On Episode 24 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, Zachary Hoskins from the Dance/Music/Sex/Romance blog at PrinceSongs.org joins me to talk about “Head,” one of the filthiest and funkiest tracks from Prince’s 3rd album, Dirty Mind.
“You’re such a hunk, so full of spunk. I’ll give you head.”
Welp, Prince had been leading up to this moment for a little bit. The first glimpse we got was the maybe it’s dirty, perhaps it’s not (but it totally is), “Soft and Wet.” Then Prince got really intimate with both his date and his listeners on “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow.” Finally, the title track to Dirty Mind gave us an indication that his monomaniacal obsession with sex was practically a full-fledged manifesto. So, where did all of this build-up lead us?
It leads us to the sultry, filthy dance track, “Head.” A song that fulfills the perverted promise of “Dirty Mind” by ditching the innuendo and finally getting real. No more wink-wink, nudge-nudge discussions of playing in rivers or doing it all night. This was a balls-out (excuse the pun) ribald story song with a sleazy twist.
“You know you’re good, girl. I think you like to go down.” Yep, that’s a reference to the act of fellatio, which Prince hadn’t sung about before this song. While Prince would later focus much more on the pleasure of his partners, even miming (we assume) the act of cunnilingus on “Come,” 14 years later, this was a young man singing about his desire to bed a woman on her way to be wed. A youthful, pornographic endeavor. While it sounds like he’s solely talking about the act of oral sex on a man in the early parts of the song, later he uses the word “head” to reference the oral sex that a man can give to a woman. It’s nice that Prince flips the script at the end, in a manner that he will do again on the next album in Contoversy’s “Jack U Off.”
“Head” is significant for several reasons. One, Prince gets nasty and dedicates an entire song to, as Zach calls it on the episode, “Penthouse forum letters put to music.” He became somewhat notorious for this style of songwriting throughout the ‘80s (“Jack U Off,” “Erotic City,” “Lady Cab Driver”). So much so that an entire parental advisory notification system became a reality, thanks in no small part to his unwavering commitment to talking about sex in his lyrics.
The second reason that the song is significant would have to do with Prince’s first noticeable use of a co-vocalist, specifically a female one. Lisa Coleman had recently replaced Gayle Chapman as a keyboardist in the band, and this track ended up being quite the initiation. “Welcome to the band, Lisa. I need you to sing lines about getting undressed and going to bed and giving me head. Can you do that?”
“Head” is a story song, just like “Uptown” was on the previous track. Good story songs must have a solid ending to tie up any loose ends and ensure that the listener ends up as satisfied as both of the song’s main characters. All’s well that ends well, as the bride ditches her fiance for Prince, and they end up getting married! Quite the traditional outcome for such a groundbreaking, non-traditional song. We don’t know if these two crazy kids make it for the long haul, but at least we know that Prince and “The Bride” will always have at least one thing in common throughout their marriage.
The goal of each episode of Press Rewind is to:
- Take a track by track look at the lyrical content of Prince’s discography
- Discuss my own interpretation of each song’s lyrics along with any guest I may have
- If submitted, discuss listener’s interpretations of each song’s lyrics
Thank you for joining me on this journey through Prince’s catalog!