Rock 'n' Roll: Going to Pot

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But not all the rockers are as ready to explain their "hidden meanings." That would destroy the mystique. As a result, the pop-music audience has become divided into two camps: the Dirties, who read debauchery into the most innocuous lyrics (they see Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night, for example, as a song about a homosexual pickup), and the Cleans, who would argue that Ray Charles's Let's Go Get Stoned is a call to take part in a Mississippi freedom march. To the Dirties, such songs as Straight Shooter (junkie argot for someone who takes heroin intravenously) and You've Got Me High are, of course, fraught with double entendre. Scanning for hidden meanings, in fact, has become something of an in-group game for many teenagers. Take the ditty I Love You Drops. "It's probably pretty innocent," says a Washington rock 'n' roll fan, Anne Williams, 17. "But he could be getting high on nose drops. You can, you know."

Decapitated Dolls. For variety, high-schoolers can also contemplate the problem of suicide in A Most Peculiar Man or search for the supposed reference to an unwed mother in Little Girl or a whorehouse in Doll House. But the real snigger is in decoding the sexual innuendos. Sometimes it is easy: Lou Christie's Rhapsody in the Rain, for example, was banned by many radio stations because, as the program director for WLS in Chicago, Gene Taylor, explains, "There was no question about what the lyrics and the beat implied—sexual intercourse in a car, making love to the rhythm of the windshield wipers." A tougher test is the Rolling Stones' I Can't Get No Satisfaction, which has sold 4.5 million copies, with Lead Singer Mick Jagger wailing, "I'm tryin' to make some girl." Difficulty was, Tagger's diction is so slurred that many stations unwittingly played the record; others bleeped out the offending phrase. But, gloats Jagger, "They didn't understand the dirtiest line." That is the one where the girl pleads: "Baby, better come back later next week 'cause you see I'm on a losing streak." Says Jagger: "It's just life. That's what really happens to girls. Why shouldn't people write about it?" Why, indeed. Says one record promoter: "The kids with the clean songs are having a hard time coming up with hit songs."

Perhaps so, because the latest group to get into the act is the true but hitherto-never-blue Beatles. One of their recent releases, Norwegian Wood, has been interpreted by some as the tale of a man trying to seduce a lesbian. Another, Day Tripper, can be interpreted as the lament of a man who finds out that his girl is a prostitute ("She's a big teaser . . . she only played one-night stands"). If that doesn't shake up the Beatles' fans, then the cover of their latest album would. It is a photograph of the famous four wearing butchers' smocks and laden with chunks of raw meat and the bodies of decapitated dolls. The first reaction to the cover in the U.S. was so violent that Capitol Records pulled it off the market, explaining that it was a misguided attempt at "pop-art satire."

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