Food Riot posted a list of twenty songs about food and drink, and reminded me that I’ve had several drafted posts about food music sitting in the hopper for years. The problem: how to organize them? There are food songs about sex, love, and yearning; songs about mischief and misbehaving; songs about pleasure and playfulness. There are songs about fruit, about dessert, about butter, alcohol, and other decadence. Where to start?
But now that Food Riot’s list is out there–and it covers most of the well-known ones–there’s no reason I shouldn’t release some short themed playslists from time to time. And it’s the weekend, and it’s June, and summer solstice is almost upon us, so. . . . please enjoy these songs about sweets, sugar, and yearning in the summer.
#1: Tom Waits, “Ice Cream Man”
Trust Tom Waits to take the innocent pleasure of tracking down the ice cream truck’s chimes and turn it into something rougher and almost sinister. The plinking piano intro turn this “Ice Cream Man” into a sort of Candy Man, and a lot of his ice cream euphemisms–the alley, the drumstick–allude both to sex and to violence. But, you know, I still can’t resist Tom Waits’ gravelly-voiced appeal, even if it’s an invitation to danger, so I’ll enjoy this as a sexy, bluesy song about wanting something a specific someone’s got.
#2: Van Halen, “Ice Cream Man”
I actually hadn’t heard this one until I looked up the lyrics for the Tom Waits version. It’s the same sort of thing: twisting the youthful chase of cool sweetness with the chase for another kind of satisfaction. This version is a little more straight rock and consequently a little sillier and less subsversive, but the message is the same: find me, and I’ll cool you down all right.
#3: VV Brown, “Children (Keep on Singing)”
This song gets a special mention in the Ice Cream Truck category because its leading jingle tricked me the first three times I heard it. That’s three individual occasions of hearing the jingle, thinking “This is an odd hour/season/neighborhood for the ice cream truck to be visiting,” and not making the connection to the subsequent upbeat, playful song. I’m embarrassed.
In any event, this song should come as a refreshment in a list in which ice cream and other candy is linked to sex or longing; here, the link between ice cream and innocence is literal, as the vocalist calls for optimism and a chance to start over.
#4 Novel, “Peach”
Warning! This song is rife with sexual metaphors. It is possibly the most explicit non-explicit song I know. And yet–the vocalist is so upbeat and cheerful about all these delicious fruity treats he’d love to enjoy, it’s hard not to nod along as he gleefully moans and makes goofy rhymes about “getting your fruit on.” Novel just wants to talk to you for a minute! And he wants to tell you about chocolate milk, bananas, peaches, grapes, and other ways slake your thirst.
#5: Suzanne Vega, “Caramel.”
Nothing sums it up like her intro in the linked video: This is a song about something sweet you’d like to have even though you know that you shouldn’t. It’s not necessarily a summer song, but something about its cool tones and languid yearning seem appropriate for the season–and of course, it fits right in when the Ice Cream Men and “Peach” in terms of the longing for sweetness standing in for lust.
On a tangentially related music note, I’ve been trying out this site called thisismyjam.com. I don’t usually do music-based social media because I tend to listen to one song or album on loop for a month or three–but that is, in fact, exactly what this website does. (Well, for a week at a time.) Besides, given my tendency to screech This is my jam! when favorite songs are played in public, how could I not try it out?