America's sexual practices have changed quite a bit in the six decades since the end of World War II, but you can unfortunately still hear traces of the old assumptions in some of the oldies era's rock, pop, and R&B hits. You might argue that sex sells even more blatantly now than it did then, but at least it's out front: these eight songs have some very strange and unflattering assumptions about the female of the species lurking beneath their sunny dispositions. Check it out...
It’s not enough that this, perhaps the 20th century’s greatest and stalkeriest stalker song, is a dark and obsessive blues ballad. Screamin’ Jay
true to his name -- and, as legend has it, drunk as a skunk -- nailed this one to the wall with a frightening vocal that was equal parts angry growl and insane, gibbering laughter. Voodoo being used to keep a “bad” woman at home was not necessarily a new idea in the blues, and it had already crept into rock and roll; check Chuck Berry's
"30 Days." But Hawkins offers no pretense to parody with this performance: “I don't care if you don't want me,” he yelps, “I'm yours RIGHT NOW.” That's the kind of thing you usually don’t hear unless you’re waking up in a basement.
This icky theme to an equally stupid Elvis
movie doesn't just waste his talent, as so many of those soundtracks did. It raises the specter of incestuousness -- only to deny it immediately. Attempting to have it both ways, there's a disclaimer right in the first verse, where the King claims that he and his new girlfriend are distant cousins. The phrase “kissin' cousins,” however, actually refers to cousins that are as close as family, so close you kiss them hello when you run into them. So there’s a real strange double meaning buried in the forgettable melody, one only made worse by the actual theme of the movie
(Elvis is two Elvises, one a blonde hillbilly) and the repeated attempts at spin in the bridge: “We’re all cousins / that’s what I believe / because we're all children / of Adam and Eve.” Nice try there, guys.
Forever and continuously blurring the line between playful white-knight chivalry and sexual assault, this Christmas duet standard,
which first blew up the charts in 1949 with several different versions, ostensibly portrays a man offering to shelter his date from the winter snow... by having her spend the night. Cut to the female protesting that she "really should go." It's supposed to be charming, but it gets more disturbing with age, especially when the female doesn't deliver her lines in such a way as to make it seem like she's merely engaging in some seductive teasing of her own. The sexual dance of the time was what it was, but there’s really only so many ways you can interpret lines like "The answer is No" and "What’s in this drink?" It might help to know that the original score labels the male and female parts as "wolf" and "mouse."
This is just plain terrifying. Joe Tex may have been the crown prince of Southern soul
(“Skinny Legs and All” was a huge hit), but attempting to call in promised sexual favors from a woman who’s just broken up with her boyfriend is insensitive, at best. You have to assume that’s his endgame, bellowing “Come on! Give it to me!” in the chorus and then screaming "I gotcha!" No matter how thick the funk, that’s the sort of move a drunk uncle makes at a wedding, or that your boss makes at the company mixer. And his target is definitely not into it: the lyrics do, after all, reveal that she’s trying to sneak away. ”I'll teach you to play with my affection!” he yells after her. Yikes.
a Brill Building
songsmith who suddenly found himself a solo star and unlikely teen idol, wrote more than one song about children growing up to become objects of desire. (He’d repeat this formula later with a ditty called “Right Next Door to an Angel.”) It’s a tricky subject even for the best writer, and Neil’s intentions certainly sound honorable.
But he’s still implying that the singer watched a little girl grow into puberty, and now intends to do something about it. (“Tonight’s the night I've waited for / Because you’re not a baby anymore.”) One teen talking to another? Probably, but that doesn’t explain the line "When you were only six, I was your big brother." (That better be a metaphor.) Maybe it's a proud dad singing to his daughter? Then why is he calling her "my funny valentine" and promising "from now on, you’re gonna be mine"?
It probably says something else about the culture of the time that this mid-'50s pop standard (from the musical The Most Happy Fella
), which sounded as squeaky clean as they come, still sported some of the most disturbing lyrics to ever come across the airwaves. Eyeballing female strangers wasn't considered sexual harassment back in the day, but someone must have thought it weird that these nice young boys were advising others to "select your imaginary dish," and in public, at that! "I review the harem / Parading for me there." Ew. Not to mention that there's really no explanation, ever, for the last verse, which starts "You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking." For God’s sake, what’s he thinking? And just how girlish are these girls?
A blue-eyed soul
classic so genuine it tricked a heck of a lot of people into thinking the band must be black,
this hit's not quite as offensive as the Four Lads song. Then again, punching up your song with appreciative grunts was a trick the Lads hadn't even thought of. Here's a tip: if you absolutely have to stare at strange women in public, don’t tell them they’re "putting on a show." And most definitely do not ask them to walk a little closer so you can get a better look, or to move slower so you can get all of your ocular molestation in. This stuff is pretty common sense.
Contrary to popular belief, The Beatles were not wrapping up Rubber Soul
quickly when they recorded this controversial number -- it was actually the first song they laid down at those historic sessions. John himself was never fond of this song,
partly because he knocked it off so quickly, and partly because he borrowed a line from Arthur Crudup, through Elvis Presley: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to (see you) be with another man.” Morality had started to evolve by 1965, at least a little, so this song raised more eyebrows than the others on this list. But the idea of John threatening to murder his legions of babyface followers is not only creepy, it’s also subversive enough as art to qualify as a signature Lennon move. Love him or hate him, he was full of contradictions.