Listening to “Eat To The Beat – The Dirtiest Of Them Dirty Blues”

This is a terrific 28 track compilation put together in 2006 by Bear Family Records, who generally seem to specialise in country re-issues by the likes of Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff.  However, this collection features mainly black artists, ranging from the fairly well-known (Dinah Washington, Jackie Wilson) to the totally obscure (Crown Prince Waterford).

As the title would suggest, this is a collection of X-rated songs, generally blues-based but ranging from Howlin’ Wolf-style electric stormers to sophisticated jazz tinklers (so to speak).  What links these stylistic variations is the subject matter of the lyrics; sex, more sex and…well, you get the idea. 

The great thing about this collection is that I always suspected that stuff like this was out there – well before most of these songs were recorded, Robert Johnson was singing about ‘squeezing my lemon till the juice runs down my leg’  (‘Travelling Riverside Blues’) and  there were numerous other blues songs that dealt heavily in sexual or drug-related innuendo.

However, most of these songs do away with coy hints in favour of full-on profanity leaving little to the imagination.  Many of them originate from a period just after World War II when the jukebox ruled supreme.  This was a time before radio stations exercised a major grip on people’s listening  habits and the local diner or the local malt shop or the local bar with its jukebox was the way that many American youngsters heard new music.  Many of these songs with their risqué lyrics and overt sexual content would have seen the dimes and quarters piling into the machines.

A couple of the more notable inclusions – ‘Don’t fuck around with love’,  by a proto doo-wop ensemble calling themselves The Blenders for the purposes of this recording and ‘Think Twice, Version X’ by Jackie Wilson and Lavern Baker – are in themselves X-rated alternative takes.  ‘Don’t play around with love’ was issued by The Blenders in 1953 and ‘Think Twice’ in its original format was a big hit for Wilson and Baker in 1966.

Other songs show the art of innuendo to be alive and well, though in Dinah Washington’s ‘Long John Blues’ it’s hard to see how innuendo could be taken any further.  This tale of an obliging dentist who fills cavities and drills all night long leaves little to the imagination.

The mysteriously-named Fred Wolff Combo was reputedly a pseudonym adopted by Detroit rocker Cub Koda who went on to front hard rockers Brownsville Station.  The Combo’s ‘Somebody Else Was Suckin’ My Dick Last Night‘ puts its money where its mouth is whilst ‘Rotten Cocksucker’s Ball’  by The Clovers references doo-wop and earlier jazz vocal groups like The Ink Spots.

OK, so much for the schoolboy smut, but the fact is that whilst not all of the songs on this compilation are as convincing musically as they are provocative lyrically, many of them are.  Julia Lee’s innuendo-laced ‘Don’t Come Too Soon’ is beautifully performed and produced, whilst ‘Think Twice, Version X’ is as good a Northern Soul stomper as you could wish for.

On the whole this is a highly-enjoyable compilation with at least a dozen tracks that are strong musically, irrespective of their lyrical content. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK right now so Amazon in the States is probably your best bet.  Alternatively a quick Google of the album title should produce a substantial number of other downloading possibilities.

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