Hello everyone and happy birthday to Kenny Baker, our favorite dwarf droid actor I can’t wait to see again! (116 more days!) Today I’m saluting my favorite songs that are entitled effeminately. Some of these lyrical ladies are based off of real women; others are entirely fictional. Some of the songs are a single name; others have more intricacies that poetically describe the focal female. Regardless of what they’re called, they’re all great and worth a listen.
Man, way to start on a downer! The Rolling Stones are one of the greatest and certainly most enduring bands of all time, so it’s no surprise they feature on any list of songs. In “Angie” they give us a look at the end of a relationship. Where most songs about two people bein’ all up in a romance with one another focus upon the start of a blossoming love, or how happy they are together after having established a genuine connection, the Stones (who do have their fair share of those more traditional songs about lovers too) offer a glimpse of a mutual break-up that sounds like it’s going to wear heavily on both people for while.
Perhaps the most recognizable song by Eric Clapton from a band that’s recognizable primarily because he was in it for a while, “Layla” tells the tale of a man in love with a woman he can’t have. It was inspired by The Story of Layla and Manjun by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, as well as Clapton’s own hots for Pattie Boyd who was married to his best bud George Harrison, which kind of made her hard to get. No matter how it came to be, Clapton’s guitar and desperate vocals make this one of the greatest rock songs ever.
Clapton scored another girl jam six years later with “Lay Down Sally”, a country blues song that showed off more of his talents as a solo artist, or rather solo label as he did have others playing and writing the songs with him.
While we’re talking backwoods blues and rock and roll, let’s discuss a little lady named Jessica, the instrumental classic from The Allman Brothers Band written by guitarist Dickey Betts who previously worked his magic (without the accompaniment of fellow guitar great Duane Allman who died in 1971) with their hit “Ramblin’ Man”.
The final track on Vaughan’s immortal Texas Flood, “Lenny” is another great guitar instrumental, and it’s named after Vaughan’s wife, Lenora, whom he also declared to be his “Pride and Joy”.
If I’m going to talk about some of the greatest guitar players of all time, then I’m going to praise the man who stands above them all. I’ve already discussed “The Wind Cries Mary” in another post, but it deserves to be brought up again here, as does a lesser known, yet still incredible Hendrix piece “Izabella”.
Of course, even Jimi Hendrix owes a debt of gratitude to the man who first showed the world what the electric guitar could do and still does. “Carol” sounds like Berry’s Earth-shattering “Johnny B. Goode” because it was the B-side track to that rock opus. “Maybellene” is often cited as the first true rock and roll single and showcased Berry’s talents and his own claim as a god of rock and roll. Maybe he’s born with it.
You want to talk about the pioneering roots of rock and roll? Well let’s look at Lead Belly and listen to the tale of Black Betty. It’s not clear who wrote the first version of “Black Betty” but Lead Belly is usually given credit for being the guy. Nowadays, you’re more likely to hear the much more up-tempo version by Ram Jam. Ram Jam caught some crap from the NAACP for the lyrics of the song, but eventually things smoothed over once someone pointed out that black man who helped formulate the blues and rock and roll was the one credited with crafting it into the song that inspired Ram Jam.
This song has been sung by a few performers over the years, but Dale Hawkins is the man who started it. The Rolling Stones made a cover of it for their second album, but the best version belongs to John Fogerty and CCR who were very good at taking American megahits and putting their own creole twist on it all. Some things just sound better as swamp rock.
“Good Golly Miss Molly” by Little Richard – 1958, covered by Credence Clearwater Revival – 1969, and many others
Little Richard is another godfather of rock and roll and this is one of his best, but once again CCR mucked around and made it their own in magnificent fashion.
This time Credence was the band that started it and made the original version, yet many people prefer the slow-then-fast paced Ike and Tina Turner mix, especially at wedding receptions and other events where the older members of your family who shouldn’t be dancing are. You may even like Solomon Burke’s take on it. Regardless of which is your favorite, the song is not about a pretty little lady the fellas are doting on, but a riverboat rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the Mississippi River.
This song has had many, many covers ever since Dolly Parton first begged the more beautiful (but certainly not more busty) Jolene to leave her man be. My favorite is by The White Stripes, but another standout version is from Parton’s goddaughter, the superfreak of Franklin,Tennessee herself, Miley Cyrus.
From Jolene to Darlene, things shift a little from pleading for a vixen to go away to pleading for a vixen to come my way. Released on Coda, Led Zeppelin’s final album that came out after the band dissipated after drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980, “Darlene” was cut from their previous album In Through the Out Door.
As Charlie Murphy will tell you, Prince was on top of the world and high on himself in the mid-80s, especially with the release of his album and film entitled Purple Rain. It tells the tale of a young guitarist-singer who meets a girl and runs into problems at work and home that complicate their budding relationship. Things are at their worst between the pair when he gets up on stage and sings this song upon her entry into the club. Guys, if you run into a rough patch with your girlfriend, don’t play a song implying she’s a “sex fiend” in front of a large crowd.
The only man bigger than Prince in the 1980s was Michael Jackson, and the only album more adored than Purple Rain was Thriller. “Billie Jean” was also a hallmark song and music video for MJ for many reasons, not least of all because it was the first time he spun around and grabbed his crouch. EEEE-HEEE!
I don’t know if Sting and The Police are the best people to be giving advice given songs like “Every Breath You Take” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, but that doesn’t stop us from shouting out with him “YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT ON THE RED LIGHT!” I guess she’d have to find another source of income then.
