A writer who seeks crude allusions to genitals in rock music will not be faced with slim pickings. Rock is essentially a plotted history of gauche euphemism, and even saying ‘Hard Rock’ can be taken one of several ways.
These are the five greatest penis euphemisms in rock history.
The writer would like to add that this list does not contain any Prince songs. That is probably a list for another day.
Artist: Guns N’Roses – ‘Welcome to the Jungle’
Full lyric: “Feel my, my, my serpentine / I want to hear you scream.“
Before Nirvana came along and made Guns N’Roses look like a bunch of pirates in drag, frontman Axl Rose had the leather trousers, hefty bouffant and unbearable hair metal voice that 80s babes found irresistible. As such, the man got a lot of strange and sung about it at every possible opportunity.
‘Serpentine’ is certainly a vivid description: long, scaley, fanged and poisonous. ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ may be the (second) greatest metal song of all time, but that sounds like scabies to me.
Artist: Led Zeppelin – ‘The Lemon Song’
Full Lyric: “Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg.“
This may be the dumbest lyric in Led Zep’s entire back catalogue (and they mostly wrote about Viking orgies) and yet, bizarrely, it’s penile euphemism with a rich history.
Robert Plant had no qualms about nicking riffs, lyrics and motifs from less fortunate (usually black) artists and The Lemon Song was no exception. The opening verse is taken from a Howlin’ Wolf track, and that forsaken line itself comes from a Robert Johnson song, which in turn was probably taken from a song by Arthur McKay.
*Four generations of musicians thought this was funny.*
3. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
Artist: AC/DC – ‘Heatseeker’
Full lyric: “I’m a heatseeker charging up the sky.“
I absolutely love AC/DC, but no one goes to them for some tasteful discourse on gender politics. They go there for ass-blasting riffs and a general “fuck it” attitude to the world at large. Like most artists on this list there is no shortage of euphemism, and I agonised over which one to pick. They do have a song called ‘Big Balls’ you know.
Using a jet powered WMD as shorthand for your own protrusion is the best example, even if it does seem like overcompensation. It’s a shame that Brian Johnson was the singer by this point; the guttural croak of Bon Scott made everything sound like a euphemism.
2. The Internal Combustion Engine
Artist: The Rolling Stones – ‘Start Me Up’
Full lyric: “I’ve been running hot / You got me ticking going to blow my top.“
The Stones were equally jammy when it came to lifting from blues music. But at least they got Howlin’ Wolf on tele.
However this lyric from comeback hit ‘Start Me Up’ is a clanger all of their own making. It’s a favourite of mine, even if the Stones had long lost their edge by this point (ignoring their disco phase) – I fully support and endorse this metaphor.
1. Trains, Planes, a Big Dipper, Bumper Cars, Bees
Artist: Peter Gabriel – ‘Sledgehammer’
Full Lyric: Literally the entire song.
On his 1986 smash hit ‘Sledgehammer’, Peter Gabriel didn’t just write the greatest penis euphemism in rock music, he wrote at least forty of them. ‘Sledgehammer’ is what happens when a famously eccentric English man sits down and writes the longest list of veiled penis references to ever not make it into an episode of Monty Python.
Pretty much everything that does or does not look like a dick gets cast as a metaphor for one in ‘Sledgehammer’. Our favourite: “You could have a steam train / If you just lay down your tracks.” Bravo Peter, you win this one.