“Fighting to Stay Free” ** (WAY MORE THAN) DOUBLE ISSUE! ** #185...July 2014
And now, ladies and gentlemen…
…and preferably ONLY ladies and gentlemen: we recommend you hire a babysitter before reading this issue of Hz So Good.
Sexually speaking, the history of popular music and radio is a timeline of tolerance, from tease to threes (Britney Spears’ career was defined by both, matter of fact). You’d be silly to think there was never an era of recorded music without a hint of sex, even if most songs allowed on radio during its first three decades barely contained a hint of it (there were, meanwhile, plenty of double entendre-rich “under-the-counter” or “party” records available at stores with titles such as “I Took My Organ To The Party”).
I’ll admit the following chronology –Part 1 of which appears in this edition of Hz So Good, Part 2 in the next - is anything but complete: I know you’ll come up with hundreds of songs I missed. But maybe it’s a good start. Dim all the lights – ok, dim them a little more – and let’s begin.
WHO CAME FIRST?
If not for our pains, I could not have put together anything close to the earliest chapter in this history. Thanks to them (and I’ll credit them for all of their help at the close of Part 1), here’s a brief timeline taking us up to the beginning of contemporary music radio’s heyday in the 1950s. (Most of these songs are YouTube-able, as are all of those listed in Part 1.)
The Early 1900s:
I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid! – Various Artists This 1909 ode to adultery – a hit on what charts there were at the time - spawned not only a national catchphrase (which, as late as the 1980s, you could still see on those Valentines Day candy conversation hearts) but also a year’s worth of similarly themed wish-I-could-cheat songs. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2014/06/sex_and_pop_the_forgotten_1909_hit_that_introduced_adultery_to_american.html
My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) – Trixie Smith …which, I believe, is where whoever coined the phrase ‘Rock ‘n Roll” got it from, be it directly or indirectly.
Kitchen Man – Bessie Smith A prime example of the many sexual metaphor-driven blues records released at the time (“His frankfurters are oh so sweet, how I like his sausage meat”)…
Banana In Your Fruit Basket – Bo Carter …as was this, from an artist known for risqué tunes (although also in the history books for having recorded the original version of “Corrine, Corrina”).
Let Me Play With Your Poodle – Tampa Red, and Long John Blues – Dinah Washington While these and others of the naughty/bawdy variety (Dinah’s was about a dentist, with the lyric “You thrill me when you drill me”) went top five Rhythm & Blues but never made it to radio’s Your Hit Parade, they probably sold enough to qualify.
So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed – Johnny Bond, and Slippin’ Around – Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely A pair from the Country & Western side. The former, borrowing its title from Lucky Strike’s cigarette commercials, was the predecessor to “Brick House” et al. The latter, a pop and C&W #1, made contributor Charlie Mitchell remark “If this isn’t the first song to take cheating so casually, it’s gotta be close to it.”
Now here’s where radio really kicks in, post-TV. And the hints just kept on coming…
SIXTY MINUTE MAN – The Dominoes (1951) As radio became more important to a song’s success, the dirty blues records without a chance of being played gave way to those that were still too much for pop radio, such as this (“There’ll be 15 minutes of teasin’ / and 15 minutes of squeezin’ / and 15 minutes of blowin’ my top”) but just right for R&B. “Sixty” topped that chart for nearly four months, with sales (probably underrepresented) that took it to #17 on the top-selling singles chart.
A GUY IS A GUY – Doris Day (1952) Not a dirty song per se, but adapted from one recognizable to those having served during World War II. Needless to say, the “he followed me into bed like I knew he would” verse didn’t make the cut.
MAKE LOVE TO ME! – Jo Stafford (1954) The title’s the closest thing to sexual in this #1 song from one of the era’s most consistent hit makers, although at the time “making love” may have been more a catch-all phrase which may or may not have meant extra bases. (Note: That probably wasn’t the case by 1959 and Floyd Robinson’s “Makin’ Love.”)
WORK WITH ME ANNIE, SEXY WAYS, ANNIE HAD A BABY – Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (1954), and THE WALLFLOWER (Roll With Me Henry) – Etta James (1955) Now things get interesting. Let me give Charlie Mitchell the mic again: “These songs may cast the biggest shadow of all upon the blatant sexual content found in much of R&B/hip-hop/rap. Seen this way, Motown with its family-friendly innocence was the anomaly.” The latter found its way onto the pop chart, covered by Georgia Gibbs as “Dance With Me Henry.” And while not part of the “Annie trilogy,” “Sexy Ways” broke ground on its own by celebrating the motion of the female body, influencing decades of songs that came after (including “Wiggle,” at the other end of this history).
