Is that what it’s really about? Steve & Eydie’s I Want to Stay Here

This is an occasional series in which, inspired by their being played on Sounds of the Sixties, I pick apart the lyrics of a big Sixties hit record for the real meaning concealed behind the seemingly innocent lyrics.

Today’s offering is one of those where the meaning of the song is again fairly clear to us, fifty cynical years ago, but which in 1963 would have not necessarily been interpreted so bluntly, especially not when you considered the source. By which I do not mean the writers, this being yet another production from the pens of husband and wife professional songwriting team, Gerry Goffin and Carol King.

No, I am here talking about the singers, Steve and Eydie, another husband and wife team, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, who had separate singing careers under their full names, but when duetting used only their first names. Lawrence was an already successful actor and talk show host, as well as a singer, whilst Gorme has already featured in this series with ‘Yes, My Darling Daughter’. Ten years older than her husband, she’d started as a Big Band singer.

So we’re basically looking at family entertainment, bland and safe, middle of the road singers, singing very middle of the road music. A married couple, of whom, in rock’n’roll terms, there can be nothing more boring and staid, right? So let’s listen to the words.

It all begins with one of those ‘Whoa-oh-oh’ starts, voice as music, cheerful and innocent, the opening exchange is slightly startling for what we’re already assuming is a love song. I don’t want to go to the party with you, announces Gorme, to which Lawrence responds with I don’t want to go to the dance. Gorme’s even more emphatic when she tells him she doesn’t want to go anywhere with him, but the air of bafflement is rapidly dispelled wen both chorus, happily, that they just want to stay here and love you.

Aww, isn’t that nice? Another verse, a bit later on, will extend the list of things that Steve and Eydie don’t want to do to include going for a walk, and even talking to each other, no, they just want to stay here and love each other.

It’s not until we start considering the intervening verses that things start to line-up a bit less abstractedly. Now that I can be alone with you, Gorme offers, I won’t throw away the chance. There’s no place like home with you, Gorme sings, using one of the most glutinous and trite lines ever to stick in a song’s craw, and then they’re harmonising on that line about just want(ing) to stay here and love you. So they don’t want to go out anywhere, do anything, they’re taking advantage of being alone together… oh my god, the dirty sods! They’re singing about sex, aren’t they? At their age? I mean, ok, I know they’re married, so that makes it legal, but that just makes it worse.

And they’re singing this filth on the wireless in 1963, such a decent couple. It shouldn’t be allowed.

Yet on the surface, this is just one more innocent love song, one more good and decent MOR staple that gives off the impression of being sung by a pair of virgins who don’t actually know what to do next after kissing on the lips with their mouths pressed firmly shut, and maybe yes, that’s all the song’s meant to mean. Goffin and King were masters at songs that rang through with innocent, unfocused passion that as yet knew nothing more of love.

And, if challenged, they could have said this was all it was about. After all, good girls didn’t, not until they got the ring. But it isn’t about that at all, because pop has always been about that subversive moment, the song that means more than it’s words are allowed to say, that speaks in a code that parents aren’t supposed to decipher because, after all, your parents don’t do stuff like that.

Do  they?



Is that what it’s really about? – Eydie Gorme’s “Yes my Darling Daughter”

This is only the second subject of an extremely occasional series of reflections on well-known, very successful Sixties songs whose innocence of aspect and seeming-naivete of lyric conceals a slightly different – and definitely not innocent – aspect to the story.

Like it’s predecessor, on Status Quo’s 1968 hit, Ice in the Sun, subjects in this feature are inspired by my hearing them on Sounds of the Sixties, so blame producer Phil Swern for the delay.

I’ve written elsewhere of my general indifference to the pre-Beatles Sixties music, and Eydie Gorme, a veteran of the big band era, falls firmly into that bracket, but ‘Yes, my Darling Daughter’ is one of many late-Fifties/early-Sixties songs that conjure up memories of my early years, and my mother having the Light Programme on all day whilst she did her housework. Gorme had a number 10 hit in Britain with this in 1962, though the song itself is twenty years older, and it’s melody is apparently stolen, like Paul McCartney’s ‘Those were the Days’ for Mary Hopkin, from a Ukrainian song.

Anyway, with those sort of antecedents, you’d expect it to be all Tin Pan Alley bland and sugary, professionally romantic and, of course, determinedly asexual. Which, in the first verse, it is. Darling Daughter, who is all sweetness and innocence/naivete, is seeking permission to go out dancing, and sweetly indulgent Mama is encouraging her to do so.

‘Momma, may I go out dancing?/Yes my darling daughter/Momma, may I try romancing?/Yes, my darling daughter’

This song is written as a two-person question and answer lyric, but Gorme sings both parts with no change of tone or inflection. But I digress.

Of course, Momma is properly protective of her little girl’s virginity – sorry, I mean innocence – for when little miss butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth starts talking about a moon shining on the water, ie, sneaking outside for a quick snog, dear old Momma tells her to stay inside with the dancing.

In fact, Momma’s pretty eager about all this dancing because when Darling Daughter starts going on about her still-imaginary suitor getting honourable ideas on the first date, Momma’s all for it: ‘What if he’ll propose, Momma darling,/When the night is getting shorter/ Momma what should be my answer?/ Yes my darling daughter’.  And that’s before Momma has even run her eye across the ability of Mr Imaginary to keep Darling Daughter in the style to which she is accustomed (parents used to be very big on such things, way back then).

So far, so predictable. There’s a comparatively long instrumental break for an under-two-minutes single, replacing all versions of the middle eight, before we’re back with more of the same for the second and final verse. Fondly indulgent but deeply practical Momma assures Darling Daughter that, yes, it will be exciting, yes, she looks inviting (which is a bloody odd way of describing your virginally innocent daughter in 1962, let alone 1941: yes darling, you definitely look up for a shag), but then a strange note comes into this conversation.

Darling Daughter is starting to get worked up about being held sufficiently tight that her knees just turn to water, which we have to read as a conventional reference to feminine weakness in the presence of a handsome man rather than the idea of our helpless little female being crushed to death, but that’s just a prelude to the last couplet:

‘What if he’ll persist, Momma darling,/ doing things he hadn’t oughta/ Momma what should be my answer?/ Yes my Darling Daughter’.

Only it’s not ‘Yes’, it’s ‘Yes, yes. Yes, yes. Yes, yes!’ with rising intensity, sounding rather like Momma’s imagining herself about to be sexually assaulted and potentially raped by the guy she’s wishing onto the apple of her eye and getting pretty durned hot at the thought.

I mean, hold on a minute there. This is this sweet, innocent song and suddenly, with no change musically or vocally, our traditionally protective Momma is now telling Darling Daughter that if he starts getting fresh, wandering hands, sneaking them up skirts, no doubt slipping panties to one side, all the sort of things that unknowing girls who’ve led sheltered lives and have just been let off the leash for the first time, maidenheads ripe for deflowering, prospects for ruination, even the risk of adolescent pregnancy, the stuff they know nothing about (because, let’s face it, Darling Daughter’s head is full of nothing but inane romantic imagery and probably wouldn’t know what a penis is when a man puts it in her hand) and dear old Momma is saying that if he wants to do anything to you, whether you like it or not, let him do it.

You lie back and think of England whilst I have a quick orgasm at the very thought of it.

And people went around saying rock’n’roll was a corrupting influence.