Sheela-Na-Gig

Album: Dry (1992)
Charted: 69

Songfacts®:

  • A sheela-na-gig is a carving of a naked woman holding her vagina open. They are to be found carved on old churches (yes, really!) in Great Britain and Ireland. So the lyric, "He said, 'Sheela-na-gig, sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist!'" is exceedingly graphic. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Isabeau du Oueb - Chicago, IL
  • "The song's a collection of different moments between lovers," Harvey told Melody Maker in 1992. "I suppose it's about being able to laugh at yourself in relationships. There's some anger there but, for me, it's a funny song. I wasn't intending it to be a feminist song or anything. I wanted it to have several sides."
  • When asked about the significance of the carving, Harvey told Puncture: "It was just the inspiration for the song, so it isn't a song about a stone carving, but when I wrote it, what I liked about the carving was that she was laughing, and ripping herself apart. You have humour and horrificness. It's the same with horror films – are they funny or just horrific? It's something that I really want to explore."
  • The repeated lyric, "Gonna wash that man right out of my hair," was taken from the song title "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" from the 1949 Broadway musical South Pacific. "I heard that and it had the humorous feel I wanted, so I put it in. I was trying to wash somebody out of my hair at the time, too," Harvey explained.
  • The lyric, "Please take those dirty pillows away from me," is a reference to Stephen King's first novel, Carrie (and the 1976 film adaptation). Religious zealot Margaret White refers to her daughter's breasts as "dirty pillows."
  • Harvey was blasted by the British press when she posed nude (with her bare back facing the camera, showing just a hint of one breast) for the cover of NME in 1992. She was accused of feeding into the notion that women couldn't get ahead in the industry without taking off their clothes and was further called irresponsible when she refused to explain herself. When asked about the controversy, she said, "That cover was saying a lot of things. In 'Sheela-Na-Gig,' the man says, 'you exhibitionist,' as if, the female can be powerful and beautiful, but you can't show it."

Comments: 4

  • Diana from Buffalo, NyI felt this song was about women being chastised for their sexuality and basically being told to lock it up.
    A lot of her music has a feminist bend, though she has repeatedly denied being a feminist (wants to avoid the contoversy I guess?), and seems to talk about women being judged based on their sexuality and people justifying women being punished (raped, prostituted, abused, looked down on) if they aren't chaste.
  • Jude from Denver, CoSheela-na-gigs are supposed to ward of sexual desire by showing people the vulgarity of humanity. So when the singer is saying sheela-na-gig I think the intended meaning would have to be, "I ain't havinf sex with you mofo". Just my thought though...
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnHot song with honest to life lyrics.
  • Martin from Rostockwow, now that's surprising *laughing*
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Name the Character in the SongMusic Quiz

With a few clues (Works at a diner, dreams of running away), can you name the character in the song?

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)Songwriter Interviews

Mike talks about the "Silent Running" storyline and "Land Of Confusion" in the age of Trump.

WeezerFact or Fiction

Did Rivers Cuomo grow up on a commune? Why did they name their albums after colors? See how well you know your Weezer in this Fact or Fiction.

Yacht Rock QuizFact or Fiction

Christopher Cross with Deep Purple? Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack? A Fact or Fiction all about yacht rock and those who made it.

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"They're Playing My Song

Shears does very little promotion, which has kept him secluded from the spotlight. What changed when Cyndi Lauper had a hit with his song? Not much, really.

Al KooperSongwriter Interviews

Kooper produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, played with Dylan and the Stones, and formed BS&T.