The song changed drastically from its original demo, which Martin Page composed using Bernie Taupin's lyrics. The song was a cry of rebellion against a corporation trying to ban rock and roll in an imaginary future, but by the time Starship was done with it, it sounded more like a celebration of rock music in San Francisco, although a keen listen to the lyrics does reveal its distrust.
Speaking to Rolling Stone
in 2013, Taupin said: "It was a very dark song about how club life in LA was being killed off and live acts had no place to go. It was a very specific thing. If you heard the original demo, you wouldn't even recognize the song."
When we spoke with Martin Page
in 2014, he explained: "To me, 'We Built This City' is live music's been pulled away from the streets of LA. We want to get back to rock and roll and play it live. When I wrote it, it still had that feeling to me like something's wrong here. The corporations had taken away great live music. We're being stamped on, the rock was being stamped on.
The line, 'we just lost the beat' reiterated to me the wrecking ball. It's knocking down live music, it's being tramped on by corporations and commerciality.
So it's an interesting thing. The song is such a commercial song and was made that way, and takes a lot of stick. But if you look at the lyrics deeply - and one day people will take it and listen to the demo we did - it has an ominous feel about it. As Bernie says, the song was jury-rigged to make the chorus come home, which I think was a very, very wise decision by the producers. I agree with what Peter Wolf did. He was a very good supporter of my music, and I think they really made 'We Built This City' a hit.
But if you stop and listen to the lyrics and the verses, you're not listening to 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now
' by Slade. We're listening to something that is quite sophisticated and oriented towards keeping back some of the dark side of corporations. So it's very interesting that if you look deeper into that song, you'll see a that there's a darker strain going through it."