Those Naughty 70’s Songs
Rock lyrics tell stories. Many times those stories are about love. Often they are about sex. Rarely are they about virginity. If they are, the lyrics are cloaked in the language of teenage angst. In the 1970’s bands that would sing about losing your virginity were pushing the boundaries.
For a band to get radio airplay which was a key to sales, they had to carefully construct a song so that they did not arouse the suspicions of the parents of “impressionable” kids. This means the lyrics were not too lascivious or explicit.
These five songs exemplify the “losing it” genre of the 70’s.
1. Foreigner – Feels Like The First Time
Foreigner likes songs with the theme of first time sex. Feels Like The First Time was just part of a trio of songs that play on the whole virgin thing; Urgent (which some people misheard as Virgin) and I Want To Know What Love Is also cover the virginity field.
I liked Feels Like The First Time when it was originally released. It is a very catchy song with a good hook, as are most of the early Foreigner songs. But Feels Like The First Time comes off today a little schmaltzy with lines like “And it feels like the first time, like it never did before (ooh-ooh ooh-ooh oooh), Feels like the first time, like we’ve opened up the door, feels like the first time, like it never will again, never again.”
2. Meat Loaf – Paradise By The Dashboard Light
Probably the most overt and famous rock song about losing it. Graphically described and all rolled up in a mini rock opera. When I hear this song today all I can think of is that every teenager in New York in the 1970’s had a copy of this album in one form or another LP or cassette. If you are ever at a flea market and see a bunch of 8 track tapes I can practically guarantee that this album will be among the stash. A brilliant stroke of this song was to have Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto do the “play by play” of getting “from base to base” in the middle break.
Listening to Paradise By The Dashboard Light and the entire Bat Out of Hell album with fresh ears makes me conclude one thing: it still holds up 35 years later as being a highlight of rock’ roll, even if song and album have been played to death. Is there any music being made today that is comparable in lyrical or musical quality? It certainly helps having consummate musicians like Jim Steinman, Edgar Winter and Todd Rundgren and Max Weinberg in you band. Here is Meat Loaf live in 1978 with Karla DeVito live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. (Ellen Foley is the vocalist who sang with Meat Loaf on the album.)
3. The Raspberries – Go All The Way
Go All The Way is simply a great song. Eric Carmen lead singer and songwriter said, “I knew then that I wanted to write a song with an explicitly sexual lyric that the kids would instantly get but the powers that be couldn’t pin me down for.”
And Carmen succeeded. It’s all how you present it. In sugary sweetness he sings, “She said, Pleeeeeease, Goooooo Alllll The Wayyyyyyyy” which did go over the heads of almost all adults who heard the song and maybe most of the teens listening to the lyrics.
As Carmen describes it further, “I was in high school when ‘Magic Bus’ by the Who came out. I remember walking down the halls and having guys raise their arms in a rebellious fashion and go, “Hey, Magic Bus!” And I was never quite sure what that meant, but I was fairly sure that everybody thought the song was dirty. I thought I’d try to write a song that would create that same vibe. From that idea came one of my earliest experiments with songwriting. I like to put together diverse things that don’t necessarily match up. In this case, it was supposed to be sort of the Who playing guitar, the Beach Boys playing the backing track during the verse, with the Left Banke singing the background vocals during the chorus. You put it all together and see if it works.
When I came up with the title I wasn’t sure I could get it played. If I sang it like the Rolling Stones or the Who, it’ll probably get banned, but if I sing it like real innocent, like Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, nobody will notice this is a dirty song. There was some quirky beauty about being able to tailor a track and lyric so that (if you sang it right) you could get some serious malfeasance into the song.”
4. AC/DC – Squealer
When AC/DC’s lead singer and lyricist Bon Scott composed a song there was always a certain realism in the lyrics. I am sure that the lyrics to Squealer came to Bon from his long experiences on the road dealing with groupies. “She said she’d never been, never been touched before. She said she’d never been, this far before.”
As an aside this is a song AC/DC never performs live.
Rod Stewart – Tonight’s The Night
This almost doesn’t make the cut as rock; it is easy listening pop. I also have never liked Rod Stewart. Come to think of it I don’t know ANY guys who like Rod Stewart. His primping and preening are just too much. Kind of like Mick Jagger except without the good music. Stewart’s gravelly voice is grating and his songs are generally banal. Nevertheless Tonight’s The Night makes the list of five virgin songs.
If you examine the lyrics it breaks down to this: he’s been dating this girl a while who won’t give him any. He’s gonna give his girl a drink (even though she might be underage), loosen her up and deflower before it gets too late. Blah.