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL – Big Joe Turner (1954) From contributor Tim Neely: "I'm like a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store" was such an obscure reference that even the otherwise bowdlerized Bill Haley & His Comets version left it intact.”
HONEY LOVE – The Drifters (1954) It may not have raised eyebrows as much as Ballard’s hits, but Clyde McPhatter’s sounds of passion were cited as being too hot for radio during the early hours of the first Drake-Chenault “History Of Rock & Roll” radio special in 1969. Followed the group’s “Such A Night,” which itself was pretty racy for its time (although not so much, when Elvis covered it ten years later).
TEACH ME TONIGHT – Dinah Washington, and The DeCastro Sisters (1954) Perhaps the line between sexual and sensual was drawn right here. Of course, the DeCastros’ version took a lot of the sensual out of it and became a #2 pop hit.
OOH BANG JIGGILY JANG – Doris Day (1955) While not much of a hit, edgy for both non-rock and a female act.
TUTTI-FRUTTI (1955) and LONG TALL SALLY (1956) - Little Richard Sure, Pat Boone made both safe for top 40, but the kids weren’t fooled. And when you get down to it, it wasn’t about making them safe lyrically – even if Sue knows just what to do and Sally was built for speed – but about Penniman’s delivery. The man could have made the phone book sound obscene.
ALL SHOOK UP (1957), DON’T and ONE NIGHT (1958) – Elvis Presley Hips are one thing - and Elvis’ didn’t lie long before Shakira made than an issue – but the King backed it up with material that was just suggestive enough.
WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOIN’ ON, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE – Jerry Lee Lewis (1957) It was more the sexual nature of Lewis’ performances (and, you know, the marrying his cousin thing), but a lot of that too-frenetic-for-that-era energy carried over to the records.
WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE – The Everly Brothers (1957) Just the suggestion that a teenage couple had done the deed by staying out past curfew was enough to titillate in a pop music scene increasingly aimed toward the young. But by the time Ricky Nelson went the same route with “It’s Late” (1959), it probably wasn’t as big a deal.
ALL THE WAY – Frank Sinatra (1957) “Because some people back then were at least thinking it.” (Bob Sorrentino)
GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY – Little Richard (1958) “Sure like to ball.” ‘Nuff said.
FEVER – Peggy Lee (1958) It would have been too much for a female artist to match male swagger on rock ‘n roll’s turf in 1958, but leave it to Ms. Lee’s version of the Little Willie John song to make female sexual desire perfectly acceptable on AM radio…
“Fever, yea, I burn, forsooth.”
STUPID CUPID – Connie Francis (1958) …while at the same time, the most suggestive a teen record could get with a female lead was Connie’s coo-ing “the thing that bothers me is that I like it fi-ine.”
WHAT’D I SAY – Ray Charles (1959) Part 2 on the B side was call-and-response sex, and we all knew it.
TEACH ME TIGER – April Stevens (1959) Banned just about everywhere, April as lights-out seductress – having evolved from her breathy-vocal hits as a teen in the early 50s, and worlds away from her hit duets with brother Nino Tempo in the 60s – was more than a decade ahead of her time.
SWEET NOTHINS – Brenda Lee (1960) Brenda was 15 when she recorded what remains the most suggestive record ever on radio by any female that young (sorry, Britney). While she went on to make most of her money with ballads, she went the sensual-for-then route one more time, a year later, with “Dum Dum.”
WILD ONE (1960), and GOOD TIME BABY (1961) – Bobby Rydell Cameo-Parkway may have been the early version of Motown, but did Rydell sneak in a few wink-wink moments on these two hits (“I’ll clip-a your wings…and things” and “gets kicks every night,” respectively)?
BABY (You’ve Got What It Takes) and A ROCKIN’ GOOD WAY (To Mess Around And Fall In Love) - Brook Benton and Dinah Washington The back-and-forth never gets all that steamy, but in both songs, “You’re in my spot again, honey!” “I like your spot!” suggests a meaning far beyond Brook merely stepping on Dinah’s vocals.
(WILL YOU LOVE ME) TOMORROW – The Shirelles (1960) By this time, “Is this a lasting treasure / or just a moment’s pleasure?” was an example of subtly pushing the envelope with top 40’s mostly-teen audience.
