Pickled Priest Mixtape: Girls Talk, Volume 1
There are many songs about girls. Everybody loves girls, particularly rock stars (for better or worse as we will see). The last time I counted, the number or songs written about girls was approaching 65.3 million. For your benefit, I’ve narrowed that list down to 26 hand-selected choices and they are included below. (And no, not in any world is "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Mötley Crüe going to make this list.) In order to make the project more manageable, I decided to make, at a later date, another tape with songs that reference a specific girl’s name in the title. I also decided to limit this tape to only songs that contain the word “girls” in its title, not just in the lyrics, which also cut the list down dramatically. In the end, I think we’ve come up with a mixtape that celebrates the fairer sex in just about every way possible. And yes, a “boys” tape is in the pipeline, too.
BAD GIRLS DO (BUT I DON'T)
1 “Let’s Talk About Girls” / The Undertones
This is as logical a starting point as any for obvious reasons. On any mixtape, the first song should set the tone and provide a good example of the tape’s main objective: to assess a subject from all angles and perspectives, warts and all. “Let’s Talk About Girls” was originally recorded by the Chocolate Watchband and released on their No Way Out record in 1967. The song gained most of its fame after being included on the now legendary Nuggets compil-ation of garage/psych classics that was put together by Lenny Kaye (most known as the guitarist for the Patti Smith Group) in 1972. But this isn’t that version. Instead, I lean toward the Undertones frenetic version of the song from 1979 (the B-side to their single “You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?)" which is itself was an answer to the Beatles' "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number"). I think this version benefits from Feargal Sharkey’s adolescent snarl in lieu of the deeper, almost predatory, vocal on the Watchband original, mainly because there are, pardon the pun, undertones of distorted sexual expectations built into the lyrics (i.e. “girls who beg for more”). But if you thought teenage sexual expectations were distorted in 1967, it’s far worse now, what with kids watching porn from as early as 8- to 11-years-old on average according to some studies. Yeesh.
Note: The Undertones spent a good deal of time trying to figure out the ladies when they were young and nervous Irish lads in the late-70s and early-80s. They alone have several excellent “girls” songs to pick from. On “Girls Don’t Like It” they wondered what to do if the girl wasn’t responding to their chosen approach. “More Songs About Chocolate and Girls” appears titled in homage to Talking Heads’ “More Songs About Buildings and Food.” And my favorite tandem of girl songs from 1980’s Hypnotised was “The Way Girls Talk” followed later by “Girls Who Don’t Talk.”The perfect encapsulation of youthful confusion in the presence of the opposite sex.
2 “All Kindsa Girls” / The Real Kids
“Non-Stop Girls” / Radio Birdman
We rarely do this, but I’m going to sneak two songs into the second slot and rationalize it by calling it a ‘medley’. I do this mainly
because both are great songs that have much in common. Both were released in 1977. Both are from records now considered cult classics (The Real Kids and Radios Appear, respectively). And each features a singer overwhelmed by the sheer variety of girl options. Amusingly, neither seem up to the challenge just yet.
Note: The day my first child was born, I decided to wear my Real Kids t-shirt to the hospital in an attempt to bring a little of my musical passion into the maternity ward. None of the doctors or nurses noticed, but I did. Despite my affection for girl songs, when both our baby appeared (and another three years later), I got all kinds of non-stop boys.
3. “Beautiful Girls” / Van Halen
David Lee Roth, on the other hand, is always ready for a challenge—especially when it comes to the ladies. As you might expect, one of the greatest cads of all time hesitates not when pursuing a new love interest. Yes, he’s beyond shallow, but at least he’s forthright.
4 “Girls…” / Marshall Crenshaw
For even the most experienced guys, girls can be vexing. But for those from the Buddy Holly school of innocent pop, like our friend Marshall, it’s like doing the New York Times Sunday crossword without the clues. I find the ellipses in the song's title to be telling. It seems to be expressing a level of overstimulation as a young man walks around downtown on a summer’s day. Girls everywhere he looks! So what comes next? What do I do now? How do I approach them?
5 “(Girls, Girls, Girls) Made to Love ” / The Everly Brothers
Speaking of innocence, this may be the ultimate harmless pop song about girls. This Everly Brothers classic is absolutely teeming with wide-eyed naiveté that is nearly impossible to resist thanks to its divine brotherly harmonies. At the time, the Everly boys did not have girl problems—they were the ultimate dreamboats for millions of young girls when A Date With the Everly Brothers was released—but it’s still refreshing that they still took time to have “the talk” with dad to get some useless/experienced advice. Dad’s “wisdom,” predictably, was so squeaky clean Ivory soap would be jealous of its purity.
