And it takes a band like Gang of Four to make this situation feel danceable. In the band's classic "Damaged Goods," we encounter the song's narrator as he prepares to dump his love. "Your kiss so sweet/Your sweat so sour," he agonizes. "Sometimes I'm thinking that I love you/But I know it's only lust." Poor, snotty British guy. "The change will do you good," he sings over and over in a happy, good-riddance sort of way, buoyed by Dave Allen's funk-punk basslines.
Goodbye here is a herky-jerky freedom dance, which is almost as good as sex.
--Christina Schmitt, Minneapolis writer and member of Island of Flesh
Paul Anka, "Put Your Head on My Shoulder"
It was the summer of 1996. It was hot and muggy and late, and we were going to see a movie in her powder-blue Dodge Dart. I think it was a '65, but I could be wrong. One thing's for certain: It was older than either of us. We were listening to the radio with the big knobs. It was an oldies station. "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" was playing--the perfect song for the perfect evening. I can't remember the name of the theater or even what part of town it was in. Sometimes I think I made it up, stately and beautiful, like the theaters seen in the old movies.
We sat toward the front. The movie was of the kung fu variety. Midway through the film, she leaned over and laid her head on my shoulder. I wanted to reach over and hold her hand, but we were following the songs, and they hadn't played the Beatles. I'll never forgive the program director.
--Darren Jackson, Kid Dakota
Harry Dacre, "Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two)"
Riding one bicycle in tandem might be the most sensual thing two people can do without touching, locking eyes, or even speaking. It requires an exchange of one's guidance for the other's trust--we jokingly called the bikes "relationship busters" at the rental shop where I worked. There's a perfect romantic metaphor here: If love is something you do, not something you fall into, then bicycles for two show how much doing can feel like falling--the elation of combined strength giving way to the vertigo of realizing that you can't proceed alone.
Harry Dacre probably had other fears in mind when he wrote "Daisy Bell" in 1892, reportedly inspired by a newspaper account of the time Bobby Walthour eloped on two wheels with his 16-year-old sweetheart, Daisy Blance Bailey. Like "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls," the song swallowed a century's worth of class anxiety in its lyrics ("It won't be a stylish marriage/I can't afford a carriage"). But the singer cajoles with screwball confidence, offering human horsepower to Daisy's cart and framing this goofy Victorian come-on purely in terms of flattery: "You'll look sweet/Upon the seat." Yeah, I bet she will. There's more sexy, masculine self-deprecation in this invitation than in all the wised-up ballads of the past 11 decades.
--Peter S. Scholtes,City Pages staff writer
Tracy + the Plastics, "City"
On September 12, 2001 I lay in my bed depressed, like many people. Drowning my sorrows was not an option. I snapped off my TV and grabbed the cell-phone box under my bed. The contents included a bottle of Probe and my cherished 2001-model vibrating, high-tech, twisting, penetrating, and clit-tickling Silver Pearl. It's a toy that functions both as my primary source of masturbation and as a musical instrument onstage.
I disrobed, pulled the shades, and plopped Tracy + the Plastics' song "City" in my cheap-ass little boombox, then hit "repeat." Already aroused, I cranked the music and set it right next to my head. My cat Tigger ran to hide. I lubed up, inserted the dildo and let the rhinoceros tease my engorged clit. Half an hour passed as I was swelling and sweating. I pressed the magic button as another little red light on Pearl lit up and the buzzing increased. My heart rate doubled, and when it seemed too much to take, I cranked it up. My back arched. I held back as best I could, contorted like a varsity gymnast, sucking up the pain.
Another hour passed. Sadist. Maso-chist. I rode the power button with my thumb, attempting to relax completely. It was amazingly intense. The lights on Pearl were all lit, Tracy was screaming, I was screaming. My back straining, arching further, my breath escaping in low groans. Amazing wails. It was after three and a half hours there in my bed, making Whittier prettier, that I gave myself my first self-induced female ejaculation. Spraying in full force. Annie Sprinkle, eat your heart out. God bless Chainsaw Records and double-A batteries.
--Lisa Ganser, Punky Bruiser
Smokey Robinson, "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"
I've always found Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" something of a conundrum. I'm convinced the song--recorded in early 1963 by the Miracles and later the same year by the Beatles, who knew an instant standard when they heard one--is the greatest song I've ever heard. Perfectly calibrated lyrics, effortlessly rolling melody, the emotional resonance of being the story of my life, and everyone else's, too.