After 230,000 miles my old Pathfinder finally gave up on me. Its demise necessitated the purchase of a new car which is in the midst of its 90-day free trial of satellite radio. What I’ve learned about satellite radio is there’s no reason for me to renew it when the trial is over. All I do is hit the seek button a hundred times an hour. I’m wearing out my arm.
But they do have an all 50s station that I have started paying attention to, and I’ve realized that the 50s were not the puppies and rainbows decade they’d have us believe. If you read through the line of these 50s love songs, it paints a pretty bleak picture. Of course, part of that is due to the fact that teenagers are, have always been, and will always be a bunch of horn-balls. The 50s maybe just tried a little harder to cover it up.
Let’s start with “Silhouettes” by The Rays(1957). It’s a lovely little number about a guy standing outside his girl’s window when he sees two people about to go at it. He understandably gets upset and begins pounding on the door, eventually threatening to beat it down if she doesn’t answer. (Yikes!) The door finally opens and our intrepid peeping Tom discovers he is at the wrong house. At this point, he runs to the correct house and, to paraphrase, “loves her like he’s never loved her before.” I can only assume that means Reverse Cowgirl.
How about “Poison Ivy” by The Coasters(1959). If this song’s not about a girl with STDs, I’ll punch a kitten in the face. “Now you can look but you better not touch,” mm-hmmm. And, “Late at night while you’re sleepin’ poison ivy comes a’creepin,'” that’s the infection spreading. How about, “But poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!!” They’re not even being subtle anymore. But then, “You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion” shows how much they didn’t know about STDs in the 50s. “You’ll be scratchin’ like a hound
The minute you start to mess around.” Do they mean crabs,maybe? Well, that’s not so bad.
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” by The Shirelles (1960) is pretty obvious. I know that 1960 is not the 1950s, but it is really close, so I’ll allow it. Plus, I’m afraid if I don’t, I will run out of reference material before you have been sufficiently entertained.
And Gene McDaniels’ oh-so-understated “Point of No Return.” “You just can’t get off a train that’s movin’ down the track. I’m at the point of no return and for me there’ll be no turning back.” Come on! There’s even a train comparison. I can only imagine him actually singing the song to warn the poor girl of his impending…expulsion. I think that just made it creepier. Aaaand….now I can’t stop imagining that. Great. Thanks, Gene. Dick. Son-of-a-bitch. I just found out this song is from 1962. What the fuck, Sirius XM? You’re making me look like an asshole here.
“Sixty-Minute Man” by The Dominoes(1951). I’m including this one for obvious reasons, but I want to concentrate on this lyric: “And 15 minutes of blowing my top.” 15. Minutes. The man is talking about a 15 minute orgasm. That’s ridiculous. And to quote the internet, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” I will give full props to The Dominoes on the name of the song, which, if nothing else, has a great deal more panache than my song, “Eight and Half Minute Man (And That Includes The Foreplay.)”
Or Bobby Darrin’s “Plain Jane”(1958) about a not-so-attractive girl that he wants to go out with but won’t tell us why. “I could never, never tell you why I love her like I do, but if you took her out for one fine night you’d feel the same way too.” I think it’s pretty clear “Plain Jane” does anal.
And let’s not forget “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard(1955). Little Richard himself has said the original lyrics were “If it’s tight, it’s alright. If it’s greasy, it makes it easy.” Sounds like Little Richard spent some quality time with “Plain Jane.”
Now for some generalities.
The word “tenderness” comes up with an astonishing frequency in 1950s songs. My research has revealed that over half (*figure not based on actual data) of all 50s songs include lyrics about missing “your tenderness” and needing “your tenderness”. We can only surmise that “tenderness” was 1950’s teen code for “genitalia.”
And last but not least, we need to look at the prevalence of songs either about, or dedicated to, 16-year-old girls. There is a preponderance of them. In the 1950s, singing about “loving” a 16-year-old, and in some cases, rejoicing that she had finally turned 16, was perfectly okay. But try that shit today and it’s all, “Sir, we’ve already called the police,” and “That’s VERY inappropriate!” and suddenly I’m banned from Hot Topic “like, permanently!”
Man, times sure have changed.