by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
The subject of sex and rock ‘n roll go together like big hair and leather. Today, we’re looking at the sexiest track in rock and roll history. No, not anthems about the lurid act, or tunes you’d throw on come February 14th. For this list, we want songs that – whether sensual or fast-paced – have an air of the erotic about them, and deliver passion with masterful vocals, addictive riffs and big choruses. Take it away.
‘Bad Medicine’, Bon Jovi, 1988 – Of course Jovi open the list. ‘Bad Medicine’ (from 1988’s New Jersey) is one hell of a rock track; likening love and lust to poison with a ballistic chorus to boot. The ‘80s were the glory days for sexually-charged rock ‘n roll. ‘Secret Dreams’, from the group’s second record, is another good example, but ‘Medicine’ reigns supreme.
‘Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You)’, Robert Plant, 1990 – As a solo artist, Robert Plant’s material is hit-and-miss. A new decade yielded some gems in 1990’s Manic Nirvana, though, spearheaded by chart-topping single, ‘Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You)’. On the surface, it’s a standard rock track, but as the chorus hits, the guitar and thunderous drumbeat generate some serious power, and would make for a perspiration-slick encounter with the lights low. It’s also a Robert Plant song, so he delivers some of the filthiest groans put to wax.
‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’, Bad Company, 1975 – The title gives it all away, really. This mid-70s rock classic is a lot like the title itself, as things begin in a mellow, almost folky way, before building up into an explosive crescendo come the chorus. It’s not hard to imagine this one seeing its fair share of use during the Summer of Love.
‘Let the Devil In’, Green Lung, 2019 – We’re not just looking at the golden age of rock and roll here. Green Lung emerged from the modern British metal scene, owing as much to bands like Ghost as classics Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General. ‘Let the Devil In’, from the group’s 2018 debut, takes on Satanism, stoner riffs and fuzzy vocals. ‘Sister, you been told/ That makin’ love’s a sin/ Oh, open up your heart/ And let the devil in’. There’s distortion galore, and the whole thing takes on a primal, almost primordial need in the chorus. It’s a sexy song, and the heaviest on this list.
‘Black on Black II’, Heart, 1993 – ‘Like pleasure and a little pain/ The sacred and profane…’ – This track is a cover of Canadian singer Dalbello’s 1985 original. But for their Desire Walks On album released eight years later, Heart turned the amps up to eleven and made a hard rock masterpiece. As ever, frontwoman Ann Wilson’s vocals are like thunder sent from the heavens, and provide ounces of outright passion to a track about, well, unadulterated sin.
‘Bump the La La’, Kix, 1991 – What actually is the ‘La La’ in this instance? We can only guess. But it’s obvious what the boys from Baltimore are looking for. The final track of side two of the group’s Hot Wire album is a shot of pure, bluesy hair metal. And it’s as addictive as the song’s subject matter.
‘Stripped’, Depeche Mode, 1986 – Depeche Mode had to make the list. Their fusion of industrial metal and provocative songwriting make for some steaming anthems, and ‘Stripped’ – from Black Celebration – has both of these qualities en masse. ‘Let me see you see you stripped down to the bone,’ utters an enigmatic David Gahan, tapping into the sensual. Never change, Depeche Mode.
‘Turbo Lover’, Judas Priest, 1986 – Leather and spikes. Judas Priest are about as sexual as heavy metal gets. ‘Turbo Lover’, from 1986’s Turbo, is about exactly what it sounds like, and Rob Halford’s high-pitched wail carries the studded message home. Pure rock ‘n roll.
‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms’, Cutting Crew, 1986 – It’s literally about sex, and it’s one of the 1980s’ most defining power ballads. Cutting Crew may never have struck gold again where the charts were concerned, but this is one hell of a lustful anthem to be known for. Romance. Sin. A soaring chorus. It’s got it all.
