I like just about every style of music (almost) and when I find myself getting “bored” with one style, I just start binge-listening to another style until I get sick of that one too. Right now, I’m back on “oldies” music, because I’ve been listening to a lot of old hip-hop, and I get fixated on the samples, so here I am. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the genre of “oldies” music, it refers to the clean-cut, radio friendly, seemingly innocuous songs of the 1950s and ’60s, which mostly focused on love and happiness.
In the spirit of the zeitgeist, this post is to highlight some of the things music artists used to get away with, that just sound ridiculous now. Society has changed, in the way we interact with each other, our interests and priorities, and the way we express ourselves. People don’t sing about the same subjects, because we don’t worry about or value the same things we used to. That’s not to say music has gotten better, where profanity is now encouraged to be as explicit and sexual as possible, but there is at least a new taboo around certain slurs that used to be allowed (I don’t even want to go into the numerous songs I found, which used “faggot” and “retard” freely on radio versions). Different things bother us, as well as delight us, and as a result, music is drastically different.
Take the song “Down In The Boondocks“ by Billie Joe Royal:
“Down in the boondocks/ down in the boondocks
People put me down cause that’s the side of town I was born in
I love her and she loves me/ but I don’t fit in her society
Lord have mercy, I’m a boy from down in the boondocks”
People don’t really sing about caste or class in songs anymore. With the advent of Tinder and Bumble, as well as online services like Match.com, people can date across the tracks, and not have to face any backlash. I tried thinking of a recent song that deals with this issue, and I could only think of “Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne. He wasn’t good enough for “her” but he was certainly good enough for Avril (wait- was Chad Kroeger the sk8r boi??). He just had to stick to his own demographic, which is something Billie Joe Royal couldn’t abide.
Have you ever listened to “The Wanderer” by Dion a million times, like I have? The message in this upbeat tune is pretty questionable on its own, without Dion actually doubling down on it: “You say to a chick, ‘Stay away from that guy,'” Dion said in 1976, “and she would say, ‘What guy?’ Chicks loved a rebel.”
How charming, Dion. I mean, you told her to stay away from the guy, and she didn’t listen to you?! The nerve! She must be asking for it, I guess. It’d be like, if your buddies told you to stay away from a girl, and you didn’t, but then when your buddies were right, you blamed it on the chick.
Oh wait, YOU DID. On the SAME RECORD. Let’s talk about “Runaround Sue” a minute, shall we?
“She likes to travel around, yeah
She’ll love you and she’ll put you down
Now people let me put you wise
Sue goes out with other guys”
Okay, so what about:
“Oh yeah, I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town
And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl
Yeah, I hop right into that car of mine and drive around the world”
So let me get this straight: The Wanderer is some mysterious sex bomb, born to drive the women crazy (which is clearly all we want in life), while Sue doesn’t even get the luxury of being called by her first name, without the slut-shaming prefix? Interesting.
If you’re wondering why she goes out with other guys, it’s probably because you’re out fucking every girl in the world, not even telling them your name, because to you, “they’re all the same.” If you were home once in awhile, perhaps Sue would be happy to get a good dicking, but you’ll never know that, because you’re drivin’ ’round the world in your car.
I mean, you literally talk about how, when you’re spending the night with Janie (not Sue), you tell her you love Rosie (again, not Sue) the best, so Sue probably has the right to be going out with other guys. It’s only fair. Sounds like you either drove her ass crazy while you were in your “Wanderer” phase, and she couldn’t take it anymore, or, maaaaayyyybeeee… she was such a powerfully crazy whore, that you finally broke down and turned into a whore as well, and now they call you The Wanderer.
Still, if the latter were the truly the case, you said it yourself, “ask any fool she ever knew, and they’ll tell you” so why the fuck didn’t you listen?? You knew she wasn’t trying to settle down. It’s like when you tell a chick to stay away from a guy, and she doesn’t. Don’t expect monogamy from someone who is sexually liberated, and then go blaming them for your own transgressions.
Here’s another song I’ve always hated, that still makes me shake my head:
“The purpose of a man is to
love a woman
and the purpose of a woman is to
love a man…
Come on, baby
‘Cause the time is right
Love your daddy with all your might
Put your arms around me
Hold me tight
Play the game of love
c’mon baby, let’s play the game of Love”
(- The Game of Love)
First of all… let’s just say we’ve learned our lesson on sexual attraction being limited to heterosexual couplings. Let’s pretend we all Oops!ed our way away from that whole tragedy, and agree that it’s a horrendous indoctrinating mindgame. Beyond that… I’d say the purpose of a man, back then, was mostly to either serve his country, and/or go to work and be the breadwinner, and provide discipline to the family, and wash the fucking car in the driveway. He didn’t have much purpose, beyond that. And let’s not glaze over the purpose of a woman, which is apparently to love a man?? Can we still pursue our dreams, though? Or rear our children? Do we have any other options, or can we do other things with our lives, while waiting to fulfill our life’s purpose? Just checking, for someone else.
Don’t even get my overly-analytical ass started on the disgusting Daddy/control issues at work in the last part. He feels the need to tell her that the time is right, as if she has no say in the matter, or simply can’t tell if the time is right or not, and then he keeps bossing her around like she’s some kind of voice-commanded sex doll. Why does he have to call himself her daddy? Why?… because daddies are bossy? Let’s shrug the daddy shit off, shall we?
