Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s of Rock’n’Roll – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

CamWith the last faint whiff of Valentine’s still in hanging in the air the alphabet this week leads us to the letter S and what could be more appropriate than songs with the word sex in them? They say it is the reason everyone gets into a band so why not sing about it?

“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” – Ian Dury & The Blockheads

To say Ian Dury was an unlikely rock star is an understatement.  At the height of the U.K. punk explosion he was 35 years old, barely over five feet tall, had a thick Cockney accent and suffered the life-long effects of polio that ravaged his seven year old body. After years of toiling with the pub rock band Kilburn & The High Roads Dury signed a deal with punk upstarts Stiff Records and recorded the single “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”. The song was banned across the U.K. and didn’t originally appear on the album “New Boots And Panties!!” although it has been added to subsequent re-issues.  Sadly Dury passed away from cancer in 2000 at the age of 57 but he left a volume of work that anyone with the slightest sense of humour should spend time investigating.

“MySex” – Ultravox!

This was from the debut by the John Foxx-led Ultravox! and not to be confused with the Midge Ure-led Ultravox (no exclamation mark). As with the Ian Dury single this song was also released in 1977 and was the one quiet haunting moment on the brash synthesized dominant album. It was one of Steve Lillywhite’s earliest productions and because of his work on the Ultravox! demos he landed a house production gig with Island Records. Helping out with the production was Brian Eno, who had a lot of experience working with synths during his tenure with Roxy Music.

“Adolescent Sex” – Japan

If you only know Japan from “Gentlemen Take Polorids” on this song will sound nothing like the ambient sounding later records. It is a combination of punk and glam with Mick Karn’s fluid bass adding a funky under pinning. Hansa, their record label at the time, really had no idea how to promote and market the band and pretty well everything that could possibly go wrong, from the horrible album cover on down, did and the band was quick to disown their debut disc. I think that was a little hasty as there are a couple of great sounds on the record and you can hear the beginnings of their very unique sound.

“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred

Some novelty songs seem to age a little better than others. When “I’m Too Sexy” shows up in a commercial or movie enough time has past to let you smile just a little bit. Although they were one-hit wonders in North America the brothers Fairbrass (Richard & Fred) managed to have a few other hits in the U.K. and around the world and ending up selling a staggering 20 million copies. Before forming Right Said Fred (named after a 1962 hit by British comedic actor Bernard Cribbins) Richard was a noted bass player having played for Mick Jagger, David Bowie (he can be spotted in the “Jazzin’ For Blue Jean” Julian Temple directed video) and Boy George.

“Post Break-Up Sex” – The Vaccines

The Brits love this band as in the last three years they have been nominated for awards by MTV, Mojo, Q,  XFM, NME and The Brit Awards. Although not really safe for the workplace this song from their 2011 album “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” is catchy as hell.

“Sex (I’m A …)” – Berlin

This song is as typical of the eighties as a Patrick Nagel print or a John Hughes flick. With Terri Nun on vocals the band originally released this single on Enigma Records but because of the massive airplay on L.A.’s KROQ they were soon offered a deal on the red hot Geffen label and the song was included on their 1983 Geffen debut album “Pleasure Victim”. The overly suggestive lyrics caused the song to be banned at radio stations across North America, but, as is usually the case, this made the song a bigger hit and even more infamous.

“Sexual Roulette” – Art Bergmann

There are few better songwriters in Canada than Art Bergmann. The legendary B.C. musician played with The K-Tels, Young Canadians, Los Popularos and Poisoned before going out on his on with the John Cale produced “Crawl With Me”. In 1982 he signed with Duke Street Records and recorded the “Sexual Roulette” album which saw his mainstream break-out with the song “Bound For Vegas”. Produced by Blue Peter’s Chris Wardman the album had enough crunch for AOR radio. After years dealing with his demons it is great to see Art back on the scene and playing the occasional gig.

“Sexy Results” Death From Above 1979

Even with only one real studio album,  2004’s “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine”, Death From Above 1979 seem to have inspired a dozen or so great Canadian two-piece bands. With just a drum kit and a bass guitar these guys are as heavy as anyone. Their fame grew rapidly and they moved from The Horseshoe Tavern to sharing arena stages with Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band broke up in 2006 and Jesse Keeler went on to MSTRKRFT and Sebastian Grainger has released a couple of great solo records. They re-formed in 2011 for a series of shows and hopefully will hit the studio at least one more time.

“All You Ever Think About Is Sex” – Sparks

Over the course of their 23 albums Sparks have sung about sex a lot. As well as “All You Ever Think About Is Sex” from their 1983 album “In Outer Space” I could have picked “Sextown U.S.A.” from 1982’s “Angst In My Pants” or “More Than A Sex Machine” from their 2000 release “Balls”. Hell they even recorded a song called “Gratuitous Sax” but I am a purest and it shouldn’t be mentioned in this column.

“Sexual Healing” – Marvin Gaye

This was Marvin’s last number one hit and one of the sexiest songs ever recorded. It came from his final album to be released during his lifetime “Midnight Love” and, was not on his long time label Motown, but  rather was the first release at his new home on CBS Records. After more than a few problems with Motown, Marvin had had enough, and moved on to another label.


Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Cam’s column appears every Thursday

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The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and The Bovine. There are heaters on the Bovine patio and great bands downstairs at the legendary rock bar. Fill up next store at The Rock Lobster and then get your rocks off at The Bovine. 

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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