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Issue No. 563, July 13-19, 2006

“I NEED IT, how I need it!” begs April Stevens as her date stops the car on a deserted road. Georgia Carr is so distractingly horny she asks her doctor for reassurance. Ella Mae Morse demands around-the-clock servicing. None of these women appeared on Sex and the City; they were voicing their pleas on jukeboxes in the sexually strait-jacketed pre-rock ‘50s. Unlike Marilyn Monroe, Stevens and her fellow girl singers-next-door weren’t out for diamonds; they wanted the family jewels. How did they get away with airing such lust on major-label singles?

The British Sepia label has gathered a slew of them in this delightful party album, proof of what was percolating in an age when Lucy and Desi had to sleep in twin beds on TV. The star of this CD is the 61-year-old barricuda heard on
The Fabulous Mae West, her 1954 LP. On it you’ll hear a proud size queen (“It’s a pleasure when it’s made to measure!”) who wanted it “with no strings attached.” In the hilarious “Havana for a Night” she purrs risqué commentary throughout a Latin lover’s serenade. “Time was hanging heavy on our hands,” he croons, prompting West to note in her smirking Brooklynese: “It did hang a little heavy!” That track alone is a reminder that West kicked down a door several generations before Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends, and did so with a lot less angst. As West groans in apt conclusion: “Oh-lay!” - James Gavin