Tag Archive: naughtiness


Naughtiness

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a pretty good child. Behaviorally, I never did anything that was really dangerous; never smoked, never did drugs, never snuck out at night, was (almost) never disrespectful to my parents, and didn’t run with a bad crowd.

The biggest bone of contention between me and my parents was my musical choices. As I entered the second decade of my life, they started furrowing their brows. Bands like Aerosmith and Green Day caused them some grief, and they weren’t crazy about Smashing Pumpkins either. And it really started when I was in 4th grade and liked Vanilla Ice enough to ask for To the Extreme for Christmas. I got it, too.

But for whatever reason (fate, luck, God, circumstance, maybe all of them), I never discovered true naughtiness in music in my youth. The most I got was Steven Tyler quoting Frank Zappa (which I didn’t know at the time) singing “Buns up and kneelin’ / I was a’ wheelin’ and a dealin’.” And while that was more than enough for my parents, there were MUCH worse things out there at the time. 2 Live Crew caused quite a stir with “Me So Horny” and their entire As Nasty As They Wanna Be album, and it echoed in the church youth group my parents headed. Likewise, Digital Underground and “The Humpty Dance” crossed the consciousnesses of the teens in my parents’ youth group. They tried to play a cassette of it on a youth group road trip in my dad’s motor home stereo; he promptly threw it out the window.

Those two groups were on the periphery of my vision growing up, but Onyx wasn’t. When I was in 6th grade, there was a kid that went to my older sister’s school (Harkness Road, my own high school) that we gave a ride to in the mornings. We also took him to church for youth group on Wednesday nights (I went to the kids’ program at our church). His name was Luke, and he was what most adults would classify as a “bad influence.” My parents were friends with his mother, and I guess they were hoping good company would redeem bad character, the opposite of the way it typically works. It was through him that I experienced a number of different “naughty” things, Onyx being one of them.

Onyx were an early ‘90s rap group and a key figure in the gangtsa rap movement, a cluster of black artists that used incredibly violent imagery and profuse profanity. Since gangsta rap was meant to present an exaggerated glimpse into the black urban lifestyle and mindset, this also included rampant misogyny. Luke played me Onyx’s debut album on headphones one time, and I was particularly disturbed by the song “Blac Vagina Finda,” which essentially describes an interracial gang rape. I expressed my discomfort and distaste, and Luke laughed derisively and called me a pussy.

Loathe as I am to admit it, my desire to fit in with Luke and other people I was around caused me to wade into the sludge-teeming waters of gangsta rap for a while. It didn’t last long, since the overwhelming waves of stinking immorality bowled me over and were too much for me. It’s not that people like Onyx and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were simply talking about sex and violence and the bad things of the world; I have no problem with that. It’s the way they talked about them. That way was extremely vulgar and obvious, which insulted the wordsmith in me, but looming largest in my mind was that it was celebratory. In their verbage, the bad things of the world weren’t bad at all. Gun violence was to be celebrated. Misogyny was to be celebrated. Illegal drugs were to be celebrated. Law and order were to be disrespected, insulted and ultimately destroyed. Love is weakness, attachment to your sexual partner is weakness, and your entire ethos is to be dictated by taking what you can get and not caring about how much damage you are causing to the people around you. Simply put, this was the opposite of everything I was brought up to believe.

So luckily, I went back to my Genesis and Phil Collins, and was on the verge of discovering R.E.M. and a world of other delights. And in the end, it worked out.

AC/DC probably would have been on that list of bands my parents were hoping I would NOT be into when I was younger. Like a few others I’ve talked about, my fandom of AC/DC is relatively recent. I was 9 when The Razors Edge came out, and I remember thinking “Thunderstruck” was pretty groovy, but the guy’s voice was like grinding gravel between two sheets of corrugated steel. And at that time, I didn’t have a clue that Back In Black even existed, let alone Bon Scott. A decade and a half later when the Jack Black extravaganza School of Rock was released, I found a liking for “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll),” which led me into Bon-era deliciousness. From there, I was hooked.

