Music History

22 Obscure References in Songs We All Know

This is a fun list from Mental Floss that will help you make more sense out of the weird lyrical bits in songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Brass in Pocket.”  I’ll add one more: the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK.”

In the latter half of the song, Johnny spouts off a bunch of initials:

Is this the MPLA
Or is this the UDA
Or is this the IRA
I thought it was the U.K.
Or just another country
Another council tenancy.

What’s he talking about?

  • The MPLA was the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola, a political group operating against the government in Angola. During the 70s, they were creating all kinds of chaos in that country.
  • The UDA–the Ulster Defence Association–was the side supporting England in the fight in Northern Ireland. They were dead against uniting the North with the rest of the country.
  • The IRA–the Irish Republican Army–were the mortal enemies of the UDA.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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