About a year ago, a retro station started in my area. And that’s nice! Because sometimes, you want to drive home to the music of your formative years. And I’d be rocking out to New Kids, or Guns n’ Roses, and I’d think, listen, ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD.
But really, you can’t go home again, you know? And you’re listening to the music of your childhood, and you’re reminiscing, like, “Hey, I remember dancing really awkwardly to this in the gym and hoping that cute boy would ask me to dance and he never did I hope he’s dead now, wait, that’s mean, just fat, fat and bald, or maybe in jail,” and then YOU LISTEN TO THE LYRICS. Because you are a grownup. And grownups listen to the lyrics. And you’re a different person now! And you’re bringing baggage – NAY! A whole matching set of LUGGAGE to the high school dance this time around!
And you realize, holy SHIT but I was dancing to age-inappropriate songs when I was a kid.
Here. I have examples. What, you thought I was just going to drop this on you and leave? That would have been rude.
“Living on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi
Year Released – 1986
Grade in junior high – sixth
Bases rounded: I’m really bad at sports. And metaphors. Boys are icky.
What I thought it was about: ZOMG TRUE LOVE
What it is really about: poor people who have given up their dreams and are so goddamn depressed
I remember when Slippery When Wet came out in sixth grade and all the cool kids went to see Bon Jovi in concert and came back with posters and tee shirts and they were all “DUDE that was the COOLEST” and I was kind of jealous but mostly I was totally busy reading my Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books and making sure I didn’t get eaten by a grue so it wasn’t too bad.
Listen, I was just the biggest “TRUE LOVE WIIINNNSSS” person until life kicked me in the head, I can’t even tell you. Now I think it’s mostly a crock of shit but if someone wants to prove me wrong, that’s awesome, too. Don’t rule anything out, you know? Anyway, this song was just the best. Because Tommy! And Gina! And their love! And listen, they didn’t need MONEY, man. They had LOVE. That’s all that MATTERS, bro. LOVE IS THE ANSWER.
This song still kind of makes me rock out. I’m not going to lie. But if you look at it from an adult’s point of view, it’s not so much “romantic” as “oh my God listen YOU NEED TO GET BETTER JOBS THIS IS TOTALLY THE WORST.”
Listen, Gina is “working for her man” because Tommy “used to work on the docks” but apparently that’s no longer the case because “union’s been on strike.” So I guess he can’t work, because when you’re on strike you don’t work? I remember my dad went on strike once and we ate a lot of government cheese. Which, listen, I know that sounds super-sad, but government cheese makes the best, hands-totally-down, grilled cheese sandwiches you have ever eaten in your LIFE. So smooth and melty. Like HEAVEN, that stuff was. Also it was kind of awesome because he was home more and my dad is the most fun EVER. So I know, my parents were probably really upset about being poor? But my brother and I were kind of digging the whole “we’re totally getting government CHEESE! It comes in black and white generic wrappers like it’s a state SECRET!” thing. Can’t lie about that.
Anyway, Gina “brings home her pay for love.” OK, well, that’s nice and not at all subservient, Gina. She also works in a “diner all day.” That sucks. I would hate waiting tables and also would be the worst at it. In college, I worked in the dining hall for a while? (DICKINSON DINING HALL REPRESENT!) And it was the WORST. You came home all crusted with food goo and people were SO MAD when you ran out of Chicken Cordon Bleu, it was like the end of the WORLD for those people. Although I met my friend R there, and she made it tolerable, because we used to get these insane giggle-fits when something nutty would happen. Or when I would sing Meatloaf lyrics very loud and off-key in the kitchen for no reason. (In case you’re wondering, it was “Would you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot? HOT!”)
This is getting totally off track.
Then Gina says a confusing thing, which is: “We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got/’Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not./We’ve got each other and that’s a lot.”
Um, so she wants them to hold on, but then she says it doesn’t matter if they make it? Does she mean if they don’t make it monetarily? Or romantically? Because if you don’t make it monetarily, babe, you’re going to starve to death on the streets, and if you don’t make it romantically, what was it all about, Alfie?
Then it says they’re “halfway there – livin’ on a prayer” which sounds AWFUL. I mean, nothing against praying, but also I like a good turkey sub once and a while, yo.
Then Tommy’s whining about his six string, which he had to hock, I assume to eat, and then Gina “dreams of running away/when she cries in the night/Tommy whispers: Baby/it’s okay/someday.”
THIS RELATIONSHIP IS THE SUCK.
Listen, you both need DINNER. And also to move somewhere ELSE. With more JOBS. I am SO DEPRESSED RIGHT NOW. Gina’s got the right answer! And Tommy’s all, “Yeah, yeah, someday, whatever, DID I TELL YOU ABOUT MY SIX STRING.”
I’m so over Tommy. I want to adopt Gina and make her some soup, though.
The line “you live for the fight when that’s all that you’ve got” makes me seat-dance every goddamn time, though. So that’s something.
Mony Mony – Billy Idol
Year Released – 1987
Grade in junior high – seventh
Bases rounded: All my bases are belong to me. And at this point it feels like they probably always will.
