By Albert Samaha
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The videotaped sexcapades of Motley Crüe drummer Tommy "The Tripod" Lee, the film Boogie Nights and regular appearances by adult-film actresses on The Howard Stern Showhave thrust the X-rated world deeper into popular consciousness. But porn has long been a standby topic for songwriters on the underground circuit, mirroring a shared independent ethic. Let me count the ways:
GOD IS IN THE DETAILS In 1990, The Sporting Bachelors, a Long Island garage-rock band, released an LP on the California label Dionysus entitled Love Letters to Joanna the object of their affection being Joanna Storm, the popular adult-film star. The band went on to become a part of the adult-film industry, gaining local notoriety by contributing to soundtracks for X-rated offerings like Frat Brats.
Another local band created a dialogue about porn with the cut "John Leslie," a crowd favorite for The Skels in the seminal indie band's early '90s heyday. The song done Vegas-style, big as the desert sky describes the star of classics like Talk Dirty to Me riding cowboy style "on a tornado, with a smile like stars o' heaven" with "blue jeans that held the furies" to save the day.
"The reason for the whole thing is that the music was very much like one of these Oklahoma hambone Broadway numbers, and I wanted to sing about a mythic character," says ex-Skels frontman Mike "Sport" Murphy.
"John Leslie" is complete with yells of "yee-haw," all the better, according to Murphy, for listeners "to kind of picture a scene in a movie musical. But instead of riding a horse into the sunset he's riding a bunch of women towards the cumshot."
D.I.Y. CAN MOVE THE WORLD Independent music and adult films share a link when it comes to distribution. Nobody wants you when you're down and out. At least no one who wants to get their hands dirty.
"The distribution for pornography was really underground," Murphy says of the do-it-yourself affinity. "They had to establish an entire network that was way apart from the main industry."
A major difference, however, is that "you might have Time Warner controlling a whole bunch of so-called 'indie' labels as farm teams, but you're not gonna see Miramax underwriting porno because there's no crossover point. Pornography people are genuine outlaws, whereas punk-rock people by comparison are poseurs."
Drummer Drew Moss of the independent rock band Pants also cites distribution as a parallel, though Moss says the line between what's underground and mainstream "seems to be blurring more and more by the minute."
Pants has a song named "Last Stand of the Wannabe Porno Star," which was inspired by Boogie Nights. Moss claims, "It's really anti-porn and pokes fun at the shallow and fleeting quality of sexuality, materialism and stardom." But he also believes that "porn and music are all about taste, and taste is personal and subjective....people should be encouraged to watch, listen to and enjoy whatever floats their boat."
SHEENA IS A PUNK ROCKER Wicked Pictures publicist Seth McCoy was kind enough to put me in touch with some adult-film actresses to help me in my quest for understanding.
Missy, who has appeared in films like Jonathan Morgan's Tell Me What You Want, feels that music is a major element of adult film. Though she doesn't hear a lot of rock in porn, and prefers to listen to New Age on her own time, "if there's a right song on during erotic films, or when I'm in a sexual mood, it totally turns me on or turns me off."
Serenity is a former ballerina who earned the 1998 Adult Film Entertainer of the Year Award, made an appearance on Howard's radio show and has been in films like The Kissing Game. She likes "everything from classical to alternative rock," and has even become somewhat of a recording artist herself, lending her voice to the soundtrack of Pornogothic, an X-rated vampire flick she stars in.
"I don't consider myself a singer," Serenity laughs. "I can deliver lyrics."
In response, I sing a few bars of "John Leslie" to her, Fat Elvis style. I can't tell if she's laughing with me, or at me, but Murphy would be proud.
While speaking to Stephanie Swift, who you may know from films such as Wicked Sex Party 2 and Sweet Little Pervert, it becomes apparent that porn's appeal to underground bands is rooted in a common outlook. Stephanie's take on her experience in adult films sounds suspiciously similar to kids explaining why they joined a punk band.
"There's not anything saying you're not good enough to be here, so therefore there's not really any room for conformity...From day one, everyone told me that I wasn't going to do well in this business, because, specifically, everywhere I turned they would tell me, because 'You don't have blonde hair and big boobs.' And here I am, five years later, still without blonde hair and big boobs, and in my opinion I'm doing very well...everyone expects you to be a certain way, and I don't agree with what everyone says. You have to be comfortable with who you are."