Between the Sheets


When you have love and heartbreak and people and places, sex isn’t too far behind. The fourth part of The Guardian’s seven-part series, Songs Everyone Should Hear, continues with songs about nocturnal emisions, horizontal jogging or, if you’d prefer, shagging. All tastes are catered for and I was particularly pleased to see the presence of songs like I Touch Myself, Orgasm Addict and Turning Japanese, which are linked by their do-it-yourself approach to the subject in, er, hand

I had never heard over forty of the songs on this list previously, but I’ve managed to narrow that down to a number that’s one shy of a dozen. The songs that I’ve chosen have more to do with sexual politics and gender relations than bumping and grinding. They also share a common sense of humour and playfulness. Of the songs that I’ve heard for the first time today, five stand out and all are sung by ballsy female singers. This one’s for the ladies!

First up is one of the first female blues singers, the charismatic Bessie Smith. Empty Bed Blues comes from 1928 and is a classic blues number with a jazzy score. Bessie’s got the blues cause her bed’s empty and she misses her ‘coffee grinder’ and ‘deep sea diver’. Bessie died in 1937, still in her 40s

Empty Bed Blues – Bessie Smith

Twenty years later, Wanda Jackson released the incendiary (it’s the only word for it) Fujiyama Mama. In this rocking tune, she belts out lyrics that rather distastefully compare the American bombings on Japan to her the state of her libido. Amazingly, the song made it to number one in Japan! Jackson, known as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, went steady with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll around this time. In the 70s, she became a born-again Christian and spent the next few decades singing gospel

Fujiyama Mama – Wanda Jackson

The all-girl group, the Shangri-Las, are best known for their once-banned Leader of the Pack. The conversational lyric of Give Him a Great Big Kiss combines brashness and shyness quite nicely. I love the spoken intro: “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L.U.V.”

Give Him a Great Big Kiss- The Shangri-Las

Come Again by The Au Pairs treats sexual politics and gender relations in a far more brazen fashion. This post-punk Birmingham outfit’s lyrics were as angular and aggressive as their music. Come Again appears on their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen. In this live version, singer Lesley Woods leaves the audience in no doubt as to the its subject matter by introducing it with these words: “This song’s about faking orgasms”

Come Again (live) – Au Pairs

Elastica’s approach has more in common with the Au Pairs than the Shangri-Las. One of the few female-led bands to emerge during Brit Pop, Stutter was their first single and the version below was re-recorded for their debut album. In this song, the female narrator is quite dismissive of her emasculated boyfriend

Stutter – Elastica

1000 songs everyone must hear

Sex: part four of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 11 songs that I haven’t heard from the list of 131