Over the last few days we’ve been tweeting and pondering the “dirtiest song on the radio” question. The conundrum has been reprompted by a Wall Street Journal post on the history of Aerosmith’s song “Walk This Way,” titled “The Dirtiest Song on the Radio” (it was christened this by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, or at least he called it the dirtiest song he’d ever heard).
The tune is indeed quite dirty, as per this excerpt:
“seesaw swingin’ with the boys in the school
and your feet flyin’ up in the air
singin’ ‘hey diddle diddle’
with your kitty in the middle of the swing
like you didn’t care”
Yup. That’s dirty. But is it the dirtiest ditty ever? And how would dirt lovers decide how to bestow this honor?
I guess one possible objective rubric would be whether the tune got in trouble with the government. Two of these instances come to mind. The first was “Louie Louie” written by Richard Berry, then further popularized by The Kingsmen in 1963. The Kingsmen version prompted an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The popularity of the song and difficulty in discerning the lyrics led some people to suspect the song was obscene,” the agency’s summary of the probe notes. “The FBI was asked to investigate whether or not those involved with the song violated laws against the interstate transportation of obscene material.”
The FBI looked into the tune from February to May of 1964, but “discovered no evidence of obscenity.” (They even sent a recording to some kind of lab; very weird). In any event, as the YouTube recording with lyrics below indicates, the Feds were right. The song wasn’t obscene, although it was perceived to be.
The second instance is Sarah Jones’ rap song “Your Revolution.” “your revolution will not happen between these thighs… / the real revolution / ain’t about booty size . . . ” When Portland community radio station KBOO-FM broadcast the piece in 1999, the Federal Communications Commission hit the licensee with a fine, then backed down following counter-lawsuits and appeals.
The irony is that both of these songs are far less dirty than “Walk This Way.” “Your Revolution” is arguably a plea against indecency. On the other hand, there was Eminem’s hit “The Real Slim Shady,” which the FCC fined an Entercom station for airing, even though it was an edited version of the piece:
“My bum is on your lips/My bum is on your lips/And if I’m lucky you might just give it a little kiss/And that’s the message we deliver to little kids And expect them not to know what a woman’s [bleep] is/Of course, they’re gonna know what intercourse is.”
Eventually the Commission also reversed on this penalty as well, but the tune does seem far spicier than the previous examples. Alas, in the end I just don’t how one would properly bestow the sobriquet “Dirtiest Song on the Radio” to any tune. It’s all very subjective. Suggestions welcome.
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