While Roxanne is having her last night on the street corner, Mary Jane is having her last dance, and I’m not talking about the content in the creepy music video Tom Petty made for this song. While the subtext for drugs is certainly present, the song was written as a reminiscence of a girl moving on from her small town. Plus the title is whole lot catchier than “Indiana Girl”.
This one has some clear drug references, and I’m not talking about Cab Calloway’s impressive scatting. This classic composition reached a newer audience with its inclusion in 1980’s The Blues Brothers. Calloway played the role of the titular brothers’ musical mentor at the orphanage they grew up at, and he provides them with a much needed introduction with that ultra smooth jazzy walk in.
Carmen is the Minnie the Moocher who becomes Roxanne, and seems to be on her way to become the Mary Jane in Petty’s video. But it’s easy to lie to yourself when your liquor’s top shelf. Lana Del Rey sings the woes of Carmen in a fittingly gloomy tone that picks up in a manner as false as Carmen’s smiles and make-up.
Yep, the heavy metal band with the flute wrote a song about a prostitute too, but where Carmen doesn’t want to be doing what she’s doing, Mary is more than happy to oblige the, ahem, gentlemen she sees in every evening.
Too rah loo rah! From flutes to fiddles, and sexual expression and tension to sexual repression and, well, tension. “Come On Eileen” is that fun song you hear on the radio in the office during 80s weekend that someone always points out sounds dirty. Thanks Jerry! Way to be immature!
Written and performed by Stevie Nicks, she was inspired by a novel inspired by Welsh mythology about a witchy woman named Rhiannon. Nicks wrote the song before she joined the band, so it was sort of her ticket in to join Fleetwood Mac. Even with all the sleeping around on each other, I think it worked out for everyone.
If you thought Rhiannon was possessive, then get a load of this guy! “Polly” is based on a real case where a teenage girl was abducted after attending a rock concert before escaping when her captor stopped at a gas station. The song is softened a touch from Nirvana’s usual feedback guitar by the use of an acoustic, but the lyrics and unfeeling delivery of the verses by Kurt Cobain make for a hauntingly disturbing song.
The Kinks also have a song called “Polly” that is less frightening, but why talk about that when we can turn our attention to “Lola”? One of my favorite songs, “Lola” is exquisitely written. It’s ambiguity and double entendre are top notch, especially at the climax of the song when the narrator sings, “Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man/ but I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man/ and so is Lola!” That might be my favorite line in any song. Terrific! This song also helped The Kinks live up to their appropriate name.
It may not be 100% clear what Lola is, but The Ramones are quite clear as to what Sheena is.
This is early Pink Floyd. Like, their second single early. So it would be a few years before the sound got to “Comfortably Numb” status. It’s different and progressive, but it’s fascinating to think of what Pink Floyd evolved into from this!
The newest song on this list, this became one of my greatest incentives to listen more to the newer alternative rock station in town. Supposedly the title is an homage to Lisa Simpson who is beloved by the group and it checks out as the sixth episode of the show was titled “Moaning Lisa” and introduced her jazz idol Bleeding Gums Murphy.
This song is on the radio stations I normally listen to. It’s also quite a sight to see live. Lead singer Bon Scott based it off of a one night stand he had with a woman in Tasmania who had a lot to offer if you get my meaning. she must have been a real devil to take him for such a legendary spin.
While we’re on the subject of sexually experienced women, let’s take a trip up and down California like Benjamin Braddock and wonder what the fuck this song has to do with the plot of the movie besides Mrs. Robinson. Did Simon and Garfunkel even watch The Graduate? Who cares? This song is still great.
What better way to get around than in a Mustang? At least four of my friends think it’s the way to go. This song would not have made this list were it not for Aretha Franklin giving it its signature title. It could have been Mustang Momma we’d be singing about riding around all day.
Isn’t it funny that a bartender is named Brandy? Does that distract anyone else when they hear this on the oldies station? That doesn’t stop me from singing both the main and backing vocals when it plays though… or at least from attempting to do so.
This is probably old news to everyone at this point, but Neil Diamond wrote this for Caroline Kennedy when she was 11 years old. What you may not have known is that because of that, Penn State banned playing the song at their sporting events following the egregious child sex scandal that surrounded their football program not too many years ago. I believe they have since lifted that ban as they came to their senses, but that’s what the fear of not being politically correct will do.
Lou Reed wrote this vivacious song to have a couple of styles and tempos, as he did with many songs. It has been covered on plenty of occasions, but the best comes from the Cowboy Junkies in a slowed down serenade of sorts that climaxes with an immaculate crescendo of lalalas. Lou Reed kept singing this song as long as he kept performing, even long after leaving Velvet Underground. The best version is this live one from Rock n Roll Animal.
Arthur Alexander isn’t the first guy most people think of concerning this song that he wrote, but that’s the waaaaay it goes when the greatest band of all time covers your song on their debut album and kind of gets all the world’s attention. Which brings me to my next point. You see, The Beatles had a lot of great songs and a number of them were named after girls like:
And I guess, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” too.
Long story short: The Beatles are really good. Alert the media.
All of these tunes are fantastic in their own right, yet my personal favorite is the passionate plea for release from Donnie Iris who just can’t keep away from Leah and vice versa in 1980’s “Ah! Leah!” This rocking revel of falling into magnetic guilty pleasure was Iris’ biggest hit, and for good reason. Interestingly, originally the song was meant to convey a different meaning as Iris and friend and fellow musician Mark Avsec set out to compose an anti-war anthem. They were looking for a battle chant to serve as the chorus and realized “Ah! Leah!” was a woman’s name and decided to switch gears and make a rock and roll love song. I, for one, am glad they did.
Thanks for reading! And listening! I hope you can maintain self-control until next week when another thrilling post debuts!
Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble,