People love to complain about today’s music. All the lyrics are too bland, repetitive, and racy. So thank goodness we have a canon of treasured composers to fall back on! You know, guys like Mozart. He wrote songs with substance.
1. Leck mich im Arsch (K. 231)
Mozart wrote this six-voice canon in 1782. It was likely a party piece for his friends. The title translates to “Lick me in the ass,” an old German idiom akin to the modern “Kiss my ass.” When Mozart’s publisher received the piece, he was shocked to see such bawdy language and bowdlerized the text to read, “Let us be glad!” (Which, I think, is the complete opposite of what this tune means.)
Leck mich im Arsh, g’schwindi, g’schwindi! Etc.
"Lick me in the ass, quickly, quickly! Etc."
2. Bona Nox (K. 561)
In this four-voice canon in A Major, Mozart recycles some scatological zingers that first appeared in letters he sent his family. (If you haven’t read his letters, take a few minutes and give them a look—they’re doozies.)
[Latin] Good night!
You are quite an ox;
[Italian] Good night,
My dear Lotte;
[French] Good night,
[English]Good night, good night,
[German] Sh** in your bed and make it burst;
Good night, sleep tight,
And stick your ass to your mouth.
3. Difficile Lectu (K. 559)
This one is full of fun bilingual puns. The lyrics are in Latin, but if you translate it, you’ll realize it doesn’t make much sense. That’s because Mozart wrote the piece for his friend Johann Nepomuk Peyerl, a baritone with a thick Bavarian accent. Mozart knew that when Peyerl would pronounce the Latin “lectu mihi mars,” it would sound like the German, “leck du mich im Arsch,” which means, well, you know. The piece also incessantly repeats the word “jonicu”—that’s because, when said over and over, it sounds like the Italian vulgarism “cujoni.” You, of course, know it better in Spanish: “Cojones.”
Difficile lectu mihi mars et jonicu, jonicu
Difficle, lectu, lectu, lectu mihi mars
Mihi mars lectu lectu difficile lectu lectu
Jonicu jonicu, jonicu, jonicu, jonicu,
Jonicu, jonicu, jonicu, jonicu difficile
So what was up with Wolfgang’s potty mouth? Some believe Mozart had Tourette syndrome, although the diagnosis has been debunked time and time again. It’s more likely that the musical mastermind simply loved crude jokes—which wasn’t unusual for his time, anyway. Scatology was just as popular back then as it is today, although it was especially strong in Germanic culture. After printing the Bible, the next project on Johannes Gutenberg’s to-do list was a laxative timetable called a “Purgation Calendar.” Martin Luther—the same man who redefined Christianity—was brilliantly vulgar. “I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away,” is one of his tamer aphorisms. Goethe once used poop jokes to lash back at a critic. Mozart wasn’t any different. He cribbed most of these ribald lyrics from fashionable phrases that shared wide currency in his day.