Back in my school days, Valentine’s Day was a time for exchanging cheap perforated Valentines cards and inedible Necco hearts, and punishing the unpopular kids by “forgetting” to give them anything. (I was perhaps one of those unpopular kids.) If you were really lucky you got a mixtape from a girl, and I did get a few in my day, even if they were from girl-space-friends and not girlfriends. What was disturbing was the presence of “Every Breath You Take” on said mixtapes, given it’s the kind of love song that John Wayne Gacy might write. Even Sting himself says it’s a paean to controlling someone:
I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.
It got me thinking of other so-called “love songs” that are about as uncomfortably grody as pulling a wool sweater over a hairy, Vaselined chest.
7. Extreme, “More Than Words“
If you could play this song or “Closer To Fine” on guitar in the early ’90s, you were pretty much getting to a base of some kind. Secret God Squad band Extreme ruled the mixtape roost during my high school years, but this song ain’t as innocent as it seems. Gary and Nuno have something on their minds, and words ain’t gonna cut it:
Saying I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
Its not that I want you
Not to say, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
‘Cause I’d already know
In a nutshell: “Okay, listen, babe. I get that you love me. You’ve said it a million times. I’m, uh, gonna need something a little more now, if you know what I’m saying.” This song is the “please, baby, please” argument given every night in thousands of Pontiac Grand Ams.
Age-appropriateness is the problem here with both Ringo Starr and Benny Mardones, though I think it could be argued that Ringo might be singing from the perspective of a high-school guy. The video doesn’t help things, as a bearded, older Ringo gads about with a Shampoo-era Carrie Fisher. Mardones’ “Into The Night” (which Maura and I both adore) is more problematic, as Mardones is told by “them” to “leave her alone,” but he keeps after the 16-year-old anyway. That kind of behavior will land you in jail, Benny.
4. Winger, “Seventeen”
I’m including this song for the sake of completeness, even though it actually makes no bones about addressing its creepiness.
3. Rod Stewart, “Love Touch”
I actually put Rod Stewart’s Legal Eagles atrocity on a tape for a lady once, and I can’t imagine what she thought. The song itself is pretty standard semi-raunchiness, but the phrase “Love Touch” is just so wrong. Especially since Rod’s is probably covered in scented suntan oil.
2. Bob Carlisle, “Butterfly Kisses”
I hate that my cynical, shriveled heart makes me look askance at a “heartfelt” song like this one, but the verse about perfume and makeup and looking like her mama and being between a girl and a woman and spreading her wings… just no. The lyrical point of view starts to sound less like a dad and more like a covetous older lover as the song goes on.
1. Dan Hill, “Sometimes When We Touch”
The coup de grace of creepy, despite some people considering it “romantic” and “sweet.”
And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides
Making love to this hairy man-child is the last thing you’d ever want to do. First, he hides under the sheets. Then he won’t let go of you until he dies—or, at the very least, until you start crying. And the entire time he’s afraid, cowering under the covers. Thanks, but no thanks, Dan. You are the worst lay ever.