What I thought it was about: money
What it is really about: the Mutual of New York building. But probably also sex.
I’m really only including this because this reminds me of a funny story. I went to a dance with my cousin S when I was in seventh grade at her school. And S was COOL, yo. Like so cool you could REFRIGERATE things on her. But what was awesome about her was that she was also one of my favorite people in the world (and still is, I’d gladly arm-wrestle a bear for her) and didn’t care that I was the biggest nerd in nerddom, and was willing to hang out with me. And when she went places with me, people thought I was cool. So S, thank you for that. It always made me feel a little better about my life when you were proud to be seen with me, even in 1987 when I had a spiral perm and blue glasses frames bigger than my whole face.
Anyway, S brought me to a dance. And just as this song started, she said, “listen, we do something kind of bad during this song.” And I said, “What?” and she said, “We…um…swear.” And I said, “WHAT?” because listen, I TOTALLY DIDN’T EVER USED TO SWEAR. Because of JESUS. I know. Your mind is blown. Take a minute to collect yourselves. Anyway, she said, “Just watch me for when to do it, but at certain points in the song, we yell out ‘hey motherfucker, get laid, get fucked.’” And I was SO SHOCKED. But also SO AWED. Because could S be any cooler, seriously? DIRTY DIRTY CUSSES. And when it came time, I watched S, and I SCREAMED OUT THE TOTALLY DIRTY CUSSES. And so did the entire room of junior high kids. And listen. It was AWESOME.
I thought this was just a weird regional thing but Wikipedia tells me today THIS WAS TOTALLY A THING THAT PEOPLE DID IN THE 80s. Who knew?
Billy Idol’s version of the song gave rise to an interesting custom in the 1980s. When the song was performed live in concert or played at a club or dance, people would shout a certain formulaic (and usually obscene) sentence in the two bars following each line. One example is: “Hey motherfucker, get laid, get fucked.” This custom led to the song being banned at high school dances across North America, although it continues at Idol concerts today.
Ha. I love that this still happens. You go, youth of America. You go.
Anyway, apparently when Tommy James and the Shondells wrote this they just wanted a cute song with a repetitive thing in it and they saw the MONY building in New York City and thought “SCORE.” And maybe their version wasn’t about sex. But LISTEN. Did Billy Idol ever do anything – including, I’m sure, hailing a cab, getting a colonoscopy, and eating a bowl of oatmeal, without it being ALL ABOUT THE SEX? No. The answer is no. “Ride your pony, ride your pony, ride your pony come on, come on.” Yep. Billy Idol + talk about pony riding = THE SEX.
Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc
Year Released – 1989
Grade in high school – Freshman
Bases rounded: Zero (I was VERY BUSY. With…um…OTHER THINGS. Listen, I don’t have to tell you everything I do. Why are you interrogating me.)
What I thought it was about: wacky foibles in the adult dating world
What it is really about: unexpected results when you roofie someone
This is distressing. This song isn’t even ABOUT funny wacky stuff like I used to think it was. THIS WAS SECRETLY WARPING CHILDREN. I’m going to go right ahead and blame this on the roofie craze. What? This had nothing to do with the roofie craze and there’s not really so much of a roofie craze, anyway? FINE. I might have been EXAGGERATING.
So Tone Loc was “cold coolin at a bar, and I’m lookin for some action” but no dice. NO DICE. No chicks want the Loc. So Tone Loc goes up to some other dude who’s getting all the chicks and he asks, “Why you so fly?” And the guy says “I totally roofied the chicks. Want some?” OK FINE he says “Funky Cold Medina.”
Then the guy tells Tone Loc how to roofie people with this oddly-named drug, and apparently gives some to Tone Loc. Who then GOES HOME AND GIVES IT TO HIS DOG WHAT THE HELL. “So I gave some to my dog when he began to beg.” WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS. What happens? The dog “licked his bowl and he looked at me and did the wild thing on my leg.” What the hell, Tone Loc? You are a weirdo. But it all ended well, his dog ended up getting all the sex because “now all the poodles run to my house for the Funky Cold Medina.”
I am confused. So if you drink it, does it make YOU horny? Or does it make everyone AROUND you horny? This drug is not very precise. The side effect list must be really long when you pick it up from your pharmacy and the pharmacist must be all, “You should really opt into the optional counseling” and you’re all “No m’man places to go and people to do I mean see” and he’s all “It’s your funeral my friend” while shaking his head sadly.
Well! This worked well, so then Tone Loc decides, “I WANT TO BE LIKE MY DOG” so he goes to the bar and finds a victim I MEAN A GIRLFRIEND. And he roofies her, and all is totally going well, until he brings her home and finds out that “Sheena was a man.” WELL. Isn’t THAT unexpected. You totally gave some stranger a date-rape drug and then she ended up not being what was promised you. I feel really, really bad, seriously.
Then he says this, which is odd: “You know, ain’t no plans with a man. This is the 80s, and I’m down with the ladies.” So if it was the 70s you’d have been ok with it? Or the 90s? What does this mean?
