Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sex Attack

Dude: Hey baby, what's your name?

Lady: Who me?

Dude: I'd sure like to get to know you!

Lady: For what? So you can waste my time?
Huh. No way, Jose. All talk and no play?
Nice try, but I need a reeeeal guy!

Sex attack! I've got a sex attack! x2
Sex attack! Sex attack! Ooh! x2

I need someone, someone real hot
I need somebody, uh who won't stop
This real cool dude, I answered his plea
Thought he might satisfy me
He started out, uh real fast
Uh breathin' heavily, he could not last
I was ready, but he let me down
Another dude, another clown

Sex attack! I've got a sex attack! x2
Sex attack! Sex attack! Ooh! x2

I am on a long long search
Trying to quench my sexual thirst
Big or small, fast or slow
You know I'm always ready to go
Somebody please come along
And try this body all night long
I keep trying, cause I've got this jones
This sex attack won't leave me alone

Sex attack! I've got a sex attack! x2
Sex attack! Sex attack! Ooh! x2

(Come on and try me babe)

I'm hot, I'm burnin' up - sex attack! Sex attack! x4
I've got a sex attack - I've got a sex attack! x4
Sex attack! Sex attack! Ooh! x2
Sex attack! I've got a sex attack!

It's a poem. It needs music. What do you think? I was thinking maybe a funky, uptempo number. How about the delivery? Breathy, with lots of groans and grunts. Yes, that would work. That's exactly the feeling I'm going for with this.

I have no idea where I got "Sex Attack" by Wandra (I've had it at least ten years, and I would guess that I skimmed it from the bazillion 12"s in my own record store – though I could as easily have found it in a dollar bin in any of the dozens of other places I shopped at in the 90s), but I can certainly tell you why I got it: that one word, "SEX". Obviously! I'm all about the outrage. Like what was I thinking – “Wow a song with SEX in the title! I wonder if they sing about SEX in there? Oh man it's gonna be totally off the wall!" But anyhow, I don't have any memory of the first time I listened to it. For years, it's sat in the Ws of my LPs, and every time I pass by it I'm like, oh yeah it's that song, and the hook runs through my head: "Sex attack, I've got a sex attack” – but there's no memory of a time in my life where I engaged in a long, intense dialogue with it, the way I did with, say, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, or The Wall. I have a comfortable relationship with this record, one of ownership and vague familiarity. It's always there, waiting for the next time I play it, filling in the cracks, background noise in a total environment, doing its tiny part to inform the aesthetic dialogue I carry on with the world at large that is my record collection.

But I mean, is that really how this record was meant to work – an ego-boosting novelty ensuring record-collecting prowess? Is this a proper fate for the fruit of Wandra's labor? I want to do right by people, man.

Ok, well, why did they make it? One path to creation – presumably, the artistically pure path – is to start with a need to get your message out, and music the medium. The message of "Sex Attack": Hey baby, I'm totally sex-crazed! There's no way you can give me what I need!


Ok, I'm guessing this record didn't come out of a burning desire to get that point across. The other path to creation is seeing a need, and being skillful enough to create something that meets that need. The market-driven approach. Searching the internet for various combinations of terms associated with this record yielded me the following information:

  • There was a disco group in the early 80s called Pure Energy, consisting of Raymond Hudson, Curtis Hudson, and Lisa Stevens. It's a good bet that they are the three pictured on this cover , which appears to be from a 7". The three of them wrote and produced "Sex Attack".
  • Pure Energy were total NYC music-biz pros, managing an artist stable as "The Hudson Organization", writing, arranging and producing records for other artists like Wandra.
  • Curtis and Lisa wrote that Madonna song "Holiday", and they recorded the version that became the single. "Sex Attack" actually sounds a little like "Holiday", in the melody, in a now-that-you-mention-it kind of way. It's also got a similar direct lyrical approach to a focused, artistically-rendered idea – albeit a somewhat darker one.

"Sex Attack" is strictly THO-pro (THO = The Hudson Organization. Keep up, already!). It's from the early 80s, years after the Death of Disco in the mainstream, during the time it went underground into the clubs of New York and got leaner, meaner and awesomer, gestating Electro, Madonna and House. It's no dancefloor anthem, but it's got spare hooks and a serious groove, guaranteed to keep the party pumping. I'd guess, then, that the message is secondary to the market: this production was made to meet a demand from nymphomaniacal, sweaty young folks for funky grooves to keep their bodies moving.

Wait so they're just totally prostitute now? Where'd the love go? Writing off "Sex Attack" as a project for hire and thereby denying it artistic credibility doesn't pass the common sense test – one listen to the thing and it's clear that they had fun making it. There's joy in the grooves, despite the dismally sexist premise, and the music - tight and muscular, not sloppy at all, slick, sure, tuneful – has heart and soul. It's the sound of dudes at the top of their game, cranking out quality. How come they didn't get famous? There's a hint in the Wikipedia entry for "Holiday":

It was [John "Jellybean"] Benitez who discovered a new song written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of the pop group Pure Energy.[3] The song, titled "Holiday", had been turned down by Phyllis Hyman and Mary Wilson, formerly of The Supremes.[4] After the vocals were added by Madonna, Benitez spent four days and tried to enhance the commercial appeal of the track before the April 1983 deadline.[2][4] Just before it was completed, Madonna and Benitez took the tape over to their friend Fred Zarr's apartment in Brooklyn.[4] Zarr added a piano solo in the intermediate section of the track.[3]"

(The citations refer to Madonna books by Rikky Rooksby, Mary Cross and Andrew Morton.)

So they were, perhaps, too focused on the cranking, and not enough on the popping. Too much quantity and not enough quality. Fine for the club circuit where Madonna came up – but without the spark to get out themselves. But hey, let's give them credit! Maybe they were comfortable and even happy there. They were making it work with the production company, and maybe they didn't aspire to push it further. Is this mid-level aspiration wrong? Our culture seems to frown on it, but who knows – maybe they totally inhabited it. Maybe the clubs were there for them, and the big-time producers were too apt to stab them in the back. Maybe when they played live they did the 20-minute go-go jam on "Sex Attack" with interpretive dance and multple conga breakdowns. Maybe calling themselves "Pure Energy" meant that they didn't want pop concessions like piano solos to get in the way of their pure, laser-sharp dancefloor groove-bringers with single-minded lyrics. Maybe they aspired to be the background noise, the funky fun beats, the club-land workhorses, and maybe they sold that song to Madonna cause it was a good deal at the time, and maybe they didn't get famous cause they stayed true to their mission.

I guess that makes it ok for me to feel cool for having the single – it did its job for THO and now it's the province of the archivists and the historians. Maybe it's happy to get the attention, as long as my verbosity doesn't kill it. It really is a nice record – for one thing, the pretty translucent smoky vinyl gives it a gem-like appearance – sadly, though, this is a signal to anyone who's in the business that it's COLLECTIBLE! BETTER JACK UP THE PRICE! Search the internet for it and you'll find lots of people trying to sell it but no evidence that anyone's actually interested in the thing – except for this guy who dropped it into his mix, and who actually appears to feel the Spirit of the Funk Disco. He's truer to Wandra than I'm being right now – you can't move your ass to a blog post. Well maybe you can to this blog post, but that's only cause I'm telling you you have to. Ass! Move it! Now! Thanks, Wandra – and thanks, Frances, for picking me such a nice deep cut, and teaching me that even if you sell your stuff you're not necessarily selling your soul, and knowing what you want to do is the key to true success.

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