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Dominatrix

In the late '70s, disco was often the whipping boy of the rock world; "death to disco" stickers were the norm in punk, new wave, heavy metal, hard rock, and arena rock circles, and disco-bashing was as prevalent among Ted Nugent enthusiasts as it was among fans of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Dead Boys. But that anti-disco attitude faded in the '80s, when disco changed its name to dance music and it became fashionable for rockers to like Madonna -- and one of the acts that brought together dance music and rock was the short-lived Dominatrix (not to be confused with the techno act Dominatrix UK or the hip-hop-oriented Bass Dominatrix). A one-hit wonder best remembered for the 1983 single, "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight," Dominatrix successfully combined a Euro-dance beat with an edgy punk/new wave perspective. Dominatrix also shed some light on a subject that was very taboo: S&M/bondage. "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" was hardly the first song to address that subject; Lou Reed, for example, sang about the pleasures of whips, chains, and leatherbound vixens on the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" in 1967. But even so, "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" (which was released on Streetwise Records) was a brave, gutsy single for 1983 -- both musically and lyrically. The lyrics weren't terribly explicit, but the very subject of S&M was enough to prevent the kinky song from being a mainstream hit in the United States; commercial radio stations wouldn't play it, and MTV refused to air the song's 1984 video (which was directed by Beth B. and starred actress Dominique Davalos, daughter of actor Richard Davalos). However, "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" was a major cult hit in dance clubs, especially in Europe -- and in S&M/bondage circles, it became as much of an anthem as "Venus in Furs." The brains behind the New York City-based Dominatrix project was producer/songwriter Stuart Argabright, whose other projects over the years have included Ike Yard, the Futants, the Death Comet Crew, the Dystopians, and the Voodooists. The people Argabright recruited for Dominatrix included lead vocalist Claudia Summers, producer Ken Lockie (who co-wrote "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight"), and keyboardist/synthesist Peter Baumann (of Tangerine Dream fame). Argabright has been quoted as saying that he made "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" out of a genuine respect and admiration for professional dominatrixes; he knew some pro-dommes in the Big Apple, and he admired the way they earned a good living by chaining up, whipping, and torturing upscale Manhattan businessmen (who were very willing victims and had the credit card bills to prove it). Long after 1983, "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" continues to find its way to S&M/bondage gatherings -- and the song has been remixed and sampled more than once in the '90s and 2000s. The song generates the most attention in club/dance/electronica circles, although rapper Mase (with some help from Sean "Puffy" Combs, aka Puff Daddy or P. Diddy) sampled "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" in 1999 on "Do It Again" (from his Double Up album). ~ Alex Henderson
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