WHAT DOES A GIRL DO? – Marcie Blane (1963) The follow-up to “Bobby’s Girl” wasn’t much of a hit, but it is nonetheless a good measure of where teen pop was at this time: plenty of successful females, yet this subject matter was still off-limits.
SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER – The 5 Du-Tones (1963) Very early “Dirty South.” When they sang “Bend over, let me see you shake a tail feather” could they have imagined the “Tootsee Roll”/”Dazzey Dukes”/”Dunkie Butt” era?
LOUIE LOUIE – The Kingsmen (1963) It didn’t matter that how clean the lyrics actually were: every American teenager heard what they heard. “Every night at ten…” indeed. A turning point in the history of sex in pop, considering the furor this caused.
The real lyrics (we think).
I SAW HER STANDING THERE – The Beatles (1963) The B side of the single that introduced America to the Beatles opened with one of the most suggestive lyrics in any pop song: “Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean.”
REMEMBER (WALKING IN THE SAND) – The Shangri-las (1964) There’s one moment in this record that was way too hot for radio that summer of ’64. “Softly…softly we’d meet with our lips.” Sounds tame now but pretty graphic for teen-targeted pop at that time.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES – Jewel Akens (1965) Didn’t actually teach us anything, but at least it made reference to them.
(I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION – The Rolling Stones (1965) This time it’s personal: for this kid, the Stones were the musical equivalent of the first guy down the street to cop a feel. And “Satisfaction” nailed down their place as rock’s bad boys. Verse 3 played just as it was recorded on most stations that summer, but “trying to make some girl” didn’t get past the Shindig censors (although the more talked-about “losing streak” line did).
I’M A MAN – The Yardbirds (1965) Yes, Bo Diddley’s was far more suggestive - moans, beat and all - but that wasn’t on the radio: this was, and a lot.
NORWEGIAN WOOD and DAY TRIPPER – The Beatles (1965) “And then she said / it’s time for bed” packed quite a punch coming from them at that point in time. As did, to a lesser extent, “She’s a big teaser / she took me half the way there.”
THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING – Nancy Sinatra (1966) Even if it was never meant to hint at S&M, surely Sinatra (that’s Frank) and Reprise knew they were selling more than just a simple adult-friendly pop tune.
LIGHTNIN’ STRIKES and RHAPSODY IN THE RAIN – Lou Christie (1966) The former contained the strongest-to-date example of male hormones gone wild leading into every chorus. And while we’d have to wait six more years for “Go All The Way,” Lou’s latter was arguably more shocking (“our love went much too far”) and didn’t get played a lot of places until a cleaner version was recorded and serviced.
DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION – The Kinks (1966) A send-up of London’s mod scene the hero of which “pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight,” which may have been why this didn’t crack top 30 in America.
DOUBLE SHOT (OF MY BABY’S LOVE) – Swingin’ Medallions (1966) Also re-serviced with cleaner lyrics, but even that version still sounded like a bunch of guys at a frat party boasting about sex with the same girl twice in one night.
I SAW HER AGAIN – The Mamas & The Papas (1966) There were probably other hits before this that were fueled by in-group adultery, not to mention most listeners at the time had no idea this was based in truth. But neither of those statements takes anything away from how powerful (and sin-suous) this sounds now.
WILD THING and I CAN’T CONTROL MYSELF - The Troggs (1966) ’66 was a big year for sex in song: small wonder “Louie Louie” was re-released and hit the charts again. The high point may have been the song that, according to pain Charlie Mitchell, “says everything without really saying anything.” The follow-up was, shall we say, a bit more overt (and, as a result, widely banned).
WOULDN’T IT BE NICE – The Beach Boys (1966) It would have been enough that it was one of the best singles ever recorded, yet it also quietly took teen sexuality in popular music a step further.
96 TEARS - ? & the Mysterians (1966) They probably have “Wild Thing” to thank for being allowed to get away with this level of sadism, never mind the suggestion of oral sex in the title.
LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER – The Rolling Stones (1967) Ed Sullivan said no, and so did much of radio. But not even a year later it was an oldie just about everywhere.
PENNY LANE – The Beatles (1967) Getting even bolder, the boys sneak in the lyric “A four of fish and finger pie” (you can look it up – I had to).