6 “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” / The Smiths
It’s a pretty simple concept, but it’s got to be said. Girls come in all shapes and sizes—each with their own benefits. No body shaming for Morrissey! As a matter of fact, he ends the song with the sweetest of sentiments, “Send me the pillow, the one that you dream on/And I’ll send you mine.” Tip for all girls in Morrissey’s pillow exchange program: Get the extra-absorbent model. Disappointment beckons.
7 “Fat Bottomed Girls” / Queen
You knew it was coming (or going, as the case may be). This song takes Morrissey’s realization that real women have curves and delights in that fact. Perhaps a little too much? One burning question remains, however: Why does it take to two gay lead singers to point out the obvious?
8 “Drunk Girls” / LCD Soundsystem
Not an LCD fan, but I had to include this since it contains the astute observation that “drunk girls are boringly wild.” This song could be mistaken for a frat boy anthem if you didn’t pay close attention to the rest of the words. There’s wisdom about both sexes to be found on this dancefloor filler.
9 “Some Girls” / The Rolling Stones
I’m trying to imagine the reaction if the Stones played “Some Girls” for their record label in 2020 instead of 1978. Even with their substantial clout, I’m betting no executive would touch it with a 20-foot pole without some serious edits (and record executives aren’t this nation’s moral compass by a long shot). But back in 1978, Atlantic label head Ahmet Ertegun gave it the old “I don’t have creative control over the band” excuse and left the song as is. Still, the Stones eventually countered with an apology of sorts that basically said, “It never occurred to us that it would be taken seriously. No insult was intended” (paraphrased). My how times have changed. If the song is ruined for you as a result of its controversial lyrics, I get it. But at its core, there is no denying that it's a great sounding rock & roll song (with killer harmonica added by blues great Sugar Blue*) from the tail-end of the band’s glory years, but it’s easy to see why Jesse Jackson marched into Ertegun’s office calling out what he perceived to be some blatantly racist lyrics. He had a pretty rock solid point, too. See if you can spot the contrast between these two lines, and pay close attention since it’s really subtle: “Black girls just wanna get fucked all night / I just don’t have that much jam!” and later, “White girls they’re pretty funny/Sometimes they drive me mad.” After further review, one does stand out as slightly more racially insensitive. Mick could rightfully claim artistic freedom, but using the old “no harm intended” apology seems a little tone deaf even for the 70s. And lines like “Some girls give me children/I never asked them for” aren’t going to impress feminists either. There’s a little for everyone here depending on how you look at it, but just be thankful they’ve never released the full version which was reportedly 24-minutes long with Jagger ad-libbing the whole way through. I can only imagine what was left on the cutting room floor if these were the final lyrics included. The Stones, to their credit (?), cut the line for Martin Scorsese’s concert film Shine a Light to avoid resuscitating the controversy, but years later, when Keith Richards was asked about the “Black girls want to be fucked all night” line, his answer didn’t help matters, “Well they do. At least in my experience.” In the end some Stones write racist lyrics, some Stones apologize, some Stones reignite controversy, will they never ever get wise!
*One of my fondest memories of growing up in Chicago was seeing Sugar Blue’s regular sets at legendary Northside blues club Kingston Mines. His virtuosity on his instrument was clearly obvious to even the most novice of listeners. Of all the artists I’ve seen live, very few left me consistently shaking my head in disbelief at what I just heard as did Sugar Blue.
10 “Girls” / Dwight Twilley
“Well the men don’t know, but the little girls understand.” Howlin’ Wolf’s perceptive line from the blues classic “Back Door Man” says it all. Here Dwight discovers that a man can travel the world and still be totally perplexed by the opposite sex when he gets home.
11 “Girls Talk” / Dave Edmunds
One way for boys to find out how to deal with girls is to infiltrate their defenses and gain insights covertly. Sadly, they appear to be speaking a totally different language. An undeniably great Elvis Costello song, but I prefer Dave’s version.
12 “I Wanna Know Girls” / Portastatic
The song starts with the line, “I wanna know girls who wanna know men” (which makes sense), and ends with, “I wanna know girls, but love only one” (which is sweet). Girls, listen up, there are nice guys out there for the taking. I call it progress, but I have a feeling many of you would call it boredom.
13 “Bad Girls” / Donna Summer
If you wanna know these girls, you're going to need some cold hard cash. And some penicillin perhaps. Pretty much everything you need to know about this single is telegraphed by its cover art above.