Music has always been the centerpiece of my life, the language through which I speak and am spoken to, but it’s better for certain music to enter your life at certain stages of your life than others. Gangsta rap, while it was a horrible experience for me, came around at just the right time. It taught me a very stark lesson about where my musical boundaries were, what I could take and what I couldn’t. AC/DC, likewise, came around at just the right time. Had I waded into their music at a younger age, I might have not only drawn the ire of my parents (even more than I did anyway), but I might have become a different, more depraved person. It’s because AC/DC came around when I was mature enough to deal with them that their bawdy talk and low-brow subject matter can hit me at the angle it does. If it were from a different, younger angle, it would probably be a lot more harmful.

Next: always a bridesmaid, never the best-selling album of all time.

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The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – 12/6/1968

My fandom of the Rolling Stones is a latter-day thing. The reason I never got into them as a kid or teenager – besides the fact that when you’re a teen, nothing made before you were born has any value, including your parents – is that there was always some sneaking naughtiness to them. It was just barely within my consciousness, but I was just sensitive enough that it gave me pause. It still appealed to the curious side of me, but at a young age, that part wasn’t very big. I wasn’t a curious child; I didn’t want to open that drawer, watch that movie, or smoke that cigarette. With a few exceptions, I was a good little boy.

Thusly, the Stones were something I was wary of until I reached adulthood. When I was still living under my parents’ roof, I kept them at arms’ length. Ironically, the impulse that kept me away from the Stones didn’t stop me at all from getting into Aerosmith. That caused contention between me and my parents, let me tell you. One time they actually sat me down in our living room, took out the liner notes from my two Aerosmith CDs and read me every word of the lyrics out loud. Some of it was pretty embarrassing. They made a point that THAT was what I was choosing to “fill my head with.” From then on, I kept my listening choices more to myself.

It is that subtle undercurrent of something good little Christian kids don’t do that permeates much of the Stones’ material. This was in a bygone age, before profanity had become the valueless thing it is today. Back in the Stones’ day, innuendo and euphemism ruled the day rather than crassly obvious statements. There was kind of an art to what bands like the Stones and Aerosmith did; they talk about sex in a way that you could miss if you don’t pay attention. That takes more effort that just coming out and saying it.

“Parachute Woman” has that going on more than any other song on Beggars Banquet. The innuendo is dirty and funny at the same time. It’s a slow blues song with a lazy groove, and it features a bit more of an echoing, un-produced quality than other Banquet songs.

“Jigsaw Puzzle” floats by despite its 6 minute length, featuring monotonously strummed acoustic guitars and a lilting electric. It’s stylistically similar to certain Bob Dylan songs, but doesn’t have the lyrical depth or intricacy, though it sure tries. There’s a verse towards the end that talks about members of a band (a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, etc.) that is possibly about the Rolling Stones themselves.

The vinyl flip starts off with “Street Fighting Man,” the first moment on the entire record where the Stones pull out all the stops and turn up the volume. This song can definitely be appreciated at a greater level when your volume knob is cranked to the maximum. It’s been called the band’s most political song. That march on the U.S. Embassy in London that happened when the Beatles were in Rishikesh was actually attended by Mick Jagger. He found contrast in the generally quiet, “sleepy” character of London and the huge event that was happening in the heart of it. But inspiration for “Street Fighting Man” came from not only that, but the hippie protests in America about the Vietnam War, but more strongly the near-revolution in France.

What makes this song more interesting than a straight-up protest song is that it’s really not a protest song. There’s talk of all the unrest and discord going on in the world, but not as particularly negative things. At best, Jagger is reporting on it in an observational tone like Lou Reed reports on drugs, but it very easily tips over into glorifying the violence. At times, he even seems to revel in it. I think the narrator of “Sympathy For the Devil” would approve.

Tomorrow: Statutory rape, and other fun stuff…