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July 10, 2006

shave em dry

Posted by dogpossum on July 10, 2006 5:05 PM in the category music

This weekend when I was out dancing at a late night party after a big competition night I heard a new version of a song called Shave 'em Dry 2, a song recorded by a woman called Lucille Bogan in 1935. I have a version of the song on a CD I recently purchased called Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts and Lollypops, which is quite poor quality. But not so poor as to make it impossible to make out these lyrics:
(NB: these are fairly explicit)

I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb,
I got somethin' between my legs'll make a dead man come,
Oh daddy, baby won't you shave 'em dry?
Aside: Now, draw it out!
Want you to grind me baby, grind me until I cry.
(Roland: Uh, huh.)
Say I fucked all night, and all the night before baby,
And I feel just like I wanna, fuck some more,
Oh great God daddy,
(Roland: Say you gonna get it. You need it.)
Grind me honey and shave me dry,
And when you hear me holler baby, want you to shave it dry.
I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb,
Daddy you say that's the kind of 'em you want, and you can make 'em come,
Oh, daddy shave me dry,
(Roland: She ain't gonna work for it.)
And I'll give you somethin' baby, swear it'll make you cry.
I'm gon' turn back my mattress, and let you oil my springs,
I want you to grind me daddy, 'til the bell do ring,
Oh daddy, want you to shave 'em dry,
Oh great God daddy, if you can't shave 'em baby won't you try?
Now if fuckin' was the thing, that would take me to heaven,
I'd be fuckin' in the studio, till the clock strike eleven,
Oh daddy, daddy shave 'em dry,
I would fuck you baby, honey I'd make you cry.
Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell sapper,
And your dick stands up like a steeple,
Your goddam ass-hole stands open like a church door,
And the crabs walks in like people.
Aside: Ow, shit!
(Roland: Aah, sure enough, shave 'em dry?)
Aside: Ooh! Baby, won't you shave 'em dry
A big sow gets fat from eatin' corn,
And a pig gets fat from suckin',
Reason you see this whore, fat like I am,
Great God, I got fat from fuckin'.
Aside: Eeeeh! Shave 'em dry
(Roland: Aah, shake it, don't break it)
My back is made of whalebone,
And my cock is made of brass,
And my fuckin' is made for workin' men's two dollars,
Great God, round to kiss my ass.
Aside: Oh! Whoo, daddy, shave 'em dry

As you can see, there are no punches pulled here. Any lindy hopper who pays attention knows that a fairly large proportion of jazz from the 20s and 30s in particular is decidedly saucy. Yet most of the sauce is veiled in innuendo or so reworked by the delivery it's largely unrecognisable. As an example, the song 'Hold Tight' begins "I want some seafood, mamma..." later continues with the lyric "when I come home from work at night, I get my favourite dish - fish!" and has the chorus "hold tight, hold tight...I want some seafood mamma!" When Fats Waller sings the song, you're well aware that this is not a song about culinary preferences. When the Andrews Sisters sang it, though, the song became a little more ambiguous.
I'm a fan of this sort of blues and jazz, more for the playfulness and irreverence than any naughty pleasure. I like the way sexuality and sensuality are satired, and we're encouraged to laugh along. When it comes to blues dancing, which is frequently explicitly sensual, I like the edge a little humour lends to the dance, resolving the sexaul tension with humour.

Yet when I heard the new version of Bogan's song was played at the party the other night, my response was a little different. To begin with, it's worth pointing out the recording is live (or apparently so), to an enthusiastic audience who cheer along. The singer is a woman, and the lyrics are very clear. I've heard this song played a few times before, first by a woman DJ, and always in Melbourne. The crowd's response was initially surprise and a little shock. By the time it was played at this late night party, however, many dancers were familiar with the song, and both the uninitiated and familiar ears responded with enthusiastic cheering and laughing. It's also worth pointing out that late night parties are frequently more casual, more relaxed and social than more formal dances or competition events.

Despite the enthusiastic response for the song this weekend, I was left wondering if it was entirely appropriate to play the song at that moment. I think I would have left it a little later, when the room had thinned a little, and only the hardcore dancers were left. I saw a few people clearly offended by the lyrics. Particularly since the partner dancing encourages dancers to share their interpretation of the song in that moment, on the dance floor.
My own response, however, was to giggle and take more than a little delight in the obvious pleasure the vocalist takes in the lyric, melody and shouted chorus.

I haven't the time here, but I would like to write a little about the way contemporary swing dancers use archival music and dance for self expression in social contexts. And to perhaps comment on the way race and ethnicity are played out in these settings.
So perhaps this post is really just to pose the question: how are swing dancers using seventy or eighty year old dances and songs for self expression, social commentary and communal creative work? And why

Posted by dogpossum on July 10, 2006 5:05 PM in the category music