SOCK IT TO ME – BABY! – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (1967) Even if the word “punch” didn’t sound like something else in verse 1, it introduced youth to this phrase which, for the next few years (and Judy Carne’s run on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) was often substituted for that word.
I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW – Tommy James and the Shondells (1967) Four years earlier, Marcie Blane wouldn’t even consider this an option; now her little sister and boyfriend are running just as fast as they can ‘cause they gotta hide what they’re doing. Seeds of the sexual revolution at top 40.
LIGHT MY FIRE – The Doors (1967) This time Sullivan got it wrong, insisting Morrison not sing “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” assuming it referred to drugs, when we all knew what “light my fire” really meant. The same scene played out several years later when the BBC banned Wings’ “Hi Hi Hi.” (Side note: As album-based FMs began to sprout up at that time, you could have heard the band’s “The End,” with its nod to incest, on a few of those.)
THE LOOK OF LOVE – Dusty Springfield (1967) Just. Plain. Sexy.
JUDY IN DISGUISE (WITH GLASSES) – John Fred & His Playboy Band (1967) A song with “living bra” not only reaches the top 40 but makes it all the way to #1.
YOUNG GIRL – The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett (1968) Rock may have been maturing in 1968, but not entirely, due in part to the song that made Puckett a star with the very young (read, underage) girls like the one he was trying to resist in his biggest hit ever. Before “sequel” was a regular part of our vocabulary, he gave us one a year later with the loss-of-virginity drama “This Girl Is A Woman Now.”
YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY –Ohio Express, and 1, 2, 3, RED LIGHT – 1910 Fruitgum Co. (1968) But, wait: some acts were aiming at an even younger audience that year, with songs that bordered on nursery rhyme yet often relied on double meanings to attract a larger crowd. So “Yummy” led to “Chewy Chewy,” followed by Derek’s “Cinnamon” (“let me in!”) and Tommy Roe’s “Jam Up And Jelly Tight.” As for “1, 2, 3,” talk about working on two levels: a bubblegum hit about a guy basically making sexual demands.
ANGEL OF THE MORNING – Merilee Rush (1968) Take it, Stephen Elders: "’Angel’ was remarkable because it was sung from the woman's point of view, telling the guy it's her choice to spend the night with him and she'll accept the consequences (and yes, I know it was written by a man).”
SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE – Cream (1968) Upped the ante on “Light My Fire” for what may remain the best summer song about sex ever (“I’ll stay with you ‘til my seeds are all dried up”).
HELLO I LOVE YOU – The Doors (1968) Top 40 may have gotten its first taste of interracial love with the prior summer’s morality play-for-radio, Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child,” but in “Hello” there was no mistaking Morrison’s intentions (“Do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel?”).
SWEET CREAM LADIES, FORWARD MARCH – The Box Tops (1969) The first of at least two tributes to ladies of the night at top 40 that year, followed that summer by I.R.S.-er Duke Baxter’s “Everybody Knows Matilda.”
IT’S YOUR THING – The Isley Brothers (1969) “How can you lose / with the stuff you use?” Just naughty enough.
HONKY TONK WOMEN – The Rolling Stones (1969) Even though we’d already come to expect every Stones single to push the limits, “I laid a divorcee in New York City” still made you look at the radio like “did he just say that?”
LAY LADY LAY – Bob Dylan (1969) As it was out at the same time as “Honky Tonk Women,” I recall a “which song is dirtier?” discussion from back then where everyone but me said Dylan’s. Big whoop now, but shocking then.
COME TOGETHER – Beatles (1969) Caused lots of talk among us 12-year-olds, seeing as most of us owned Abbey Road.
CHERRY HILL PARK – Billy Joe Royal (1969) Pain Tom Nondorf says this tale of a girl who was teaser by day/pleaser by night is “underrated for shameless depravity.”
JE T’AIME…MOI NON PLUS – Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg (1969) Sex on record, literally. The couple’s 4½ -minute ménage-a-deux took over the world except for the U.S., where it was banned from most radio stations.
WHOLE LOTTA LOVE – Led Zeppelin (1969) Interesting how at the same time the rest of the world got “Je T’Aime,” we in America had the filthier and far more suggestive “Whole Lotta Love.” Interesting how this song’s roots were in early blues which, as we’ve already covered, was all about sex. But for blues, sex and Zeppelin, nothing touched “The Lemon Song” which us impressionable young boys played over and over on that same album, and which, according to pain Patty Hoover, “inspired a entire generation to enjoy oral sex.”
