Archive for October 25th, 2010

So she lays down beside me again
My sweet painted lady, the one with no name
Many have used her and many still do
There’s a place in the world for a woman like you.
–  Elton John, “Sweet Painted Lady”

Since last month’s column on songs about prostitutes proved fairly popular and there are plenty of other examples, I figured it might be fun to revisit the topic.  Of the six songs we’ll look at today the first two have objective narrators, the second two are narrated by clients and the last two are sung from the hooker’s point of view; we’re also going to roughly descend the hierarchy, starting with a very high-class call girl and ending with a jailed streetwalker.  Our first song is one which many people don’t even realize is about a working girl; indeed I myself didn’t until my husband pointed it out when he said it made him think of me.   But in the New Musical Express of November 2, 1974, the late Freddie Mercury stated it explicitly: “It’s about a high class call girl.  I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well.”

Killer Queen (Freddie Mercury)

She keeps Moet et Chandon
In a pretty cabinet
“Let them eat cake” she says,
Just like Marie Antoinette
A built-in remedy
For Khrushchev and Kennedy
At anytime an invitation
You can’t decline

Caviar and cigarettes
Well versed in etiquette
Extraordinarily nice

She’s a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, Gelatine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Recommended at the price
Insatiable in appetite
Wanna try?

To avoid complications
She never kept the same address
In conversation
She spoke just like a baroness
Met a man from China
Went down to Asia Minor
Then again incidentally
If you’re that way inclined

Perfume came naturally from Paris
For cars she couldn’t care less
Fastidious and precise


Drop of a hat she’s as willing as
Playful as a pussy cat
Then momentarily out of action
Temporarily out of gas
To absolutely drive you wild, wild
She’s out to get you


Recommended at the price
Insatiable in appetite
Wanna try?
You wanna try.

While Queen’s song is intended to remind the listener that not all prostitutes stand on street corners, Bob Seger’s point is that we can be found in every place and every time and that our trade is impossible to suppress because all men have “one thing in common…the fire down below,” in other words the burning lust which has always driven men to seek us out and, thank Aphrodite, always will.

Fire Down Below (Bob Seger)

Here comes old Rosie she’s looking mighty fine
Here comes hot Nancy she’s steppin’ right on time
There go the street lights bringin’ on the night
Here come the men faces hidden from the light
All through the shadows they come and they go
With only one thing in common
They got the fire down below

Here comes the rich man in his big long limousine
Here comes the poor man all you got to have is green
Here comes the banker and the lawyer and the cop
One thing for certain it ain’t never gonna stop
When it all gets too heavy
That’s when they come and go
With only one thing in common
They got the fire down below

It happens out in Vegas happens in Moline
On the blue blood streets of Boston
Up in Berkeley and out in Queens
And it went on yesterday and it’s going on tonight
Somewhere there’s somebody ain’t treatin’ somebody right

And he’s looking out for Rosie and she’s looking mighty fine
And he’s walking the streets for Nancy
And he’ll find her everytime
When the street light flicker bringing on the night
Well they’ll be slipping into darkness slipping out of sight
All through the midnight
Watch ’em come and watch ’em go
With only one thing in common
They got the fire down below

The next two songs are both sung from the point of view of a client who doesn’t quite get it; considering that John Entwhistle is well-known to have been quite fond of professional ladies, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he wrote the song based on things he learned from talking to us.

Trick of the Light (John Entwhistle)

Wide awake in the middle of the night
I wonder how she’s feelin’
Is it just a trick of the light
Or is her ceiling peeling?

She’s sitting up in bed, shakin’ her head
At a copy of True Confessions
Ooh, it must seem like a fairy tale
To a woman of her profession

But was I all right? (Was I all right?)
Did I take you to the height of ecstasy?
Was I all right? (Was I all right?)
Did a shadow of emotion cross your face
Or was it just another trick of the light?


