Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Naughty Bits: Walk of Shame

Connecticut College Williams Street Mix: Walk of Shame


This was a tough week for me to choose something to post. Not because I didn't have anything to choose from but that I did—too much, in fact—but most of it fairly obscene. I figure I push the line enough with my foreign music fetish, so I chose to play it safer with this a capella ditty. It's a parody based on Sounds of Silence. Luckily for us all, I will not follow with a TMI post of cringeworthy memories that this song may or may not make me recall.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Naughty Bits: Head Room

10cc : Head Room


I'd hate to see this perverted week on Star Maker Machine go without letting 10cc have their say. After all the band was named after the average amount of semen in a male ejaculation. (Maybe if you're a porn star. The average male ejaculation is more like 3cc) In any case 10cc recorded "Head Room" for How Dare You, the final album with original members Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. When I got the album I was too young to get the wordplay on a chorus that goes "Just give me some head (pause) room". Now I think it's about more than taking a good photograph.

 While nobody here is going to argue that "Head Room" is the best song on the album (I will always stand by you "Mandy") , it does reveal the band's ability to be both inventively creative and inspidly juvenile in the same breath.

The Naughty Bits: That Buckin' Song

Robert Earl Keen: That Buckin' Song


The Euphemism. It's an old standby in novelty recordings -- substituting a harmless word for a naughty one.

Benny Bell, a borscht belt bandleader and comedian, specialized in songs with rhymes that lead you to believe a verboten word was around the corner before doing the old switcheroo. His “Shaving Cream” was the first euphemism song I remember learning. Bell recorded "Shaving Cream" in the 1940s, but I'm not that old. It became a big hit after it gained notoriety on the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento Show in the 1970s. (I am that old.)

But, as far as euphemism songs go, Robert Earl Keen’s “That Bucking Song” is the masterwork.

Sometimes when Bell invoked the phrase “shaving cream” -- instead of a different word starting with “sh” -- it didn't make literal sense. (“Each time I say darling I love you, she says that I’m full of…shaving cream.”)

Keen uses “buck” instead of the obvious word that rhymes with it. But, his lyrics work with either word inserted: “If you got a bucker, don't ever buck around, that buckin' mother bucker will buck you on the ground.” When it comes to employing euphemisms, Robert Earl didn't settle for the usual...shaving cream.

Bonus Track: Oh what the...bell. Here’s “Shaving Cream” too.

Benny Bell: Shaving Cream

[purchase (CD only)]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Naughty Bits: If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It

Ruth Brown: If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It


The internet has no tone of voice. If you can find a website that has the lyrics for If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It, you won’t have any idea why this song fits our theme this week. It’s all about the tone of voice. Not a word of this song is improper in any way, but there is no doubt what Ruth Brown really means when you hear it. The song is not about furniture. This is the art of double entendre at its best. In case you miss it, the woozy horn parts are another signal that things are not quite as they seem on the surface.

Ruth Brown began her musical career in the 1950s as an rhythm and blues singer. Her best-known song is still Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean. Later in her career, Brown reinvented herself as a jazz singer. The common thread is the blues. In fact, if you go back and listen to her old R&B songs, you will hear a lot of jazzy blues in them anyway. By 1989, when Keep Sitting On It came out, R&B had changed completely from those early days. Brown had not changed all that much, and she sounded as good as ever.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Naughty Bits: Keep on Churnin'

Wynonie Harris: Keep on Churnin' ('Til the Butter Comes)


Wynonie Harris recorded what many consider to be the first rock and roll record, “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” His true calling card was a string of raunchy, but highly successful post-World War II "race records." Accusing Harris of engaging in double entendre may be generous -- often, that second entendre was barely there. The lyrics from “Keep on Churning (‘Til the Butter Comes),” a hit from 1952, are typical Harris fare: "Take the sheep, leave them be, bring the finest brown cow straight to me...Keep on pumping, make the butter flow, wipe off the batter and churn some more."

Born in 1915 to an African American mother and native American Indian father in Omaha, Nebraska, Harris was both intelligent and flamboyant. He already had established a reputation as a singer and dancer when he enrolled as a pre-med student at Omaha's prestigious Creighton University. He soon abandoned his studies to pursue a career as a singer. Working his way up from Omaha to Kansas City and eventually Los Angeles, by 1944, Harris had replaced Sister Rosetta Tharpe as lead singer in Lucky Millinder’s orchestra. The group scored a hit with “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well?” Soon after that, Harris struck out on his own. He signed with King Records and built a huge following based on his wild records -- including “Sitting on It All the Time,” “I Like My Baby’s Pudding” and “Loving Machine” -- and even wilder stage shows. Legend has it that Elvis Presley saw Harris on stage, and soon Harris's gyrations and gestures were part of the Pelvis's act.