BAND OF GOLD – Freda Payne (1970) Honeymoon impotence: not a good way to start things.
GET UP I FEEL LIKE BEING A SEX MACHINE – James Brown (1970) A year earlier “Sex Machine” was the title of a 14-minute mostly-instrumental jam on Sly & the Family Stone’s 1969 album Stand. Not that much sexy about this one either, but the title probably scared off many radio stations.
IN THE SUMMERTIME – Mungo Jerry (1970) “If her daddy's poor, just do what you feel.”
MAKE IT WITH YOU – Bread (1970) That phrase originally meant just having sex until these guys ruined that for the rest of us.
LOLA – The Kinks (1970) “I’m glad I’m a man, and so’s Lola.” Well, thanks for clearing that up.
PAY TO THE PIPER – Chairmen Of The Board (1970) Question: Does this guy really think “Ask your mama” is gonna get him laid?
LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH – Stephen Stills (1970) Another shot fired in the sexual revolution.
STAY AWHILE – The Bells (1971) First time I heard it I thought the “Je T’Aime” couple decided to either sing or make that record safe for easy listening.
BROWN SUGAR – The Rolling Stones (1971) Again they outdo themselves. Mick plucked that dusky jewel, alright.
MAGGIE MAY – Rod Stewart (1971) The mother of all MILFs, although that acronym wasn’t around yet in ’71. Possibly the first top 40 hit to include bedroom details (Rod kisses – or is that kicks? – and tells). On the Every Picture Tells A Story album, Rod also sang of a woman not using birth control in the title cut, and a few months later redefined the one-night stand on Faces’ “Stay With Me.”
BANG A GONG (GET IT ON) – T. Rex (1971) Not one objectionable lyric, yet the dirtiest song of 1972, hands down. But if you want direct sexual references, proceed to B side “Raw Ramp” or UK hit “Jeepster.”
JUNGLE FEVER – Chakachas (1972) I was 14 and pretty sure this wasn’t about a disease. Casey Kasem, God bless him, played the full version vs. the radio edit, so we knew how it ended.
TROGLODYE (CAVEMAN) – Jimmy Castor Bunch (1972) Notable because “I’ll sock it to ya, daddy” – which might have been too much for radio a few years earlier – was trumped by Jimmy’s yelling “Hot pants!” before the fade.
USE ME – Bill Withers (1972) While there had already been hit songs about man as sexual plaything, none got right to the point nor were as explicit (“Just keep on usin’ me / until you use me up”).
SUFFRAGETTE CITY – David Bowie (1972) From the FM side (because, as pain Jimi LaLumia points out, the Brit glitter/glam rock scene was for the most part too sexy for AM top 40 in the U.S.), where “She said she had to squeeze it, but she…then she…”
GO ALL THE WAY – Raspberries (1972) We all knew what it meant, but the phrase
had never headlined a hit. I knew at least one person who didn’t believe those
were the actual words and that they could say that on the radio. First of what
Charlie Mitchell calls their “horny singles”: “The
bridges in ‘I Wanna Be With You’ and ‘Let's Pretend’ got even more blatant.”
MY DING-A-LING – Chuck Berry (1972) Sold enough to get to #1 even though it never made it onto many major market top 40 stations. Oddly enough, in the top ten at the same time as comeback hits for Elvis (“Burning Love”) and Rick Nelson (“Garden Party”), where the former happened to be a whole lot sexier than Berry’s 5th-grader take on masturbation (which actually dates back to a 1952 original from Dave Bartholomew).
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING – Chi Coltrane (1972) We can only imagine how sizzling a music video this could have made. Maybe then she wouldn’t have been a one hit wonder.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE – Lou Reed (1973) “Lola” opened the door and Reed gave us the entire house. Even the single version that snipped out the ‘Candy’ verse smashed radio taboos right and left, for any station that dared to play it.
PILLOW TALK – Sylvia (1973) It took nearly four years for pop in America to catch up to “Je T’Aime,” and this is the song that got the ball rolling (pardon whatever that was). Could be it snuck through because it didn’t include both halves of a couple, kind of like…
I’M GONNA LOVE YOU JUST A LITTLE MORE BABY – Barry White (1973) …which was out at the same time, only difference being Barry front-loaded the bedroom talk while Sylvia saved hers until the “Oh-My-God!” happy ending.
