Breaking the law is not a good life choice, but there are songs about it. Songs by the Bobby Fuller Four and The Clash popularized the concept. Dylan’s “Oxford Town” and Neil Young’s “Crime in the City” are two examples.
Dylan’s “Oxford Town”
“Oxford Town” by Bob Dylan was written around the same time as “Blowing in the Wind.” The lyrics of this song make Dylan seem like a child singing an old hymn or marching song. Both songs express a similar sense of justice and right, a sentiment that informs Dylan’s subsequent work.
Dylan wrote the song in response to an open call in Broadside magazine in December 1962. The magazine asked for songs that dealt with events from the year’s top news stories. The enrolment of a black student at the University of Mississippi and the subsequent “Ballad of Oxford, Mississippi” provided the inspiration for Dylan to write this song. The song was published in Broadside magazine issue 17 in December 1962.
Neil Young’s “Crime in the City”
“Crime in the City” is one of Neil Young’s more Dylanesque songs. The song first appeared on his 1989 album Freedom. It was not released as a single, but it did reach the top thirty on Billboard Magazine’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The released version is about nine minutes long, but earlier versions were longer. The song has been described as a document of moral decay in urban communities in the late 1980s. Some critics have interpreted the song as a political criticism of President Ronald Reagan.
“Crime in the City” is one of the most underrated songs on Neil Young’s albums. Although the song has zillions of verses, its recording on Freedom is a low-key, mostly acoustic version. Neil’s live performance was very different.
Among Neil Young’s most popular songs, “Crime in the City” is the second biggest hit of his career. Its cover shows Neil Young in front of a massive prop amp and they are holding hands. The cover is as haunting as the lyrics are poignant.
Johnny Cash’s “The Highwayman”
“The Highwayman” was a country supergroup comprised of four artists, including Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. The group’s music marked the beginning of the outlaw country subgenre. It was released in 1956 and has become a classic of American country music.
“The Highwayman” is one of Cash’s most well-known songs. It has been a hit with both Cash and his bandmates. It is also a favorite of Waylon Jennings. The original song features a choral backing, but Cash strips the choral backing from it. Still, it remains an infectious piece of mainstream country. Cash and his bandmates take turns singing the verses, and eventually join in for the chorus. In this way, the Highwaymen recast Dylan’s pensive lyrics into country style. Cash saves the first verse for himself, letting himself dig deep into the phrase “the dogs are barking.”
The Highwaymen’s original version included different performers for each verse. The four members performed as a highwayman, a starship captain, a sailor, and a dam builder. The lyrics also included a reference to reincarnation. The Highwaymen’s version of “The Highwayman” was later covered by the supergroup The Highwaymen. Their cover of the song won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1986.
Johnnie Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”
The first single from Cash’s album At Folsom Prison was the powerful “Folsom Prison Blues.” The song was a hit for Cash and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 25, 1968, and reached the Billboard Country Charts a few days later. After the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy, radio stations pulled the single from the air. Cash protested against the decision to edit out the Reno line. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the song, the album reached the #1 spot on country charts, broke into the mainstream Top 40, and was certified gold by the US Census Bureau in October.
Cash performed the song at Folsom Prison twice, one for prisoners and one for the public. The second performance served as a safety net in case the first show didn’t go as planned. Both performances featured Folsom Prison Blues, which was not originally greeted with applause or cheers. Instead, the applause and cheers heard on the album were added post-production.
The song is one of Cash’s most famous and well-loved. It combines the styles of country music and blues. It was originally released in 1955 but has never lost its appeal, and it is still one of the most popular live versions.
Rage Against the Machine’s “Breaking the Law”
This song by Rage Against the Machine is a hybrid of rap and metal. It opens with political commentary and is inspired by the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. It is a good example of the group’s hybrid style. But the lyrics are a bit darker than most of their music.
Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”
“Breaking the Law” is a song by the British metal band Judas Priest. It was released in 1980 and became one of their more successful singles. Its opening guitar riff is instantly recognizable. The song features a driving rhythmic chorus, and the guitar riff from the verses is reminiscent of a police siren.
This song has left a huge impression on popular culture. Not only did it make it onto VH1’s list of “40 Greatest Metal Songs”, but it has also been featured in movies and TV commercials. It even appeared in an episode of the television show The Simpsons. The lyrics of the song convey an anarchic attitude that makes it a classic hard rock song.
Liquid Death’s commercial also features a rendition of Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law.” It plays on the idea that water is the tall boy of beer. Liquid Death is promoted as a safe alternative to beer. The commercial also includes kids drinking beer cans. It would have been more authentic if Liquid Death used the actual Judas Priest recording to make the commercial.
G&S’s “Catch by the Fuzz”
If you like guitar music, you’ll enjoy the debut single from G&S, “Catch by the Fuzz.” It features “Fuzz,” a song about the power of the guitar. The song has a soaring chorus and a catchy hook. G&S was formed by Chris & Steve, two former members of the supergroup Supergrass. They had just two singles released on Parlophone, and they supported bands like Blur, The Bluetones, and Shed Seven.