Why do I listen to raunchy music? I don't know. As a kid, I didn't listen to it for its shock value--I was too obedient and made sure my parents never heard what I was listening to if it was "offensive". As a parent, it's only recently that I've stopped hiding raunchy music from my kids, once I was sure they had already learned all those bad words, without my help. Another big milestone was when the kids started digging through our LP archives and the vast digital freakshow of the internet and picking out a lot of that raunchy music on their own. Our eldest claims that listening to all that freakery gives her a greater appreciation of our own normalcy.
That, my friends, is a relief.
First up is F*ck the Pain Away by Peaches. Our eldest, Nora, told me an amusing story about Peaches claiming, in an interview in Bust magazine, that this song was once deemed too inappropriate for some strip club. I don't need to post any lyrics for this. Nora describes the song as sounding like the techno soundtrack in a bad Eurotrash nightclub in a sleazy movie. She wants to make sure I note that she means that in a good way.
The second track is Little Girl by John & Jackie. I have this on two compilations, Rockin' Bones and Las Vegas Grind. Released in 1958, it's a manically upbeat little pop number with John crooning some fairly straightforward lyrics:
Well I love you and I think you're fine
Well you're cute let's make some time...
What sets this song apart, especially for 1958, are the backup vocals by Jackie, who gasps and moans and does a better job of vocalizing her orgasms than any porn actress. Whew. I need a cigarette when this song's over, and I don't even smoke.
My favorite is next: Sister Ray from the Velvet Underground album White Light/White Heat, all 17-plus glorious minutes of it. Music that must be endured to be enjoyed. It has drag queens, heroin, oral sex, sailors, gun violence and a police raid. The song was recorded in one take, with all the amps turned up to "11". In a great apocryphal story the recording engineer left during the session after setting the tape to record. I used to get psyched up to work midnights by listening to this track on my drive to work. Here's what Lou Reed said in this interview:
"'Sister Ray' was done as a joke--no, not as a joke, but it has eight characters in it and this guy gets killed and nobody does anything. The situation is a bunch of drag queens taking some sailors home with them, shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear. The jam came about right there in the studio. We didn't use any splices or anything. When we did 'Sister Ray,' we turned up to 10 flat-out, leakage all over the place. [The producers] asked us when it would end. We didn't know. We were doing the whole heavy-metal trip back then. If 'Sister Ray' isn't an example of heavy metal, I don't know what is."
It occurred to me that it would have been possible to do nearly all of this mix and draw only from the collected body of work of The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. This next track is the title track of Lou Reed's 1978 album Street Hassle.
The tableau set out in Street Hassle can be seen as a worn-out, late 70's version of the scene going on in Sister Ray. A smack fueled orgy without the joy or exuberance:
"Hey that c*nt's not breathing,
I think she's had too much
Of something or other, hey man,
you know what I mean?
I don't mean to scare you,
but you're the one who came here
And you're the one who's going to have to take her when you leave...
Sha la la la man...why don't you just slip away?"
Yes, it's 10 minutes and 52 seconds of good times, presented in three distinct movements, with an absolutely earnest and therefore hilarious spoken word interlude by Bruce Springsteen dropped in at about 9 minutes.
Of course I wasn't the only one to think of Nick Cave when I thought of someone making music that embodies sin.
Stagger Lee is an old blues song that's been recorded hundreds of times, with variations on the theme. We've got about 10 versions of it here at the compound, if you count the Clash's Wrong Em Boyo. Most of the versions tell the story about a killing that takes place over gambling and/or a hat.
The Nick Cave version, snarled out slowly in front of a heavy beat and ominous piano, features gun violence, murder, ass-kicking, a prostitute, ass-f*cking and wildly obscene language that might even make Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann wince.