Baby Talks Dirty

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"Baby Talks Dirty"
Single by The Knack
from the album ...But the Little Girls Understand
B-side "End of the Game"
Released January, 1980
Format 7"
Genre Rock, new wave, power pop
Length 3:45
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Doug Fieger, Berton Averre
Producer(s) Mike Chapman
The Knack singles chronology
"Good Girls Don't"
(1979)
"Baby Talks Dirty"
(1980)
"Can't Put a Price on Love"
(1980)

"Baby Talks Dirty" is a 1980 Top 40 single written by Doug Fieger and Berton Averre from The Knack's second album, ...But the Little Girls Understand. Like the album it was taken from, "Baby Talks Dirty" fell short of the success of its predecessors.

Whereas The Knack's first single, "My Sharona" reached #1 in the U.S., and its follow-up from their debut album Get the Knack, "Good Girls Don't" reached #11, "Baby Talks Dirty" only reached #30 in Cash Box and #38 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending just 2 weeks in the Top 40.[1][2][3] The song did better in Canada, where it reached #13.[4] It also reached #40 in New Zealand.[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Part of the song's lack of success has been attributed to its similarity to "My Sharona".[6][7] The 1983 edition of The New Rolling Stone Record Guide referred to the song as a "'Sharona carbon copy."[8] Allmusic's Chris Woodstra noted that the entire ...But the Little Girls Understand album is a "rewrite" of the band's first album, stating that this is "especially evident on the lead-off single 'Baby Talks Dirty.'"[9] Author Tim English called "Baby Talks Dirty" "a transparent 'My Sharona' rewrite."[10] Anne Sharp of The Michigan Daily pointed out similarities between "My Sharona" and "Baby Talks Dirty" with respect to "vocal arrangements," "guitar licks" and "subject matter, i.e., a sexually ardent young female."[11] The Sydney Morning Herald also pointed out that "Baby Talks Dirty" "sounds for all the world like 'My Sharona.'"[12] Jim Sullivan of the Bangor Daily News noted the songs' "structural similarity" and referred to "Baby Talks Dirty" as "My Sharona Mach II."[13] Sullivan also criticizes Fieger's performance on the song as "whooping it up like a Sea World porpoise indulging in S&M games."[12]

Another factor in the song's, and its album's, relative lack of chart success was its timing, being released a mere eight months after "My Sharona" and Get The Knack.[6] This made the similarity between "My Sharona" and "Baby Talks Dirty" more jarring.[6] Theodore Cateforis notes that "In this context, 'Baby Talks Dirty,' with its syncopated, bouncing octave eighth-note hook cut from the same mold as 'My Sharona,' sounded most of all as if the band had plagiarized itself."[6] Fieger has stated that "We got a lot of criticism for 'Baby Talks Dirty.' Had that song come out on our fifth album, I think people would have said 'oh, they've gone back to their roots. They take the 'My Sharona' riff to another place.' But as it was, people were gunning for us."[6] But Fieger has also stated that he doesn't think the song sounds like "My Sharona," other than the fact that "it's got a rhythmic G note that goes from G major to the seventh of the G."[14]

"Baby Talks Dirty" was also given by critics as a prime example of the group's misogyny, where the girl in the song wants the singer to hurt her and "loves a real neat beating."[6] In his review of ...But the Little Girls Understand, Rolling Stone Magazine critic Dave Marsh referred to the protagonist as "a foul-mouthed windup doll."[15]

Although Fieger believed that "Baby Talks Dirty" was an "honest song" that could have been successful, other members of the band acknowledged reservations with the lyrics.[16] Averre acknowledged that the lyrics were "slimy," and may have gone too far over the line.[16] Bassist Prescott Niles claims to have disliked the lyrics altogether, disliking that the woman in the song is asking for a beating and the moaning "ah"'s that follow her requests to be hurt.[16] Producer Mike Chapman felt that the lyrics were "over the top" and that they represent Fieger being a "smart ass."[16]

