The 80s: Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls”

sheenaeaston1Scottish singer Sheena Easton hit the music scene in 1981 with her debut album Take My Time which included the single “9 to 5.”  The title was eventually changed to “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” to avoid confusion with the Dolly Parton hit.  “Morning Train” became a worldwide hit for Easton and thus began her career and her sweet and innocent image.  That all changed when she met Prince a few years later, who penned Easton’s 1984 single, “Sugar Walls,” using the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind.  “Sugar Walls” appeared on the album A Private Heaven; the album as a whole was a conscious effort to change Easton’s image from “sweet and innocent” to “bold and sassy,” and to say it did just that is an understatement.  Lyrically, “Sugar Walls” was thinly masked as an homage to the vagina and the tune immediately caught the attention of censors.  It was sheenaeaston2included in “The Filthy Fifteen,” a list of fifteen songs cited by the Parents Music Resource Center (the organization responsible for the now common parental advisory stickers) because of its sexually suggestive lyrics.  PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore particularly took issue with the lines, “You can’t fight passion when passion is hot/Temperatures rise inside my sugar walls.”  On the television front, several broadcasters banned Easton’s music video due to its lyrical content, even though the video itself didn’t contain any sexual imagery.  However, music fans in the U.S. were much more forgiving.  “Sugar Walls” shot to the top of the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart and made it to the top ten on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Black Singles charts, which helped A Private Heaven sell over a million copies in the U.S. and peak at number fifteen on the charts.

—Montrose Cunningham

Montrose Cunningham is a Dallas, Texas-based, independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado, currently working on a Masters in Marketing degree. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughters, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his release Inertia at www.cdbaby.com/cd/montrose, follow him on Twitter @MontroseC and check out his blog, Daddy Rock Star.

One Comment

  1. Stephen McMillian says:

    Great article Montrose! I remember this song very well as a kid in the 80s.

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