Good Ship Venus
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"Good Ship Venus", also known as "Friggin' in the Riggin'", is a bawdy drinking song devised to shock with ever increasingly lewd and debauched sexual descriptions of the eponymous ship's loose-moraled crew. The tune usually used (especially for the chorus) is "In and Out the Windows".
The lyrics exist in numerous variations. The opening verse is typically something along the lines of:
'Twas on the good ship Venus,
By Christ you should have seen us,
Was a whore in bed,
And the mast a rampant penis.
The usual rhyming structure for this song is the limerick AABBA structure.
It is possible that this song was inspired by an actual event, where a female convict (Charlotte Badger), sailing on the colonial brigantine Venus, convinced members of the crew to commandeer the vessel, sailing from Port Dalrymple, Tasmania, (now part of George Town, Tasmania) in 1806.
Despite various reports, the ultimate fate of the Venus is unknown. This may have led to speculation by those left behind, with fantasies leading to the creation of this drinking song. One of the verses also refers to a 'Charlotte':
The captain's daughter Charlotte
Was born and bred a harlot
Her thighs at night
Were lily white
By morning they were scarlet.
HMS Venus, RN
Five ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Venus between 1758 and 1972. The most recent was a destroyer launched in 1943, which was converted into a fast frigate in 1951, and served during the 1950s and 60s, to the surprise of those who assumed the name in the song to be apocryphal. (She was a sister ship of HMS Troubridge, whose name inspired the fictional "HMS Troutbridge" in the long-running BBC radio comedy The Navy Lark of the same period).
|"Friggin' in the Riggin'"|
|Song by Sex Pistols|
|from the album The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle|
|Released||26 February 1979|
|Genre||Punk rock, traditional pop|
|Songwriter(s)||Traditional; arranged by Steve Jones|
Oscar Brand recorded an early version in 1952, but the best-known version was recorded by the British punk band Sex Pistols, which appears on their Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle album, and was the finale track in the film of the same name. Released as part of a double-A side, it reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1979 and was the band's biggest selling single.
When a ship was required in The Goon Show it was often named the "Good Ship Venus" or "HMS Venus", one of several references to dirty jokes the Goons managed to get past the 1950s BBC censors.
The American thrash metal band Anthrax covered the Sex Pistols' version, but with different lyrics. In 2006 Loudon Wainwright III recorded it on the compilation album Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys. The American punk band Showcase Showdown also released a version of the song on a tribute to the Sex Pistols.
In British director Ken Russell's 2005 "Hot Pants Trilogy", "The Goodship Venus" short was billed as a musical trip around Cape Horn with "as horny a crew of sex-crazed sailors who ever sailed the seven seas." The trilogy received its world premiere at the Oldenburg Festival, Germany in Sept 2005.
In popular culture
The chorus from the Sex Pistols' version of the song was used in the opening titles of the Channel 4 situation comedy Captain Butler; minor variations to the words (in spoken form) were added, notably by the series' lead actor Craig Charles. A Royal Navy ship Venus is the setting of the film Carry On Jack.
- Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs (University of Illinois, 1992). pg 316.
- Sebastian Hogbotle and Simon Feckes Snatches and Lays (Melbourne: Sun Books: 1973). pg. 87.
- Loudon Wainwright III "Good Ship Venus" on Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys 2006
- "venus". Homepages.ihug.co.nz. Retrieved 2010-02-12.[dead link]
- Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs (University of Illinois, 1992).
- Legman, Gershon. The Horn Book. (New York: University Press, 1964).
- Roud Folk Song Index 4836