Also, why have we not updated this song, to say “The purpose of a human is to love themselves, and the purpose of other people is none of your fucking business“?
Tommy James had a song that goes: “My baby does the hanky panky” over and over, for the whole song. I never actually knew if he was excited about it, or if he was slut-shaming, but he apparently felt the need to tell everyone about it in a song. I mean, there are only a couple of ways a person could take that line, both of which I’ll go into now.
If his baby does the hanky panky, and one assumes that he is the one doing the hanky panky with her, then why is he putting all of the focus on her? In that case, he and his baby are both doing the hanky panky, and he’s telling everyone that she’s doing it. Not cool. Own that shit, dude. If you’re proud of your lady, and you’re open enough to let others know she’s boning, be proud of the fact that she’s boning you.
That is, assuming “hanky panky” means boning.
On the other hand, if his baby does the hanky panky, but he is not doing the hanky panky, then he sounds unnaturally upbeat bout her doing the hanky panky with other people. The whole thing smacks of Open Relationship vibes. In either case, it sure does seem like he wants everyone to know about his “baby’s” sexual appetite, and could think of little to say about it.
Not exactly a ’50s or ’60s song, but in 1970, there was a fun little summer ditty called “In The Summertime“, in which Mungo Jerry celebrates all of the free-spirited excitement and adventure the warm weather brings. You’ve heard it in movies and TV, on the radio, in stores, and probably just in passing, more times than you can count. But have you ever listened to the lyrics? Particularly these ones:
“Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find
If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel”
Couple things: if you’re drinking and driving, it’s bad enough that you’re taking your own life into your hands, but your lack of compassion for other motorists on the road… not a cute trait. I don’t know about you, but I don’t make it a habit to get into a car with a drunk driver, much less, one that has been trolling around for “whatever he could find” before settling on me. This song doesn’t relegate the singer to his own class, as mentioned in the lyrics, though I’m still unsure if he truly understands the distinction between rich and poor. Who knows, maybe he’s spot on. Just seems more logical that the girl with the poor daddy is going to need that meal a little more than the rich girl. She would probably also be more inclined to be financially conscious at said meal, or at least bring home the leftovers, and probably eat them, and definitely not just leave the doggy bag in the fridge, like I do.
1970 produced another gem, called “Vehicle” by a group called Ides of March (like the warning). The very first line in the song lays it all out on the table, in the creepiest way possible:
“I’m a friendly stranger in a black sedan
won’tcha hop inside my car
I got pictures, candy, I’m a lovable man,
and I can take you to the nearest star”
Uhh, what the hell?? That guy is using every cliche available to rapists in 1970. I mean, at least he’s friendly, but damn, he’s still telling you straight-up that he’s a stranger! Apparently he wants you to hop in his car, based solely on your looks, which just doesn’t ever lead to anything substantial, but if he can get you to the nearest star, he’s wheeling and dealing extremely well. Pictures? I can get those anywhere. Candy? You’re speaking my language, but again, I can buy my own damn candy. But when you start talking about taking me to Alpha Centauri, well, I just might be putty in your 1970s hands.
Not to further my point about the ’70s being equally weird, but in 1972, The Four Tops decided it was time to remind us what #RelationshipGoals look like, with “Ain’t No Woman.” I admit, I used to love this song, because it’s otherwise romantic as fuck, and I still do enjoy listening to it, but I cringe so hard when he sings the line “I would kiss the ground she walks on/ ’cause it’s my word, my word she’ll obey.”
You mean, her value above others in your world is strictly contingent on whether or not she’s going to do whatever you say? Why does she have to obey your word? Do you have some unreasonable expectations, on which bullshit has been called? Not to be a buzzkill or anything, but that ain’t romance. It reminds me of that line in The Labyrinth, when Jareth says “Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.” What is it with guys thinking that’s a fair exchange?
“Hey girl… your free will, for some dick?”
I think we have arrived at a point, in our current society, where it really isn’t safe to sing or talk or write about anything, without incurring some backlash. I have come to accept this, and it seems that more and more performers are coming to the same conclusion, plowing past the red tape of PC civil rights and humanistic compassion, and glorifying misogyny, rape, murder, and racism. If you think the lyrics from the 1960s were questionable, just turn on your radio today. There is nothing to even question anymore; between the lyrics and the video themes, the messages are clear, and they set both genders (and society as a whole) back so many decades, the 1950s seem like yesterday.
But remember: nothing is safe to say, so even this post itself will come off as “anti-feminist” to someone, because they could argue that music videos nowadays are sexually liberating for [insert gender here] and I should break free from the chains of sexual repression in the media. I like to think there is a happy medium, where sexuality and the human form have their platform to be celebrated, AND creativity and ingenuity get to shine on their own platform as well. Sexuality can be liberating for people, and anxiety-inducing for others, but it has its place. Using sexuality as a replacement for anything, seems to surrender your own power over it, defeating the purpose of it in the first place.
Love and sex and relationships between people will always be changing. We will look at each other differently in the future, than we do now, than we did 50 years ago, and hopefully learn from our poor choices. I wonder what we’ll be singing about in another 50 years, when Li’l Pump and 6ix9nine are considered “oldies.”