Exactly 43 years ago, Conway Twitty earned his most controversial No. 1 single ever. In fact, if you ever want to look for some of country’s most eyebrow-raising tunes, this one usually lands near the top.
Twitty’s “You’ve Never Been This Far Before is, by all accounts, one of his most famous songs. The sultry singer is known for his spoken word love songs like “Hello Darlin’.” But 1973’s “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” took Twitty’s sexual persona to a whole new level.
In fact, many radio stations banned the song after receiving feedback from outraged listeners. And otherwise thinking the song just wasn’t a good idea.
To understand why the song rubbed so many people the wrong — and right — way, you have to look at context.
An Explicitly Honest Song
The song is, quite plainly, about one person comforting a virgin whom they are about to sleep with. And let’s be honest, country has its fair share of songs about virginity. (Why artists like exploring that particular topic so much, who knows).
In the case of “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” the characters in the song are literally in the process of making love. Twitty sings lines like, “And I can feel your body tremble as you wonder what this moment holds in store,” and, “I don’t know what I’m saying as my trembling fingers touch forbidden places.”
Now, granted, the rest of the song also explores the motivations and intentions behind the act. Twitty reveals the person he’s making love to just broke up with somebody else, and that he knows they’ll wonder if he’ll still love them in the morning. He assures them he will.
It’s a sweet sentiment, but it doesn’t change the fact that the song went further than nearly every other love song at the time. Instead of just hinting at sex, or talking about sex, the song actively narrates sex.
A Sign Of The Times
The 1960s and 1970s may have brought about a sexual revolution, but much of the country fought tooth and nail against it. The idea of sexual imagery in the mainstream still seemed too taboo for a society, even though it was seeping through the cracks, thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of television.
Twitty’s song came out in 1973, and in a lot of ways opened the door for more sexually explicit (or more sexually obvious) songs. In fact, in the two years following the release of “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” two more of country’s most controversial songs hit the charts.
Tanya Tucker’s “Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)” courted controversy because of her age (15) yet hit No. 1. And of course, Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” explored and saluted women’s sexual freedom thanks to birth control and also hit No. 1.
But it’s also important to remember the timeline of this song. Conway Twitty was 39 when he released it, and barely 40 when it hit No. 1 on the charts. The idea of a nearly 40-year-old man singing about having sex with a virgin implied several things that the still ultra-conservative country market frowned upon.
Can’t Stop The Inevitable
But ultimately, this was Conway Twitty in his prime. “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” was going to hit No. 1 on the charts, with or without the stations that banned it. Of course, there’s always the possibility that listeners wanted to hear it even more after the kerfuffle.
It’s a real phenomena — just look at what happened with Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.”
But the song spent 16 weeks overall on the charts, and three weeks at No. 1. It was his 10th solo song to top the chart and came in the middle of his fantastic run of duets with Loretta Lynn. Thanks to the ramblings of this dirty ol’ country song lighting up the chart, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” even crossed over to the pop charts, eventually reaching No. 22.
Interestingly enough, Canadian artist Carroll Baker released her version of the song called “I’ve Never Been This Far Before.” There was notably less controversy this time around. It reached No. 1 in Canada in May 1975, and the pair performed a fantastic duet of the tune in 1978.
Twitty, of course, finished with an astounding 55 No. 1 singles in his career, before his untimely death at the age of 59 in 1993. “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” holds a special place in his career, not just for battling controversy and being banned, but for its classic representation of Twitty’s unabashed sexual aura.
The song captures a whole lot of Twitty’s personality and legacy in only a few short minutes. While several artists she away from being truly unique in fear of losing fans, Twitty embraced it. That’s why he’s one of country’s undeniable kings.