In the second part of an occasional series, Hector Grey explains the complexities of popular music. In this edition: Sex.
Sexxy. Color Me Badd are pretty clear on it, they want to sex you up. George Michael justs wants your sex, no promises of doing any groundwork, making any chit chat or even lighting a post coital fag for you. Peter Gabriel wants to hit you with his sledgehammer, while you call his name. Bon Scott demands that you go down. It’s all so straight forward, the lyrical equivalent of “get your coat”, as subtle as a sweaty pervert rubbing against your arse on a packed train. Sure it’s fine to occasionally desire for some sugar, to be poured on you, or simply placed in your bowl. We all need to sate that primal urge. But occasionally it’s our mind-cocks that need a waggle. The largest erogenous zone in the human is the brain, it’s said. Usually by really ugly people.
Here’s a homage I tossed off just now to the subversive sex-song. Squirt.
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
The idea of a sex related article referring, in any way, to celebrated chutney-skinned charmer Van “the Man” Morrison may make you want to push your mickey right up into your body to protect it, but in Brown Eyed Girl, he’s just doing the girl in question a massive sexual favour. Lest you thought for a second it’s a song about a lovely girl with ocular orbits of a particular hue, it isn’t. It’s about bum sex. By suggesting anal sex, he is thus sparing her ordeal of having to look at his sweating, pulsating face as he goes about administering his “love”.
It is, however, subtle. But knowing what we know of Van (that he’s a troll) it’s very much in keeping with his sense of hatred toward everyone. During the lyric, Van introduces us to his technique. His girl in question is in her menses, or has “the rains“, as our bard so eloquently puts it. So where does Van suggest they go? “down in the hollow, playing a new game” in and around the oft repeated “brown eye” of the title. In thrall to his own euphemistic, sordid posey he also refers to “going down the old mine“, an overusage of lube with “slipping and a sliding” and further hyperextends his metaphor with “making love in the green grass, behind the stadium with you“. I shudder to think what the green grass may refer to, but he even takes time out from his grunting piggery to refer to the poor girls rippling rump as a “stadium“.
Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper
Oh, more rear action slap and tickle, sir? I think so. If we fear for the safety and sanity of the recipient of Van’s bum shaft in item 1, we are at no time unaware of who is calling the shots in Grace Jones’s Pull up to the Bumper. Grace’s lyric are so “suggestive” that it might be pushing it to describe them as euphemistic. Our object in question here has a “long black limousine” and she is imploring them to “drive it in between” even, at one stage offering to “grease it, spray it” and “let me lubricate it“. This is less a flirtatious lyric, more of a manifesto. Her attitude to the act is summed up with “just follow the written rules, you’ll fit into the space” suggesting that there is one person in control here, and you best not mess with her. Ultimately, Grace promises to “blow your horn“. One imagines for the male, it will be an edifying experience.
Even now Grace has a slightly terrifying aura, and you can see why you would adhere to her directions at all costs. This tune, with the lyric “pull up to it, don’t drive through it, pull it up twice, now that fits nice” spent weeks hovering around the top echelons of the US billboard charts at a time when Jello Biafra was being silenced by the establishment. Subversive.
The Cars – Tonight She Comes
Tonight She Comes is some tossed off dross from the much-better-than-that Cars, spunked out to coincide with the release of their greatest hits package in 1985. For all its drossness, it did break into the top ten in America, and stayed there for a while. Which is all well and good for a band at the apex of their popularity. All that separates this from innumerable, synthy shit released in the 1980s is that it’s about “coming” and, specifically, her pleasure. In a break out form the Van Morrision school of orgasm (only his), or even Grace Jones’s (you had better come) Ocasek is on this occasion willing to listen to suggestions as to how best produce the magical myth of female genital orgasm, intoning in his querulous way “she tells me it’s easy, when you do it right“. It is big of the man to accept that he may need some guidance in this regard, but he is, none the less, utterly focussed on his goal. Tonight she comes, one way or the fucking other. His reputation depends on it.
This was the last single from the group, so maybe it didn’t go so well after all. Or, perhaps, that was the ultimate goal all along? Learn the magic secret, and pack it in to live on an island somewhere. Aspirational.
