Detachable Penis

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"Detachable Penis"
Single by King Missile
from the album Happy Hour
Released 1992
Genre Alternative rock, comedy rock
Length 3:22
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) John S. Hall, Roger Murdock, Dave Rick, Chris Xefos
Producer(s) Kramer, Steve Watson, King Missile
King Missile singles chronology
"My Heart Is a Flower"
(1991)
"Detachable Penis"
(1992)
"(Why Are We) Trapped?"
(1993)

"Detachable Penis" is a song by avant-garde band King Missile. It was the first single from the band's 1992 album Happy Hour, and became a modest hit, reaching No.25 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[1]

Lyrical content[edit]

In "Detachable Penis," frontman John S. Hall recites a deadpan monologue in which he portrays the owner of the eponymous penis. Apparently a resident of Manhattan's East Village, the narrator awakens one morning with a bad hangover to discover that his penis is missing again. He searches his apartment, calls the location of the party he attended the night before, and queries numerous acquaintances, but is unable to recover his penis.

Depressed, he goes to the Kiev Restaurant for breakfast, and afterwards, while walking "down Second Avenue, toward St. Mark's Place," discovers his penis for sale "on a blanket next to a broken toaster oven." The man selling the penis wants $22 for it, but the narrator is able to "talk him down to seventeen." He takes his penis home, washes it off, and reattaches it. With his penis back in place, he is "happy again: complete."[2]

In 2013, researchers discovered that the idea of a detachable penis is not novel in the animal world. They discovered that the sea slug Chromodoris reticulata sloughs off its penis after sex, then grows a new one within approximately 24 hours.[3]

Musical content[edit]

The music of "Detachable Penis" consists largely of a distorted, delay-treated electric guitar riff backed by organ and drum grooves with brief lead guitar improvisation. For most of the track, the titular phrase is sung with an interval of approximately four seconds, or more accurately two 4/4 bars, the length of the guitar riff. The riff provides a harmonic ground of C#min - G Maj - Amaj, which remains unchanged throughout the song.

Music video[edit]

The video for "Detachable Penis" was directed by Richard Kern at the suggestion of drummer Roger Murdock.[4] Hall called Kern "the perfect choice."[4] The video consists of a literal visual depiction of the song's narrative, interspersed with shots of the band performing and an anonymous woman simulating attaching and detaching the titular organ (represented by a dildo complete with artificial scrotum and testicles).[5]

Commercial performance and effect on band[edit]

In a 2003 interview, Hall stated that the commercial success of "Detachable Penis" led to a commercial backlash: "[A]fter that CD [Happy Hour], we didn't really get a lot of airplay". A few stations continued to be supportive, but I think that the success of 'Detachable' resulted in a lot of people getting pretty tired of what we were doing. That is one of the bad things about having a 'hit.'"[6]

Moreover, said Hall, the band realized that the song had drawn in many casual fans who did not care about the rest of the group's material; thus, the band began to play the song "early in the set, so that the people who didn't like us could leave, and we could play for the people who cared. That worked out well. People did leave."[6]

Interpretations[edit]

"Detachable Penis" has been subject to a wide array of misinterpretations. Some people take the lyrics at face value, while others see the story as an elaborate metaphor.[7] In his review of Happy Hour, Michael C. Harris of Rolling Stone wrote of the song: "A parable of self-emasculation? Who knows? And Hall's not telling."[8]

In a 1998 interview, Hall remarked, "Obviously, there are elements to 'Detachable' about male identity that are there, but not really overtly there. For the person who wants to find it, it's there. I don't know. I don't think... I like to think I'm not obvious about the humor, and I'm not obvious about the feelings, either."[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "King Missile Singles Peak Chart Positions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  2. ^ "Lyrics: Detachable Penis". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  3. ^ "ScienceShot: Sea Slug Sports Detachable Penis". ScienceNOW. 2013-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  4. ^ a b "Videography". Laundry Lists of Nonsense. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  5. ^ "Video: Detachable Penis". YouTube. 2006-11-11. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  6. ^ a b Prindle, Mark (2003). "Interview with John S. Hall". Prindle Rock and Roll Record Review Site. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  7. ^ "Interpretations: Detachable Penis". Farmboy's King Missile. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  8. ^ Harris, Michael C. (1993-03-18). "King Missile: Happy Hour: Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  9. ^ Thompson, Stephen (1998-11-11). "Interview with John S. Hall". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 

External links[edit]