Call it "Rock & Roll Pervs Day." On this date in 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in the U.K. for a tour. Though it had been hidden at the time from the press and public, a reporter greeted Lewis at the airport and asked the rocker about his wife, Myra Gale Brown. She was Lewis' third wife (he was 22) and "first cousin once removed." She was also 13.
Lewis' handlers told him not to talk about his marriage, but he ignored them and spilled the beans (though he insisted she was 15). The U.K. public was outraged and the tour was cancelled after three dates. When he returned to the States, he found many radio outlets had banned his music; even Dick Clark wouldn't let him on his show.
Lewis' career took a major hit due to the controversy. Almost all of his singles afterwards peaked between 80-100 on the main singles charts. But Country music fans didn't seem to mind the cousin lovin'. Lewis had numerous Top 10 hits on the U.S. Country charts from the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s.
Exactly one decade after Lewis' British mishap, San Diego-based Rock band Gary Puckett & The Union Gap hit No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with the song "Young Girl," which caused only a "minor" controversy even though it was explicitly about falling in love with an underage girl and fighting the urge to continue pursuing the relationship. In other words, a pedophilia anthem on par with Lolita (though the narrator in the song does seem to resist). Sample verse: "Beneath your perfume and your makeup/You're just a baby in disguise/And though you know that it's wrong to be/Alone with me/That 'come on' look is in your eyes."
The blip of controversy had no effect on Puckett and Co.'s career — the song made it to No. 2 in the U.S., as did its follow-up, "Lady Willpower" (featuring a similarly toned line: "Well there's so much you have to learn/And I would gladly teach you if I could only reach you"). In August of 1969, the group released "The Girl is a Woman Now" (sample line: "This girl was a child/Existing in a playground of stone"). Creepy.
"Young Girl" was covered by ABBA singer Frida, Danny Tanner on shitcom Full House and the kids from Glee in a "mash-up" with The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me," another pedophilia ode of sorts, inspired by the aforementioned Lolita book.
Last year, the Village Voice's Michael Musto did a roundup of "The Weirdest Pedophile Songs of All Time" and included Puckett's unnerving tune, as well as Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," Donny Osmond's cover of "Go Away, Little Girl" and perhaps the most blatant of all, The Sherman Brothers' "You're Sixteen."
You think ANY of those songs would fly if they were released today?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 22 birthday include Rock & Roll Hall of Famer as a member of the Parliament/Funkadelic family, Calvin Simon (1942); Elton John's lyricist Bernie Taupin (1950); founder of The Specials (though left out of the second-wave Ska band's recent reunion activities) Jerry Dammers (1955); Mope Rock king and frontman for influential British Indie legends The Smiths, Morrissey (1959); Folk/Pop singer/songwriter Catie Curtis (1965); guitarist for Metal band Type O Negative, Kenny Hickey (1966); Indie Rock favorite John Vanderslice (1967); and amazing, exploratory Jazz genius Sun Ra (1914).
One of the more enigmatic and eccentric musicians in history, Ra was born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Ala. Ra sported outlandish, "futuristic" costumes on stage and insisted he was from Saturn; listening to his experimental approach to Jazz, you can't be blamed for thinking it might be true. His music either threw out the rule book of Jazz or turned it upside down and he was an influence not only on progressive Jazz artists, but artists from all genres that veer into unexpected and/or avant garde territory. He's been cited as a big influence on musicians from George Clinton to Sonic Youth.
Ra died in 1993 from pneumonia after reportedly having a number of strokes and circulatory problems.
In 1974, Ra was the focus of the film Space Is The Place, a movie almost as strange as Ra's music. The fictional film is fascinating to watch, though sometimes hard to follow. Check out the full flick below (it is NSFW due to mild nudity, violence and some saucy and racial language). It runs about 80 minutes (but it's fun just to skim through if you don't have that kind of time right now).