Prince – Raspberry Beret
Prince has so many innuendos, downright lies (he’s not a prince) and outright use of sex-words, that he’s worthy of a phd on the subject, but this tune, about the losing of virginity, slipped under the radar, with it’s *subtle* imagery and word play. So unlike the Prince of later years who’d shout “penis in vagina” or “arse banditry” randomly during gigs, while a crowd of dilettantes murmured amongst themselves and clinked cocktail glasses.
Raspberry Beret comes across all twee and nice, a song about young love, and young life, nascent and beautiful, the whole world opening before it, like a buttered hole. Working part time in a kip shop, hanging out with your new bird, basically being a youngster. Remember those days? Remember what it was like? Yeah, you do. And remember what the most important thing in the world was at the time? That’s right, popping your cherry. The Raspberry Beret in question here is the lass in questions maidenhead, her hymen, her precious virginity. The kind you would find cast off and banjaxed in a second hand store, if you will, for that’s where our innocence goes, some cosmic bazaar where people pick up and paw and ponder the stories within.
Prince cracks this case with some riding, on his bike, down by “old man Johnson’s farm.” Johnson, eh? Smart. Whereas now Prince (or whatever he’s calling himself these days) is far to enervated to hide his intentions in his stanza (shouting “diddywank” for 14 hours at a gig is plain lazy), back then Prince was so cocksure that he could get a song about a pet name for a girls whatsit into the charts, it was as if he was cocking his nose at the powers that be. Cock of the walk, he was. One must surely remember the massive, ill informed moral majority backlash against artists, Prince among them, in the mid 1980s, the PMRC, the parental advisory lyrics, the outright censorship. (Rumour has it Tipper Gore, founder of the PMRC, was moved to do so after she heard her daughter listening to Prince’s Darling Nikki.) Nowadays song with the word “fuck” in the chorus can vie for number one at Christmas, back then one had to use guerrilla warfare against the powers that be.
There are rarely layers to Princes work, he says what he, and his Penis, are thinking, but I had to look closer at the line “in thru the out door” to divine whether or not his Purpleness was, in the greatest traditions of subversive sex-pop, making reference to the brown eye. So obsessed am I about arsebum references in popular culture I even watched the motion picture Hoop Dreams with a box of Kleenex on my lap. Imagine my disappointment. On closer inspection, it would appear that Prince is, of course, making reference to something going somewhere, but that it is she who’d be inserting it, he who’ll be the recipient. (“She walks in thru the out door“. ) And just to ram that point home, they double up on that line. In thru the out door. Out door. Bumsex. Deffo.
Prince and his beau have their fun, in a barn, and here he gives away his own innocence; “they say the first time ain’t the greatest, but I tell ya, if I had the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a stroke“. Um. Stroke. It’s imagery Keats would have been proud of. By songs end Price has turned to lamentation, as we so often do when we cast our inner japseye back onto the past. “Where have all the raspberry women gone?” he intones, quite clearly, and perhaps inadvertently, revealing his desire for virgins. These days he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Go figure.
She Bop – Cyndi Lauper
Lauper is an oddball, that’s not really up for discussion, but this, even by her standards, is a weird piece. With its catchy, seemingly meaningless chorus, you could find your self singing along whilst listening to a c90 mixtape on your Sony Walkman on the subway to work, or in your all chrome shower in your apartment overlooking Central Park, utterly unaware that your advocating a paean to masturbation, and what’s more, the really dirty kind! Girly poking!
There’s no doubt, even for an artiste as oblique as Cyndi, what she’s on about. Quick scrutiny of the lyric sheet show us that in the first verse she’s setting out her stall. She has a filthy magazine and is “thinking of a new sensation,” and in order to facilitate she’s “picking up good vibrations“. Whatever could she mean, hmmmm? By the second verse she wants to “go south and get some more” and she leaves us feeling all guilty and icky and questioning our catholic upbringing with “They say I better stop–or I’ll go blind“. The woman is wank obsessed. But as she says, there ain’t no law against it yet.
Backed by an utterly bizarre video, this catchy, awful shit, slid guilelessly up the charts in the fashion of the best subversive sex-pop. Top three, if you don’t mind. There’s Casey Casem announcing it to the world, a song about diddling oneself, on national radio. No banning of this sick filth, no records snapped in two on live radio, no mass burning of expensive merchandise. It’s as if Miss Lauper is giving the world the finger, or at least, she would, were it not otherwise engaged.