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Famous Songs With Numbers: You Can't Count Rock N' Roll!

(photo by Joe Seggiola on Flickr)

(photo by Joe Seggiola on Flickr)

“Five to one, baby

One in five

No one here gets out alive, now
You get yours, baby
I’ll get mine
Gonna make it, baby, If we try”

Fine words from Jim Morrison, but a pity he couldn’t do his sums.

“Five to one” of course isn’t “One in five”, it’s actually “One in Six” as any probability statistician could easily tell you.

A fine American poet he may have been, the Lizard King, a dreamer, a Rock God, an icon even but he should have paid more attention at school and worry less about dead Indians passing through him.

One in six, Jim, One in six!!!

Staying in the 1960’s. The Byrds sang about being "Eight miles high, and when you touch down, you'll find that it's stranger than known." The lyrics were written by Gene Clark, about a plane trip in England in 1965.

But apparently, airlines fly at six to seven miles high, it's entirely possible that the thin atmosphere got to his head. These occasional high trips can play havoc with your brain.

Even The Beatles couldn't count. There may indeed have been "4,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire" according to news reports. But 'Eight Days a Week' is a long stretch of the imagination.

Keep taking the tablets

Anyone ever heard from a band called ‘Medicine Head’?, they’re not around anymore, not surprisingly since they came out with the classic single “One and One Is One” which reached number 3 in the U.K. charts in 1973, a big hit then, even they could figure that out.

No surprise either that they were really a duet rather than a fully fledged band as such, makes the arithmetic easier when there’s only two of you with royalties, expenses etc. to sort out.

The song contained the interesting lyrics “Got no confusion with you by my side, And when it’s time to go I’m satisfied”, Yes! Definitely time to go lads. By 1977 the band had folded, probably for financial reasons when they couldn’t budget their cash. No excuse either as the pocket calculator was widely available on retail by then.

Tree Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Even Tony Orlando in 1973 singing about “A hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree”. He may be right, I can’t possibly argue as it could depend on a lot of things I suppose.

How wide are the ribbons? How tall the tree trunk, that’s assuming you need to tie them round the trunk, you could just hang them from the branches like a big yellow banana Christmas type tree.

You could even just tie the 100 round the base in a large heap in danger of becoming sodden and dirty by the local canine population.

If so, I don’t reckon that Tony would have seen that the “whole damned bus is cheering”, not at all. And mind your language Mr Orlando, no swearing on the bus thank you very much or you'll walk the rest of the way.

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A Touch Too Much

ACDC Legend Bon Scott could count, but since he spent the first 6 years of his life in Scotland that’s hardly surprising, such are the educational benefits of a Scottish upbringing.

“There were fifteen million fingers, Learning how to play”, he told us on 'Let There Be Rock'. Divide that by 10 and you get 1.5 million pairs of hands plucking away at the guitar worldwide in 1955(that's including thumbs by the way)

O.K! this figure is entirely speculative and cannot possible be verified but it is certainly within the bounds of certainty. The benefit of the doubt goes to Bon.

It’s just a shame his successor Brian Johnson wasn’t as smart with his sums on 'For Those About to Rock' as he roars, “Pick up your balls and load up your cannon, For a twenty-one gun salute” and then treats us to only 17 blasts from his cannons, thereby adding strength to the myth of the ‘Thick Geordie’ stereotype.

At least Spinal Tap could count all the way to eleven.

Kiss this!

As for Rock legends Kiss, their singer/guitarist Paul Stanley was making whoopee with some strange immortal lady,

“All this time you put up a fear, For a hundred thousand years”.

But his pal Gene Simmons is no fool and I’m sure he did his sums on the birth certificate for his friend “Christine Sixteen”.

Of course Mr Simmons is well known for his head for figures and the price of a dollar as well as training British schoolkids to rock n’ roll on prime-time TV.

Handlebars and stars

Moving up the scale, Katie Melua assured us that, “There are nine million bicycles in Beijing, That's a fact, It's a thing we can't deny” . Well she seemed pretty certain about herself and I’m in no position to argue.

She continued, “There are six billion people in the world, More or less”. Fair enough, I think that's been established. But apparently some Astro-Physicists have taken umbrage at her other assertion that “We are twelve billion light years from the edge, That's a guess, No-one can ever say it's true”

As quoted in The Guardian newspaper in 2005 scientist and writer Simon Singh challenged her arithmetic:

“This is incredibly frustrating, because there are thousands of astronomers working day and (of course) night to measure the age of the universe, and the latest observations imply a universe that is almost 14 billion years old, not 12 billion”.

Katie’s got herself covered on that one though with a nice disclaimer at the end of that lyric. Better then than the band ‘Love’ who state “Seven and Seven Is” without even giving us the answer. Yes!! it’s 14 lads, since you keep asking.

Woe to you

I won’t even get into the theological quagmire of Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” which according to Steve Harris is 666. Shame then that modern study has shown that the earliest known manuscript of the Book of Revelation used 616 as the number of the beast.

It begs the questions then, were there only 2 minutes to midnight and did Charlotte the Harlot actually live at 22 Acacia Avenue?

A lotta bottle

Many musicians are prone to criminal exaggeration and surely worst of all is singer, musician, environmentalist and Tantric sex superstar Sting, who in 1979 regaled us with the immortal words:

“Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home”

Bad enough that he envisioned 100,000,000,000 bottles on a shoreline, aside from the serious danger to shipping and international trade routes, the effects on nature and wildlife would be truly incalculable.

And how could he know how many there were? It would take years to count that high, And this from a committed environmentalist? Of course the final line in this excerpt needs no review, a “hundred billion castaways” indeed.

Katie Melua would put him right on that score…….. more or less!


Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 03, 2010:

Yeah Camlo, Katie was pretty brave in sticking her neck out on those figures :-)

Camlo De Ville from Cologne, Germany on November 15, 2009:


An easy-reading an entertaining Hub!

I'd also wondered about the figures on Katie Melua's song.

What you write about 'Yellow Ribbon' and 'Message in a Bottle' is hilarious.

Will look out for more of you!

All the best,


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