Ironically, rock and roll's mainstream acceptance spelled the end for the kind of raw music Harris specialized in. As Elvis struck it big with his own version "Good Rockin' Tonight," Harris's career faded. A 1960s comeback attempt failed, and Harris -- who had a reputation for spending money even more quickly than he earned it -- died broke in 1969, at the age of 53.

The Naughty Bits: The Golden Globe Award

John Hartford : The Golden Globe Award


I think it's probably fair to assume that John Hartford, best known as the songwriter behind "Gentle On My Mind", is a breast man. The Grammy winning artist played banjo on The Byrds' legendary foray into country music, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and sang on the best selling soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? Somewhere in between, for the 1976 album Nobody Knows What You Do, he recorded this tribute to his girlfriend's breasts:
"Ah, those golden globes, there ain't none better / Gotta have 'em both 'cause they both go together."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Naughty Bits: Ball of Ballynoor

Oscar Brand: Ball of Ballynoor


No chapter on this topic would be complete without a song from one of nearly 100 albums put out by Mr. Oscar Brand … folksinger, performer, writer, researcher, director, historian, folklorist, reviewer and commentator. His lifelong dedication to folk music has truly been inspirational. “Ball of Ballynoor” is from one of his many volumes of “Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads.”

Oscar Brand was born on February 7, 1920 on a wheat farm near Winnipeg, Canada to a family of singers. At age seven, his family moved to Minneapolis, then to Chicago, and finally to New York City. In 1942, he received a degree in abnormal psychology. Joining the Army during World War II, he used folksongs for therapy in hospitals in and around New York City. Leaving the Army in 1945, he became a professional folksinger. He once said that’s “easier than working for a living.”

“Ball of Ballynoor” is an oft-requested number, especially after 2 a.m. when we’re down to the last beer, but it’s still too soon to crash. I chose this song, however, because it also emphasizes the Scottish origin of so much of our American folk music today. Over there the song is typically known as “The Ball of Kerriemuir,” and today it’s sung (with gusto, I might add) by third- and fourth-generation immigrants whose hearts still remain in the Highlands. The song’s verses have filtered through many a throng of college students, sailors and publicans over the decades. So we must conclude that Brand’s verses are not in the original Scots.

I offer this song as a tribute to the stalwart American folk song carrier and interpreter, Oscar Brand. Like most of his recordings, Oscar gives it a lean arrangement with just guitar and vocals. That’s so we focus on the song and its naughty lyrics. Grab your concertina and play along! Write a few verses of your own!

The Naughty Bits: Cum Stains On The Pillow

David Allen Coe: Cum Stains On The Pillow

Out of print

David Allen Coe is a country musician who hit a peak with is Outlaw-inspired music in the 1970s and ’80s with hits such as “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile”. He also wrote a couple of stone-cold classic country songs, such as Tanya Tucker’s lovely “Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)” and Johnny Paycheck’s defiant “Take This Job And Shove It”. Like Merle Haggard, he spent time in jail as a young man; it was fellow inmate Screamin’ Jay Hawkins who encouraged Coe to write songs.

Later Coe was friends with Shel Silverstein, the poet and all-round renaissance man who wrote hits such as “A Boy Named Sue”. And Silverstein’s brand of humour is evident in a collection of songs Coe recorded over some years for his Nothing Sacred (1978) and Underground Album (1982) LPs – both made available only by mail order – and eventually released in 1990 as a compilation titled 18 X-Rated Hits.

And when he says X-Rated, he means it. Titles include “Don't Bite The Dick”, “I Made Linda Lovelace Gag”, “Pick 'em, Lick 'em, Stick 'em”, “Whips And Things” and the timeless anthem to anal sex, “Fuckin’ In The Butt” (and it is at this point that we welcome the accidental visitor from Google. Please, make yourself comfortable and stick around. The dirty teens you’re looking for won’t get any older while you can listen to and read about some very good, and this week naught, music).