1 “Good Girls Don’t” / The Knack
I am going to go out on a limb and anoint this as the greatest “girls” song ever written. It captures the awkward, adolescent male in his natural habitat, as if he's being observed by Marlon Perkins on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. First, we spot a boy in his
bedroom masturbating, visions of the opposite sex dancing in his imagination (“Schoolboy stuff, a sticky sweet romance”). Then we see him in biology class covering his privates with a notebook artfully positioned on his lap (“Wishing you could get inside her pants”). Shortly after, the teen male boils over with repressed sexuality leading to delusions of grandeur (“An in-between age madness that you know you can’t erase/Til she’s sitting on your face”). Soon we realize, as we listen to the audio footage more closely, that this entire ritual was set into motion by a single overheard, and likely misheard, sentence from the adolescent female in question. The audio is slightly garbled, but did he really hear what he thought he heard? “Good girls don’t...but I do.” Surely that's what he longed to hear, but did he really hear it correctly? You can almost feel the excitement spewing through the speakers (eew) when "Good Girls Don't" plays. On another note: How exactly did this song get on the radio unedited again?
2 “Local Girls” / Graham Parker
Graham confirms something many have known all along—don’t bother with the local girls. It's the same concept as the old axiom, "Don't fish off the company pier."
3 “California Girls” / The Beach Boys
Or maybe you should, especially if that pier is right on the Pacific Ocean. The Beach Boys travel the world and eventually realize their favorite girls are the local variety. It helps that they are from Southern California, but still.
4 “Southern Girls” / Cheap Trick
Ruling out the local girls in Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick’s home town, is one of the easier decisions the band has had to make (trust me). But they’ve also been “to the California beach” favored by the Beach Boys and have instead opted for some Southern hospitality.
5 “What Girls Want” / Material Issue
It’s not so much what girls want, it’s what they will settle for that’s important. This is a song that might benefit from a modern reboot, but for the most part it still seems pretty accurate. For the record, here’s the final girl's wish list:
Lips like Mick Jagger
Rod Stewart’s hair
Keith Richards’ stagger
As a courtesy to my readers, I have, after a long search, found a person who is a composite of all these elements. Here’s your dream guy ladies (at least according to Jim Ellison of the Ish that is):
What you want, what you really, really want?
6 “Typical Girls” / The Slits
“Who invented the typical girl? Who’s bringing out the new and improved model?” Good questions, all being asked by very atypical girls who want nothing to do with the usual girl stereotypes. But what do girls know about girls anyway!
7 “Fear of Girls” / UK Subs
No truer song has ever been written. As they say, if you don’t have a little fear, then you’re not doing it right.
8 “It’s Different for Girls” / Joe Jackson
Just when you think you know what girls want (and it isn't the guy on the cover of this 45), it’s something else entirely. Love is the logical answer, but that’s not it either. When Joe says “it’s different for girls” I think he means the opposite of whatever you’re thinking at the time.
9 “The Girls Want to Be With the Girls” / Talking Heads
We’re getting perilously close to the end of the tape and there appears to be no resolution for our male-dominated tape in sight. “The girls want things that make common sense.” "And the boys say 'What do you mean?'” Is it possible we’re going to end in a stalemate?
10 “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” / Cyndi Lauper
We admit we don’t love this song, but no tape about girls is complete without it. I’m not sure it’s as simple as this, but it would make things a lot easier if it were.
11 “Girls Who Play Guitars” / Maxïmo Park
Most rock songs about girls are pretty transparent, but this one is different. A girl's life is, and should be, totally in her control—and there's perhaps no better way to challenge the status quo than to adopt an instrument dominated by men and make it your own. But does it usually turn out to be a bass?
12 “September Gurls” / Big Star
It’s autumn. The summer-long pursuit has been futile. Finally, as the leaves fall, something finally happens. As quickly as it does, it fades away, the girl still stuck in his mind. Then a long cold winter beckons and there’s no reason to expect a different result next year. At least that’s how the song makes me feel.
13 “Girls Are Always Right” / Any Trouble
This, boys, is all you ever needed to know. So listen closely and take notes. We’ll continue our review on Volume Two coming soon in the next two to two-hundred weeks. Next time, we’ll put the majority of the focus on 21st century girl songs. I think you'll see that the times have been changing significantly and for the better.
Disclaimer: The characterizations of girls expressed in this mixtape are those of the artists and not the writer (in most cases). That said, we do love all of these songs.
Until we mix again, take care.