Pop music's past is littered with plenty of great naughty records, from the "hokum" blues and country of the 1920s and '30s, to the saucy R&B of the '50s and the pre-Elvis era. This page is devoted to the silly, scandalous sex song and drug-oriented novelty tunes of days gone by. I am not necessarily advocating a liscentious lifestyle, but I do still get a kick some of these tunes, and I figured, what the hey... this still fits into Slipcue's general mission of providing information about under-represented musical styles. I'm sure many of you out there will have suggestions for other artists and albums that should be included here... Feel free to write me to make any suggestions along this line... Thanks!
Various Artists "ACTIONABLE OFFENSES: INDECENT PHONOGRAPH RECORDINGS FROM THE 1890s" (Archeophone, 2007)
Various Artists "BEDSPRING POKER -- MEAT IN MOTION: 1926-1951" (Indigo, 2002)
Two CDs worth of rough, raunchy blues tunes, with plenty of well-known artists such as "Lightnin' Hopkins, Ethel Waters, Lil Johnson, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly and others. It's raw, rambunctious stuff, and in many cases the original recordings were so lo-fi, or the metaphors so oblique, that you really have no idea what the heck these guys are singing about. But it's the way they sing it that cues you in -- the explosive lewdness of these performances is pretty hard to miss, and the feel of the songs should be more than enough to get you all hot under the collar. Recommended.
Various Artists "THE BIRD IN THE BUSH: TRADITIONAL SONGS OF LOVE AND LUST" (Topic, 1966/1997)
A saucy collection of bawdy folk songs from the British Isles, including performances by Anne Briggs, Louis Killen, Frankie Armstrong, Norman Kennedy, and the venerable master of the early Britfolk scene, A. L. Lloyd. They all shine on this collection, and though you have to be attentive to follow the long narratives and sometimes rather complicated sexual metaphors, this disc has a lot of bang for the buck (if you'll pardon the expression...) This was originally just a split EP with Lloyd and Briggs, but has since been expanded to include material by the other artists -- presumably of similar vintage. All three of the Anne Briggs tracks -- "Gathering Rushes In The Month Of May," "The Stonecutter Boy" and "Martinmas Time" -- have since been gathered on retrospectives of her work, but the overlap is negligible, considering how delightful the other songs on here are. A nice find for fans of naughty music.
Various Artists "COPULATIN' BLUES" (Viper's Nest, 1995)
A digital version of one of the handful of old vinyl releases that kept this stuff alive in the LP era... The Viper's Nest label always had a certain slipshod but enthusiastic quality to its albums... I haven't heard this CD reissue yet, but I gather from comments elsewhere online that they haven't completely cleaned up the sound, which I think is fine -- I actually think there's considerable merit in sometimes keeping things as "warts and all" as you can. It was hard work uncovering these old blues tunes back in the good old days, and often the sound quality of these albums reflected the scarcity and rarified nature of the 78s the songs were found on. Plus... Bessie Jackson, Tampa Red, Lucille Bogan... what's to complain about?
Various Artists "COPULATIN' BLUES" (Mojo, 1996)
Same album title, some overlap, about twice as many songs, and a lot of classics. I haven't actually heard this CD, but folks seem to like it... A lot of these songs are hokum "standards" that are heard elsewhere; I'm not sure, but I think the Coot Grant tunes may be unique to this release...
Various Artists "DOITY RECORDS v.1: RISQUE DISCS FROM THE THIRTIES AND FORTIES" (Bean Snicker, 2000)
An odd collection of "party records" made in the '30s and '40s on a variety of little, under-the-radar labels which specialized in off-color humor discs. These recordings are much different from the hokum blues and jazz songs reviewed on this page; instead, these are sort of lowbrow, ooh-that's-naughty American attempts at Noel Coward-ish cleverness. Some of the records are really convoluted and odd -- crudely metaphoric stories of farmer's daughters, car mechanics and athletic instructors and the like. Although the showmanship was sometimes a bit strained, it's cool to peer into the world of yesteryear and hear what sort of topics and scenarios were considered scandalous or lewd. (My girlfriend was actually repulsed by some of these recordings, but I still think it's an interesting album... ) Unfortunately, the label's website has been scaled back somewhat, but here are a few of the sites that are mentioned in the Bean Snicker liner notes -- David Diehl's The Blue Pages, "The Encyclopedic Guide To 78 RPM Party Records," and Cool Cat Daddy's profile of female impersonator Ray Bourbon, one of the stars of this CD.
Various Artists "FLASHBACKS: COPULATION BLUES - HOT & SEXY" (Trikont, 2000)
Raunchy jazz and blues oldies with a few familiar faces, like Tampa Red, Cab Calloway, Butterbeans & Suzie, and Victoria Spivey, but also plenty of more obscure artists, such as Mary Dixon, Bea Foote and Oscar's Chicago Swingers. This is a well-selected set, with plenty of saucy songs, and even corny routines like "The Electric Man" (here done by Buddy Burton and Irene Sanders) still have a nice comedic bite. Recommended!
