Musicians can be a clever bunch. Throughout the history of recorded music, there are countless instances of songwriters using metaphor and double entendres to cloak their lyrics in ambiguity. What at first may appear to be a sweet sad song of love and innocence will reveal itself to actually be about drugs, sex, war, oppression, or any number of other topics the songwriter felt were too personal (or too controversial) to say outright. Many of these songs go on to become huge hits, attracting scores of fans and at times creating awkward sing-alongs.
Here are seven songs from the early 1980s that you probably didn’t know were about a deep and true love of pizza.
1. Devo, “Girl U Want” (1980)
On the surface, Devo’s 1980 hit record Freedom of Choice appears to be just another album of satirical social commentary from the Akron, Ohio, band. But listen closely… it is actually a rock opera about pizza.
The album’s title track, “Freedom of Choice,” celebrates the diversity of pizza toppings, while “It’s Pep!” singles out pepperoni as perhaps the most perfect of the cured meats. “It’s Not Right” laments a pizza delivery order gone wrong, while the hit single “Whip It” serves as the band’s rallying cry to overcome the experience of eating a subpar slice of pizza (Essentially saying: whip it and move on).
However, it is the opening track “Girl U Want”–with lyrics like “She sends out an aroma of undefined love …. Look at your mouth watering. Look at your mind spinning”–that is the album’s most overt ode to everyone’s favorite flatbread.
2. Foreigner , “Urgent” (1981)
There is no doubt that this song is about a powerful animal attraction… but it’s an attraction between a man and his pizza.
That man is Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm. He knows his love is irrational, that pizza is enjoyed by a lot of people, that it’s promiscuous (“you get around … maybe you’re thinking of some other guy”), but in the darkness, late at night he gets a craving for some hot cheesy love that only an excellent slice of pizza can provide. He knows the rendezvous will be short-lived (“I’m not looking for a love that will last. I know what I need and I need it fast.”). The pizza beckons him, calling him “in the middle of the night,” and he needs it “so urgent, so oh oh urgent.” The song features one of the sexiest, skronkiest sax solos, which Gramm later admitted was added so that he could scarf a slice of pizza between the song’s final refrains.
A second look at the cover of the album from which “Urgent” appeared–aptly titled 4–reveals a minimalist homage to pizza that is meant to symbolize the four band members sharing a pie.
3. Hall & Oates, “I Can’t Go for That” (1981)
Throughout their career, Darryl Hall and John Oates , as far as bandmates and creative partners go, have gotten along incredibly well. In a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, 40 million records sold, and six No. 1 hits, there has only been one thing to cause friction between the two: deciding on what toppings to put on a shared pizza.
Hall is a traditionalist, preferring either plain cheese or cheese and pepperoni. But he’s also an easy going dude who will usually eat whatever is offered. Oates, on the other hand, loves to have toppings piled high—ordering “a little bit of everything” to be placed on the pizza. The problem: Hall can’t stand green peppers. In 1981, after a decade of touring together, Hall felt he needed to let his bandmate know. The song “I Can’t Go For That” was Hall’s way of saying to Oates: “Hey, I’m cool with whatever toppings. Just not peppers, okay?” Oates got the hint. From 1981 until today, whenever the two share a pizza, Oates will always order “no peppers on half.” The duo was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
4. Michael McDonald, “I Keep Forgettin’ [Every Time You’re Near]” (1982)
In the time between his leaving the Doobie Brothers and the release of his first solo album, If That’s What It Takes, singer Michael McDonald developed a sudden and severe allergy to both gluten and milk. These food restrictions were problematic for McDonald who has been known for two things throughout his career: his soulful baritone voice and his tremendous appetite for pizza.
McDonald has been rumored to put away three large deep dish pizzas by himself in a single sitting–and apparently this level of consumption continued even after his food allergies were diagnosed. When asked about it in an interview, McDonald shrugged saying that he suffered from “selective food amnesia” and that every time he was near a pizza he would forget all about his allergies. This lapse in memory would cause him a great deal of intestinal distress, but the pleasure the pizza provided was, according to McDonald, “always worth the pain.” This pain was the inspiration for the hit single “I Keep Forgettin’ [Every Time You’re Near]” in which McDonald repeats the refrain: “I keep forgetting’ things will never be the same again. I keep forgetting how you made that so clear. I keep forgetting every time you’re near.”
5. John Cougar, “Hurts So Good” (1982)
Speaking of pain, John Cougar’s 1982 breakout hit “Hurts So Good” is a celebration of physical pain. Many may not know this, but “The Cougar” was a competitive eater before trying his hand as a musician–and this song is about “those young boy days,” when Cougar ate for sport.
In the early 1980s, after turning 30 and not yet achieving the rock god status he longed for, Cougar began questioning his decision to leave the sport in favor of music. Instead of calling it quits, he channeled those feelings into what would become his breakout album, American Fool, and the break out track “Hurts So Good.” The song perfectly captures the passions of youth and the beauty of indulging in some serious pizza gluttony, eating until one’s stomach is stretched to the limit, and how that pain is always worth it. How that pain, baby, “hurts so good.”
6. Frank Stallone, “Far From Over” (1983)
Strangely appearing as an inspirational track for John Travolta’s return to the screen as disco king Tony Manero in Staying Alive, “Far From Over” is actually Frank Stallone’s own Rocky-esque story put to music.
Like John Cougar, Stallone was a competitive eater. Unlike John Cougar, Stallone was a champion who never gave up no matter the odds. In 1983, after recovering from a food-induced coma, and going against the wishes of his girlfriend, doctor, and big brother, Stallone entered the Pizza Eating World Championship in Naples, Italy, where he went head-to-head with Russian star eater Ludvan Ragov.
Stallone nearly ate himself into a second coma, but as he went in and out of consciousness, he claims that the song began to play in his mind. And it was the lyrics, “I’m digging in… I want it more than anything I’ve wanted … I am running’ over” that inspired Stallone to keep fighting. So he chewed and chewed and swallowed his way to victory.
Upon recovery he recorded the song which today lives on as anthem for competitive eaters the world over–and as a hit track from a bad sequel.
7. The Smiths, “How Soon is Now?” (1985)
While on tour in Denmark, a tired and hungry Morrisey ordered a pizza to be delivered to his hotel room. It was late and the singer hadn’t eaten since morning. He was impatient and starving. He was Morrisey. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, he finally called the pizza place and demanded to know where was the delivery driver? Where was his food?
The manager on duty assured Morrisey that the delivery driver was en route, that he would be arriving “anytime now.” To which Morrisey responded, “When you say it’s gonna happen now. Well, when exactly do you mean? I’ve waited too long and all my hope is gone.” And it is these words that formed the basis for the 1985 track “How Soon Is Now?”
Even today, Morrisey maintains a strict vegan diet that is completely pizza free. He knows how to hold a grudge. He is Morrisey.