tramps like us and we like tramps”


One for the R.E.M. thread


last one (for now) I promise. More Springsteen, and some Billy Bragg

No, I never wanted to change the world, but I’m looking for a new New Jersey
Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die


“You were right” by Built to Spill references lots of tunes…great song too