Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jermaine Stewart - "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off"

We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off - Frantic Romantic

(Debuted May 17, 1986, Peaked #5, 22 Weeks on the Chart)

During my teenage years, I was part of my church's youth group. Among the lessons we were taught there was the way popular music could be subversive, because it plants ideas into your head subliminally. So, after you've repeated the underlying message enough, things just seem to make sense. Those of you have been reading my reviews long enough know one of two things happened: either I paid no attention to the lessons, or the experiment was a miserable failure.

On the other hand, this song was pointed out as a positive message during the summer of 1986. It had lyrics that stated that promiscuity wasn't necessary: "I'm not a piece of meat, stimulate my brain" and "We don't have to take our clothes off to have a good time." Of course, the elders conveniently sidestepped the part about drinking wine (we weren't Catholic, after all) but there wasn't the "Just say no" component that other songs of the era, like "Let's Wait Awhile" and "I Wonder if I Take You Home" -- both sung by females, for what that's worth -- had.

And then there was the point that a buddy of mine brought up after seeing the video. He said, "I'm guessing he just doesn't care for the ladies." We know today that Jermaine Stewart eventually died in 1997 from liver problems brought about from his battle with AIDS, which adds a tragic angle to a statement like that. I wonder what those elders might have thought of the song if they'd have been able to know what would eventually happen with him.

Wow. That was quite a sidetrack.

Jermaine Stewart made his name as a dancer on Soul Train in the late 1970s and then as a backup singer for Shalamar. While "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" was his biggest hit, he had a few others including another Top 40 single in 1988 called "Say it Again" that is sorely overlooked today.

Listening to "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" today, I hear it as a relic of a time gone by. One where AIDS was a problem we knew very little about and didn't understand at all, where well-meaning elders tried to force a bunch of libido-driven teenagers to keep their pants on by making us frightened of what "might" happen. By the way, the tactic didn't work; my high school actually opened a day care center before I graduated in order to keep some of my classmates from having to drop out. Despite being obviously dated to the 1980s by its production and its music, it's actually a good, upbeat tune. It's definitely worth a few minutes to give it a listen.

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