Bad Girls

Album: Bad Girls (1979)
Charted: 14 1

Songfacts®:

  • The "Bad Girls" are prostitutes. Summer got the idea when she was working at the offices of her label, Casablanca Records, in Los Angeles. She sent her secretary on an errand, which took her down Sunset Boulevard, a street known for illicit activity. The secretary, who was black, told Summer that the police harassed her, assuming she was a working girl. This raised the ire of Summer, but also provided inspiration for the song, which came together when she started ad-libbing lyrics in the studio.
  • Summer wrote this song in 1977 when she was collaborating with a vocal group called Brooklyn Dreams, which was comprised of Eddie Hokenson, Joe Esposito, and Summer's future husband, Bruce Sudano. All three members of the group contributed to its writing and shared the songwriter credits with Summer.

    When Summer played the demo track of the song for the head of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, he thought it was too rock for her and suggested the song would be more suitable for Labelle or Cher. This didn't go over well with Summer, since she wanted to record the song herself, so she shelved it.

    In 1979, an engineer named Steve Smith was looking through some tapes, trying to find some blank space to record when he came across the demo of this song. He reminded Summer of the song, which she had forgotten about, and he also told producer Giorgio Moroder about it. Moroder and Pete Bellotte, who are team that produced "Love To Love You Baby," produced a new version of "Bad Girls" that became the hit two years after the song was written.
  • This was Summer's biggest hit. It was #1 in the US for five weeks, helping her earn the title "The Queen Of Disco."
  • Harold Faltermeyer, who had a hit five years later with "Axel F," is credited with arrangements on the Bad Girls album. Scott Edwards, who played on many hits of the era, was the bass player on this track. He told Songfacts about the session: "I remember we cut it at the studio just north of Sunset on La Brea [Rusk Sound Studios]. We went in, and they just had chord charts. Georgio Moroder was the producer, but he wasn't even there. The cat who did the music for Eddie Murphy's movie - Harold Faltermeyer - he was the one that we saw. Faltermeyer was the guy who actually came up with the concept and everything. He didn't have any parts, he just had the chords. But he told us to go for it. And sadly, the drummer who played on a lot of that stuff was Michael Baird, and somehow they forgot to put his name on the contract. And once they didn't do that, he doesn't get paid for new use. They basically said, 'Musicians, do it.' And we did it. That's how all that stuff came about. But there were no written parts. We didn't know until later that Harold Faltermeyer could do what he did electronically on computers, because he just let us do our thing, and it turned out pretty good."
  • The famous "toot-toot" and "beep-beep" vocal interjections were something Donna Summer came up with in the studio after the track was finished. She felt the song sounded a bit empty in parts, so she made up some car sounds to simulate the horns calling for the attention of the prostitutes.
  • Summer performed this song on her TV special (unimaginatively titled The Donna Summer Special), which aired January 27, 1980. The performance featured summer dressed as a prostitute singing on a studio replica of Sunset Boulevard. Her fellow "bad girls" were played by the model/actresses Twiggy, Debralee Scott, and Pat Ast.

    The clip would have been a very interesting addition to MTV's playlist when they launched in 1981, but the network rejected disco and didn't put a black artist in heavy rotation until 1983 with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." That same year, Summer had an MTV hit with "She Works Hard For The Money."
  • This was used in the kids' movie Rugrats In Paris. It was sung by Angelica, with some of the words changed to stay away from the adult themes.

    Other movies to use the song include:

    Picture Perfect (1997)
    The Out-of-Towners (1999)
    The Replacements (2000)
    Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

    Some TV series to use it are:

    Cybill (1995, "Cybill with an 'S'")
    Sex and the City (2000, "Where There's Smoke")
    Cold Case (2004, "Daniela")
    Arrested Development (2004, "Whistler's Mother")
    Scandal (2014, "The Last Supper")
  • Summer had a talent for writing lyrics on the fly once she had a title for a song. "She was very stream-of-consciousness," her husband Bruce Sudano said in a Songfacts interview. "Her favorite way to write was to go in the studio, mic the guitar, mic the piano, turn on her microphone, roll tape and flow. That's how 'Bad Girls' was written. That's how many of her songs were written: just flow."

Comments: 7

  • Bumper from United StatesIt is fun to listen and dance to, but I find it so interesting to know the writer's inspiration..In this case, a black woman being assumed a prostitute by a cop..so very relevant.
  • Drerock from Bay Area, CaThe catchy "toot toot ahh beep beep" intro appears to be an interpolation of Joe Cuba's song, "Bang Bang". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MenOmqIBmIM
  • Carmelo from Genova, ItalyThe catchy "toot toot hey beep beep" intro is one of the most sampled bits in dance music history, I see.
  • Jane from Austin, Txwho cares about the content of this song? it's just fun to listen and dance to.
  • Polly from Anna, IlThis song was a great skating song at the rink! That was all that mattered to me, a great moving song!
  • Soccerclutz from Budapest, HungaryIf you're going to comment, might as well spell "harlotry" right.
    And I think this song is catchy and gives good insight into the lives of the prostitutes.
  • Bernard from Caracas, South AmericaToo much halotry for just one song
see more comments

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