‘Running Up That Hill’, Placebo, 2003 – Kate Bush’s classic from Hounds of Love has endured resurgence thanks to Stranger Things, but Placebo’s cover (from 2003’s Covers) doubles down, as one would expect from this band, on the debauchery. It doesn’t explode in the same way as Bush’s original, and it doesn’t pack the same punch, but it’s darkly hypnotic, and belongs in the boudoir.
‘F.I.N.E.’, Aerosmith, 1989 – Steven Tyler must have one of the highest body counts of any rockstar alive, and 1989’s Pump doubles down on the sexual innuendo, resulting in live classics like ‘Young Lust’ and ‘Love In An Elevator’. But ‘F.I.N.E.’ (an acronym for ‘Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional) steals the crown. After all, it’s home to the lyrics, ‘I hear that you’re so tight/ Your lovin’ squeaks…’ – that tells you all you need to know.
‘Naughty Naughty’, Danger Danger, 1989 – Another late ‘80s hair metal track, from a time when sex and debauchery were always on the airwaves. Danger Danger were one of the era’s more overlooked groups, and this number from the band’s debut is about as obvious as it’s possible to be. Frontman Ted Poley lets loose, as all those adolescent, schoolboy fantasies are laid bare.
‘Lucretia My Reflection’, The Sisters of Mercy, 1987 – The Sisters are possibly the best gothic rock act (much as they’d hate to use the term) around, and 1987’s Floodland remains a masterpiece of the genre. ‘Lucretia My Reflection’, whilst written about the band’s then-bassist, Patricia Morrison, is dark and addictive enough to make any Valentine’s Day evening. ‘More’, from the band’s final release, Vision Thing, is worthy of a mention, too. If you want a fast-paced, seven-minute epic that delivers on the hedonism, look no further than the Sisterhood.
‘Lick It Up’, KISS, 1983 – When KISS put away the make-up brushes in ’83, you may have thought their hard edge was in the past, too. But then Lick It Up, their eleventh studio album, was released, and it was clear Stanley, Simmons and co. weren’t going to let up on the riffs and rocking choruses anytime soon. The title track, though, is a legendary anthem, and for good reason. It’s killer, and about swallowing. KISS all over, really.
‘Thunderstruck’, AC/DC, 1990 – Honestly, any song from this group could have made the list. It was tough to pick just one, with hard rock staples like ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ and ‘Shoot to Thrill’ in the back catalogue. But ‘Thunderstruck’ – the enduring hit from 1990’s The Razor’s Edge – takes the fresh rose. It has a beastly opening riff, backing screams and the most blatant innuendos Brian Johnson ever chokes out.
‘No You Girls’, Franz Ferdinand, 2009 – Franz Ferdinand are the kings of modern-day pop rock, with lowdown numbers and dancefloor favourites-a-plenty. ‘Kiss me/ Flick your cigarette, then kiss me,’ frontman Alex Kapranos sings sultrily, before barrelling into a sexy, disco-friendly tune.
‘Please Forgive Me’, Bryan Adams, 1993 – Bryan Adams is god of the sensual ballad, and this stand-alone single is a proper tribute to true love. ‘Please forgive me/ I know not what I do/ Please forgive me/ I can’t stop loving you…’ says it all. This list has been home to a lot of sex-fuelled, hungover hard rock anthems, but Adams, as always, shows it’s the love that matters most.
‘Because the Night’, Patti Smith Group, 1978 – Women can rock and roll with the best of them, and Smith’s timeless classic is as passionate as it is deliciously Dionysian. ‘Because the night belongs to lovers/ Because the night belongs to lust’ – what more do you need to know? Springsteen may have co-written the tune, and covered it several times since, but Smith’s version is definitive, and deeply erotic.
‘Love Is Strong’, The Rolling Stones, 1994 – Mick Jagger lets his inner Michael Hutchence take over in this opener from Voodoo Lounge. While far from one of the Stones’ biggest hits, ‘Love Is Strong’ is both sensual and suggestive, making for one hell of a ride of a three-minute ride.
