“Polly” is one of the darkest and most famous songs by the rock band Nirvana. It is written in a rather lyrical and pleasant style, which makes it seem as if it tells about some personal experiences of the lyrical hero of the song, but in fact it is about a maniac who kidnapped and tortured a girl. Like many of the band’s songs, “Polly” raises the issue of human violence and condemns it.
The story behind of the creation of the song “Polly”.
Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the group, very often took ideas for songs from newspapers that described acute social problems. Many things did not leave the musician indifferent, so he immortalized them in the songs of his group. “Polly” was no exception, it rather complemented the cycle of songs dedicated to violence against people. Naturally, despite the direct context of the pleasure that the maniac received from bullying his victim, the song condemns such behavior. It was written specifically in defense of victims of violence, and not in support of rapists and maniacs.
The song was released in September 1991. It was written in the genre of alternative and acoustic rock, like all other compositions included in the Nevermind album. In general, the song was supposed to be included in the mini-album, since it was first recorded two years before the release of the Nevermind album. Penya occupies the sixth line in the album and is one of the shortest songs.
“Polly” was only performed at the band’s concert in 1994.
Interesting facts about the song “Polly”.
- The album, which included the song, became the most successful of all the group’s albums. He brought the team not only world fame, but also became commercial.
- The song has had several titles. The two most popular are Hitchhiker and Cracker. A faster version was recorded a year after the release of the official album and was called “(New Wave) Polly”.
- The very first recording was made on a tape recorder by the musician himself. He recorded it in his apartment.
- The song was released to radio in November 1989. She entered the album already in a new arrangement with new percussion parts.
- During the recording, Kurt played a guitar that was bought at a flea market and did not even change the strings, which made them sound very dirty. The build was so bad that the pegs had to be fixed with scotch tape.
- When recording the vocal part, the musician lost his way on one line, singing it down and too early. The band liked the material they listened to, so they did not re-record the song.
- There are four different versions of this song in total, recorded at different times.
- The song was compared with the novel “In Cold Blood”, because both there and there the listener and the reader could get into the maniac’s head and understand what drives him.
- Kurt performs this song in the first person, as if trying on the role of a maniac. The story in “Polly” is allegedly conducted directly from the point of view of Arthur Friend, the same criminal who kidnapped and tortured his victim.
- The musician was extremely unhappy with the fact that this song was considered an anthem to violence. He noted that people who think so did not understand her message. When it became known that two guys had raped a girl while singing this song, Cobain condemned this situation and noted that it was “difficult for him to continue writing songs” due to the fact that such “plankton” were among the listeners.
- “Polly” peaked at number seven in the British magazine. It was generally positively received by critics.
- Bob Dylan was very impressed after listening to this song.
- The song has been used as a game soundtrack.
What is the meaning of “Polly”?
The song was written under the influence of a real incident that happened to a fourteen-year-old girl returning from a rock concert. Arthur Friend stole her and forcibly kept her in a mobile home, raping and torturing her. The girl managed to escape. She jumped out of the car during a stop and called for help. The maniac was caught and imprisoned.
The musician built the text of the song on behalf of the maniac himself. The images that are used in the composition are directly related to what happened to the girl while she was with the maniac. He used a soldering iron to torture and rape her. Cobain changed history a bit. In his version, Polly managed to ingratiate himself with the maniac and escape.
The maniac in the song threatens the girl with a soldering iron and a rope, asks her to help him have fun, assuring that otherwise he will easily kill her. Narration from the perspective of a maniac allows the listener to penetrate into his mind, understand what drives him, and be horrified even more, because you never know which of those around you may be the person who can take your life.
“Polly” is similar in theme to “Rape Me”. Both songs are written in defense of the victims of violence and aimed at their condemnation. The musician himself also said that “Polly” is a song written specifically for the purpose of combating violence against people. She does not justify or elevate him, does not incline to him, does not try to set him up as the norm.