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Love and sex

May 25, 2017

I read recently that researchers have found that references to sex in pop songs are much more frequent than they used to be. Pop songs back in the 1960s were about love and never used the word ‘sex’; but now pop songs are about sex and never use the word ‘love’.

But of course pop songs in the 60s often were about sex, it just wasn’t explicit. (The Beatles’ Please Please Me was a veiled request for fellatio, apparently.) Some years ago I posted a piece about the Cliff Richard song The Young Ones, in which I pointed out its sexual sub-text; and this seems a good time to re-post it:

I’ve taught myself to play “The Young Ones” on the piano recently. It’s not difficult (well, it was quite difficult for me, as I can barely play, but it is not a difficult song). Singing along to it I’ve become much more aware of the words. I used to think it was just a jolly song about the joys of being young, but it has a much more precise purpose than that. It’s a seduction song, addressed to a young woman by a young man. Here are the words with my gloss:

The young ones, darling we’re the young ones,

and young ones shouldn’t be afraid

To live life (to have sex)

While the flame is still strong (while sexual desire is still strong)

‘Cause we may not be the young ones very long (we’ll be too old to be interested in sex).

Tomorrow, why wait until tomorrow (please don’t let’s wait any longer to have sex, I can’t stand it)

‘Cause tomorrow sometimes never comes (if we don’t have sex now we may never have it)

So love me (so have sex with me)

There’s a song to be sung (there’s sex to be had)

And the best time is to sing it while we’re young (the best time to have sex is when we’re young).

Once in every lifetime comes a love like this (if I can convince you I’m in love with you, you might have sex with me)

Oh, I need you (I want to have sex with you)

You need me (you want to have sex with me) (I hope)

Oh my darling can’t you see (please, for Christ’s sake)

That young dreams should be dreamed together (young people should have sex together)

And young hearts shouldn’t be afraid (to have sex)

And some day when the years have flown

Darling then we’ll teach the young ones of our own (Look, I’m serious about you, we’ll have kids one day, just as long as you have sex with me right now).

Hats off to Roy Bennett and Sid Tepper for those lyrics. Odd to think of the asexual Cliff Richard singing them. It’s like an updated version of Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress”.

(P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Ticket to Ride was reportedly about a card that Hamburg prostitutes carried to show they were “healthy”.
    There is currently a TV ident using the song Afternoon Delight; the lyrics don’t leave much room for misinterpretation.

  2. Ah – didn’t know that about Ticket to Ride – thanks!

  3. Mark Brafield permalink

    Curiously, ‘Ticket to Ride’ was covered as a slow ballad by The Carpenters. (It’s track 16 on my well – worn copy of ‘Carpenters Gold – greatest hits’). Anything sung by her is, of course, achingly beautiful, and she finds depths of new pathos in the lyrics, but innocent, I rather suspect, of this hidden meaning.

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    I agree with you that Karen Carpenter had an incredible voice and one which seems even more extraordinary in today’s world of autotuned clones.
    She was also, of course, no mean drummer (cited by Buddy Rich among others).
    The Carpenters also provided one of the great guitar solos with Tony Peluso’s contribution to Goodbye to Love.

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