Originally published on MadeLoud, Feb 11, 2011
The old line about looking for love in all the wrong places doesn’t just apply to singles bars and chat rooms. Some people will simply never find real love in the domain of human beings. For these select few, a lasting relationship might be as close as the local pawn shop, a mail order catalog or even their own garages. Love songs dedicated to people are a dime a dozen, but these seven songs capture the special connection between consenting adults and the literal objects of their affection.
Roxy Music – “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”
It’s not an easy life, being an inflatable sex doll. It seems like everyone you meet is only interested in one thing (well, maybe two or three). Everyone, that is, except Bryan Ferry. He’s the rare man who cares enough call you “my plain wrapper baby,” “disposable darling” and other sweet nothings. He’ll take you swimming in his penthouse pool and pledge his devotion with lines like “inflatable doll, my role is to serve you.” Bryan understands that love – even love with a mass-produced, vinyl-coated erotic toy – is a two-way street. When he moans “I blew up your body, but you blew my mind,” it’s obvious that Bryan Ferry treats objects like women, man.
Queen – “I’m in Love with My Car”
Pop history is rife with car tunes that could double as love songs – heck, that description fits half of the early Beach Boys catalog – but seldom has automotive passion been expressed as explicitly as it is in Queen’s 1975 power ballad. Drummer Roger Taylor takes center stage here, belting out a throat-shredding ode to his “machine that’s so real.” Where most of those old car songs played up the joy of cruising down the highway with a sweetheart at your side, Taylor believes three’s a crowd. “Told my girl I’ll have to forget her / Rather buy me a new carburetor,” he croons, noting that “Cars don’t talk back / They’re just four-wheeled friends now.” Most of the songs on this list come off at least a little tongue-in-cheek, but this one is delivered with enough conviction to make you wonder if this dude and his car might just find a way to make it work.
Lyle Lovett – “Don’t Touch My Hat”
As this bouncy number from 1996’s The Road to Ensenada explains it, cowboy couture is more than just a regional costume. For a certain segment of Texans, it’s a badge of personal identity, and woe to the one who tries to come between Lyle Lovett and his lid. He’s not necessarily dissing the ladies when he warns the room, “If it’s her you want, I don’t care about that / You can have my girl, but don’t touch my hat.” It’s just that the hat has stuck with him longer than any woman has. And lest anyone try to get sneaky, he makes sure to let potential interlopers know about his astonishing hat acumen (“I wear a seven, and you’re out of order / ‘Cause I can see from here you’re a seven-and-a-quarter”). Anyone doubting the severity of swiping a Stetson need only look to the well-documented case of Stag-O-Lee and Billy Lyons.
The Mills Brothers – “Paper Doll”
As sad as it is to be in love with something that can’t love you back, it’s sadder still when you can only aspire to a love affair with an inanimate object. That’s the sorry situation the singer of this swing era staple finds himself in. He’s been hurt so many times by “fickle-minded real live girls” that he’s decided to “buy a paper doll that I can call my own / That all the other fellows cannot steal.” On the surface, songwriter Johnny S. Black penned a cute little ditty about sexual frustration, but hearing a man dedicate lines like “When I come home at night she will be waiting / She’ll be the truest doll in all this world” to a sheet of processed wood pulp suggests some disturbing issues lurking beneath the surface.
The Trucks – “Diddle-Bot”
As sex toy nicknames go, “Diddle-Bot” is decidedly more silly than sexy. That doesn’t seem to dampen The Trucks’ passions any as they spin this bubbly 2006 electro-folk tribute to a lover who’s “not your Average Joe / He’s got three different speeds / Slow, fast and go-go-go-go-go!” Singer Kristin Allen-Zito does seem a little disappointed in her new friend’s lack of chivalry (“I was kinda disappointed ‘cause you promised me lunch / but all I got was a diddle-bot donkey punch”), but what he lacks in people skills he more than makes up for in loving generosity.
Nobodys – “I Love My Gun”
Despite the title, Colorado punk rockers Nobodys probably weren’t looking for an NRA endorsement when they included this story of a shopping mall shooter and his adored firearm on 1998’s Greatasstits. Clearly, the man has some serious issues, but he knows where his priorities lie. “I could lose my job and everything I own / I don’t wanna lose that gun,” he declares over a driving skate-punk squall. He may not have the strongest grip on right and wrong, but he’s sure that “I love my gun and it loves me.” In a world where real trust is hard to come by, it’s good to find someone whose aim is true.
Donovan – “I Love My Shirt”
There are many examples of great songwriting in the Donovan catalog, but this obnoxiously catchy novelty number from 1969’s otherwise excellent Barabajagal is decidedly not one of them. This is Donovan at his laziest, singing the repetitive praises of various items in his patchouli-reeking closet. “Do you have a shirt that you really love? One that you feel so groovy in?” he chirps in the opening line, then continues to drone on with similarly penetrating ruminations about his “comfortably lovely” jeans and shoes. Presumably a stab at some sort of beyond-dated hippie humor, the whole thing plays like a bad musical adaptation of Steve Carrell’s “I love lamp!” sequence from Anchorman.
Image from the film Lars and the Real Girl