‘Monstrance Clock’, Ghost, 2013 – Swedish occult metal giants, Ghost, have embraced debauchery in their lyrics since the release of their debut record in 2010. The conception of the antichrist, unholy rituals and physical consumption of the Messiah’s corpse – Papa and the Nameless Ghouls have defied all expectations. ‘Cirice’ packs one hell of a chugging riff, but Infestissumam’s climax, ‘Monstrance Clock’, focuses on a church-wide orgy. As Papa II decrees, ‘Come together/ Together as one/ Come together/ For Lucifer’s son…’
‘Get It On’, T.Rex, 1971 – Marc Bolan was no stranger to mixing sex with rock ‘n roll, and his group’s signature hit is proof enough. Who can forget the song’s iconic, lascivious vocals, ‘Well you’re dirty and sweet/ Clad in black/ Don’t look back/ And I love you’? It’s a solid rock track, and one of the raunchiest in the genre.
‘Need You Tonight’, INXS, 1987 – Michael Hutchence already got a mention in this list, and for good reason. The man was a true performer, from luscious locks to those tight denim-clad legs. INXS made some incredible pop rock tunes, and Kick’s ‘Need You Tonight’ is no exception. Hutchence’s bedroom-ready vocals and the song’s simplistic melody make for pure sex in audio form.
‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, ABBA, 1979 – Are ABBA rock? I don’t know. Do I really care? No. They are the pinnacle of dance pop, and ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ marks the best of the best. ‘Summer Night City’ is a close second, but this one is an ode to wanting a passionate lover for the night. That string melody is delectable.
‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, Def Leppard, 1987 – No one does it like the boys from Sheffield. Def Leppard’s signature tune is a song all about the sugary and sinful, making for one of the pinnacles of the late ‘80s glam movement. All these years later, and it’s a stomper – as well as a not-so-poetic ode to the female orgasm. That chorus is explosive, to say the least.
‘Venus In Furs’, Nico & the Velvet Underground, 1967 – This plodding, droning tune from Nico & the Velvet Underground’s enduring classic was meant to sound like an S&M orgy-cum-opium den, and it works. Whilst maybe not anyone’s first choice for ‘sexy song’, Lou Reed’s longing vocals give power to hedonistic content, and there’s something deeply hypnotic with this one. It’s as much an incantation as it is a song about shiny, shiny leather.
‘Layla’, Derek & the Dominos, 1970 – This one isn’t about sex or sensuality. It’s Clapton crying out for the object of his desire (mirroring his real-life adoration for Pattie Boyd, then-wife of Beatle George Harrison). It’s a man on the edge of breaking. But that distinct riff from Cream’s alumnus is legendary, and the auditory equivalent of a mountain oyster. You can feel the steam coming off those strings, and it’s raunchy nonetheless.
‘Whole Lotta Love’, Led Zeppelin, 1969 – One of the most iconic opening riffs of all time, and it has the powerful, sexually voracious lyrics to match. Plant shines here, in an anthem about giving someone ‘every inch of [your] love’. Subtle? No. But overwhelmingly sexy, and a testament to how Led Zeppelin could write just as succinctly about human reproduction as they could fantastical battlefields.
‘Poison’, Alice Cooper, 1989 – Sexier than Aerosmith, the Stones and Led Zep? I don’t know how, but Alice Cooper manages it with swaggering ease. His defining solo release is full of references to sadomasochism, toxic love and the rougher side of things. ‘I wanna hurt you just to hear you screaming my name’, howls a conflicted Cooper as he gives into a bad lover with even naughtier intentions. It’s hard rock, packs a hardcore riff and soars with climactic vocals. Sorry, Robert Plant, but Cooper wins this one.
For me, the hands-down winner in this category was a cross-over hit by a country band called Exile. I loved your list.