Elvis Presley - "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."
Words by Maurice Mysels. Music by Ira Kesloft. Rights Controlled Unichappell Music Inc. (Belinda Music, publisher). International Copyright Secured. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by permission.
Ted Nugent - "Cat Scratch Fever."; Copyright (c) 1977 Magicland Music Corp.
I want you,
I need you,
I love you,
With all my heart.
Elvis Presley, I want you, I need you, I love you.
SCHOOL WAS ABUZZ with it and for a lot of us it was the first time we'd heard the word, and the word was that he was "sexy." Not "too sexy," mind you; merely being sexy was enough to get someone in hot water back then and the parents were steaming. They were also censoring. Some of us were going to be allowed to watch it and some of us weren't, which spelled utter misery between Friday afternoon and 8 o'clock Sunday night for the parents who had decreed "no" and stuck to it.
Actually, it was closer to 9 o'clock. Ed Sullivan teased his gallery of teen-agers into a frenzy for most of the hour and when the act finally came on the teen-agers screamed so loudly you could hardly hear him sing. It was Sept. 9, 1956, the night ELvis Presley wiggled his way into the hearts of America's teen-agers. Rather, he wiggled his way into the hearts of the kids in the TV studio. The cameras weren't allowed to show him from the waist down, so the rest of us had to use our imagination. When you're 12 and 13 years old, that can do wonders.Or at least it could then.
We knew we were on to something. We watched him on black and white TVs, living room lights turned off, the volume turned up, and we fell head-over-heels in love while our parents seethed with outrage.
And we were faithful. The affair that started with "Heartbreak Hotel" intensified with "Love Me Tender," and we stayed true to him in the Army and out of it. Then came the Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and the Rolling Stones rolled in with "Satisfaction," and then we had the songs of war, of resistance, rebellion and death, and then one day we awoke to the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. We had grown up, stopped listening to rock, stopped paying attention to it while we had children and got jobs and listened to the usic only in the car while commuting to work, hardly hearing while the music changed, and suddenly one day we're stuck in traffic and the disc jockey crashes in with today's top of the charts tune, Exile's smash hit, "I Want to Kiss You All Over."
Not to put too fine a point on it, but things seem to have gone too far. "Nothing will be played if it's obscene," one of Washington's top disc dockeys explains after extracting lots of promises that his name won't be used. "As far as a song being suggestive or overly suggestive, if you go back and listen to it, that's what rock and roll has always been about. Go back to Presley swiveling his hips. Any rock song is about the first time you go out and get in the car for the first time and (make love). When we were growing up, it might have been a little more subtle, cloaked a little more.
"Just as the language in general is more explicit, now there are phrases you can use in a newspaper that you couldn't use a long time ago. It may seem a little stronger to us than it does to the people listening to it. 'I Want to Kiss You All Over,' if they came out with that in 1968, it would have caused an uproar. But then there was a song called 'Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box.' It was about a piano. The guy didn't have one and he went over to his girl friend's house to play hers. A radio station isn't going to play anything that's going to get their license pulled."
"The really big songs are about love," says this disc jockey. "'Nobody Does It Better' by Carly Simon. That was the theme song from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.' Nobody does it half as good as you baby, you're the best. You think it means that, but you're not sure. Little Richard said you should never be able to understand completely the words of a rock song. If you make it questionable, with the double entendre, you're going to imagine the best or the worst, depending on how you look at it.
"There's a song by a group named Meat Loaf. It's about nine minutes long and the name of the song is 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light.' He's listening to the radio while he's in the car with his girl friend. In the middle of the song the music gets real rocky to accompany what's going on. Phil Rizzuto is on the radio calling the play-by-play. The guy gets to first base, second base, third base and gets home. He scores. It's kind of cute."
Actually, it is kind of cute, but you'd have to be a moron to miss the entendre.
"I think we read too much into it," says the disc jockey. "You've got to remember, when you're 13 years old, the chances are you're not going to have that much sexual experience or expertise. You dream about it. It's very romantic. There's a lot of chin music.
"At most big stations it's up to the program director and the music director to decide what can be played. I would never get to play a song on the air that several people hadn't listened to and made a decision about. They don't want to annoy people either.
"There's always been an alliance between rock radio and kids growing up, as far as doing things their parents don't want them to do. The parents don't complain [about the music]. Most of the parents don't listen. A lot of it may not be high art and delicate use of the language, but I haven't heard that many complaints. Parents probably listened to similar things, otherwise they wouldn't be parents."
Not quite. Not by a long shot. And the disc jockey who thinks adults read more into the lyrics than the teeny-bopper set hasn't talked to any kids lately. Told the subject of this column, the resident 12-year-old rattled off an eye-popping sequence of suggestive titles and lyrics that won't be repeated here, but one that came up was Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever."
The next night, he and a 13-year-old friend ran into the living room shouting. "Mom, it's on."
Mom: "What's on?"
Them: "'Cat Scratch Fever.' Listen." And on the stereo it came, volume up, metallic, driving. "Shush, Mom. Here it comes. Listen."
Ted Nugent, singing clear as a bell: "I can make a pussy purr with the stroke of my hand."
Mom, glancing apprehensively at two beaming, smirking faces: "Do you know what that means?"
Them, faces glowing like bright red Christmas bulbs: "Yeah."
You know, I think they did know. More on this Friday.