(Claire: Friend of the blog, and uncle of this blog writer, Eric Fish takes a look at the less-than-lighter side of love songs. Fish is a writer, consumer of hilarious music, and co-founder of The Spleen, which you should click on, check out, bask in it’s awesomeness, etc. Enjoy!)
It should be remembered as we approach this upcoming Valentine’s Day that once upon a time what we would consider to be a dysfunctional relationship was once simply referred to as…a relationship. Behavior that today would strongly suggest a call to the authorities if it were happening in the apartment next door was not so long ago considered a part of a norm that accepted deep male dominated inequality between the sexes as a given. Men especially thought this, as evidenced by the fact that they wrote the lyrics to all of the following.
A Valentine’s Day Public Service Announcement before we get started– if you do witness or worse experience any of the behavior referred to above or below, do please alert the authorities. 911, people.
I love Dusty, love Bacharach/David, love the sound of this record, but this has some of the most pathological lyrics I’ve ever heard. This is easily some of the worst advice presented to women in any form in any culture– the man of your dreams can be obtained if you simply devote yourself wholeheartedly to him and do whatever he tells you.
Oh, and put out. “Just do it, and after you do, you will be his.” Yeah, that’ll work great.
“Lollipops and Roses,”Jack Jones
Jack Jones with some advice for the fellas– women are simple but inexplicably moody creatures, and the best way to deal with them is to infantilize them and try to buy them off with trinkets. Written by Tony Velona, who was also responsible for the voyeuristic stalker anthem “Music to Watch Girls By”.
”Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” Frank Sinatra w/Antonio Carlos Jobim
I can’t think about Frank Sinatra without thinking of him eating a ham and egg breakfast off a prostitute’s chest, as recounted in the Kitty Kelley biography, and this song, as well as many others in this hypermasculine icon’s catalog, is a sort of musical equivalent. Another song of romance as barter, this one even more explicit in advising that women be distracted with bright, shiny objects and treated as less-than-bright shiny objects.
“Wives and Lovers,” Jack Jones
Another Hal David lyric, another performance from testosterone troubadour Jack Jones, with a stern warning for the wives out there that if they “let themselves go”, their husband’s infidelities will be their fault.
Hey, little girl– time to get ready for love. Pour the wine– lots and lots of wine.
“Johnny Get Angry,” Joanie Sommers
“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss),” The Crystals
Even creepier. Well known spousal abuser Phil Spector, lyricist Gerry Goffin, and the Crystals take “Johnny Get Angry” ‘s equation of anger to affection all the way to Stockholm.
“Young Girl,” Garry Puckett and the Union Gap
Creepier still. Garry Puckett swears he thought she was eighteen, man, and disavows any responsibility, as she, and presumably a few other voices, are in his mind. Better run, girl– and for god sakes don’t let him catch you.
“Under My Thumb,” The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger, celebrating that breaking of a woman’s spirit so essential to having a successful relationship with Mick Jagger.
“Run For Your Life,” The Beatles
A pre-enlightenment John Lennon expanding a stolen line from “Baby, Let’s Play House” into a truly odious anthem to insane possessiveness. The choice on offer here is between a complete and utter surrender or homicide. That Lennon would later be able to confess (most notably in lyrics he wrote for Paul’s “Getting Better”) and “change his scene” is a good and hopeful example. This song, particularly for the person it’s addressed to, is a bad and hopeless one.
“That’s The Way Boys Are,” Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore issuing her boyfriend and yours a blanket pardon for whatever thoughtless, disloyal, and outrightly cruel shit he happens to get up to. He can’t help it– he’s male, and afraid to show his true feelings. While this may seem to be a mere distaff riff on “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em”, the degree of dissociation being called for is truly frightening, and, not coincidentally, gives men complete carte blanche and unlimited power.