Friday Song: “Big Balls”

A retracted paper with a racy AI illustration takes us down a musical alley, where we meet Chuck Berry, AC/DC, the Foo Fighters, and Jack Black

Note: Ribald, adolescent humor involving a scientific illustration and an article retraction follows. If that’s not your style, sorry (not sorry).

AC/DC had a hit in 1976 with their song “Big Balls,” a transparent attempt to pass off references to cocktail balls as jokes about male anatomical features. The song’s humor does wear you down, and it has remained stubbornly popular for something marbled with puerile jokes. I heard it on a major Boston rock station just last week, and the album it was on — Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap — is a rock classic.

The history of double-entendre in rock music is long, and many songs have succeeded. For instance, Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” a song about a young boy discovering his penis, was Berry’s only #1 hit, while Natalie Cole’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” is full of innuendo.

“Big Balls” came to mind last week with the news that a rat with three overly large testicles — and a neverending phallus, it appears — was illustrated by AI for a review article published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. The article has since been retracted, but not before the images were captured and some hilarity ensued.

Nobody seemed to flag that one author has a name reminiscent of a character from Sixteen Candles.

For a publisher that recently slashed 1/3 of its workforce and justified it by claiming to have formed “multi-expert teams empowered with AI technology,” this is not a reassuring development. I covered it earlier this week if you want to revisit.

So, without further ado, here is an ode to this fictitious, AI-generated rodent hellspawn — sung by the inimitable Jack Black and backed by the Foo Fighters from a concert in Aukland just a few weeks ago.