Various Artists "FLASHBACKS: HIGH & LOW: DRUG SONGS 1917-1944" (Trikont, 2000)
A spiffy set of swinging stoner tunes from this historically-minded German label. Plenty of great material, mostly in a mellow, swing jazz and mellow boogie vein, by artists such as Cab Calloway, Stuff Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, the Ink Spots, and a whole host of other, lesser known latter-day vipers. This is a very musical, melodic collection, a feel-good outing that actually manages to avoid duplicating many of the well-worn classics on the old Stash LPs. Nice. Recommended!
Various Artists "HONKY TONK JUKE BOX SPECIAL" (Westwood International, 1996)
The cruder side of outlaw country, with naughty ditties such as Pinto Bennett's "Honky Tonk Asshole," Ken Carlyle's "Itty Bitty Titty Song," and other gems such as "Pukin' In The Parking Lot (We Ain't Leavin' Til We're Heavin')", "Coyote Ugly" and "It's Hard to Say I Love You (When You're Sittin' On My Face)." You kinda get the idea. Needless to say, this one's not suitable for younger listeners.
Various Artists "KANSAS CITY BLUES: 1944-1949" (Capitol Vintage, 1997)
A big city tucked away in the sticks, right between the backwoods Ozarks and the wide open plains, Kansas City farmed out numerous stars on the early jazz and swing scenes, artists who generally fled Missouri for the more cosmopolitan confines of New York, Chicago, New Orleans or Los Angeles... It also fielded some of the more raunchy, rugged blues recordings of the postwar era, as heard in this 3-CD set featuring the likes of Jay McShann, Julia Lee, Bus Moten and Tommy Douglas. Judging from the lyrics, the Kansas City crew drank a lot of liquor, smoked a lot of weed, and had a lot of sex... It's possible the drugs had an influence on their musicianship -- other than Lee and McShann's recordings, many of these tracks have a notably lax, ragged feel to them, and if you're not still enamoured of finding naughty old recordings, the dirty, dirty themes -- which the main thing that are meant to keep your interest -- may wear thin quickly. Julia Lee is the real star here, and the razor-sharp briskness of her band helps the still-shocking frankness of her coded sexual lyrics leap out at listeners, even after all these years. You might be better served just getting one of her records instead, instead of having her tracks all broken up, but it's nice to hear her in the historical context of her hometown scene... But I have to confess, after having spent years delighting in playing this kind of salacious entertainment on the air, sitting down at home to listen to three discs worth of it was a bit tiresome... Perhaps this is a young person's game, after all.
Various Artists "IF IT AIN'T A HIT, I'LL EAT MY BABY'S..." (Bear Family, 1996)
This obscure bootleg album originally came out in the 1980s as a vinyl-only release, but seems to have found new life in the CD era. It contains some of the most nasty, graphic material you're ever likely to find on disc, including a few songs from surprising sources. The fairly clean-cut Clovers veer from their smoothly orchestrated rock/doo-wop formulae to deliver a raw, super-raunchy parody of "Darktown Strutter's Ball," and other tunes match the calibre of raunch, including some surprisingly raw material from the sleek crooner, Jackie Wilson. I guess pop stars gotta blow off some steam sometime... I'm not sure if this is really still in print, but I'm sure it can be found with persistent effort.
Various Artists "JUST SOMETHING MY UNCLE TOLD ME: BLAGGARDY FOLK SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN UNITED STATES" (Rounder, 1981) (LP)
A positively scandalous set of dirty Appalachian folk songs, some of which are even raunchier than their more familiar English versions. The performers include Spade Cooley's old vocalist, Smokey Rogers, as well as some less well-known old-time mountain men, such as Glenn Ohrlin, Buford Pippin, George Bernard, Jim Garland and Julius Sorel. As the liner notes point out, it was often difficult to get singers to perform these songs in public, much less in front of a microphone... Give these saucy songs a listen, and you'll understand why! That is... if you can track down a copy... I rather doubt Rounder will be reissuing this unairable disc any time soon.
Various Artists "THE KING ANTHOLOGY OF RISQUE BLUES" (2002)
This 2-CD set has a lot of overlap (if you'll pardon the expression) with the RISQUE BLUES collection below... But at two full CDs, has considerably more selection... Loud, raunchy and fun.
Various Artists "LET ME SQUEEZE YOUR LEMON: THE ULTIMATE RUDE BLUES COLLECTION" (GVC, 2004)
Various Artists "LISTEN TO THE BANNED" (ASV Living Era, 1984)
Despite the English reputation for a sophisticated sense of humor, the regal BBC, stern gate-keeper of British culture in the pre-satellite era, showed remarkably little appreciation for the double-entendre sex song. Any musician who implied they were queer, or that they might be boffing the maid on the side, was not likely to have their song played on the air while the Beeb's fusty old censors were around. Thus, this great collection of old jazz and music hall songs that were banned from reaching the tender ears of England back in the 1920s and '30s. It's a nice mix of British and American artists, ranging from Cliff Edwards and Mae West to Billy Cotton and George Formby. Some songs are surprisingly mild, while others, such as Ronald Frankau's "Everybody's Got Sex Appeal For Somebody" are real gems. And the best news is that the original LP seems to have made it into the CD era intact!
