Monday, 15 October 2012

Crossdressing Lyrics

In 1972, Lou Reed sang this:
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"
He said, "Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side"
Wild: Lou Reed
Well, if only it was that easy for he to become she! But I suppose there is a bit of poetic licence involved. The song, of course, is Walk on the Wild Side, which has gone on to become a classic. Wikipedia suggests the song was written about characters from Reed's own life.

My theme today is crossdressing lyrics. I'm not talking about crossdressing anthems, the songs we sing (or wish we were singing) every time it's karaoke night. Examples here are legion; my personal recommendations are obviously Man! I Feel like a woman! by Shania Twain, or even better, All woman by Lisa Stansfield (which contains the unforgettable statement: I may not be a lady, but I'm all woman). Of course, you know at least a dozen more in this vein. Sing it with Aretha: You make me feel like a natural woman!

No, I am talking about song lyrics which expressly feature crossdressing or something very similar. My interest in this theme was prompted by my hearing today of the song Barbarian by Voice of the Beehive. OK, you've never heard of them, but towards the end of the last century, they were amazing:
He's making all these promises you know he cannot keep
He made me pick him up now he won't pay for gasoline
He's drinking all my beers, he's wearing all my clothes
And if he winks at me again, I think I'll take him home
Actually, the behaviour of the titular protagonist of the song is less than stellar:
He's started all my worries and he's finished all my wine
He's giving me a headache but I still think he's divine
He says he has a question, he starts tugging at my clothes
Would I be good enough to take him to his girlfriend's home?
Who lives in a house like theese?
There are only a couple more I can think of, right off the top of my head. In Space's wonderful song Neighbourhood, a series of bizarre and somewhat distasteful characters (who nonetheless seem to form a tightly-knit community) is described:
In number 69 there lives a transvestite
He’s a man by day but he’s a woman at night
There’s a man in number 4 who swears he’s Saddam Hussein
Says he’s on a chore to start the third world war

And finally, there is an entire song: Dude (Looks like a lady) by Aerosmith. I was going to post a lengthy and meaningful commentary on the lyrics, but unfortunately, in transcription they are close to meaningless. However, the title is plain enough. Wikipedia suggests the song was inspired when Steven Tyler went drinking in New York with Vince Neil of Motley Crue, and they ended up in a bar full of male waiters in drag. On the other hand, a later reference suggests it may have been about Vince Neil himself. Er....no. At least, not without a lot more than plucking his eyebrows and shaving his legs, as Lou Reed might have put it. (By the way, the barmaid isn't me!)

I'm afraid I also don't count mainstream songs which sound almost too good to be true. Here is Lenka, in her beautiful song (one of my favourites) The Show:
Slow it down, make it stop
or else my heart is going to pop,
'Cause it's too much, yeah it's a lot
to be something I'm not,
I'm a fool out of love
'cause I just can't get enough.
Crossdressing lyrics really make me prick up my ears, so these are the ones I have most obviously noted. I hope you will drop by and add your own. Lyrics from the Rocky Horror Show are automatically excluded as being too easy!

All together now: doop, dedoop, dedoop; doop dedoop doop, dedoop, dedoop...

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Addendum 22nd October 2012

How could I forget this one? Fish has always been one of my favourite lyricists, even though his voice is not what it used to be these days. How many lyricists do you know who practically invented a girls' first name? I have several of his albums. One of his lesser known album tracks is called Lady Let it Lie, from the album Yin. Though I have listened closely, the song isn't about crossdressing in any way, but it does feature the following intriguing lyric:
All the boys want to be all the girls,
In this turnaround world,
I don't wanna be me no more.
My thanks also to Ralph for drawing my attention to Lola in his comment below. To my eternal shame, I didn't know this song was about a transvestite. Initially I even thought Ralph was talking about the song which begins Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl..., but no! The lyrics from The Kinks go like this:
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola, lo-lo-lo-lo Lola, lo-lo-lo-lo Lola.
And I also found a very strange coincidence. Fish recorded a cover version of the song Apeman on his 1993 album Songs from the Mirror. Apeman was originally from the The Kinks' album Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part 1, which was the album from which Lola originally came. Catchy title, though.

Cherry cola, anyone?

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Addendum 3rd January 2013

How could I have forgotten this one? Monty Python's The Lumberjack Song.
I climb up trees, I wear high heels,
Suspenders and a bra.
I wish I'd been a girlie,
Just like my dear Papa!
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Addendum 9th June 2014

My thanks to Melissa Lynn for drawing my attention to this interesting discussion of the stories behind some of the songs I mention in this article, some more fanciful than others.

7 comments:

  1. Seriously, you made it all the way through that without once mentioning The Kinks? I guess there was no need to; for all of us "Lola" is our national anthem. And it was great to read about those other songs I'd never heard of!

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  2. I came to visit your blog after you left a comment on my blog, and found you are writing about one of my favorite topics!

    I've also wondered about the character in the Beatles song "Get Back":

    Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman,
    But she was another man....

    And what about "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie:

    Youve got your mother in a whirl cause shes
    Not sure if you're a boy or a girl

    Although it was not a hit like those, be sure to check out Bowie's whole song "Queen Bitch."

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  3. P.S. I was racking my brain for the other Beatles song about a genderqueer or crossdresser and it just came to me:
    “Polythene Pam.”

    Well you should see Polythene Pam
    She's so good-looking but she looks like a man
    Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
    Yes you should see Polythene Pam
    Yeah, yeah, yeah…

    (And the song keeps going. I'll let you discover the rest.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Kittredge. I'm delighted that you dropped by my blog and left your comments.

    Many thanks for the lyrics, none of which I knew before. Bowie, I suppose, doesn't come as any surprise. He's also been someone who has used gender ambiguity deliberately as part of his performance, so I guess I expected his lyrics to do the same. On the other hand, I had not known about the lyrics in "Get Back" and had never heard of Polythene Pam (what a wonderful name!)

    I would be interested in your comments about any of my other posts too.

    Kind regards,

    Vivienne.

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  5. When I was 13, the Get Back single had just came out and I loved it, even though the message wasn't that good, because, it suggested that there were folk like me. I used to play that single over and over... but worried that my Folks would notice the lyrics. ( I was having enough trouble with them, especially my mother, regarding my femmie behavior in general. ) But when Lola came out, I was ecstatic, as this song was much more accepting, and specifically talked about this man's sexual attraction to a transwoman. As I was into boys, this was very welcome indeed. Interestingly, at a company picnic, my father's boss's son, also then 14, was way into the song as well. We spent the day, each tuned to a different radio station so that we could flag the other to change the tuning to listen to that song each time it played. I never did find out why he was so interested in the tune. Now... when Walk on the Wild Side came out! YES! And that is exactly (figuratively) how I transitioned, at age 18, just after I graduated from high school. Just walked out, and started living as a girl.

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  6. There is always "Dude Looks Like A Lady" from Aerosmith, which was, from what I understand, written after Steven Tyler and another band's frontman (cannot remember who at the moment) stopped at a bar in New Jersey.

    Stephanie Duchane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Apart from the title of the song, which pretty much speaks for itself, the lyrics are completely meaningless. There are no clues in the song about what's actually going on.

      (I did mention the song in the article above)

      Vivienne.

      Delete