Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?Mature

A letter to Rod Stewart

 (Lyrics are at the end of the letter)

                                                                                                                                   Christmas 2012

Dear Mr. Rod Stewart:

I have had an interesting relationship with your 1978 hit single, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”  I feel that I got off on the wrong foot with this song and, by extension, with your entire body of work.  Although you will likely never read this note, I would like to offer my apologies.

 

This particular song, you see, is a prominent part of one of my childhood memories.  When I was eight or nine years old, my father took me to a bowling alley where he was bowling with some friends.  Having no interest in watching bowling or bowling myself, I was left to wander the place alone.  There were some arcade games and machines that sold small plastic toys, but overall, I was quite bored.  At some point, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” played on the radio, or maybe the jukebox, and it shocked my young sensibilities.  “If ya want my body and ya think I’m sexy …!”  I wasn’t used to hearing sexual desire addressed so directly in a song, and I had only a vague idea of what sex really was.  In addition to the lyrics, your performance of the chorus is so sleazy and depraved.  The way you draw out the vowel at the beginning of each phrase – “IIIF ya want my body AAAND ya think I’m sexy” – certainly implies some lewd accompanying motion with your hips.  I admit that it made me feel a bit sick, and I disliked the song intensely.  I knew that I was too young for such material and shouldn’t be exposed to it by surprise.  This wasn’t sexy, it was perverted!

 

As I grew up, I learned about love and sexuality properly, but those initial impressions of you and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” stayed with me for years.  Revisiting the song as an adult, I have realized some important things about it (beyond the obvious fact that it’s not intended for children).  The first is that the speaker is a character, not you yourself.  You know how it is with pop singles:  For many listeners, the chorus carries the whole song, and the verses go straight out their other ear.  That’s how I experienced the song in the bowling alley, and since the chorus is in the first person, I assumed that you were singing it as yourself.  The message that I heard was, “Don’t ya think I’m sexy?  Don’t ya want my body?”  Besides being too direct, this sentiment seemed excessively vain.  How full of yourself do you have to be to write a song about how hot you are?  I know now that plenty of artists have done exactly that, but that’s how I felt at the time.

 

The second thing I realized when I gave the song another chance is that it’s a story song, and I love a good story song.  Having now heard the lyrics in the verses that I used to ignore, I see that they do a nice job of portraying the situation in a few short lines:  A man and a woman meet, reveal their mutual attraction, and spend the night together.  I admire how the lyrics give some extra depth to this common tale – in these lines, for example: “Now hold on a minute, before we go much further / give me a dime so I can phone my mother.”  When the woman says, “Hold on a minute,” the listener expects to hear one of the many objections that could normally trip things up at that point.  Is she involved with someone else?  Is she expecting a long-term commitment?  Does she want money?  Well, she does want money, but contrary to what a jaded listener might think is coming, she’s no gold-digger or prostitute.  Instead, she’s dutiful, sweet, and thoughtful – she just wants to call her mother to let her know she isn’t coming home!

 

I can actually say that I like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” now, because I realize that it delivers a positive message in an intelligent way, in the guise of a fluffy pop song.  The key to the message is in the very chorus that used to bother me so much.  The line at the end of the first verse – “don’t you just know exactly what they’re thinking?” – provides the clue that the chorus is the subtext between the characters.  Although their negotiation when they meet is rather cautious, the chorus is a call to break free of the constraints of sexual politics and simply express your desire (“come on sugar, let me know”) – and desire is as straightforward as the chorus.  If two people are available and willing, they don’t need to play games.  They should just go for it.

 

I’m still not sure if the story in the song is a true test of that theory.  There seems to be more than simple desire driving them (at least the man – “at last he can tell her exactly what his heart meant”).  Perhaps it’s a search for real love.  Things work out for them, but we don’t know if that’s because they take a liberated approach or because they’re just lucky.  Instead of waking up to guilt and regret the next day, as so many survivors of one-night stands do, they find themselves unencumbered and facing new possibilities.  The song still has its sleazy side, but the simplicity and innocence of the lovers’ tale make it more than a celebration of wanton promiscuity (as it appears to be at first glance).

 

Belated thanks for the song, Mr. Stewart, and best of luck with your book.  Happy Holidays!

 

Jimmy Benedict

Cincinnati, Ohio

 

P.S.  There’s a wonderful cartoon by an offbeat cartoonist (Dave Coverly?) of a man and a woman in an antiques store.  The man is amorously kissing the woman’s hand, and she’s looking shocked.  The caption says, “No, you idiot!  I said I wanted one night-stand!”

 

 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?  (Rod Stewart/Carmine Appice)

© EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 

She sits alone waiting for suggestions
He’s so nervous, avoiding all the questions
His lips are dry, her heart is gently pounding
Don't you just know exactly what they're thinking?

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on sugar, let me know
If you really need me, just reach out and touch me
Come on honey, tell me so
Tell me so baby

He’s acting shy looking for an answer
Come on honey, let’s spend the night together
Now hold on a minute, before we go much further
Give me a dime so I can phone my mother
They catch a cab to his high rise apartment
At last he can tell her exactly what his heart meant

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on honey, tell me so
If you really need me, just reach out and touch me
Come on sugar, let me know
His heart’s beating like a drum
‘Cos at last he's got this girl home
Relax baby, now we are alone

They wake at dawn ‘cos all the birds are singing
Two total strangers, but that ain’t what they're thinking
Outside it's cold, misty and it's raining
They got each other, neither one’s complaining
He says I’m sorry but I’m out of milk and coffee
Never mind sugar, we can watch the early movie

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on sugar, let me know
If you really need me, just reach out and touch me
Come on honey, tell me so

The End

2 comments about this work Feed