Fieger has acknowledged that, like many songs on The Knack's first two albums, "Baby Talks Dirty" was written about the same Sharona Alperin who inspired "My Sharona".[17]

Other appearances[edit]

The Knack's follow up single to "Baby Talks Dirty" was "Can't Put a Price on Love," also from ...But the Little Girls Understand. That song peaked lower on the Billboard charts than "Baby Talks Dirty," peaking at #62.[3] Subsequent to its appearance on ...But the Little Girls Understand, "Baby Talks Dirty" was released on a number of Knack compilation albums, including The Retrospective: The Best of the Knack (1992), Very Best of The Knack (1998) and Best of The Knack (1999).[18] It also appeared on the 2002 live album and DVD Live From the Rock 'N' Roll Funhouse and the 2007 live DVD On Stage at World Cafe Live.[18] It also appeared on the multiartist compilation album Rock of the 80's Vol. 5.[18]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1979) Peak
position
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[4] 13
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[1] 38
New Zealand Singles Chart[5] 40

"End of the Game"[edit]

The B-side of the "Baby Talks Dirty" single was "End of the Game," which was also a song from ...But the Little Girls Understand, and was written by Fieger. "End of the Game" was written well before ...But the Little Girls Understand and was included in the band's live set even before their first album Get the Knack. Live performances of "End of the Game" were included on the live LaserDisc of the Knack's 1979 concert at Carnegie Hall, The Knack Live at Carnegie Hall, and on a live CD of the band's 1978 concert in Los Angeles, Havin' a Rave Up.[19][20] Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone Magazine claimed that the song was based on cliches from early Fleetwood Mac.[15] The Sydney Morning Herald claimed that the song is "has shades of the Everly Brothers."[12] Allmusic critic Mark Deming stated that the live version of "End of the Game" has "a joyous force nearly any act would envy."[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Whitburn, J. (2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition: Complete Chart Information (9 ed.). Random House. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-8230-8554-5. 
  2. ^ Mann, B. (2005). Blinded by the lyrics: behind the lines of rock and roll's most baffling songs. Citadel Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-8065-2695-9. 
  3. ^ a b "...But the Little Girls Understand singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  4. ^ a b "RPM 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. April 5, 1980. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  5. ^ a b "Baby Talks Dirty: New Zealand charts". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Cateforis, T. (2011). Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. University of Michigan Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-472-03470-3. 
  7. ^ Robbins, I. & Sandlin, M. "Knack". Trouser Press. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  8. ^ Marsh, D. & Swenson, J. (1983). The new Rolling stone record guide. Random House/Rolling Stone Press. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-394-72107-1. 
  9. ^ Woodstra, C. "...But the Little Girls Understand". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  10. ^ English, T. (2007). Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-Off Riffs, and the Secret History of Rock and Roll. iUniverse. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-58348-023-6. 
  11. ^ Sharp, A. (March 14, 1980). "Records". The Michigan Daily. p. 4. Retrieved 2012-04-17. 
  12. ^ a b c "Chance for You to Get the Knack". The Sydney Morning Herald. February 24, 1980. p. 50. Retrieved 2012-04-17. 
  13. ^ Sullivan, J. (March 31, 1980). "The Knack Are 'Blatant Imitators'". Bangor Daily News. p. 47. Retrieved 2012-04-17. 
  14. ^ Dominic, S. (February 15, 2010). "The late Doug Feiger remembered, part 3 - sexy versus sexist". Clarity Digital Group. 
  15. ^ a b Marsh, D. (April 3, 1980). "...But the Little Girls Understand". Rolling Stone Magazine. 
  16. ^ a b c d M. McLauglin, K. Sharp (2004). Getting the Knack. Passport Productions. 
  17. ^ Michaels, R. (2005). Flashbacks to Happiness: Eighties Music Revisited. iUniverse. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-595-37007-8. 
  18. ^ a b c "Baby Talks Dirty". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  19. ^ "Live at Carnegie Hall". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  20. ^ a b "Havin’ a Rave-Up! Live In Los Angeles, 1978". allmusic. Retrieved 2012-04-24.