ONE OF A KIND (LOVE AFFAIR) – The Spinners (1973) Did they really just say the ‘F word’ - make that the ‘F verb’ - on top 40? If so, they got there first. (Honorable mention to – who else – the Rolling Stones, who released “Star Star” on their Goat’s Head Soup album a few months later.)
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS – Charlie Rich (1973) Country crossover jumps on the bedroom bandwagon.
SUMMER (The First Time) – Bobby Goldsboro (1973) No sooner did “Pillow Talk” slip off the charts than came another hit about “the experienced woman deflowering the innocent guy” (thanks Charlie Mitchell). Only she was 31 and he was 17. Not gonna happen today.
LET’S GET IT ON – Marvin Gaye (1973) If you were born in 1974, you know who to thank.
WE’RE AN AMERICAN BAND – Grand Funk (1973) Amazing it took until ’73 for groupies to star in a hit record. Subject matter that was revisited by Foreigner in 1978’s “Hot Blooded.”
ALL THE GIRLS LOVE ALICE – Elton John (1973) While racking up a string of hit singles, Elton’s albums produced plenty of songs for FM rock formats, although this tale of a teenage lesbian may not have made it to the airwaves.
THE JOKER – Steve Miller Band (1973) Once again a blues-rocker borrows his way to the top, taking “I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree” from the Clovers’ 1954 R&B hit "Lovey Dovey."
BOOBS A LOT – Holy Modal Rounders (1974) It bubbled under Billboard’s Hot 100, but Lord only knows who (aside from Dr. Demento) played it.
MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS – Maria Muldaur (1974) Pop seductresses were still the exception to the rule, but “Pillow Talk’s” success made it easier for “Midnight” to break through (although it took nearly a year to do so), with lyrics also owing a lot to those early sexual metaphor-filled blues records (“You won’t need no camel…when I take you for a ride.”)
MY GIRL BILL – Jim Stafford (1974) Contemporary music was far from ready for serious gay romance in 1974, but this one-joke novelty (“She’s my girl…Bill”) got top 40’s stamp of approval.
HANG ON IN THERE BABY – Johnny Bristol (1974) Barry White made it ok for Bristol to take a young girl’s virginity once every 2½ hours for several weeks running.
TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD – Rufus (1974) Aside from all that grunting and Chaka’s orgasmic shout between verse and chorus, this was perfectly fine for mom and dad.
WILD THING – Fancy (1974) Hard to top the Troggs’ raw sexuality, but this female-led British act made a serious bid by dropping all the subtlety of the original and moving the action to the bedroom. If nothing else, this certainly stood out at top 40 that summer.
ROCK ME GENTLY – Andy Kim (1974) This era of bubblegum moved away from double entendres and got right to business, here with another girl having more experience than our hero.
DO IT (‘TIL YOU’RE SATISFIED) – B.T. Express (1974) “Whatever it is.” Right. Anyone in doubt could have played the B-side to make sure.
GET DANCIN’ – Disco Tex & the Sex-o-lettes (1974) Just because of the group name, maybe the first use of just plain “sex” in either artist or title of a hit.
FIRE – Ohio Players (1975) Yes, it was hot. So were their album covers. Let’s just say bringing your parents into the record store was now out of the question.
LADY MARMALADE – Labelle (1975) Quite possibly, there has never been a greater song about the world’s oldest profession. PDs must have figured no one would actually listen to the words.
The big question of 1975.
BUTTERBOY – Fanny, CHEVY VAN – Sammy Johns, LOVE WON’T LET ME WAIT – Major Harris, and JUDY MAE – Boomer Castleman (1975) Enter, the three-minute porn movie for radio. The latter’s stepmom-and-son situation may have taken things a bit too far for top 40, however.
ONLY WOMEN – Alice Cooper (1975) Shortened from “Only Women Bleed” (the title as it appeared on the album), the song had nothing to do with menstruation, yet it’s hard to get that out of your mind when Alice repeats those words over a dozen times.
CUT THE CAKE – Average White Band (1975) Also too hot for AM radio – even metaphorically - but it followed their #1 hit “Pick Up The Pieces” so it got a pass.
ROCKIN’ CHAIR – Gwen McCrae (1975) Because, as pain Frank Thomas notes, “I don't think she was singing about your grandmother's living room furniture.”
INSIDE MY LOVE – Minnie Riperton (1975) This really was too hot for radio, rendering her a one hit wonder after the #1 “Lovin’ You.”
MIRACLES – Jefferson Starship (1975) The edited version might have omitted the oral sex reference, but “When I pluck your body like a string” was still plenty sexy.
