Some interesting music from the 1970s… Anita Ward – Ring My Bell

Billboard ranked Ring My Bell as the ’18th Sexiest Song of All Time’, declaring it as being slightly more sexy than The First Night by Monica but not quite as sexy as Nelly Furtado’s Promiscuous. There a millions of recorded songs. Perhaps billions. To be the eighteenth sexiest of all of them is pretty impressive, especially when you consider how many songs Prince wrote.

Okay, I’ll admit it, that Billboard list of sexy songs is pretty flawed. Firstly it is a countdown of the ‘Fifty Sexiest Songs of All Time’ that starts at No. 51 and ends at No. 2, which seems mathematically problematic at best. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinent for the matter in hand. (oo-er etc) Billboard think the sexiest song of all time is Physical by Olivia Newton-John.

It isn’t, is it?

Still, whatever the veracity of Billboard’s list, whatever the validity of their research, Ring My Bell is classed by some as being, at least to some degree, sexy. All the more worrying then that it was originally written as a song for an eleven-year-old. According to Wikipedia, the writer of the song claims to have “purposely avoided any overly suggestive lyrics,” and maybe he did, but he fell into the trap of having someone sing a chorus that uses the ‘you can X my Y’ format. Offers to X my Y will almost always be inferred as being about sex by the listener, however innocent the writer’s intentions.

In Ring My Bell, Anita Ward sings, “You can ring my bell,” but any terms in the place of ring (X) or bell (Y) would have the same effect. Allow me to demonstrate…

  • I’d pencil her sketchbook
  • I wouldn’t mind tromboning his leylandii
  • I’d let them Boltzmann’s constant my Rock On Tommy!!

See what I mean? None of them mean sex but all of them imply it, somehow. We’re just wired that way, I guess.

Which brings us, finally, to what is remarkable about Ring My Bell by Anita Ward: it isn’t a sexy song at all. I have no problem at all imagining that Anita Ward had a bell (perhaps one of those ones that boxing judges have to signal the end of rounds, maybe a church bell or even a cow bell) and that, in the song, she is telling a friend that she is happy for them to have a go ringing it. Even that last sentence contains more sexual tension than the song Ring My Bell, which has none.

Do I like Ring My Bell by Anita Ward? I do. I like it very much. It is a great song. Is it sexy though? No. No it isn’t. And the impossibility of that raises a simple disco anthem to the ranks of Joyce and Woolf in the pantheon of modernist texts. Possibly. I may be overreaching slightly there. You know what I mean.