An Erotic Soundtrack

It's not all sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Or is it?

The year is 2004 and I’m standing in my bedroom holding in both hands a thin, plastic square: it’s the new Libertines album. I can barely contain myself. We love this band, so much so in fact that we trail round London, hanging around places they’re known to haunt and making a nuisance of ourselves. We speak about them in lurid, intricate metaphors. We feel we know them intimately. We buy enormous, multi-coloured posters – ‘PETE DOHERTY IS INNOCENT’ – despite the fact that we have no idea whether Pete Doherty is innocent or not, or what he’s been accused of. We spot Carl Barât, the co-lead, near Oxford Circus, and follow him for two hours before he stops outside Starbucks and we, pouncing, make him sign our children’s day travelcards. He drops his cigarette and we pounce on that too. We split it between us and vow never to tell another living soul. Jesus.

The musicians and bands that I idolised reflected the men I loved, and still love, in books. Pete Doherty was like Rochester and Darcy and Boo Radley all rolled into one, but he played guitar. He was bad. The second Libertines album was so British, so quirky and so fuelled with a desire we only pretended to understand. It was an album that celebrated the English language, and we started saying things like ‘I don’t like the cut of your jib’. Every track thrashes around like a fish on a hook, and sounds about as fantastically torturous as it must have been to make. They didn’t need a PR machine. We were sluts for The Libertines.

So much of our sexuality is informed by the music we listen to during these formative years; those albums we chewed through, the endless discussions, the lyrics debated and re-examined and so misunderstood. Song lyrics are often about love – the beginnings of, the falling into, the ending of – but music and musicians are about lust. If I’m caught unaware, listening to these early infatuations, my throat gets a little tighter. For many people, utterly random music will serve as their aural aphrodisiac. It’s all about association. Music introduces us, like a springboard, into the dark pool of sex[1].

My room was covered in copies of the NME which, for a fifteen year-old straight female, was the closest thing to soft porn I could find in Wandsworth. If you weren’t bothered about Glamour, Sugar, Bliss or Elle (I wasn’t and I’m still not, but I feel that I should be), then you were bothered about music, and the people who made it. I remember the hours spent lasciviously turning its delicious-smelling pages. Song and sex were inextricably linked.  Not only did we love the music, we loved it so much that we never stopped playing it. There’d be long sessions of deep, meaningful, but shouted conversations as the final devastating chords rang out. I remember having boyfriends in direct correspondence to the bands I listened to at the time.

The first concerts were defining, too. Suddenly it didn’t matter how old you were. All I spoke about once for two weeks was the lead singer from my then-favourite band leaping from the third storey level of Brixton Academy, landing beside his guitar and charging on with the song. A very sweet young bloke hoisted me up once from a mosh-pit in the Apollo, when we really were too short and clueless to be at this particular gig. I crowd-surfed to the front of the stage in a nun’s costume, and all that was going through my mind was: ‘I am here before these gods of music, whom I stare at all through science lessons. I am fifteen, and nobody seems to care’. It was, needless to say, a very good night.

What’s funny, though, is how music and sex interplay, and how this relationship develops. The image of the teenage couple foolin’ around in a locked bedroom to blaring rock isn’t a stereotype for nothing. Teenagers use their favourite music to cover those aspects of sex  that they’re not quite used to, not yet. It’s the noise of sex that needs to be covered with the noise of music. As such, most of my favourite albums as a teenager are overlaid with memories: most of them hilarious and best patted, fondly, on the head. As you get older, a musical accompaniment is more of an irritation, a distraction rather than a necessity. It drowns out all the best bits.

I recently moved to Paris. Near Pigalle and Montmarte quaint rows of shops line the streets: books, art, clothes. It’s the music shops, however, that rub shoulders with the sex shops, great swathes of them all nestled together. Guitars and butt-plugs, synthesisers, cymbals and rabbits to the rafters. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, music and erotica. Happy listening.

[1] There are certain songs-nay, certain bands-that capture these moments perfectly, and I didn’t realise until recently how much I’d learnt from them. There are some three-minute wonders that bring you up slowly, crank up the volume and crescendo, then simmer down into silence. The Stones: Honky Tonk Women. Lola: The Kinks. Lou Reed: Take A Walk On The Wild Side. The Dandy Warhols, but only when played very, very loud. Jean Grae: I Rock On (pure, unadulterated grinding). Miles Davis. The Buzzcocks: Orgasm Addict. Pulp: Pencil Skirt’s throaty, lazy lusciousness. Labelle’s Lady Marmalade. The one, long summer I spent languorously with Jane’s Addiction. Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop. Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby. Anything with the slightest whisper of a hint of Morrissey. Timeless, endless sex.

More recently, there’s Lil’ Kim’s album Hard Core, one of whose tracks features the immortal lines, ‘if you ain’t lickin’ this, you ain’t stickin’ this’. Well, quite. Snoop Dogg, sorry, Snoop Lion: Sexual Eruption. One of my more virile associates gets off on Edwyn Collins’ A Girl Like You, with its insistent little drumroll, and one of the sexiest music videos ever made. The track was simply too much, though, for Collins to produce anything else in his career: the poor chap blew his load in one. Calvin Harris. Bruno Mars. Ludacris. Gaga. And my own personal favourite: The Doors’ cover of Back Door Man. The breath of fresh air that is Azealia Banks, hip hop cum electro, with the mesmerising, indecipherable poetry of 212. Banks doesn’t stop: she smashes in, and only stutters when describing how a friend of hers will ‘wanna lick my plum in the evening / And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in’. Excellent.