Mostly they are in good humour, outrageous rather than salacious. Importantly, there is some good musicianship; so good that you’re apt to sing along with lines “I’d like to fuck the shit out of you” from “Fuckin’ In The Butt” (dedicated to the members of the Mickey Mouse Fan Club).

Because of the X-rated songs, Coe has been accused of all manner of bigotries, from racism to misogyny to homophobia. He certainly is not a racist; in jail he was victimised for being friends with black inmates, and he has recorded non-satirical anti-racism songs. Yet, a title like “N***er Fucker”, stripped of its ironic tone, is alarming and even as a satire ill-advised and offensive, especially if one imagines a gang of rednecks singing along to it, much as the crowd sang along to Borat’s “Throw The Jew Down The Well”. The racist singers-along will neither know nor care that the drummer on the song, Kerry Brown, is a black man married to a white woman.

“Cum Stains On The Pillow”, from the Nothing Sacred album, is a traditional country lament. His woman has left him, so now, seeing as she’s gone, there are ejaculation stains on the place where his woman once laid her head. It probably is not the sort of talk that will persuade her to return to our friend.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Naughty Bits: Dinah Moe Humm

Frank Zappa: Dinah Moe Humm

There are bits that are naughty on Over-nite Sensation, my favorite Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention studio album (from 1973). In tune with our theme of naughty bits this week, in addition to my choice here, the list of songs on the album includes such memorable titles as Dirty Love, Camarillo Brillo and an album cover that is messy. Maybe not even naughty, and closer to nasty - but peoples' perception of these sorts of things (personal taste) is always relative. (Click the image above to view a larger version where you can peruse the frame in more detail - should you so wish.) The album includes musical input from Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke and, uncredited, Tina Turner and the Ikettes.

Just one chunk of the lyrics of Dinah Moe Hum should suffice to give you a taste:

[I] Whipped off her bloomers and stiffened my thumb
And applied rotation on her sugar plum
I poked & stroked till my wrist got numb
[And I] Still didn't hear no Dinah-Moe Humm

Not intending to confuse fun with funny (bloomers!), I always thought that the man himself looked kinda funny (that furry facial hair). And I know that what I perceive as a wacky sense of humor in his lyrics is not to everyone’s taste. Zappa has been accused of being immature ["puerile"] at times, but for my part, I chuckle at the way he makes fun of American suburban tastes - on one hand appearing not to take anything too seriously, and on the other hand cranking out some serious political opinions about changes that he felt were needed in American culture/morals/law. He was a strong opponent of the trend during his lifetime towards more state censorship in song lyrics. Mixing themes of naughty and politics, these selected lyrics from "Brown Shoes ..."  about "city hall fred" embody his position:
I'd like to make her do a nasty
On the white house lawn

The MGM censors understood something very different from what Zappa had in mind. The PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center that included Tipper Gore) had their own interpretation of some of his lyrics; he had his. I urge you to read his comments to Congress in 1985 if you value your First Ammendment rights.

The Naughty Bits: Big Balls

AC/DC: Big Balls [purchase]

As far as sexual humour goes, there's little more British (or, indeed, Australian) than the good, old-fashioned double entendre, and there are few better purveyors of 'phnarr-phnarr' snickers than AC/DC.  The late Bon Scott was a particular reprobate, of course, and this song is a case in point.  The 'balls' of which he sings so lustily are parties, of course - why, to what else do you think he could be referring? Really?  Well, I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, that your mind should be so mired in the gutter! 

Anyway, this isn't the heaviest Angus and co have ever sounded, but they're evidently having a great deal of fun.  And you just know that the audible gleam in Bon's eye was there because he was telling not one word of a lie.  They really were that big...

The Naughty Bits: Lola

The Raincoats: Lola

No 23 minute epics about physical transmutation and the apocalypse or 8 minute maritime revenge sagas this week. Instead, sexual humor. Maybe my imagination is limited, but I had problems figuring out what to write about this week. I mean, there are tons of songs about sex, and there are a bunch of funny songs out there, but songs with sexual humor? The two that I thought of immediately were by artists that I have already written about, and I’m trying not to repeat myself.

Then, I thought of “Lola,” the Kinks classic about a man realizing that he had been intimate with a transvestite. And it is only 4 minutes long! I remember being a kid when it came out (so to speak), and being shocked by the twist—which was pretty risqué for the early 70’s on classic rock radio. I guess that it is humorous, although maybe the song would have been a better fit in the “Surprise!” theme from April Fool’s Day.

