Swearing in songs, as in speech, is used in all sorts of ways and for all kinds of reasons. I won’t even try to be representative here, even of a single genre in a given era. This is the first sweary songs post on Strong Language but it won’t be the last. Some of the tracks featured will be very sweary, others minimally so or only suggestive, but you should assume all audio is VFNSFW (very fucking not suitable for work).
First up is an a cappella song so sweet and jaunty you could almost play it in the company of your old-fashioned in-laws – as long as they didn’t listen too closely to the words. It’s the dangerously catchy ‘Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball’ by ’50s doo-wop group The Clovers. Sample lyric:
Cocksuckin’ Sammy get your motherfuckin’ mammy,
We’re goin’ downtown to the Cocksuckers’ Ball.
Fuck, suck and fight, till beginning of the broad daylight.
Listen to it more than once and you’ll be singing it all day. The song is a loose and liberal reworking of the jazz standard ‘Darktown Strutters’ Ball’, and appeared in a 1954 collection titled ‘The Copulatin’ Blues Volume 2’, which you can listen to here.
My introduction to ‘Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball’ was a cover version by the Asylum Street Spankers, who have a penchant for such filth. Their faithful barbershop-quartet-style rendition can be heard here, complete with lyrics. Frank Zappa also covered the song, as did the funsome foursome below, who made a cheerful video to accompany it:
I thought the Asylum Street Spankers were responsible for a charming song called ‘My Vagina’ that I half-remember, but I can’t find it so I’ll defer that one for now. It’s not the NOFX song of the same name, and I don’t think I’m imagining it. Anyway, in the meantime try the Spankers’ rudely lovely ‘Scrotum Song’:
Scrotum, scrotum, it’s my wrinkly crinkly bag of skin.
Scrotum, scrotum, it’s the thing I keep my testes in.
Moving from ribald to risqué, if not exactly sweary, we find jazz and blues legend Dinah Washington demanding satisfaction in ‘Big Long Slidin’ Thing’. It’s about someone working up a jam with his, er, trombone:
He said, ‘I came to do some tinklin’ on your piano keys.’
I said, ‘Don’t make me nervous, this ain’t no time to tease.
Just send me my daddy, send me my daddy with that big long slidin’ thing.’
Here’s a fun live version of more recent vintage, performed by Ingrid Lucia, Duke Heitger, Craig Klein, John Fohl, Jermal Watson and Barry Stephenson in New Orleans in 2012. It comes complete with explicit trombone action foregrounded:
In a similar dirty-blues vein of heavy innuendo is Bo Carter’s ‘All-Around Man’:
Now I ain’t no plumber, no plumber’s son,
I can do your screwin’ till the plumber man comes
‘Cos I’m a all-around man, oh I’m a all-around man.
Getting back to explicit swearing we have The Blenders’ finger-clicking ‘Don’t Fuck Around With Love’, recorded in 1953 at the same session as their radio-friendly alternative ‘Don’t Play Around With Love’:
PJ Harvey made a simple conceit bold and artful in ‘Who the Fuck’:
What the fuck you doin’ in there
Get your dirty fingers out of my hair
While the gloriously unclassifiable Ween conjured up a boisterous Gaelic tavern with ‘The Blarney Stone’:
Get off my ass, you wee bitty fuck
If I pull out the claymore you’re shit outta luck
Fully eighty years ago Lucille Bogan recorded some amazingly bawdy blues, such as ‘Shave Me Dry’. This opening lyric is mild compared to what follows:
I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb,
I got somethin’ between my legs’ll make a dead man come.
If you’re in the mood for a shouty swear-along, Butt Trumpet’s ‘I’ve been so mad lately’ or Splatpattern’s ‘Fucking Fucking Fuck’ might be just the ticket. If cabaret is more your style, go with Millie Jackson’s crowd-pleasing ‘Fuck You Symphony’:
This kind of post could go on forever, so I’ll abandon shit here. Feel free to add your favourites in the comments.
One last swear, of a different kind: Nina Simone’s protest song ‘Mississippi Goddam’, banned in several US states upon its release in 1964:
Sweary songs #2 is now up: ‘A fuck shit stack of sweary songs‘.
Fascinating. I’m not surprised that such songs exist, but that they were commercially recorded. Didn’t interstate commerce laws prohibit such explicit language? (That, at least, is the story I’ve heard why Sondheim couldn’t use any actual vulgarities in the lyrics of “West Side Story.”)
Atlantic Records supposedly declined to release ‘Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball’ after The Clovers recorded it, but it found other channels (some perhaps underground). I’m afraid I don’t know much about the historical legal angle in the US.
I direct you to tvtropes, an excellent source for further links of this type: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ClusterFBomb/Music
Though my favorite is the Mormon version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0-WQ5W8NW8
That’s some fine taboo avoidance. I’ve saved the TV Tropes link for future installments, having sworn off it this time lest I fall into a bottomless pit of musical ‘shit’.
