Dicknail

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"Dicknail"
Single by Hole
B-side "Burn Black"
Released February 28, 1991 (1991-02-28)[1]
Format 7"
Recorded November 1990 (1990-11) at Radio Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genre Noise rock, hardcore
Length 3:39
Label Sub Pop
Writer(s) Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson
Producer(s) Michael James
Hole singles chronology
"Retard Girl"
(1990)
"Dicknail"
(1991)
"Teenage Whore"
(1991)

"Dicknail" is a song by American alternative rock band Hole, written by vocalist/guitarist Courtney Love and lead guitarist Eric Erlandson. The song was released by Sub Pop Records as the band's second single in February 1991 on 7" vinyl. The song was recorded in November 1990 at the band's second studio session, with production by Michael James.

"Dicknail" has been noted for its disturbing lyrics that allude to themes of child molestation, rape and incest.[2] Love referred to the song as an "anti-misogynism anthem".[3] The single's cover artwork features a prepubescent Love lying naked in a bathtub with the band logo superimposed over the photo.

Origin and recording[edit]

Love and Erlandson are thought to have written "Dicknail" in 1990. The song's first documented performance was at a concert on September 15, 1990 at The Shamrock, a club in Los Angeles.[4]

The first and only known studio version of "Dicknail" was recorded at the band's second studio session in November 1990 at Radio Tokyo in Los Angeles. The song's eventual b-side, "Burn Black", was also recorded at the session, which was produced by Michael James and mixed by Seattle producer Jack Endino. Later mixes of the song — mixed by Barry Goldberg and Erlandson — were released on Hole's 1997 compilation album, My Body, the Hand Grenade.

Composition and lyrics[edit]

In an interview with the Los Angeles fanzine Flipside in 1990, Love and drummer Caroline Rue revealed the meaning behind the song:

Love: "We just wrote this song called 'Dicknail'. It's about different kinds of, it's an anti-misogynism anthem. It has a verse about rape, it has a verse about incest, it has a verse about... Okay it's a male-bashing song! No, it's not..."
Rue: "It sounds like a rationale for a gang bang sometimes, the excuses..."
Love: "The words to the song are very simple, they're like, you know in rape cases how people say 'she liked it' or 'she was asking for it' or 'look at how she was dressed'. A lot of times in rape cases people don't even go to jail because the woman was wearing a fucking miniskirt!"
Rue: "They're exactly like the witch trials, you have to prove that you are completely, immaculately, virginally pure or else you are asking for it." [3]

The idea of a woman "asking for it" also influenced later work by Hole such as the song "Asking for It" from the band's second album, Live Through This. In this thematic respect, "Dicknail" can be seen to be an earlier forerunner of this song, even though the musical and vocal styles are evidently different with "Dicknail" being influenced by no wave and punk rock music and "Asking for It" being influenced by more standard alternative rock and powerpop.

All releases of the single list the songwriting credits collectively as Hole, however BMI's website shows that "Dicknail" was written by Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson.[5]

Release and reception[edit]

"Dicknail" was originally released on February 28, 1991 on Sub Pop as a 7", although Hole had never signed with the label; many of Hole's contemporaries, however, had also released singles through Sub Pop, including Babes in Toyland and Nirvana. Although "Dicknail" was Hole's only appearance on Sub Pop, it has nevertheless been reissued as a part of several collections of early Sub Pop music such as Revolution Come and Gone and The Birth of Alternative Vol. 1, alongside songs from contemporaries such as Nirvana and The Afghan Whigs. The B-side, "Burn Black," appears on The Birth of Alternative Vol. 2.

AllMusic called "Dicknail" "a lumbering, screeching train wreck", adding, "Give Courtney Love credit for tackling the subject of child molestation in such brutal, unflinching detail, but "Dicknail" is so musically abrasive and unpleasant that its message gets lost in translation."[2]

Packaging and artwork[edit]

First pressings were part of Sub Pop's "Single of the Month" series with grey, light green or pink marble vinyl and wraparound pressings. Later copies were issued with card pressed on green, purple or blue vinyl. The artwork on the front cover of the single features a photograph of a pre-pubescent Courtney Love naked in a bathtub, with the band logo superimposed over it.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Dicknail"   Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson 3:39
2. "Burn Black"   C. Love, E. Erlandson 4:56
Total length:
8:35

Musicians and personnel[edit]

Hole
Technical personnel

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hole: Dicknail/Burn Black". Sub Pop Records. Retrieved 2014-03-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Review: Dicknail/Burn Black". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  3. ^ a b Love, Rue, Courtney, Caroline (October 1990). Flipside (68). 
  4. ^ "Holelive.com - The Ultimate Hole Trading Community". Holelive.com. Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  5. ^ "BMI Repertoire Search, BMI.com". BMI.com. Retrieved April 8, 2010.