The Boiler

Album: released as a single (1982)

Songfacts®:

  • This disturbing song describes a rape in stark detail from the victim's perspective. The vocals are spoken by Rhoda Dakar, who tells the story of going on a date that goes horribly wrong, ending with her being assaulted in an alleyway.

    She feels like "an old boiler" when this guy asks her out. She accepts, and all goes well until she makes the mistake of following him after rejecting his advances.
  • This song would have been controversial in any case, but was even more so due to an unfortunate juxtaposition with a real rape case.

    At Ipswich Crown Court on January 5, 1982, a businessman named John Allen was convicted of the rape of a teenage hitchhiker. Allen had pleaded not guilty, but after the victim broke down in court he changed his plea. In sentencing him, Judge Bertrand Richards said the girl had been "guilty of a great deal of contributory negligence." Then he fined him £2,000. Unsurprisingly the judge's words and the extraordinary sentence caused outrage.

    Later that month, Rhoda Dakar was interviewed in New Musical Express by Adrian Thrills. In the article The reality of rape that they're trying to ban, the single was said to have been "uncannily timed."

    The song was played on Radio One but was dropped from the playlist; the station denied it had been banned, but that is arguable.
  • According to Dakar, the song emerged from a jam but was not written deliberately to shock or (thankfully) from personal experience. It features some haunting keyboard work, and was certainly one of the most original releases of the year. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • The Specials were going through a transition when this song was released, with Dakar a recent addition as a lead vocalist (she had sung backup with the band). It was credited to "Rhoda with The Special AKA featuring Nicky Summers."

    Summers and Dakar were members of the all-female group The Bodysnatchers, which like The Specials, were signed to the 2 Tone label. When The Bodysnatchers split up, they teamed up with Specials members Dick Cuthell (cornet), John Shipley (guitar), and John Bradbury (drums) to record this track, which they had been working on in their former group (the single notes: "Based on an original idea by The Bodysnatchers").

    Jerry Dammers of The Specials produced the track and played organ; Summers played bass. The songwriting credits go to Dammers and the members of The Bodysnatchers.

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