"If music be the food of love, play on," intones Orsino at the beginning of Twelfth Night. He means he wants to stuff himself so full that his desire burns out for good. Fat chance. Romantic music, no matter how it's dished, never satisfies our insatiable desires, and often just fans the flames higher. Smoke gets in your eyes, and even if you don't know what love is, you're letting a song go out of your foolish heart again. And it's not just romantic music making fools rush in body and soul, it's blood sugar sex music as well. In fact, after even the most cursory research, it becomes abundantly clear that, quite often, sex and love have little if anything to do with each other, uh, musically anyway.
Research in this case takes the form of tenderly questioning a handful of Santa Fe's interesting, music-obsessed lovers (not to say music-loving obsessors), asking them: "What's your favorite romantic and/or make-out music?" Predictably, these intrepid respondents were eager to divulge their romantic tastes, and somewhat more reluctant to confess their freaky-naughty predilections. Romance and romantic music are both, after all, flattering, pretty, acceptably sentimental and seemingly harmless. (Never mind the often DSM-IV-worthy codependence expressed in many romantic songs, encapsulating a slavishly intense devotion just this side of Doormat Personality Disorder). Sex (and its more chthonic musical soundtracks), on the other hand, is both more funky and more stark, akin to what TS Eliot (who knew what he was talking about) called "the primitive terror."
***image7***For example, the mystical and erotic Max Friedenberg, emerging arts impresario and High Mayhem honcho, combines a kind of wide-eyed innocence with more edgy proclivities by quoting from Fast Times at Ridgemont High: "Now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on Side One of Led Zeppelin IV." Somehow, the Led Zeppelin suggestion seems sweet and coy when couched in Mike Damone's love and sex advice. Come to think of it, the passage of 35 years since Zep IV's release and 24 years since Fast Times isn't so much sweet and coy as horrifying. Perhaps this is why Friedenberg also suggests something much more contemporary by Peter Gabriel. A soundtrack Friedenberg says is "mystical, erotic and repeats seamlessly." That's right, 1989's Passion: The Last Temptation of Christ.
***image8***On a Saturday night checking out Joe West and his Honky Tonk Orchestra at The Cowgirl, there stands the gentle and pleasant Ben Wright, playing guitar. "The most romantic and sexy music I've heard recently is soft South American, this Argentinian singer named Juana Molina," Wright says. "it's smooth and sultry, and the added benefit is I don't know much Spanish, so the words just go by, and you can only imagine what she's singing about. I also like Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and country blues like Skip James and Robert Johnson."
***image1***Some respondents combined both love and sex music into their devotion to a single performer. Or even a single sound, enigmatic, koan-esque. Lehra Gordon, bassist in pop band Amazing Larry, suggests many worlds of Dionysian erotic frenzy when she offers, "My favorite love or sex music is the sound of beer cans opening." Honey Harris, KBAC radio personality, writing from Alabama ("having that banjo surgically removed from my knee yet again") suggests "anything by Barry White. No other singer ***image4***says SEX like Barry. You could seduce a shoelace with his music." On such precious details the affairs of the heart rely-beer cans and shoelaces. To what end the beer cans are opened (perhaps left untouched thereafter, gathering dust while others gather rosebuds) and the shoelaces are seduced, we leave to the imagination of our salaciously inclined reader.
***image3***Speaking of Alabama, southern gentleman and karaoke wizard David Luckey, when he isn't basking in the smoke of the ribs and chicken he whips up in his mobile Luckey Bar-B-Q kitchen, prefers an approach much broader than the above. "Andreas Vollenweider. Definitely, man. His thing called Caverna Magica. Careful with that one-if it's playing, it's gonna happen. Then there's Sade. And the Beastie Boys. And Coltrane. And Mississippi blues. it's all gonna work, man." Well, maybe if you're Luckey.
***image2***Cooper Lee Bombardier, orchestrator of the monthly queer-trans-cabaret Lisp, traces an entire trajectory, something like a Wagner opera, from the "moody yet mellow," the Dirty Three or Cat Power to 'something rowdy and whiskey-soaked like Mule. Good sex music can also delve safely into the goth realm, like the soundtrack to The Hunger. Music that is good enough for Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon to give each other DIY blood transfusions will work for your evil designs. From Bauhaus to Yo-Yo Ma banging out the Bach, there is nothing like a little gothiness to get your motor running."
Perhaps the most romantic response of all comes from concert promoter Jamie Lenfesty of FanMan Productions. "I used to make mix tapes for every relationship through college. Most of them had titles like "Bitter and Depressed" until I met my wife. Jonathan Richman had a record out at that time that was full of simple joyful love songs for his wife including "Gayle Loves Me." My friends all cleverly turned that into "Laurie Loves Me" after my future wife and I had our first date. I made the ***image5***last of the mix tapes for Laurie to listen to through labor and the birth of our children. For our first, William, she had me rewind it over and over again to "Sylvie" by Sweet Honey in the Rock. When they first came to the Lensic and performed that song my wife absolutely wept, it was so moving for her." There's more, and it's unrelentingly tender and authentic, therefore unsuitable for this article. However, Lenfesty lets his hair down in the end. "These may not be the kind of love songs you were looking for but they are certainly powerful love songs in my life. Oh, so as for making babies as opposed to birthing them, Roxy Music's Avalon is hard to beat." So, while our hearts are still beating, we'll keep listening, and we'll still be searching for the perfect song that says, whether we're doormat or Don Juan, "Why not take all of me?"