Sunday, September 04, 2011

Clean dirty music

If you're like me you've gotten blasé about sexually explicit music. There has always been music about sex, but it was more innuendo, without using obscene language to describe the sex act. "Race records" were aimed at black people, and a lot of the music was thinly, yet cleverly, disguised. How else to listen to songs called "I Want To Bang Your Box" (box being a piano, heh-heh) by the Toppers, or "Big Ten Inch" (a 10" 33 1/3 rpm record, wink-wink) by Bullmoose Jackson? It's clear what they're really about, but like the other songs in this list, they use clean language to make a dirty song.

Or at least it was dirty way back when. Frank Zappa said, "Parents saw a danger in that lewd black music," to describe the alarm of the mid-1950s about rock music. African-Americans had evolved a coded language for sex in music. We've come a long way in 60 years, but I'm not sure it's for the better. These songs still titillate, and I still laugh at Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie." The Etta James answer song, "Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry"), was cleaned up for white audiences of the 1950s by substituting one word, "dance" for "roll" to change its blatant sexuality into a benign, catchy tune that was a big crossover hit.

That happened more than once in that era. Squeaky-clean Pat Boone covering Little Richard is a good example. Luckily history has chosen the best version of the song for us, as it has chosen Etta James' raunchier version of "Roll With Me Henry" as preferable to its mainstream counterpart.

My Disclaimer: YouTube has been known to remove videos and break the links. If you encounter a black screen it's their fault and not mine.


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