I realized that I had this cover version, by the all-female punk (or post-punk?) band, The Raincoats. And this version added to my amusement. Not only is it a twisted take on the song, with somewhat deadpan vocals, a simple arrangement but busy, off-kilter drumming, but in this version it is a woman, singing from a male point of view about a sexual experience with a woman, who turns out to be a man. Which is a lot to get one’s head around.

In preparing to write this, I found that this song was ranked by someone on the Internet as the No. 1 Strangest Rock & Roll cover of all time. I don’t agree with that—there are so many much stranger ones out there—but is it still pretty odd, and, I’d venture to say, humorous.

The Naughty Bits: Jelly Roll

Leon Redbone: Ain't Gonna Give You None Of My Jelly Roll


Tom Rush: Jelly Roll Baker


Bessie Smith: Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine


Even Wikipedia knows that "jelly roll" is an old euphemism for a variety of sexual terms, most usually the male genitalia. Knowing this fact makes the Leon Redbone tune above - actually a Clarence and Spencer Williams classic from the early days of Louisiana swamp jazz - come across as a song of masturbatory self-discovery and marginally-veiled pedophilia, recasts Tom Rush's take on Lonnie Johnson's field blues as a tune about a man so prideful and celebrated for his sexual prowess, it gets him out of a jail term and has him booking married women three weeks in advance, and turns Bessie Smith's sultry bakery setting - actually another Clarence & Spencer Williams original - into a braggart's bordello, and Smith herself into a slut. And it brings an entirely new meaning to Jelly Roll (aka "Penis") Morton's entire body of work.

You'll never look at pastry the same way again.

The Naughty Bits: In the Middle of the Night

Madness: In the Middle of the Night


Where I live, spring has definitely arrived. The warm weather has definitively arrived, and layers of clothing are disappearing for another six months. So it is that we devote ourselves here at Star Maker Machine to a week of sexual humor. Sex is a subject that people don’t seem much able to sing about with a straight face. So, we will journey through implication and innuendo, metaphors and double entendres, all with a smile on our faces. The week will probably turn R rated fairly soon, but I thought I would start off with a fairly mild example of what may be to come, (ahem).

Madness established themselves immediately as one of the best of the British ska bands with the release of their American debut, One Step Beyond, in 1979. They also demonstrated their dry English wit with the song In the Middle of the Night. Give a listen, and you will see what I mean right away. By way of warning, let me just say that I am still tickled all these years after I first heard this one by the image of trembling undergarments.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bible Stories: Jumbo Ark

Nick Lowe: (I Want to Build a) Jumbo Ark

[purchase (CD only)]

Here we are again, back at the story of Noah's Ark -- a tale that, for the non-believers among us, often serves as Exhibit A in the case against literal interpretation of the Bible. Two of every kind of animal. On an ark. After a rainstorm flooded the entire earth. To quote Bill Cosby: Riiiiiight.

Nick Lowe's "Jumbo Ark" puts a modern spin on the story, for surely if God called on Noah today, He would expect a vessel more sophisticated than what Noah offered up. Not only does Lowe propose an aerodynamic alternative for riding out the storm, he also seems to understand animals better than Noah, and he's thinking ahead: Lowe will take "extra cattle and swine, because the beasts on each other do love to dine."

Bonus track: Here is Bill Cosby's classic take on the whole ark thing.

Bill Cosby: Noah: Right


Bible Stories: In the Belly of the Whale

Newsboys: In the Belly of the Whale


Newsboys are a Christian pop-rock band, originally from Australia. They have been around for eight albums, and there have been so many line-up changes that their Wikipedia entry has a chart to help you keep track of them. In spite of this, they have managed to maintain their popularity on the Christian rock charts. I listened to the thirty second snippets from their Greatest Hits album to prepare for this post, and they struck me as being very serious about their faith, and somewhat heavy handed in their approach. But twice they have been called upon to provide a song for a Veggie Tales movie, and both times something magical happened. The band got silly, they relaxed, and the result was crazily infectious pop with a wonderfully quirky sense of humor. The first time this happened was for the movie Jonah, which retold the Bible story of Jonah and the whale. The song was In the Belly of the Whale. I’m pretty sure the line, “We’re highly nutritious here, in the belly of the whale” is not scripture, but it’s a fair example of what to expect. Veggie Tales is all about teaching Bible stories and ideas to children by making them fun, and In the Belly of the Whale fits this perfectly.