ROckWrok

ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrokROckWrok

Blast off, the walls are down
Cast off, the wolves are out
Come on! There’s no time
I can’t wait!

Rip off my clothes
I’m stripping yours
Harder, we’re starved
Wired and barbed
What a magnificent disgrace!

Come on let’s tangle in the dark, dark
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
When it’s wet and hot you want to ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrokROckWrok

Penetration boys in hotel lifts
Invitations on sinking ships
The whole wide world fits hip to hip

In aircraft, destroyers and cinema foyers
The chastened, the chasers
Amazing the neighbours
Gay, wild and willing
Stripped of grace

A stumble rumba in the dark, dark
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
The population’s got to ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok

Ah ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrokROckWrok ROckWrokROckWrok

A doodlebugger in the dark, dark
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
When they find the top you’ve got to ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok

A nimble mambo in the park, park
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
The population’s got to ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok

An anal sailor in the bar, bar
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
When it’s wet and hot you want to rockwrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok
ROckWrok ROckWrok…

A plucky sucker in the car park
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
There’s nothing left for us just ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrokROckWrok

A willing waltzer in the car starts 
Fuck like a dog, bite like a shark, shark
Austerity makes you want to ROckWrok
ROckWrok
ROckWrok

(ROckWrok)

Lyrics © John Foxx.

Thoughts on the text © Martin Smith and translated from birdsong.
Link to the post by all means, but please don’t reproduce the content without permission.

Ultravox really come spitting off the blocks with this song, the opening track on their second album, Ha!Ha!Ha!. Written in little a little over two weeks and released in October 1977 it comes with a savage intent, rough edges, synthesisers and attitude. All the songs reflect the energy of a popular live band, recorded quickly with  few overdubs in the studio, specifically to capture as much as possible the forceful purpose in the album’s sound and message. The release came pretty much on the crest of the punk tidal wave, when the movement was at its height and its most powerful. It was also at its most clear and defined, which – despite the sound of this track and aggressive delivery of the words – set Ultravox ironically further apart from it.

John Foxx lyrics are still detached and observational rather than participatory. He is writing again about sex here, of sex in many forms – straight sex, gay sex, illicit sex, casual sex – though quite specifically not of the intimate and loving  romance of Slip Away or the poetic melancholy of My Sex on the previous album. ROckWrok is far less subtle than either of those songs – instead this is up front, in your face, euphemising about fast, rough, passionate, good-old fashioned and even crude sex.

And little more than that. So why the title? What does it mean and why is it so, well – inaccessible? Yes it can be shouted at gigs (and the song did prove to be an exceptionally popular part of the live set), but is Foxx actually cocking-a-snook, even a sneer, at those who would have joined in but with no idea what they were actually singing? ‘ROckWrok’ is a nonsense word, made up and misspelled on purpose just for effect. For someone who claimed not to want particularly to impose his own personality on stage too much, this song title at least has that personality stamped all over it. It defies the ‘simple and direct’ punk orthodox in just about every conceivable way, being as it is a play on a Marcel Duchamp exclusive Dadaist art magazine entitled ‘Rongwrong’ produced in New York in 1917.

.cover_280px_rongwrong

Only one copy was ever produced – and a mistake on the press meant what should have been  spelled ‘Wrongwrong’ was published without the first letter. Foxx even alludes to this with the album’s cover artwork which simulates an error in the mis-registration of colour plates on the printing press.
All of this would have been totally lost on most of the live audience and those young savages from the City of The Dead for example, who just appreciated shouting the chorus line ‘Fuck like a dog’ as loud as they could.

Foxx is having a laugh with them here too, by deliberately engaging with them on a fundamental level, and enraging the radio police who would have had some difficulty playing the song on BBC air time!

There is a real urgency about the song, and the impatience of a hungry passion for sex. Now, come on, get on with it. I’m aroused and ready – there’s no time, I can’t wait! It will be an intense, if brief union. Just as punk itself burned ferociously but burned out quickly. And let’s do it everywhere! Here, in the foyer, in the park, in the car park. Everyone’s at it – from the seedy rent boys in hotel lobbies to the nobs on board the Titanic meeting their inevitable end. In the bar and in the dark. Fast paced, rhyming lines, delivered with the same brutal venom as Stevie Shears sharp, edgy guitar sound and the shrieking synths wailing and ‘buzzing like chainsaws’ over the top of the whole thing.

Throughout the song, Foxx uses the analogy of dance to present the intercourse, referencing the samba, the rumba, the tango and the waltz. The order in which you hear these references depends on which version of the song you are listening to – various cuts for different singles, live performance and the album itself are all different. The version above, for example, transcribed from the 2006 UK re-mastered issue. makes no reference to the ‘strangled tango’ that Foxx and his lover waltz in I Want To be A Machine… instead (I think at least) it’s an invitation to tangle. Nice image!

Towards the end of this lyric, he contextualises the song by referencing the economic despair of the time and the some of the political circumstances that punk rallied against. There’s nothing left for us. There’s ‘No Future’ in these anarchic times.

We are being fucked by the fiscal system, so we may as well just fuck off and fuck each other.  

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One thought on “ROckWrok

  1. Pingback: Distant Smile | Translated from Birdsong

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