(Listen to this playlist while you read!)
In 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni directed a strange movie called Blow Up!. Its main claim to fame (to me anyway) was that The Yardbirds (including both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) had a cameo in it. Jeff Beck even smashes a guitar in the scene! This article could have been about the early days of film and Rock n Roll coming together but that just didn’t feel like it would be that interesting. At least not right now. Nope, this one is about something far weirder. It’s about the preponderance of songs about blow up dolls. You know, anthropomorphically correct inflatable dolls. I really wasn’t looking for songs about blow up dolls but they kept popping up on albums I was listening to. I guess that tells you something about the artists I listen to.
The first one I heard was a song called “Ms. Pinky” on Frank Zappa’s 1976 album Zoot Allures while I was still in high school. Now Frank Zappa was known for odd lyrics so a song about an inflatable girl wasn’t the oddest thing to find on a Zappa album, trust me. But then, just 2 years later, on The Police’s debut album Outlandos d’Amour (the one with Roxanne) was a song called “Be My Girl-Sally”. It starts off with a nice bouncy song called “Be My Girl” that is basically a chorus for 50 seconds before Andy Summers starts reciting a poem about an inflatable doll, “She’s cuddly and she’s bouncy. She’s like a rubber ball. I bounce her in the kitchen, I bounce her in the hall”, before ending with a reprise of the intro chorus. As my musical taste developed and I started to listen to more varied music I ran into what may be the most famous of all the inflatable doll songs. Roxy Music’s 1973 song “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”. That song was very popular and brought this theme to the mainstream. And then when I was listening to Pete Townshend’s 1987 album of outtakes and unreleased material called “Another Scoop” I heard a song called “Girl In A Suitcase”. What the hell was going on here? Four different songs about this one particular subject? Now I get songs about cars, drugs, space travel, getting dumped, but inflatable dolls? That seemed like a bizarre topic. I just had to find out more. Inquiring minds wanted to know.
Man that was a mistake. Not only have I found out more than I ever wanted to know about inflatable dolls and the theoretical psychology behind want, desire and control but I found out that there are even more songs about inflatable dolls! A particularly strange rabbit hole to descend. The main theme of each of these songs seems to be alienation and the desire for companionship. In the Roxy Music song the singer calls the doll “the perfect companion”. In Be My Girl Andy Summers declares “I needed inspiration, a brand new start in life, somewhere to place affection but I didn’t want a wife”. Frank Zappa states “she never talks back like a lady might do”. Some bizarre themes that seem to center on wanting companionship without the need to compromise, is it a power trip, is it an inability to connect with each other on anything but a surface level? This quest was starting to get creepy. But hey, maybe I’m reading too much into what may just be some goofy songs by some bands attempting to be “edgy”. It seems to be working, I’m writing about it and you are reading about it.
So when I started to research this theme I Googled “Songs about Inflatable Dolls” thinking this was the extent of it. Boy was I wrong. There seems to be a whole sub-genre on this topic. I found at least 10 songs related to blow up dolls, and even a band named The Inflatable Dolls. Who knew?
So without further ado, here is what I discovered:
Did you know that in 1991 Ray Stevens had a song called “Juanita & The Kids” in which he tells the IRS he is claiming deductions for a wife (who happens to be an inflatable doll) and kids who are fictitious?
In 1997 The Lords Of Acid had a song called “Rubberdoll” in which a guy’s girlfriend is jealous of his inflatable doll. This song is different than the typical first person male point of view in that it is from the snubbed girlfriend’s perspective. She’s angry and declares “I’ve made up my mind it’s gotta stop! A stab of a needle’s gonna make her go pop!”
In 2002 a musician named Saul Zonana wrote a song called “Bette” in which he states “Her name is Bette and she tides me over, inflates and then I’m her Casanova”.
In 2005 a comic named Tim Munchin wrote “Inflatable You” in which he mentions “Your love for me is not debatable, your sexual appetite is insatiable”.
In 2013 Marcus Gordove did a country song called “Must Have Been A Hell Of A Party” in which a guy picks up a beautiful girl (he thinks) and wakes up next to an inflatable doll.
In 2014 Static In Stereo had a song called “Blow Up Doll” with lyrics like “You’re weightless, you’ve never been one to complain, your rubber soul and a helium brain.
And lastly, there was a Northern Ireland punk band called The Inflatable Dolls who formed in 1978 and still play shows to this day. Nice name for a punk band.
There was once a picture of Van Halen’s drum set with an inflatable doll mounted to it, I don’t remember if it was in an album or a magazine article, it was a long time ago.
This theme of inflatable dolls in music isn’t just skin deep, there are lots of songs about inflatable dolls, let us know if there are any more that we missed, after all we like to be thorough.