Friday, February 20, 2009

“(I Wanna) Make Love To You” / Dr. Feelgood


There’s a fine line between love and lust – well, sometimes, at least. Our last few numbers were all about guys on the make, randy and ready for action; in this Dr. Feelgood number, the singer has a specific target for his affection. But is he seeking respect and understanding, like Ricky Nelson was? Nope. He’s got one thing on his mind, and one thing only: “I wanna make love to you.”

On all levels, this is a seduction song – but man, it works. Dr. Feelgood’s lead singer Lee Brilleaux had one of the dirtiest voices in rock and roll, no question, and despite the slicker sound of this mid-80 Stiff-era track, nothing can take off that raunchy edge. He’s set front and center against a lasciviously slow tempo, with whacking drums, a sighing organ, and whiplashes of guitar. The key is faintly minor, and touches of echo effects lend a lonesome nighttime quality. This isn’t the plea of a confident ladies’ man -- he sounds slightly hoarse with desperation, but hey, I think that makes it more seductive, not less. Naked hunger is so much more arousing than an arrogant command. After all, it’s so lovely to be wanted.

There’s not much melody to this song, really – it’s almost like a talking blues. You can hardly distinguish the verse from the bridge, except that the latter shoots off a few higher notes, like uncontrollable squirms of desire. The lyrics, what few lyrics there are, follow your basic romantic pop conventions, with stuff like “How could I explain / This feeling that's true” or “When the stars fall from the heavens / And the rivers have stopped to flow.” Apparently they’re not a couple, at least not yet, so he plays the old self-pity card in verse three: “I ain't gonna try and tell ya / How it's made me so blue / Sitting alone and wondering.” But whatever he says, it always leads back to his obsessive mantra: “I wanna make love to you.”

That’s the main hook, the soul and substance of this song in a nutshell, and they sure do get their money’s worth out of it. It starts low, with a tender raspy growl on “I wanna”, surges hopefully upward on “make,” then gradually slip-slides downward on “love to you.” I count eighteen times he sings this phrase; by the end he’s just repeating it over and over. You know he’s not gonna shut up until you give in, girl. And really, the more you’re sucked into the vortex of Brilleaux’s wheedling, sensual vocals, abstinence begins to seem absurdly overrated.

(I Wanna) Make Love To You sample

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