The Creepiest Trend In Rock Music (That Goes Back Decades)
There have been plenty of hit songs in which men creepily fetishize underage girls, but within that genre is an even creepier sub-genre: songs about girls who are 16. Like, girls who are very specifically 16, as if that's the age when they reach peak sexy and not just when they can get a driver's license. Some of the most famous musicians in history have devoted multiple tracks to this alarming subject. Here are just a few.
Neil Sedaka Sang About The Very Minute A Girl Turns 16
We'll start with this one, because it seems to be going down a creepiness checklist and attempting to mark off every box. The girl whom Neil Sedaka croons about in the 1961 hit "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" isn't just 16, but literally just 16, as it is set on her birthday. The singer, who points out that he's known the girl since she was six and that she became his "valentine" at 13, makes it chillingly clear that he's been waiting until she reaches that magical age of ... uh, still definitely not being a grown-up.
Tonight's the night I've waited for, because you're not a baby anymore ... What happened to that funny face? My little tomboy now wears satins and lace.
Sedaka, who co-wrote and sang "Sweet Sixteen," was 30 years old and looked way too much like a middle-aged youth pastor when the song was a hit, leading to some publicity shots that look like something out of an Insidious sequel. Here he is performing the song on American Bandstand, and for extra squirms, there's an intro wherein Dick Clark quizzes a supremely uncomfortable-looking young audience member about her stockings. The camera zooms in for a lingering close-up of her knees.
The "It's so awesome you're finally 16!" song is actually a mini-genre of its own, with perhaps the most famous example being the Crests' "Sixteen Candles." But for sheer oblivious horror, none of them can compare with "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," which features lines like: But since you've grown up, your future is sewn up ... From now on you're gonna be mine. Hot tip: If you ever think to tell anyone of any age that they will be "sewn up" with you, don't do that.
Benny Mardones' Video For "Into The Night" Is Ceaselessly Weird
If someone's talking about "Into The Night," there are a few possibilities as to what exact song they're referring to. The most recent "Into The Night" seems to be the questionable rock song featuring Santana and the lead singer from Nickelback. But even that mix of "wah-wah" guitars and Chad Kroeger's unmistakable, um, growl is preferable to Benny Mardones' cheese-tastic power ballad from 1980. It makes its message clear from the start:
She's just 16 years old ... Leave her alone, they say.
I should note that these songs are not known for their subtlety. He goes on to say that they're separated by fools ... who don't know what love is yet, but he wants her to know the things the "fools" think she's still too young to learn. It's less of a song and more like someone set a chat log from To Catch A Predator to music. Mardones claimed the song was inspired by a platonic friendship he had with a troubled 16-year-old girl, and that he was actually the one who told his leering co-writer to leave the kid alone. But if that's the case, then like, maybe write the song that way?
Even if Mardones is somehow cluelessly innocent, the music video doubles down on the weirdness. Mardones, like some kind of '80s rocker Nosferatu, literally climbs through the bedroom window of some kid, entices her onto a flying carpet, and whisks her into the dark night and away from an understandably disapproving dad. Thanks for somehow getting us on the side of a lame '80s sitcom dad, Benny.
This song also kicks off what you'll find is a running theme on this list. Most of the lyrics are standard "telling a girl she's sweet and beautiful" stuff, but at some point the songwriter makes sure to announce, "Just to be super clear, guys, what makes her special is specifically the fact that she's 16. Thank you."
Ringo Starr's "You're Sixteen" Is Oddly Terrifying
"You're Sixteen" was a US hit twice -- #8 for rockabilly singer Johnny Burnett in 1960 and #1 for future Shining Time Station star Ringo Starr in 1973. The lyrics seem almost wholesome if we assume the narrator character is also a teen, and that's surely how a lot of people understood it. But Burnett was in his late 20s when he recorded his version, while Starr was a very beardy 33.
More importantly, a closer examination of the lyrics finds that these sentiments are very much those of an older dude. An actual teenage boy, for instance, wouldn't keep adding "you're 16" to his list of things that make his girlfriend hot:
You're all ribbons and curls, ooh, what a girl
Eyes that sparkle and shine
You're 16, you're beautiful and you're mine
Teen boys don't generally fetishize the teenhood of their girlfriends; that's just the age they both are. ("Dude, and the best part? She's 16!" "Yeah bro, I know. She's in our class.") In that context, these lyrics are more like the notes you'd give to Hannibal Lector to help you catch Buffalo Bill. You're my pet ... You walked out my dreams and into my car.