THAT’S THE WAY (I Like It) – KC & the Sunshine Band (1975) Disco’s first wave allowed for some serious envelope pushing. Sounds tame now, but the ‘uh-huhs’ and KC’s call-response with the “I like it” singing female chorus was sexual dynamite in ’75.
LOVE TO LOVE YOU BABY – Donna Summer (1975) Another sexual milestone in pop history: a record made to have sex to, simple as that. Also a song to punch another station preset to at its first millisecond when in the car with your mom. Pain Marc Nathan tells the story of the first station to play it: “After one spin on KBCQ Roswell, New Mexico, the station got 100 calls, which (a) according to then PD Bill St. James was about 93 more than he had gotten in the 2-3 years he’d been there, and (b) virtually every one of them demanded the station never play it again. It was #1 four weeks later.
SQUEEZE BOX – The Who (1975) Proving they’d also been schooled about the ins-and-outs of double-meaning blues.
SLOW RIDE – Foghat (1975) Lots of “get down” songs during this era, but just one with “go down.”
DISCO LADY – Johnnie Taylor (1976) Made it (purposely) difficult to tell where the dancing ends and anything else (“shove it in”) begins.
LOVE HANGOVER – Diana Ross (1976) Even when Ms. Ross got dirty, it was done with a touch of class. Motown’s answer to “Love To Love You Baby” didn’t tarnish Hitsville’s image so much as bring the label into the 70s in terms of female sexuality (Marvin Gaye had already taken care of the male side of things).
MORE, MORE, MORE – Andrea True Connection (1976) A former X-rated movie actress makes a three-minute version of one for top 40. “Get the cameras rolling, get the action going,” indeed.
AFTERNOON DELIGHT – Starland Vocal Band (1976) A one-hit wonder whose single was perhaps the most talked-about that summer, as no one had ever championed sex in the daylight hours, especially on what was essentially a bubblegum pop record.
DON’T TOUCH ME THERE – The Tubes, and POPSICLE TOES – Michael Franks (1976) Neither became big hits, but those stations that played them probably weren’t sorry they did. The former, a spoof of teenage sex over a Spector soundtrack, made it easier for both Joan Jett and Michael Bolton to score with “touch me/you there” hits years later. As for the latter, the world still may not be ready for toe-sucking on top 40.
(Shake, Shake, Shake) SHAKE YOUR BOOTY – KC and the Sunshine Band (1976) Made a major contribution to pop history by slipping a phrase into the mainstream now so taken for granted that most probably don’t know its true meaning. When it was out and I had no idea why any woman would be so shocked by its chorus, a fellow college student and DJ had to educate me re the pirate analogy.
MUSKRAT LOVE – The Captain & Tennille (1976) “Je T’Aime” with animals, essentially. Efforts to get human being-sexy by the squeaky-clean duo (“The Way I Want To Touch You,” “You Never Done It Like That,” “Do That To Me One More Time”) just couldn’t touch this.
TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT – Rod Stewart (1976) Another virginity gone, only this time it happened at the top of the charts for two months. The line “Spread your wings and let me come inside” didn’t make it onto a lot of stations, if I recall.
NIGHT MOVES – Bob Seger (1976) While there had already been plenty of hits about back seat love, Seger’s frank storytelling took that to the next level, reducing high school romance to hormonal urges (“I used her, she used me, but neither one cared”) and, for good measure, paying tribute to a teenage girl’s nipples. Two years later, Meat Loaf would turn a similar scenario into an eight-minute rock opera on “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”
DO YOU WANNA MAKE LOVE – Peter McCann (1977) “…or do you just want to fool around?” Do I have to decide now?
CAT SCRATCH FEVER – Ted Nugent (1977) In which Nuge snuck a vaginal double entendre onto radio (although stations could opt out by playing the “make a kitty purr” edit).
BRICK HOUSE – Commodores (1977) In which they took away one word of a common male expression to describe a well-built woman and wound up with a wedding reception classic.
THE KILLING OF GEORGIE – Rod Stewart (1977) Rod’s attempt to score a hit with a gay hero met with mixed results in America.
CHRISTINE SIXTEEN – KISS (1977) KISS’ ode to underage girls, including a really creepy monologue, would never make it onto radio today. But few seemed to mind back then, seeing as two years later The Knack went to the same place with “My Sharona” and earned just about the biggest hit of 1979.