Come on, tell me
What’s a nice girl like you doin’ in a place like this?
They don’t make girls like you no more
And I’d like to get to know you
On closer terms than this
But I guess you’ve heard it all before

Lady of the night, won’t you steal away with me?
Lady of the night, won’t you steal away with me?

The money’s lyin’ on the floor, she looks at me
Shakes her head and sighs
Out of time, out the door
Red light shinin’ in my eyes

All right?
But was I all right?
All right?

Entwhistle has captured here one of the most common of client fantasies, that he is such a wonderful lover that he can impress a professional and thereby evoke emotions in her that will induce her to give herself only to him.  But while Entwhistle’s narrator seems to begin to glimpse the truth in the end (as evidenced by his plaintive “was I all right?” as she shows him the door), Springsteen’s narrator is completely lost in his fantasy that his inamorata will give up her money and freedom for him; he imagines he sees sadness in her face and that she values his poor clumsy affection over that of “men who give her anything she wants”.

Candy’s Room (Bruce Springsteen)

In Candy’s room, there are pictures of her heroes on the wall,
But to get to Candy’s room, you gotta walk the darkness of Candy’s hall,
Strangers from the city, call my baby’s number and they bring her toys,
When I come knocking, she smiles pretty, she knows I wanna be Candy’s boy,
There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face,
A sadness all her own, from which no man can keep Candy safe.

We kiss, my heart’s pumpin’ to my brain
The blood rushes in my veins, fire rushes toward the sky
We go driving, driving deep into the night,
I go driving deep into the light, in Candy’s eyes.

She says, Baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn, close your eyes,
Let them melt, let them fire, let them burn
‘Cause in the darkness, there’ll be hidden worlds that shine,
When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine.

She has fancy clothes and diamond rings,
She has men who give her anything she wants, but they don’t see,
That what she wants is me, oh, and I want her so,
I’ll never let her go, no, no, no
She knows that I’d give all that I got to give,
All that I want and all that I live, to make Candy mine

The next song is a jazz standard sung from the perspective of a well-adjusted streetwalker.

Love for Sale (Cole Porter)

When the only sound on the empty street
Is the heavy tread of the heavy feet
That belong to a lonesome cop
I open shop

The moon so long has been gazing down
On the wayward ways of this wayward town
My smile becomes a smirk, I go to work

Love for sale
Appetizing young love for sale
Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled
Love that’s only slightly soiled
Love for sale

Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale

Let the poets pipe of love
In their childish ways
I know every type of love
Better far than they
If you want the thrill of love
I’ve been through the mill of love
Old love, new love
Every love but true love

Love for sale
Appetizing young love for sale
If you want to buy my wares
Follow me and climb the stairs
Love for sale

While Porter’s young harlot seems content with her life and cynical of love, Debbie Harry’s streetwalker is such a mixed-up little kitten that she falls in love with the cop who arrests and jails her.  And though it’s quite likely that he lusts after her as she believes, I don’t think it’s at all likely that he will actually get involved with her once she gets out of jail despite her stated certainty that he will.

X Offender (Gary Valentine & Deborah Harry)

I saw you standing on the corner, you looked so big and fine. I really wanted to go out with you, so when you smiled, I laid my heart on the line.

You read me my rights and then you said
“Let’s go” and nothing more
I thought of my nights, and how they were
They were filled with

I know you wouldn’t go
You’d watch my heart burst then you’d step in
I had to know so I asked
You just had to laugh

We sat in the night with my hands cuffed at my side
I look at your life and your style
I wanted nothing more


Walking the line, you were a marksman
Told me that law, like wine, is ageless
Public defender
You had to admit
You wanted the love of a sex offender


My vision in blue, I call you from inside my cell
And in the trial, you were there
With your badge and rubber boots
I think all the time how I’m going to perpetrate love with you
And when I get out, there’s no doubt I’ll be sex offensive to you

If you enjoyed seeing this subject again, let me know and I’m sure I can find enough songs for at least one more visit.

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