Risque Rock N Roll: Naughty Numbers


The timeline of when pop music turned from nice to naughty could be traced in dog years.  Pop went from Patti Page’s “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” to Elvis’ slightly edgier “Hound Dog” to The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”  But before rock ‘n’ roll, sex was one subject many early jazz artists loved to touch, which included the ribald Lucille Bogan.  Five words of Lucille’s lascivious “Shave ‘em Dry” in 1935, a prequel to Cardi B.’s “WAP, were pilfered by the Stones and used in their sexually-charged “Start Me Up:”  “Make a dead man come.”

Lucille wasn’t the only artist who sang about sexual acts.  The amount of humorous metaphors and euphemisms for sex in songs is almost as high as the number of Wilt Chamberlain’s sex partners. For example, a David Johansen favorite, Wynonie Harris, appreciated his baby’s “pudding” (“I Like my Baby’s Pudding”).  Dinah Washington looked for her “daddy” because he had a “Big Long Slidin’ Thing”—which she claimed was a trombone.

In “Big Ten Inch Record,” a sly song capably covered by Aerosmith on their Toys in the Attic album, Bull Moose Jackson was blessed because he possessed something that was ten inches —as in a blues record.  Lil Johnson was one of many singers who implored her lover to ring her bell through her “Press My Button (Ring My Bell),” which may have been the inspiration for Anita Ward’s 1979 disco hit “Ring My Bell.”  Lil sang: “I said, ‘Give it to me baby, you don’t understand, Where to put that thing, Just press my button, Give my bell a ring.’”

Mentioning a bell in a song certainly made cash registers ring in 1972 for Chuck Berry. He had his only #1 hit with Dave Bartholomew’s 1952 double entendre ditty, “My Ding-a-Ling.”

But when it came to doubling down on double entendres, Merri Wilson’s 1977 hit (reaching #18) “Telephone Man” wins with (roaming) hands down; thanks to wink-wink-nudge-nudge lyrics like:

“Hey, baby, I’m your telephone man,
You just show me where you want it,
And I’ll put it where I can.
I can put it in the bedroom,
I can put it in the hall,
I can put it in the bathroom,
I can hang it on the wall.”

Merri later admitted that she really dated a “telephone man” after she had moved into her Dallas apartment. “As I was getting the telephone installed, I remembered the line from a Laura Nyro song that goes, ‘I met him on a Sunday and kissed him on a Monday.’ The rest of it just came naturally and the double meanings were just for fun.”

But long before a telephone man let his fingers do the walking, people communicated through Morse code. The band Pearls Before Swine recorded a snippet of Morse sex in 1967 in their song “Oh Dear (Miss Morse)” which featured Tom Rapp dropping the F-bomb in Morse code: “Di-di-dah-dit, Di-di-dah, Dah-di-dah-dit, Dah-di-dah.”

After New York-based DJ Murray the K played the single, some local Boy Scouts figured out the meaning, which got the song taken off the air but no doubt gave these boys merit badges in snitching.

The Beatles were all in for sneaking in innuendos in their songs.  McCartney recalled: “It was always amusing to see if we could get a naughty word on the record: ‘fish and finger pie,” (in “Penny Lane”), ‘prick teaser’ (“Daytripper), ‘tit-tit-tit-tit’ (“Girl”).  The Beach Boys had a song out where they’d done ‘la-la-la-la’ and we loved the innocence of that and wanted to copy it, but not use the same phrase. So we were looking around for another phrase, so it was ‘dit-dit dit-dit which we decided to change in our waggishness to ‘tit-tit-tit-tit’’ which is virtually indistinguishable from ‘dit-dit-dit-dit.’ And it gave us a laugh. (Producer) George Martin might say, ‘Was that ‘dit-dit’ or ‘tit-tit’ you were singing?’ ‘Oh, dit-dit George, but it does sound a bit like that, doesn’t it?’ Then we’d get in the car and break down laughing.”

Their sex-filled self-amusement knew no end; as exhibited when they convinced their record company, Apple, to release Brute Force’s (ex-Tokens’ member Stephen Friedland’s) “The King of Fuh;” with goofy lyrics like:

“There was a beautiful land called Fuh, And in this land there was a king,
And everybody called him the Fuh King.”

George Harrison attended the song’s recording session that featured the London Philharmonic playing behind Mr. Force’s puerile piece on January 10th, 1969, the same day George had (temporarily) quit the Beatles.  EMI Records, Apple’s distributor, refused to widely release it, and the approximately 1,000 copies made for DJs were rarely played on air.  A fed-up Friedland left the music industry and worked as a paralegal for his father in Edison, NJ.

-Mark Daponte

Photo: Aerosmith (Getty Images)

PS. We first posted this in 2022; but the subject is timeless, so we figured it was worth another look.

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Mark Daponte is a copy/blog writer for an advertising company and has published/sold four short stories, three full length screenplays, nine short screenplays (including two animation scripts) and punches up screenplays—because they don’t punch back. He has had six short comedic plays performed by various theater companies, including one in Los Angeles, (Sacred Fools) and Sacramento, CA (Sacramento Actors Theater Company). When he isn’t sinking down to a thirteen-year-old’s level to make his teenaged sons laugh, he can be found seeking signs of intelligent life in his hometown of Brooklyn, NY.

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