Starr's sleepy, basset-hound-like charm de-creeps the song somewhat, as does the fucking kazoo solo in the middle. But nothing could de-creep it completely. Here's Starr performing it as a duet with Carrie Fisher on Ringo, a very weird 1978 TV special which features the miniaturized former Beatle climbing around in Princess Leia's hair.
The casting director probably had a tough job finding an actress who could read as young enough to seem natural dancing around in an old-timey bobby soxer outfit but old enough to be Starr's girlfriend, and they succeeded at the former while failing spectacularly at the latter. Fisher does her best to act like she's into it, but when Ringo sings right into her face, she looks only slightly more comfortable than she would when Jabba the Hutt had her on a chain.
Chuck Berry's Personal Life Adds A Creep Factor To "Sweet Little Sixteen" And "Sweet Sixteen"
Pioneering rock musician Chuck Berry was a spry 32 when he released "Sweet Little Sixteen" in 1958, and he spends the whole song drooling over a rock n' roll fangirl who is literally half his age.
His story follows the kid as she begs her "mommy" and "daddy" to go to a show, where he ogles her in her "tight dresses and lipstick," and notes rather wistfully that tomorrow, She'll have to change her trend / Become sweet 16 / And back in class again. Berry says that the girl has just got to have about half a million framed autographs. Get it? She loves famous people! That makes it OK! But given the stuff we now know Berry got up to, you can't so easily brush any of this shit away.
A year after the song was released, Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines for "immoral purposes." While he was still in court for the crime (he would eventually serve two years in prison), he gave his lawyers bleeding ulcers by covering the old blues standard "Sweet Sixteen." This was a completely different song that is not only about a 16-year-old, but also has "Sweet Sixteen" in the title. That's weird, right? To have two of those in your discography?
But you would not, you would not do
Everything that I ask you to
Guess you ran away from your home, darling
Now you wanna run away from me too
Aw, sounds like this little heartbreaker is really giving poor Chuck a hard time. And yes, I realize he didn't write the lyrics to this one, but when picking a song to cover, why not pick literally anything else? Footnote: Berry would later be accused of secretly filming women while they pooped.
Kiss Could Not Stop Singing About Underage Girls (Including Two Songs About 16-Year-Olds)
Gene Simmons is supposedly enough of a creep that he actually got banned from Fox News. He's also written more songs about underage girls than Chuck Berry -- so many that he could close Kiss shows with a medley. 1977's "Christine Sixteen" is probably the band's most famous and horrifying song about a sexy 16-year-old.
Simmons yells about lurking outside a high school and perving on some kid who is "young and clean," with "clean" presumably being his own special way of saying that she's still a virgin. Lest anybody attempt to make the argument that Simmons was only portraying a sleazy character in the song, the man himself has made it clear that these are very much his own thoughts. He told Guitar World Magazine, "For the spoken part in the middle that goes 'When I saw you coming out of school that day, I knew I've got to have you -- got to have you!' I always pictured myself in a black car across the street from a school, watching a young girl."
But that wasn't the first cringeworthy Kiss song about a teenager. 1974's "Goin' Blind" is a sludgy number about a 93-year-old man wistfully addressing a 16-year-old girl. It sounds like he's breaking up with her ("There is nothing more for you and I"), but fans have been debating exactly what they mean for longer than the song deserves.
Much more on-brand is the song "Domino," in which Simmons doesn't specify the exact age of the girl he's creeping on, but does make it clear that she's way too young to have anything to do with some grown man who looks like he popped out of a Party City post-Halloween discount bin. It's a sticky situation if she ain't old enough to vote. The voting age, of course, is 18.
So we don't know the exact age of the subject there, or in other Simmons-penned the lines like better lock up your daughters, we're coming to town or Young and wasted, I can almost taste it. But, you know, we can probably make an educated guess.
For more, check out Music Notes: Why Queen's Lyrics Are Secretly Ridiculous:
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