26 September 2007

Titular Bazaar

I've been buying music to reward myself for not smoking. I have a question for you if you'll bear with me.

The other day I snatched up Josie Cotton's 1982 "Convertible Music" on vinyl,as I couldn't resist the bubblegum flavor of the images it brought to mind, of a certain toe-wiggling collegesoul mate of mine and the allure of its flagship single,
"Johnny, Are You Queer?" - a song as bouncily charming as it is politically suspect (featured now on my myspace if you want a quick listen). It has been covered by The Go-Go's and Screeching Weasel and Cotton performed for a minute in a scene in the Nic Cage vehicle "Valley Girl." The song is pretty straightforward and fairly innocuous - the speaker is kind of into Johnny but he doesn't seem to reciprocate and "dances" a little too much "with his friends." Naturally she has some questions. Apparently, she has remarkably little tact. Now this is potentially offensive stuff, but as evidenced by the song's inclusion on this year's "A Date With John Waters" compilation, it is absorbed into kitsch pretty easily (if it didn't live there already). After all, this is a cultural artifact from the age of jive subtitles on "Airplane," C. Thomas Howell's blackface ticket to Harvard in "Soul Man," and depictions of gays as well-rounded as Lamar Latrell from "Revenge of the Nerds."

Just days later, I received in the mail my copy of the Phil Spector box set "Back to Mono," which I was able to get from Amazon at a shockingly discounted price. Spector's shit from the his 60s heyday is unbeatable - "Be My Baby," "Then He Kissed Me," Da Doo Ron Ron," etc. But there's a song on here called "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)." Wow. Here's a sampling:

And when I told him I had been untrue /He hit me and it felt like a kiss / He hit me and I knew he loved me / 'Cause if he didn't care for me / I could have never made him mad /He hit me and I was glad

The song is performed by The Crystals (who do a number of amazing Spector songs) and co-written by Carole King. To listen, it doesn't sound as if there is any self-consciousness or dark social satire to it (like I argue there is in a song like Antony's Fistful of Love). But googling indicates that King and her partner wrote it to do some of that after hearing from Crystals frontwoman Little Eva that she had a boyfriend who hit her because he loved her. In any case, nobody liked the song in 1962. Now, with the specter of Spector's recently alleged violence against women, there's another layer of stickiness.

So my question for you is - can you think of other songs, not by marginal or cult bands, whose titles (and / or) lyrical content is equally bizaare or offensive?


Hal said...

No recommendations, but a note that Spiritualized had a take-off of Spector's "Then He Kissed Me" on their Amazing Grace album, called "Then She Kissed Me." I have no idea if it's musically reminiscent of the Spector tune.

Kris said...

"He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)" sounds outrageous but very familiar at the same time. (Since you mentioned the other song, I keep thinking of a mash-up, "And Then He Hit Me [Like a Kiss]").

I've always thought that the most offensive line in Mungo Jerry's "In the Summetime" used to be, "If her daddy's poor just do what you feel," but current mores might give the edge to "Have a drink, have a drive . . ." Mothers Against Friends who Let their Friends Drink and Drive with Poor Girls.

C. Thomas Howell in blackface, though, never has to worry about being kitschy.

Almost 30 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Almost 30 said...

Although I love bopping around to Jimmy Soul's "If you want to be happy," the lyrics of this ditty are actually quite offensive and demeaning, so I usually only do so when I'm really, really drunk: "A pretty woman makes her husband look small and very often causes his downfall....But if you make an ugly woman your wife, then you will be happy for the rest of your life. An ugly woman cooks meals on time, She'll always give you peace of mind."

hal said...

Yeah, I meant to say there was a take-off on "He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss" by Spiritualized, not a take-off on "Then He Kissed Me." So many kisses, I can't keep them all straight.