Doo-Wot? Misogyny, Sexual Deviance and General Creepiness in Doo-Wop Songs

Posted on December 9, 2013

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Not that this has anything to do with my post, but I’m in a sharing mood | foto@me

I spent the past weekend in a full-blown rockabilly/ doo-wop kick. This could be blamed on having recently spent the most gloriously enjoyable Friday night in an awesome little pub where a live band of 40-somethings cranked out the 50s and a mob no younger than 60 shuffled, grooved and jived on the puny dancefloor, hip replacements and walking aids notwithstanding. Later, on the bus home I furiously mined 8tracks for all relevant mixes and nearly dislocated my shoulder doing The Elaine. When 3g failed me, I holed myself up in the school library (yay wifi) and dropped a few megs of doo-wop onto my groaning, straining laptop.

48 hours or so later, my musical fog cleared and the lyrics behind the melodious sha-la-la-ing/ sh-bom-sh-bomming started to sink in. Slowly but surely, the entire trainwreck of doo-wop songwriting revealed itself with grim inevitability. Have you ever closely listened to the lyrics of these songs? Well, I just did. And I got Things to Say.

Now don’t get me wrong. Many doo-wop songs are pretty simple affairs (“I love you, do you love me? No? Oh well, shoobedoobedoo”). Doo-wop can be misleading because of its innocuous, seductively easy harmonising and the foot-tapping, hip-swaying beat. But behind the onomatopoeia (the strange little vocalisations are meant to mimic the sounds of instruments) lies a world of Freaky. You want proof, right? I have rounded up a few suspects. Let’s give out some awards.

Most likely To: Engage in Emotional Blackmail

The Impalas – “Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)”

So this dude. We don’t know what he did exactly, but he realised he fucked up so bad that he couldn’t even get on public transport. He – he says, anyway – ran all the way home. Why? A cow would know that a vehicle with wheels would’ve gotten him there faster. I’ll tell you why. He wanted to burst through the door, panting and covered in manly sweat, reeking of testosterone and possibly B.O., so his fuming gal would be distracted from his dastardly sin. To wit:

Please let me stay | I ran all the way…

Let’s make amends | Afterall we’re more than friends…

What can I say | I ran all the way

These lines are gold. No, you can’t stay, dipshit. Your dramatics and powers of logic suck balls.

The Gladiolas – “Little Darlin”

Speaking of gold lines

Little darling
Oh-oh where a-are you?
My love-ah
I was wrong-ah
To try to love two

Yes-ah you were wrong-ah. This is the type of guy who would say “Yeah ok I was messing around on you BUT” followed by something like “it’s because you put on so much weight” or something similar.

Bobby Vee – “Take Good Care of My Baby”

It starts off sweetly enough, until you realise that this guy’s girlfriend left him because he cheated on her. So get this – this loser is the kind of guy who calls up his ex’s new guy and heroically entreats him to “take good care of ‘my’ baby” after he ran around on her. Let’s all just think about the skeeviness of that.

And if you should discover
That you don’t really love her
Just send my baby back home to me

Was she a mail order bride, or what?

Most Likely To: Pimp His Female Friends Out

The Turbans – “When You Dance”

When you dance you’ll feel the warmth of her embrace
Then you’ll know this feeling, yeah, is no disgrace
Such a thrill, oh, when she’s close to you

If “feelings” are a euphemism for your gigantic woody, then it is definitely a disgrace. Yes we know you are thrilled. We can see it.

Most Likely To: Post Idiotic Couple Photos on Facebook

Mary Wells – “My Guy”

No muscle-bound man could take my hand from my guy | No handsome face could take the place of my guy…

There’s not a man today who could take me away from my guy.”

Say what? No, never mind. I am unsubscribing from your feed.

Most Likely To: Heckle/ Slut-shame Girls

G-Eazy ft Greg Banks (cover of Dion and the Belmonts) – “Runaround Sue” 

He says he “knew” this girl. We can assume in the biblical sense. But she went out with other guys. So he made a public health warning with the lines “Now listen people what I’m telling you: keep away from Runaround Sue”. Passive aggressive much?

(Sorry, I linked to G-Eazy because I think he did a boss job with this remix.)

Del Shannon – “Little Town Flirt”

Another guy on the Bro Network broadcasting public safety warnings about girls they can’t get. But this one is pretty mean. Not only is she a “flirt” with a “look in her eye”, but she’s a little town flirt. Subtext: Not pretty enough for Manhattan. Bitchily done indeed, I do admire a good backhand.

Most Likely To: Get Arrested for Stalking

The Genies – “Who’s That Knocking”

To be fair, they are singing about being stalked, but in which universe would you break into a jaunty beat when you hear hammering and screaming at your front door “all last night and the night before”?

The Rays – “Silhouettes”

Oh man, these guys. They’re essentially hiding in a bush watching the girl they are obsessed with have sex with her partner, and not even. They’re watching her shadows.

Little Anthony & The Imperials – Tears On My Pillow

It’s unclear if the singer and his object of affection were actually in a REAL relationship, but the song begins with

You don’t remember me
but I remember you

which is all we need to know, really.

Most Likely To: Turn Out As A Pedophile or Just Be Fucking Gross

The Crests – “Sixteen Candles”

Is anyone else here getting the skincrawl?

Sixteen candles make a lovely light
But not as bright as your eyes tonight
Blow out the candles
Make your wish come true
For I’ll be wishing that you love me, too

This is not a normal thing to say to a 16 year old, no? Unless you are 17. THESE GUYS DO NOT SOUND 17.

Shep and the Limelites – “Daddy’s Home”

This is the grossest of the gross. Because not only is this dude skeeving on his… daughter? Or in any case, a really young girl, he is in contact with her friends. “Your best friend wrote and told me you had teardrops in your eyes.” Step away from the underaged girls, mister! Are those your “feelings” or are you just happy to see her?

Alright, I think that is quite enough to fill our jails and public institutions for a while. Now it may seem rather ridiculous to say this at this point, but I’m not (actually) hating on these songs. I still love doo-wop. I will still do the Elaine to many of them. Enthusiastically, even. But I just can’t deal with some of the dodgier lyrics; or maybe times were a-different back then. Doo-wop doo-wah shoo boom, guys.