Another sign that I’m growing old…
I just came back from picking up some things at the local supermarket, where the store’s speakers were playing their usual selection of musty pop-music classics. One of them was the 1970 hit “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orlando & Dawn.
When I was nine years old, this seemed like an innocent song about unrequited love. But let’s look at it a little more closely. (For those not familiar with this light-rock chestnut, I’ve embedded the video for the song below.)
The song’s premise is that the singer has a thing for the woman who lives in the apartment below his. Not just any old thing, mind you — he notes that he has “seen her” several times and that he “can feel her body swayin'” when she dances to music in her apartment.
How does the singer aim to catch his prey, er, win the woman over? He has written a note about his lust for her, attached the note to a string, and has dangled the string outside of his apartment window and in front of hers. The note instructs the woman that, if she would like to “meet me in the hallway” (Now there’s an invite for ya!), she should knock three times on her apartment’s ceiling (i.e., his floor); if she does not want to meet up with him, she should knock twice on the pipe. The singer never considers a third alternative, wherein the woman calls the police and files for a restraining order.
If anyone ever needs proof that males have dominated American society to a detrimental degree, it’s the stalker-song genre. Think “Knock Three Times” is the only example? My twenty-something daughter regularly refers to a particular 1983 hit as “the stalker song.” It’s “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. This song could not make any more explicit the singer’s obsession with a woman. “Every breath you take,” Sting sings, “every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take…I’ll be watching you.”
Sting further goes on to state, “Oh, can’t you see? You belong to me.” No doubt he had “Property Of…” tattooed on the woman at some point.
And the video is filmed like a modern day film-noir, in black-and-white and with sinewy shadows and harsh lighting. Not exactly the stuff that romance is made of.
Sadly, my favorite group of all time, The Beatles, is as guilty of this kind of misogyny as anyone. John Lennon made no secret of how overly macho he was in his youth, and that attitude is reflected in the very possessive lyrics of the Beatles songs “Run for Your Life” (from the otherwise philosophical album Rubber Soul) and “You Can’t Do That.” Even the singer in Sgt. Pepper‘s otherwise optimistic “Getting Better” nonchalantly confesses, “I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she lived.” Not exactly something to put on one’s resume.
And let’s not even getting started on The Rolling “Under My Thumb” Stones.
So what’s your favorite (if that’s the word) example of a stalker song — a song that looks innocent on the outside but riddled with terror on the inside?