July 28, 2013 by NowhereButPop
Since the very beginning of mainstream pop music, a common theme is that many songs have been written about women. This has never been more evident than in classic rock. From “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, to “Jamie’s Crying” to “Crazy Bitch”, songs about women have become a staple and commonality in rock music. This takes a few forms though from love (“Sweet Child O’ Mine”), to obsession (“Every Breath You Take”), to blind lust (“The Wanton Song”). Now, over the past few weeks, I’ve realized certain trends that I hadn’t noticed before regarding songs written about women. I’ve broken these trends down into three sub-categories: songs about women not yet of age, songs about women of the night, and finally songs about women who aren’t really women. Below is a brief analysis of my findings.
Women not yet of age (Girls)
For some reason pedophilia has been a focal point for quite a number of bands, not only in their music, but in real life. Three songs refer to having sex with a minor are “Sick Again” by Led Zeppelin, “Stray Cat Blues” by the Rolling Stones, and “Christine Sixteen” by KISS. There’s really no other way that these songs can be construed as they’re all pretty blatant in intent and description.
Written about a bunch of teenage groupies, referred to as the “L.A. Queens”, “Sick Again” is a song that while expresses pity and sympathy for these oversexed young girls, doesn’t reject their juvenile advances. With lines like “One day soon you’re gonna reach sixteen” and “How fast you learn the downhill slide”, it’s pretty clear who this song is written about.
Stray Cat Blues
Let me start off by saying that originally the lyrics were about a 13 year old, but was later changed to 15 because the band thought 13 as too young….so they changed it by two years. The song, being about a grown man rationalizing why he should spend the night with a 15 year old decides that “It’s no capital crime” so he goes along with it, and then tries to invite the girl’s friend up too. “I can see that you’re fifteen years old, no I don’t want your I.D.” really doesn’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation. Oddly enough life would imitate art as about ten years later bassist Bill Wyman was involved with a 13 year old girl.
“Christine Sixteen” is almost exactly like “Stray Cat Blues” in that an older man lusts after a minor, and then tries to rationalize his lusts. The verse “I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age but when I saw you coming out of the school that day that day I knew, I knew I’ve got to have you” singlehandedly makes this song the creepiest out of all three examples. Not only does he desire a minor, but he’s been scoping her out for quite some time now. How Nabokov-esque of the band.
Songs about women of the night (Prostitutes)
For some reason America hates prostitutes. If you were to make a list of things that would never be legalized in America, prostitution would be number two on that list. Which, if you think about it is kinda weird seeing as what has been made legal over the past 100 hundred years since the government began cracking down on these lovely ladies of the evening. But luckily rock music has no such perturbations regarding the world’s oldest profession. “Roxanne” by the Police, “Killer Queen” by Queen, and “Trick of the Light” all pay homage to those who walk the streets. Ironically enough all of these songs were written by British bands.
The only thing that would have made “Roxanne” anymore obvious would be if the word “whore” or “hooker” was in the song. One of the Polices’ staple songs, “Roxanne” tells the story of a man who has grown in love with a prostitute and his desire to see her retire from her line of work as he refuses “to share you with another boy”. A noble aspiration at that. Other lines from the song such as “Those days are over you don’t have to sell your body to the night, Roxanne you don’t have to wear that dress tonight, walk the streets for money you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right” all cement the fact that this is a song about prostitution. I don’t know if I figured that out before or after I first saw Good Burger.
I’ll admit until I typed in “songs about prostitution” in Google, I had no idea this song was about a high end hooker. What’s weird about this song is that the lyrics are a weird mix of raunchy innuendo coupled with a degree of taste and class to them. Lines such as “Drop of a hat she’s as willing, playful as a pussy cat then momentarily out of action, temporarily out of gas” and “A built-in remedy for Kruschev and Kennedy, at anytime an invitation, you can’t decline” betray a sophisticated sexual innuendo, that was lost on me for 22 years and 4 months.
Trick of the Light
A cynical take on buying(?) a prostitute for the evening courtesy of bassist John Entwistle. Although the narrator is preoccupied with his performance, “But was I alright, did I take you to the height of ecstasy”, he expresses feelings for her at the same time. The lines “What’s a nice girl like you doin’ in a place like this? They don’t make girls like you no more, and I’d like to get to know you, on closer terms than this, but I guess you’ve heard it all before” parody how easily lust can be mistaken for something more. By the end, the narrator realizes that she is nothing more than a prostitute and that his hopes of seeing “a shadow of emotion cross your face” are quashed. Typically enough the song ends with him paying the woman and they go their separate. Judging from the way Entwistle lived his life, I’d say this song was written from experience.
Women who aren’t women (Transvestites)
I don’t know if rock stars are just very experimental, or if they just can’t tell the difference between a woman and a man in drag. Regardless, there are a handful of songs out there that describe harrowing adventures with men posing as women. The most humorous being “Lola” by the Kinks, “Get Out the Door” by Velvet Revolver, and “Royal Orleans” by Led Zeppelin. At the very least, I know that “Royal Orleans” and “Lola” are based on true stories, I’d imagine the same applies for “Get Out the Door”; it was written by Scott Weiland after all.
Inspired by an encounter with a transvestite that their manager had, singer Ray Davies decided to write the lyrics after he heard his managers rationale as to he went home with her(him?). According to Davies his manager said “I saw the stubble, but I was too drunk to care”. In my entire life, I’ve only met one person who didn’t know what this song was about despite the obvious hints in the first two verses. It’s not until the third verse that everything is cleared up with the line “I’m not the world’s most masculine man, but I know what I am, and I’m glad I’m a man, and so is Lola”, which at that point any such doubt should be stricken.
Get Out the Door
Incidentally, this was the last song performed by frontman Scott Weiland before he left Velvet Revolver. Lines like “Wait a minute girl, there’s something that you’re not”, and “Like transformers, girl there’s more than meets the eye” not so subtly imply that this woman, who also may or may not be a hooker, might not also be a woman.
Based on a true story where bassist John Paul Jones went down to New Orleans, got drunk met a woman who was actually a transvestite, got high with her(him?) and accidently burned the entire hotel down, the lyrics to “Royal Orleans” were actually written by Robert Plant out of spite to his bassist. More coy than the other examples lines such as “And if you take your pick be careful how you choose it, sometimes it’s hard to feel it bite” and “He kissed the whiskers left and right”, convey the fact that Jones’ accomplice in this illicit tale set in New Orleans was actually a man in drag. Of course John Paul Jones has been quick to deny that the song was written about him.
To be honest, there are some songs out there that will inextricably remind me of a certain girl that I’d been with. I’m just thankful that none of these songs remind me of anyone in particular. Then again, I’ve never been attracted to children, utilized the talents of a prostitute, or ever met a transvestite. For this I consider myself extremely lucky. Or I could just be leading a sheltered life.