Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Having My Baby" / Paul Anka

I couldn't write about this in 80s Cheese Week because -- well, cheesy as it undoubtedly is, it was released in 1974. At that period of my life I had entirely given up listening to commercial radio, immersing myself instead in my stacks of vinyl LPs. Even so, I couldn't help being aware of -- and appalled by -- this song. In later years Anka, repeatedly slammed by feminist groups, changed the lyrics in concert to "Having Our Baby," but that doesn't fundamentally change the male chauvinism pervading this song. Anka was blindsided by the criticism, claiming the record was genuinely meant as a love song to his wife, the mother of his five daughters. (The wife he divorced in 2000, later marrying a Swedish model 3o years younger than himself -- I'm just sayin'...).

Well, I'm trying to cut Paul Anka some slack. (After all, he is Canadian.) When this song was released, it had been 15 years since Anka's last hit, "Lonely Boy." In the interim, the British Invasion had changed the pop world and he had had to fall back on his songwriting skills, penning tunes like Tom Jones' "She's a Lady" and the lyrics to Frank Sinatra's "My Way." (Not to mention the Tonight Show theme.) He must have been as surprised as anyone when "Having My Baby" shot up the charts.

Maybe it's my problem, my queasy reaction to lines about his seed growing inside her, and how pregnancy is her way of proving how much she loves him. (Sounds like forced servitude to me, but hey, I could be wrong.) But that line about "You could have swept it from your life"? I don't think that would please either pro-life OR pro-choice folks.

Though we all know Paul Anka was already going bald, let's pretend he's just wearing that hat because he wants to look like Neil Young. But what gives, that this video doesn't even include his duet partner, Odia Coates? Her vocals save this song -- without that, he'd sound even more clueless. Her presence suggests that maybe, just maybe, the woman genuinely wants this baby on her own grounds.

In 2006, this song was voted the worst song of all time in a CNN poll. So what made me think of it today? Well, I was doing a road trip with my daughter and she pre-empted the car stereo to play songs from her iPod -- an iPod which contains every number ever sung by the cast from the TV show "Glee." (Need I mention that my daughter is 15 years old?) Apparently there was one episode on which the kids deliberately worked up routines to famously bad songs -- naturally "Having My Baby" made that cut. And you know what? Their version isn't half bad. Take a listen...

Which begs the question -- did Paul Anka's rendition somehow add an extra offending tone to this song? Now, I don't know the man. There's no question he's a talented guy. But I did learn about a famous tape of him chewing out his crew, quotes from which have snuck into popular culture (next time you hear a comedian say, "The guys get shirts!", you'll know the reference). There could be a connection. This song isn't just cheesy, it's downright creepy -- at least I think so. Or am I overreacting?


mervap said...

Not a huge fan of this tune, but I remember it was just a year after Roe v. Wade. Maybe that was a reason for including the "swept it from your life" line. Who knows? The cover version you posted is better, IMHO.

Holly A Hughes said...

I don't think ANYbody is a huge fan of this tune. Not even Paul Anka -- he took so much grief for it. (Mind you, he took the money and put it in the bank all right...) Yet somebody must have bought the record, to make it such a chart-topper.

wwolfe said...

Anka put out an album a couple years back featuring covers of famous rock songs done Vegas big band style. I kid you not, his version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is fab. It's the great rock and roll interpretation that Frank Sinatra could never quite figure out. ("That's Life" came close.)

As far as "Baby" is concerned, the best version was the one accidentally played by Dr. Johnny fever on "WKRP in Cincinnati," featuring a choral group that sounds remarkably like the Morman Tabernacle Choir. I won't say it's sublime, but it is wonderfully ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Holly, you crack me up. The reference to Paul Anka ditching his wife for a Swedish model 30 years younger made me laugh out loud. I always hated this song because when I was young the idea of having anyone's baby made my blood run cold.

Anonymous said...

The flip side (remember the line in the movie "Diner" when the Daniel Stern character chastises his wife because she "never asks about the flip side") of "Having My Baby" for me has always been the the gnashing grind-strut of Welshman Tom Jones, and "She's A Lady."

Have a nice night,

Holly A Hughes said...

You're so right, wwolfe -- I couldn't believe how good Anka's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was. Incredible yet true. You never know!

Aw, Rich, I have a soft spot for Tom Jones (must be the Welsh connection). I guess you're right, though -- that final line, "And the lady is mi-i-ine," is a pretty big turnoff. But I still cling to "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New, Pussycat?"!!

Anonymous said...


...something you probably already knew.

My brother just informed me that "She's A Lady" was written by...

You guessed it, Paul Anka.