Various Artists "PLEASE WARM MY WEINER: OLD TIME HOKUM BLUES" (Shanachie/Yazoo, 1992)
A nice set of raunchy blues tunes from back in the 1920s and '30s, with classic stars of the hokum genre, such as Bo Carter, Butterbeans & Susie and the Hokum Boys. It's all great stuff, handpicked by the folks at Yazoo, who really know their stuff... The unapologetically un-PC artwork includes an old R. Crumb picture and old sepia-toned photos of blues bands shuckin' and jivin'... which is all very well and fine, although what's really great about this album is the music. Some of the best examples of the style that you can find!
Various Artists "RAUNCHY BUSINESS: HOT NUTS AND LOLLYPOPS" (Columbia Legacy, 1991)
Another winning entry in Columbia's wonderful Roots & Blues reissue series. This is one of the best dirty blues albums out there, concentrating on Depression-era numbers full of wordplay intended to slide past the industry censors... The big-name hokum artists are on here -- Bo Carter, Lil Johnson (with the title track, "Hot Nuts"), Lonnie Johnson and, of course, Lucille Bogan, whose "Shave 'Em Dry" is represented by both its official 1935 single, and an unexpurgated, original, super-smutty version. These recordings are ribald and riotous, timelessly funny and well performed. Plus, this album includes excellent liner notes by author Paul Oliver, who ably puts the dirty blues in context. Great record -- highly recommended!
Various Artists "REEFER SONGS" (Mojo, 1996)
Companion to the VIPER MAD BLUES collection (below).
Various Artists "RISQUE RHYTHMS: NASTY '50s R&B" (Rhino, 1997)
The folks at Rhino provide us with this solid set of slam-bang salacious R&B tunes from the 1950s... and there was a lot of it to chose from back in. The great Dinah Washington chimes in with a couple of songs about size ("Big Long Slidin' Thing" and "Long John Blues"), a sentiment echoed by pianist Julia Lee on "My Man Stands Out"... Moose Jackson's infamous "Big Ten Inch Record" sets the tone for the fellas (this is the original version that Aerosmith went to for their 1970s cover version... Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown and Eddie Davis are all there to try and one-up him. Some songs barely even mask their meaning, such as the Toppers's "Let Me Bang Your Box," while top honors go to Wynonie Harris for his truly graphic dairy metaphor, "Keep On Churning (Until The Butter Comes)" which retains a surprising ability to shock, even after all these years. This collection is one of the best, well worth tracking down.
Various Artists "SISSY MAN BLUES" (Mojo, 1996)
A bunch of old blues tunes exploring gay identity (and prevalent homophobia) in the 1920s and '30s. Interesting both for the subject matter, as well as for the implicit message that lesbians and gays were, indeed, on the scene back in the Prohibition era...
Various Artists "STREETWALKING BLUES" (Mojo, 1996)
Two dozen old blues songs about the world's oldest profession...
Various Artists "SUGAR IN MY BOWL - VINTAGE SEX SONGS: 1923-1952" (Buzzola, 2004)
Various Artists "THEM DIRTY BLUES" (Mojo, 1996)
A 2-CD set, mining much the same territory as other collections listed above. I haven't heard this myself, but the song list looks like it has some pretty choice material.
Various Artists "UNEXPURGATED FOLK SONGS OF MEN" (1959) (LP)
This is actually one of my all-time favorite albums. It's basically a 1950s tape recording of a bunch of anonymous normal guys -- both African-American and white -- sitting around a campfire, singing smutty versions of old folk songs and cowboy ballads, reciting off-color limericks, strumming the guitar in some semblance of accompaniment, and generally just having a good time. (Rumor has it that one of the Lomax lads may have had something to do with this project... but nobody'll say for sure!) What I love about this record is its unshakable authenticity. These songs are crudely sexist, racist and homophobic, undeniably offensive to the modern listener, and yet they are also genuinely funny, sung with great gusto and affection. This is a real folk album, filled with culture which was forbidden back when it was created and is forbidden now, too, but for different reasons. It's an actual expression of the world view of the singers, what they thought was witty, and an example of the humor they used to bond with each other as just plain guys, back before all that 'Sixties stuff changed the culture. Yeah, sure, you could get all bent out of shape about the uncorrectness of it all... but, um, isn't its crudeness the whole point? I only have this on an old vinyl LP, although I imagine it may be available on CD as well. At least it oughta be!
Various Artists "VIPER MAD BLUES: SONGS OF DOPE AND DEPRAVITY" (Mojo, 1996)
Companion to the REEFER SONGS collection (above).
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