Cocksucker’s Ball prefigures the testicular double-and-single entendres of this leisurely ditty
by the legendary Bon Scott, who could make the phone book sound filthy.
Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they’re held for pleasure
They’re the balls that I like best.
My balls are always bouncing
To the left and to the right
It’s my belief that my big balls
Should be held every night
For old school lasciviousness it’s hard to beat the closing lines of Bessie Smith’s “I need A Little Sugar In My bowl”:
I need a little sugar in my bowl,
I need a little hot dog between my roll[s]
You gettin’ different I’ve been told,
move your finger, drop something in my bowl
I need a little steam-heat on my floor,
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go
(spoken: Get off your knees, I can’t see what you’re drivin’ at!
It’s dark down there!
Looks like a snake! C’mon here and drop somethin’ here in my bowl,
stop your foolin’, and drop somethin’, in my bowl)
Excellent choices, thank you. I like Bessie Smith especially: such a soulful voice (regardless of the subject matter).
Oscar Brand released at least six albums of traditional bawdy folk music on the Audio Fidelity label, starting in 1949. This YouTube search finds plenty of them, and many song titles are listed in Wikipedia’s discography.
Wow, that’s quite a back-catalogue. I’ll dig into it later, thanks.
Awkwafina’s My Vag is amazing, and way better than the “inspiration”.
I hadn’t heard either before now, but I much prefer Awkwafina’s.
PS re sexual reference – A generation before the verbal skankfests of Tommy Lee (Get Naked) and Easy-E (Gimme That Nut), this was the dirtiest song on my radio:
It was nice to see this 1931 gem make an appearance on Boardwalk Empire last year. (R Crumb also does a cracking cover of it.)
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I had Crumb & his Cheap Suit Serenaders’ version lined up for the next Sweary Songs post, but the original definitely deserves to be included too: it’s just about perfect. Thanks, Spank.
And don’t forget The Hucklebuck. https://wfmu.org/LCD/26/huck1.html
“Whoever came up with the name must have anticipated the sexual innuendo, as the lyrics written by Roy Alfred, are mildly suggestive, while the dance was just as bad. ‘That Hucklebuck was a very nasty dance,’ recalls Virginia Robichaw, a teenager in Philadelphia when she first heard the song. ‘They used to get down I don’t know how they did it. They would do the dance, the hucklebuck, and they would get down on their back and the guy would stand over top of ’em’.”
Interesting background – thanks, Nancy. The name Hucklebuck always struck me as more than a little suggestive, like a slang word for something illicit or indecent.
In Dallas, Texas, by the mid-1960s, the Hucklebuck had morphed into the Dirty Dog, the demonstration of which in the girls’ shower room of the gymnasium got me in a peck of trouble.
I offer, in a more contemporary mode, Jenny Owen Youngs’ rueful “Fuck Was I” from 2005:
Very nice, and the video is a good mournful match.
I’m quite fond of this little Noel-Coward-esque bit (the script says it’s sung by a pianist “who is not Noel Coward”) from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life:
I love this. The Monty Python Sings collection was a regular in my walkman back in the days, and I knew there was a Python song I was forgetting. I considered including ‘Sit On My Face’ but decided it wasn’t sweary enough, or indeed at all. But here it is anyway.
Look up Loudon Wainwright III’s version of Good Ship Venus. Also known as Friggin’ in the Riggin’, the Sex Pistols also recorded it. Plenty o’ swearing in there.
Another suggestion for the blog: The Aristocrats joke.
Thanks, Hugo. I didn’t know this song. And the Aristocrats joke is a great suggestion – one of us will surely get around to it eventually.
For sheer *density* of swearing, I don’t think any record can top the b-side of the 12 inch of Alexei Sayle’s Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?
None that I can think of, Spank. I see Wikipedia describes it as “a sustained onslaught of high-speed profanity and faux-coprolalia”, which seems fair.
Stan, I’m late to the cocksuckers’ ball, but surely you’re still rocking in the wee wee hours. I recall delighting over what were already old-timey artifacts when my friends and I were in high school around 1970: the “party records” of Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts.
Roly-poly, tickle my holey
Up my slimy slough
I dragged my balls
Across the hall
I’m one of the sporting crew
The first old maid
She up and said
Mine’s as big as a . . .
And here, sad to say, memory fails.
Sheila, you may be late but you are very welcome; the party is still swinging and sweating. Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts were completely new to me, but Wikipedia directed me to this brief history (‘we didn’t make any money, but we had a million dollars worth of fun’), and ‘Roly Poly’ may be found on YouTube. Thanks for the introduction!
I’m surprised not to see Bull Moose Jackson’s classic Big 10 Inch, particularly since it was covered by Aerosmith.
John Valby aka Dr. Dirty made a “career” singing filthy songs.