Then (why is this song SO LONG) he goes on The Love Connection (I don’t know either) and roofies the winner. And the winner was awesome until she said she wanted to marry him ON THEIR FIRST DATE and he was all “SEE YA!” and left.
You CAN NOT PLEASE TONE LOC. He doesn’t want to have sex with: a dog, a man, or a woman who likes him. WHO THE HELL DO YOU WANT TO BONE TONE LOC.
I find this song to be a cautionary tale for dogs, transsexuals, and women.
Humpty Dance – Digital Underground
Year Released – 1990
Grade in high school – Sophomore
Bases rounded: One (barely, and kind of by default)
What I thought it was about: dancing
What it is really about: humping (I mean, it’s not like he was trying to fool anyone or anything, IT SAYS IT IN THE TITLE)
In 1990, I had my first boyfriend. In case somehow he stumbles into my den of iniquity, I don’t want to be too mean. Oh, wait, stop, I totally do, because he told everyone he fucked me after he dumped me on Valentine’s Day! So let’s just say the following: he didn’t know that kissing could involve tongue. Kissing, for him, meant putting his lips on mine and staying there, for lengths of time up to three minutes, WITHOUT MOVING. I don’t know. It was off-putting. It also started my obsession with lip gloss because there was no moisture and SO GODDAMN DRY AND CLINICAL. The fact that he told people we’d had sex after we broke up was so laughable that it was almost Benny Hill-worthy. The furthest we got was one time he let me rest my head on his shoulder in his mom’s van. And then she noticed and said “NO TOUCHING” and then we had to stop. Oh, and the desert-dry kisses. I think if we’d have disrobed, he would have gotten in the fetal position and begun rocking and crying and possibly self-flagellating.
This was my sexual experience when this song came out. So I thought it was about making out?
Selected lyrics from this that prove otherwise:
“Yo ladies, oh how I like to hump thee.”
“I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.”
“I’m still gettin’ in the girls’ pants.”
“’Cause in a 69 my humpty nose will tickle ya rear.”
“I get laid by the ladies.”
WHY WAS THIS BEING PLAYED AT HIGH SCHOOL DANCES.
Also, a Burger King bathroom? I don’t think that’s what “have it your way” means. And, ew.
I like that I thought this was about dancing. I like my innocent self. She’s cute. I want to put her in a blender and see what happens. I’M NOT BITTER NO NOT ME.
Also, I don’t think I had any idea what a 69 entailed until freshman year of college. Um. I mean. When I read about it. In a book. Of course. Anyway. Moving on.
Do Me – Bell Biv DeVoe
Year Released – 1990
Grade in high school – sophomore
Bases rounded: Still one. And seriously, it was totally an accident, I think. He didn’t mean to put his lips there.
What I thought it was about: I think making out?
What it is really about: Fucking. Let’s be completely honest. Dirty, dirty fucking.
What the hell? Songs in the early 90s were AWFUL.
“Girl, let your hair down
Take off your clothes and leave on your shoes
Would you mind if I looked at you for a moment
Before I make sweet love”
Um, why are we leaving on our shoes? That seems…pointy. Are we expecting to make a quick getaway?
“Backstage, under age, adolescent
How ya doin’, ‘Fine,’ she replied
I sighed, ‘I like to do the wild thing’
Action took place
Kinda wet, don’t forget
The J, the I, the M, the M, the Y, y’all
I need a body bag”
STATUTORY RAPE IS TOTALLY CLASSY Y’ALL! This is why he wants you to leave your shoes on. So you can run when the cops come. Also, thank you for spelling Jimmy. The child you’re with probably needs it spelled because she’s UNDERAGE. Also, you’re GONNA need a body bag, Bell, Biv, or DeVoe, because if her dad finds out, WHOO MOMMA are you gonna be in a world of hurtin’.
“The time was 6 o’clock on the Swatch watch
No time to chill, got a date, can’t be late
Hey, the girl is gonna do me”
Swatch Watch! Aw! I had a peach colored one with a phoenix in the middle. It was AWESOME. I like the last line in here. It’s like he’s just remembering. “HEY! The girl is gonna do me! Awesome! How could I have forgotten?”
I had a single of this? And I listened to it over and over and over and my mom was all, “Amy! I think this might be inappropriate?” and I was all, “MOM, you are so OUT OF TOUCH I can’t even, IT IS ABOUT MAKING OUT GAAAHHH.”
Nope. Fucking. Sorry, mom.
Bell Biv DeVoe? Really? That’s…quite a band name?
So listen. If you are a parent or know someone who is a parent of children who are the age to listen to things like this DO NOT FRET. Yes, the songs they listen to are probably WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE. But, all will probably be well, and they will grow up to be normal, self-assured, and cheery. Or they might grow up to blog about nonsense while eating chicken fingers in the dark. THERE IS ROOM FOR US ALL HERE IN GOD’S KINGDOM.
You can do me in the morning, you can do me in the night, you can do me when you want to do me.
Ugh. SO GODDAMN GROSS BELL BIV DEVOE.