When rock started, it was never a genre to be taken seriously. If you’ve learned anything from Chuck Berry or even Buddy Holly, it’s the fact that simple rock and roll songs can become quite timeless if you know how to write them well. That probably meant rock was supposed to be pretty light, right? Wrong.
Even though some rock bands have made songs about fighting societal norms, these are stories that don’t end as well as they began. While you hear about these characters going the distance, it doesn’t end well for many of them, as they’re either badly maimed or near death by the end of the song. Does that mean all of these songs are depressing, though? Not necessarily.
While the ending might not be the happiest thing to listen to, the rest of these songs are actually quite entertaining, and even a lot more upbeat than you might think. Rather, it just speaks to the kind of characters that come and go in rock music in general. We might not like to admit it all the time, but sometimes rock is a loser’s game, and it’s the people who really have to count their losses at the end of the day.
For most of Nirvana’s career, you never really had to think too much about what they were saying. Kurt Cobain always thought of lyrics as an afterthought and would often write them at the very end of the writing process just to have a few words to sing along to his melodies. When he decided to get down to writing something meaningful, it wasn’t for the faint of heart.
A women’s rights advocate for most of her professional life, Polly comes from a true story Kurt had read about a Seattle girl who was kidnapped and tortured after leaving a show. By deciding to see her attacker as a person, the girl managed to get away relatively unscathed as soon as he let his guard down. While this story really got to Kurt, he reverses it in the song by taking the torturer’s point of view.
From the opening lines, you can tell that Kurt is trying to play character in this song, almost as if he’s trying to figure out the mindset of someone who has no sense of morals. On the contrary, it makes the tone of voice he has in this song all the more terrifying. Not only is this man looking to torture someone else, but it almost looks like he’s going through the stages at this point.