'Stray Cat Blues' to Ted Nugent's 'Jailbait', a compendium of popular Western music's most problematic songs

Kuzhali Manickavel

Dec 11, 2019 09:54:50 IST

'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic — and asks, 'But are they really?'.

Read more from the series here.

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Read part 1 of this column.

Here we are again with another scintillating instalment of Allegedly Problematic, the column that whines about almost everything! Yesterday we dealt with the fun topic of incest in popular “Western” music. Is it problematic? We’re not really sure! But today, we are heading into an equally fun topic — old dudes behaving inappropriately with underage girls! Just to be clear, it is generally agreed that this is something which is not ok. But does that stop old dudes? It does not!

Here are a few songs that distinguish themselves as being grosser than the rest. These are English songs, they are old and they are predominantly by white dudes. So obviously it will give us a well-rounded picture of everything. Here we go.

'Jailbait' by Ted Nugent

I don’t want to talk about Ted Nugent more than I have to so let’s just state the facts. 'Jailbait' is a song about him wanting to have sex with a 13-year-old. And when the cops come, he tells them that they can all share her. You’re gross, Ted Nugent.

'Christine Sixteen' by KISS

Here we have another old dude, only this time he says

I don't usually say things like this to girls your age/ But when I saw you coming out of the school that day/ That day I knew, I knew Christine sixteen/ I've got to have you, I've got to have you/She's' been around, but she's young and clean/I've got to have her.

On the plus side, she’s 16, not 13. It’s not a great plus though.

'Everyone’s Gone to the Movies' by Steely Dan

Literally a song about an older man who lures underage kids into his den so everyone can watch porn together! Wtf Steely Dan?

'Stray Cat Blues' by The Rolling Stones

The Stones have made a lot of problematic songs — some are racist, some are sexist, some are a delicious, tangy mix of both. 'Stray Cat' is about propositioning a 15-year-old runaway and encouraging her to bring a friend along because who doesn’t want to get it on with an old white guy! Can this get any worse? It sure can! In the live version of this song, Jagger changes it to a 13-year-old. Isn’t that great?

 Stray Cat Blues to Ted Nugents Jailbait, a compendium of popular Western musics most problematic songs

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I’m going to stop here with the underage songs for a number of reasons — I’m running out of space, there are waaaaaay too many of these songs to cover and now I want to talk about my favourite problematic thing: racism! Let’s go!

'Do They Know It’s Christmas' by Band Aid 1984

Outright racist? Maybe not. Tone-deaf and well-intentioned? Absolutely. I feel like that’s the worst combination in the world, which is probably why this song is so insufferably horrible. Just as a reminder, the lyrics went like this:

There's a world outside your window/And it's a world of dreaded fear/ Where the only water flowing/ Is a bitter sting of tears/ And the Christmas bells that ring there/ Are the clanging chimes of doom/ We’ll, tonight, thank God, it's them/ Instead of you/And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time/ The greatest gift they'll get this year is life/ Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow/ Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Why the heck are they talking about Africa like it’s Mordor? Why do you get a free pass to make up whatever you want about Africa just because you are raising money for a charity? Feel like India dodged a bullet with this one because let’s be frank people, this could easily have been about us.

'Walk Like an Egyptian' by The Bangles

Oh come on now, this is a fun song! It’s so fun! It’s about having fun! It’s about walking like an Egyptian! Do Egyptians walk differently from everyone else? Yes they do! They put their hands out in that weird way, haven’t you seen? It’s on the pyramids! Apparently claiming this song is racist is PC and just annoying so let’s not do that then.

'Turning Japanese' by The Vapours

Apparently, this song isn’t racist. It’s not about anything Japanese even though it says ‘turning Japanese’ and there’s an Oriental guitar riff in there. According to the songwriter, it’s apparently about turning into something you didn’t expect to. Which, in this song, is Japanese. Which isn’t racist, even though he says Japanese because it’s Japanese just not that kind of Japanese because
that would be racist. Good to know, right?

And now, we must bring this sketchy and incomplete column to a very abrupt end even though there are so, so, so many other songs we could talk about. In our next column, we are going to look at a really exciting movie called The Tiger of Eschnapur. Will it be problematic? With a name like that, I sure hope so!

Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2019 14:19:45 IST