From Sasha Grey’s industrial music to Andrea True’s glitzy disco, many adult movie actors have dabbled in the music biz – here are some of the greatest crossovers
Pretty much every facet of the human experience has been explored to some extent in pornography, so it only makes sense that the relationship between porn and music should be be strange, varied, and full of surprises. While there have been enough avant-garde porn soundtracks to put the clichés of wah-wah guitars and smooth R&B beats to rest entirely by now, what’s not often acknowledged is that a lot of pornstars have themselves made music. This naturally includes novelty hits like Ron Jeremy’s “Freak of the Week” (which sees the unlikely porno superstar rapping quite atrociously on an otherwise pretty booty-poppin’ Miami bass tune by DJ Polo), but it also includes some earnest creative expressions covering everything from middlebrow rock to sultry piano house. Not all of the music is inspiring, but occasionally there have been some genuinely brilliant things that have come from the minds of adult actors.
In looking at a handful of pornstars who’ve also music, we’ve deliberately kept the list focused on music that feels inventive and stands on its own merits irrespective of its creators’ background. We’ve also kept off celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who can’t be considered a pornstar despite monetising her leaked sex tape, but who certainly did make a questionable foray into pop music.
Andrea True Connection’s “More More More” is one of the most recognisable songs of the disco era, thanks in part to a revival kickstarted in the 1990s with Len sampling the track on their ultra-hit “Steal My Sunshine” and with its hook being used in a famous Sex & The City promo. Yet Andrea True herself remains a somewhat forgotten figure. She acted in dozens of porn films throughout the 1960s and 70s and became so successful in her industry that she was recognisable enough to appear in a real estate advert in Jamaica in 1975. A political crisis arising out of US sanctions against the island prevented True from taking her advertising earnings out of Jamaica, so she instead used them to bankroll the recording of the single locally. After flying in producer Gregg Diamond, she released the song stateside where it became a nightclub hit and scored highly on the Billboard chart.
“More More More” might seem kitsch today, but all of the artists had credentials: True was a studied musician, Gregg Diamond a storied producer who was behind the scenes on many great dance records of the 1970s, while legendary disco engineer Tom Moulton mixed the record and gave it its club groove. True retired from porn not long after in order to focus on her music career, but like many disco musicians at the time her career faltered following 1979’s Disco Demolition Night, with her new wave-influenced third album not even receiving a US release when it was completed in 1980. She later attempted to return to adult films, albeit fairly unsuccessfully.
The peak years of disco fell within the same time period of the so-called ‘golden age of porn’, and with both industries at the height of their excessiveness it made sense that many adult actors would make the jump over to music. Dennis Parker was a pornstar, musician, and actor active during the 1970s who had an incredible career. Born Dennis Posa in Long Island, New York, Parker started out making gay porn films under the name Wade Nichols before making the jump to straight. Somewhere along the line he met Jacques Morali, the producer behind acts like The Village People and Eartha Kitt, and together they created the album Like An Eagle for legendary disco label Casablanca Records.
The album was more than a quick cash grab, with Parker co-writing many of its tracks and bringing a real artistry to its songs. “New York By Night” is a contemporary document of the city’s gay nightspots, while title track “Like An Eagle” adopts a much slower tempo than most disco songs and is imbued with a deep sense of longing. Parker later landed a traditional acting role in ABC’s The Edge of Night (the network presumably either didn’t know about his past life, or they kept it quiet), but he left the show due to AIDS-related illnesses and died in 1985. “Like An Eagle”, however, remains a cult classic, beloved by everyone from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy to Todd Terje to The Last Shadow Puppets’ Miles Kane.
In 1986, having already produced at least 75 hardore porn films, it emerged that Traci Lords was in fact a minor. Having lied about her age using a fake ID, she’d actually started making porn at 15, causing a crisis in the industry and forcing video stores and adult theatres to withdraw her hugely popular films at risk of prosecution. Lords ended her porn career after these events, instead following the route that many former pornstars take in making the transition to mainstream roles. In the intervening years she appeared in films like Cry-Baby and modelled for Thierry Mugler, and she lent her voice to alt-rock songs like “Love Never Dies” (a minor hit from the Pet Sematary Two soundtrack) and the Manic Street Preachers’ “Little Baby Nothing”. But when debut album 1000 Fires came out in 1995 it was a huge left turn, seeing Lords merge hard rock, breakbeat rave, acid techno, and trance while making a successful foray into the DJ world.
The album spawned a legitimate hit in the bonkers “Control”, which saw Lords adopt a dominatrix persona and deliver semi-spoken vocals in a way that wasn’t too dissimilar to the electroclash movement a few years later (its video also boasted a cameo from John Waters). The rest of the album is a riot sonically, but it deals with dark lyrical themes, addressing her rape and thoughts of suicide.
COSEY FANNI TUTTI
Cosey Fanni Tutti has produced a lot of vital modern music as a member of Throbbing Gristle and, with her partner Chris Carter, as one half of Chris & Cosey and later Carter Tutti. But her music has always been part of a greater body of performance art that also includes pornography, and throughout the 1970s Tutti appeared in top shelf magazines like Fiesta and Playbirds. Some of her work was used in Throbbing Gristle’s notorious ICA exhibition Prostitution in 1976, which provoked fierce reactions not just from the establishment (Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn famously described Throbbing Gristle as “the wreckers of civilisation”) but also from the feminist press at the time.
Sasha Grey’s own career has many parallels to Cosey Fanni Tutti’s: her roles acting in hardcore pornography always seemed to be part of a larger body of work that includes modelling, acting in films like Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, and making music. Grey herself is a Throbbing Gristle fan who formed her own industrial band aTelecine in the late 2000s, although she is no longer a member today, and most recently could be heard adding her Midwestern drawl to Death In Vegas’ latest record, the industrial night drive Transmission. She’ll be performing as part of the band at Berlin Atonal festival later in the year.