Thursday, February 18, 2010

Old Song Review: Big Star - Thirteen

Time for another great of song review . . .

I actually hadn't heard this song before tonight* but it moved me enough to want to write a post for 'yall. As you might remember, I reviewed Operator, by Jim Croce last time. I got a little guff from the too-trendy-hipster-emo-pants administer of this blog and he sarcastically wondered if I as going to review James Taylor next. I happen to absolutely love the collaboration of Ray Charles and James Taylor on Sweet Potato Pie but I'll save my James Taylor review for another time.

No, this song struck me as I was cleaning dishes and really got to something. I think what really gets me is the teenage angst**. A kid (presumably of thirteen years***) is speaking to this girl he's in love with. It's implied that he's young but I'm not sure whether it's that he's actually talking to her or if the song is more of a soliloquy.

The boy is asking the girl to give him a chance. Maybe they could go to the movies or a dance. Maybe she could stand up to her dad a little more for him****? The song is short and it pretty quickly goes from his entreaties and proclamations to him saying that if it's over he'll leave her alone.

I also think part of the appeal is the vocals and instruments. As far as I can tell Big Star only uses a few guitars and some harmony/backup singing. The effect is lovely and melancholy. The lead singers voice has this sound that's somewhere between a cry and a plea and gives away how hopeless his situation is without evening listening to the message of the lyrics.

The thing that really gets me about the song is the unrequitedness of it. I've read the lyrics a number of times and I agree that it isn't necessarily so such a melancholy song, it doesn't have to end with her rebuffing him that is, but I think between his voice and he ending it's implied. I think that melancholy (there's that word again) feeling is what also got me about Operator so maybe there's a pattern*****. Maybe I'm a sucker for the unrequited love story. I dunno, it's incredibly common but incredibly moving. Maybe we're all little boys in love with girls who don't necessarily share the feeling. Just listen because it's a great old song.

*It's currently 11:15pm (way past my bedtime) and I'm writing this post because this song moved me so much. I was up so late because I was cleaning for some guests who are coming tomorrow. One of the guests writes this hilarious blog. This song moved me so much that I grabbed KK and danced in our living room to it.

**The first time I spelled angst A-N-X-T because I'm wicked smaaht.

***I say presumably because the name of the song is "Thirteen." Some of the themes in this song are pretty strong for a thirteen year old. "shake you," "outlaw for my love"? All fairly adult themes for a kid of thirteen. But then again, what do I know about love. Did anyone feel like this about anyone else at thirteen?

****I have definitely been in this situation on numerous ocasions. The parents don't want the kid (your lover) to do something/go somewhere/think something/say something that you really want your lover to do/go/say/think.

*****I'll try to review a more upbeat song next time but the whole point of these posts is to review songs that move me. Hopefully I'm also moved by some old upbeat songs soon.

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