Unpopular Opinion: Prince Lowered the Bar for Sexual Innuendo in Music

While I can appreciate a titillating suggestive lyric in a pop song, I believe even the low-minded can be artfully rendered. And I’d argue that the man most associated with lyrical sexual innuendo was hardly its most literate or proficient practitioner.

Prolific? I’ll give him that. It’s almost be simpler to name the Prince songs that don’t feature bawdy double entendre than it is to give examples of his, uh…dirty mind. I won’t bother.

Popular? A hundred million sold, as McDonald’s used to say.

I’m just here to say he sucked at it.

So if you think

Cream
Get on top
Cream
You will cop
Cream
Don’t you stop
Cream
Sh-boogie bop

…is as high-minded as lowbrow gets, I’ll see your Purple One and raise you one Ian Anderson, front man of English art rockers Jethro Tull.

Singer-songwriter-flutist-guitarist and all around mischief maker Anderson rose to the occasion when it came to penning innuendo-laced lyrics, then set them in some of the most ambitiously ornate musical arrangements you’ll hear.

If his mind was in the gutter, his oldfangled English was strictly front parlor. His command of the language turned innuendo into high art. Check out “Hunting Girl” from 1977’s Songs from the Wood:

Pop-lifting (Part 1): Eagles, Beatles, Beach Boys and Their Stolen Music

stand upparker

lennoniggles

The other day I got into my car and the first thing I did–just like I was taught in Driver’s Ed class–was to check the CD player. As I switched the function from radio to CD and landed on track 3 where I’d left off listening, I heard parts of Ben Harper’s ‘Steal My Kisses’ and Belle & Sebastian’s ‘If She Wants Me’ back to back. It sounded a little like this:

A weird coincidence only, most likely. But It did get me thinking about some of the more heinous song-on-song crimes that have been perpetrated throughout the years. I’m talking about artists lifting musical ideas from other artists without necessarily giving credit where it’s due. I’m talking about the scandal of Pop-lifting…

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‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr. lifted from ‘I Want a New Drug’ by Huey Lewis

The producers of the film Ghostbusters approached Lindsay Buckingham to write a theme song based on his successful contribution of ‘Holiday Road’ to National Lampoon’s Vacation. When Buckingham declined Ray Parker Jr. took the job and wrote the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme. He was promptly sued by Huey Lewis, whose hit ‘I Want a New Drug’ had been a hit earlier that same year and sounded eerily like ‘Ghostbusters’ (ok maybe not ‘eerily’ but still…).

The two settled out of court, with Columbia Pictures paying a settlement to Huey Lewis. The details of this settlement were to remain confidential and were until Lewis made comment about his payment on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Parker then sued Lewis for breach of confidentiality.

What’s really weird is that the bass line the two songs share that made them so similar, is also quite similar to that of M’s ‘Pop Muzik’, a number one hit in late 1979.

Here’s an excellent mashup showing why Ray Parker got Ghostbusted:

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‘Come Together’ by The Beatles lifted from ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ by Chuck Berry

‘Come Together’ is pretty much a slowed down, heavier version of Chuck Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ with different lyrics–mostly.

The song got John Lennon sued by Big Seven Music Corp, the publisher of Berry’s song. They settled out of court, but a pissed off Lennon vowed to record three more of Big Seven’s songs. He got around to releasing two. Both appeared on his Rock n Roll album and one of them was ‘You Can’t Catch Me’. (The third, ‘Angel Baby, went unreleased until after his death). Big Seven sued and won another award ($6,795) then released an album of Lennon’s unauthorized outtakes in a move designed to embarrass Lennon. This time Lennon sued and won, to the tune of $84,912.96. I’ll always wonder how it came down to that 96 cents…

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‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ by the Beach Boys lifted from ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ by Chuck Berry

And speaking of Chuck Berry, rock n roll’s most ripped-off figure was pretty ticked off to hear ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ on the radio one day. It’s very nearly a note-for-note rip-off of his ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’. He sued and won royalties and a songwriting credit. It gets weirder: The lyrics of ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ also seems to have been ‘inspired’ by another song, Bobby Rydell’s ‘Kissin’ Time’, which names various American cities. And ‘Kissin’ Time’ borrows melodically from…yup, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’. It all comes back to Chuck.

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‘Hotel California’ by Eagles lifted from ‘We Used to Know’ by Jethro Tull

When the Eagles toured as opening act for Jethro Tull in their earliest days a song from Tull’s live set and written by Ian Anderson made an impression on songwriter Don Henley. It took a while, but about half a decade later his masterwork, ‘Hotel California’ showed the influence of the earlier song. As far as I know, no one sued anyone. But it is interesting to note how un-original Henley’s magnum opus actually is.

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‘Take it to the Limit’ by Eagles lifted from ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now’ by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

And while we’re on the subject of the Eagles, let’s take note (why not, everybody else is doing it) of Randy Meisner’s ‘Take it to the Limit’. The opening string arrangement comes across as a homage (to put it politely) to Harold Melvin’s R&B hit of three years earlier, written by Gamble and Huff. It was also, incidentally, the first Eagles single not to feature either Henley or Glenn Frey on lead vocals.

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So, here’s to the Originals–the Chuck Berrys and Ian Andersons and Huey Lewis’ of the world–those who sometimes have to sue to get the recognition (and money) they deserve. It’s high praise when artists of the stature of Don Henley, John Lennon and Brian Wilson tap your musical legacy for ideas.

berry

 

Three Jethro Tull Documentaries

This is….The First 20 Years of Jethro Tull (from 1989)

An earlier doc from 1979:

…and a third, from 1986, focusing on Ian Anderson’s career as a salmon farmer.

Songs You May Have Missed #340

stand up

Jethro Tull: “We Used to Know” (1969)

As is the main thrust of this blog in a greater sense, I feel the need to evangelize a bit about those other Jethro Tull songs due to the fact that, to the casual rock fan, Tull tend to get pigeonholed based on the songs radio has always played. Thus there’s an exaggerated emphasis on the Aqualung album, for example, which was a monster in the U.S. and may even indeed be the band’s strongest overall album.

Or it may not. For my money it’s Songs From the Wood. In Germany, The Broadsword and the Beast was a huge seller. And their 1969 sophomore LP Stand Up is a relatively overlooked trove of great songs that many Tull fans consider their favorite.

After the departure of Mick Abrahams following the band’s first album, This Was, guitarist Martin Barre was brought aboard. And more significantly, Ian Anderson took the reins, beginning to move the band from blues-influenced rock to a more folk-inflected style. It was a good idea: there was a glut of blues-rock bands in ’69, but Tull’s blend of folk and progressive rock made them relatively unique.

Having said all that, Stand Up was a transitional album, and does contain a mix: bluesy and folksy sounds, as well as a song written by Bach.

Elsewhere on this blog we mention how this song inspired Don Henley to write “Hotel California” (see link below)

https://edcyphers.com/2012/12/12/poplifting-part-1-eagles-beatles-beach-boys-and-their-stolen-music/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/18/songs-you-may-have-missed-242/

Songs You May Have Missed #242

moths

Jethro Tull: “Moths” (1978)

From one of the least talked-about Jethro Tull albums, 1978’s Heavy Horses, comes this little gem. Fresh off the masterpiece that was Songs From the Wood, Ian Anderson brought that album’s folk leanings to another pastoral set of songs with the English countryside as its focus. Maybe the only classic rock band to exploit the beauty of the lute.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/24/songs-you-may-have-missed-340/

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