“Centerfold,” a Billboard number-one 1983 hit by J. Geils Band, is a unique pop anthem in which the speaker mourns the marring of a girl’s purity and the obliteration of her innocence. It is the only “radio song” in recent history—of which I am aware, at least—in which such thematic ground is covered. This is surprising, given the undeniable ubiquity of the circumstance of wrecked virtue in our wretched and degraded age.
Why are there not more songs like “Centerfold”?
Perhaps it is believed to be insufferably old-fashioned to bemoan such a turn of events. Perhaps, that is, having the gall to express sadness over a virgin transforming into a whore is now inevitably construed as a deplorable instance of retrograde “slut shaming,” and is thus avoided by all non-J. Geils-affiliated recording artists.
Of course, as we shall see, the song is hardly an assertion of men’s moral superiority over women; in fact, the male speaker in the song is revealed to be significantly compromised by corruption. His former “golden girl” is now stained with sin, but so, indubitably, is he. The tragic story ranges far and wide, though it’s all told to an incongruously happy-sounding melody with a strangely spritely rhythm, even featuring a fun little “na-na-na-na-nah” refrain.
The speaker begins by recollecting what his “homeroom angel” signified for him as a young man while mired in the foul hormonal swamp that is high school.
“Does she walk, does she talk, does she come complete?
My homeroom homeroom angel always pulled me from my seat
She was pure, like snowflakes no one could ever stain
The memory of my angel could never cause me pain.
Then he flashes forward to the present, wherein, as he quite casually mentions, he is “lookin’ through a girly magazine.” To his shock and astonishment, his former “homeroom angel” is now “on the pages in between,” lewdly posing in a negligee.
Witnessing the ex-golden girl in such a circumstance is upsetting, even traumatic, for our hero:
My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is a centerfold!
My angel is a centerfold!
In the song’s second verse, the speaker recalls the garb his angel used to wear to school, contrasting it with her present-day “centerfold” getup. The “soft, fuzzy sweaters, too magical to touch” of their shared school days are a signifier of lost purity, forever gone. Now she is clad in a skimpy negligee, and the sight (again) is “really just too much” for him to handle.
Just the same, the discerning “Centerfold” listener cannot ignore the concomitant fact of the speaker’s own conspicuous fall from grace. After all, when we first heard from him, he was “lookin’ through a girly magazine,” an act which quite succinctly signifies his own corrupted state. Briefly, the sight of his now-fallen angel rouses in him a sense of indignation and dismay; however, once he recovers from the initial shock, he begins to grow towards a more mature (read “impure”) interpretation of this course of events.
It’s okay, I understand—this ain’t no never-neverland
I hope that when this vision’s gone, I’ll meet you when your clothes are on…
Take your car, yes we will, take your car and drive it
Take you to a motel room… and take ’em off in private!
Mere moments earlier, the speaker had been in a state of patent despair over his “angel” tumbling from Heaven into pornographic perdition. Now he has warmed to the notion of further defiling her shredded innocence. Still, his mind momentarily lingers on the baleful awareness that something wonderful has been lost:
A part of me has just been ripped
The pages from my mind are stripped
Just as his ex-“angel” has been stripped of her clothes, so does he sense that all residue of innocence has been “stripped” from his consciousness. Instead, the tragically alluring figure in the negligee has moved him to participating in her commodification as a whore.
Oh no, I can’t deny it
Oh yeah, I guess I gotta buy it!
So he purchases the “girly magazine” wherein his once angelic infatuation has debased herself, and sets out to assist in her further spoliation. Still, while the “ripped pages” from his mind will never be repaired or replaced, the speaker remains cognizant, at least to some degree, of the glory both he and his lost “angel” have forfeited, to their great collective detriment.
Excerpted from Andy Nowicki’s yet unreleased Ruminations of a Low-Status Male, Volume 3
Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the Nihil, The Columbine Pilgrim, Considering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. Visit his Soundcloud page and his YouTube channel. His author page is Alt Right Novelist.