TELEPHONE MAN – Meri Wilson (1977) Another naughty novelty along the lines of what used to be sold ‘under-the-counter’ at stores decades earlier. Returned four years later with another like the other, “Peter The Meter Reader.”
UNDERCOVER ANGEL – Alan O’Day (1977), and IMAGINARY LOVER – Atlanta Rhythm Section (1978) But not so many songs about self-pleasure at the time that it got out of hand.
KISS YOU ALL OVER – Exile (1978) A year earlier, the “love you all over” lyric in Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “So Into You” barely registered a blip, yet this moved the line further, seeing as it was one of the year’s biggest songs.
CLOSE THE DOOR – Teddy Pendergrass (1978) Following his years with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Pendergrass went all lover-man with promises of all-night sex, showering together and “freaky-deakying on the floor” (only the first of those is mentioned in this song that was his most notable solo pop hit).
GET OFF – Foxy (1978) A little dance/pop hit about, well, orgasm, complete with a few no-punches-pulled suggestions such as a threesome, looking through sheer dresses, and the ever-popular “danger and excitement.” The 70s were fun, weren’t they?
IN THE BUSH – Musique (1978) Women taking charge of their sex lives was one of disco’s recurring themes. This was “Love To Love You Baby” times three, not to mention a useful period piece serving as a guide to female grooming in the late 1970s.
DA YA THINK I’M SEXY – Rod Stewart (1978) This was like an NBC News special about a one-night stand from both partners’ perspectives, with Rod’s sense of humor making what could have sounded like any other sex-driven song of that era really stand out. Even Chicago DJ Steve Dahl’s parody “Do You Think I’m Disco” lampooned the scene using a popular sexual reference at the time (“I wear tight pants / I always stuff a sock in”).
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING – Peaches & Herb (1979) Which certainly had a lot more implications than “booty.”
MACHO MAN, YMCA (1978) and IN THE NAVY (1979) – Village People All were meant to gently push the gay lifestyle without being overt or overly offensive, and if you recall seeing their dozens of prime time TV appearances (such as on a Bob Hope special!) you know it worked. “YMCA” featured the double-entendre “You can hang out with all the boys” while “Navy” had the groan-worthy “They’re signing up new seamen fast.”
RING MY BELL – Anita Ward (1979) Silly metaphor innocent as anything in the 1950s, or gynecologist’s dream? You decide.
HOT STUFF and DIM ALL THE LIGHTS – Donna Summer (1979) Once she’d had enough hits showcasing a wider scope of talent and felt comfortable revisiting sexual themes a la “Love To Love You Baby,” Summer’s Bad Girls album produced a trio of big hits on the subject, including “Hot Stuff,” in which she takes charge of her mission to get what the title suggests, and “Dim All The Lights,” which includes a plea to her lover to “turn my brown body white.”
GOOD GIRLS DON’T – The Knack (1979) Cleaned up for radio, but every kid knew the real lyrics, seeing as the album sold over a million. If you were lucky, you might have caught the teenage oral sex reference on FM.
Columnus Interruptus! There is, of course, a lot more sexual revolution and musical evolution to come in Part 2, in the next Hz So Good.
Now, as promised…many thanks to Nick Andrian, Heather Antonelli, Nick Archer, Bill Cain, Tracy Carman, Lloyd Carroll, Mike Devich, Peter DiTuri, Mary-Kaye Dombrowski, Stephen Elders, Dylan Ftera, Larry Grogan, Eliza Kaufman Gross, Ralph Hahn, Robert Heiney, Patty Hoover, Josh Hosler, Scott Howitt, Wesley Hyatt, Joe Knapp, Martin Kron, Jimi LaLumia, Big Tom Lawler, David Lewis, Jett Lightning, Gary Lomker, Scott Lowe, Alexander Mair, Gary Major, Philip Martone, Joe McCombs, Carolyn Coats Medendorp, Charlie Mitchell, Steve Nadel, Marc Nathan, Tim Neely, Michael Newman, Tom Nondorf, Bill O’Neil, Penny Outlaw, Kate Palmer, Brian Pearl, Tony Pizza, Jonathan Rebolledo, Robert Schaeffer, Mike Schaefer, Alan Seltzer, Ira Sonin, Bob Sorrentino, Don Tandler, Gary Theroux, Frank Thomas and Ken Williamson.
Hz So Good online (current issue and archive back to 2010) at http://www.60s70s.org/HzSoGood/.