17
Aug 06

GARY PUCKETT AND THE UNION GAP – “Young Girl”

FT + Popular124 comments • 9,029 views

#250, 25th May 1968

No connection between Ms Smith and Mr Puckett is implied, of course.Girls ‘turning out to be’ underage was doubtless a very real concern for your gigging rock star of the 60s and 70s, though I suspect a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy would be closer to the truth than Gary Puckett’s horrified self-denial. Puckett lays out the classic Lolita defense – grown man no match for deceitful nymphet with her skirts and make-up and “come-on look”. There’s something breathily weak, tearful almost, about Puckett’s vocals on the verse which makes the whole thing sleazier: his struggling for control is all too convincing. The sleaze has a strong setting: Puckett’s songwriters were highly regarded and the chorus especially is the sort of thing I might find myself bellowing along to in the pub, leaving me with a feeling of nervous shame the next day. A good match of content and effect, then.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Doctor Mod on 17 Aug 2006 #

    The photo sums up the sleaze perfectly.

    As usual, the pedophile (whether wittingly or unwittingly so) paints himself as the pained victim of a lascivious child. It’s her fault, he claims: “You kept a secret of your youth,” “You know that it’s wrong to be in love with me,” “That come-on look is in your eyes.” But in truth this is about a guy who is all id with no super-ego.

    Yet this was standard fare for GP. There was “Woman, Woman,” in which GP is situated as the victim of a woman about to cheat on him (hey, I wonder why), “Lady Willpower” in which he tries to break down the sexual reticence of a woman apparently his own age, one who possesses what he so obviously lacks. And then there’s the one that asks, “Why am I losing sleep over you?” in which he simply can’t understand why a woman would dump him. Seems to me that there are some nasty obsessions going on here.

    It’s all quite disgusting and pathetic–and pretty misogynistic in the bargain. The sexual bully wallows in self-pity and cries when things don’t go his way. (In academia I’ve worked with any number of blatant sexual harrassers who cry that they’re victims every time they get caught out–then do the same thing with students again and again.) Many cultural historians and sociologists now claim that the much-vaunted “sexual revolution” of the 60s was about the liberation of straight white men alone. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but the songs of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap do demonstrate a certain assumption of privilege on the part of those who fall into those categories. And the fact that all these songs were substantial hits suggests there were any number of consumers out there and around the world who found the sentiments expressed therein to reflect their own.

    And yet–and yet . . . . The song has a sort of cheap quasi-operatic bravura that makes anyone with a big voice want to beller along with it.

  2. 2
    Paul on 18 Aug 2006 #

    The problem with the “its misogynistic” line of critisism is that most rock/pop of the 60s and 70s (and a good deal from today)is misogynistic. This is especially true of the Beatles and Rolling Stones who seem to be very Popular on this site.

    This song isn’t bad because it is misogynistic – its bad because its over the top.

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 18 Aug 2006 #

    Oh dear–just say the word “misogynistic” and someone will be offended.

  4. 4
    Erithian on 18 Aug 2006 #

    And congrats on reaching the 250th Number 1. A quarter of the way to the 1000th – are you planning to stop there?

  5. 5
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 18 Aug 2006 #

    WE WILL NOT ALLOW HIM TO STOP! NOT EVER! bwahaha!! BWAHAHA!!

  6. 6
    Tom on 18 Aug 2006 #

    The plan was at one point to stop at 1000 but the 1000th No.1 was SUCH A DISGRACEFUL FIDDLE that the intention now is just to keep going until I get up to date, then update once every week* or two weeks or whenever new number ones come along.

    *a schedule I have plenty of practise in.

  7. 7
    Chris Brown on 19 Aug 2006 #

    It’s a sort of subject matter you don’t get any more isn’t it? The last time I can remember something like that in the charts was ‘U-16 Girls’ by Travis.

    I can’t really comment on other Gary Puckett songs, because I don’t remember any of them, but this sounds sort of out-of-time (as in dated, not rhythmically dodgy) already. I do remember this song being a minor plot point in an episode of Shelley though.

  8. 8
    koganbot on 19 Aug 2006 #

    Gary Puckett was born in the town Dylan grew up in. Roger Maris was born there too (though most of you don’t know who he is).

  9. 9
    Intothefireuk on 21 Aug 2006 #

    Poor old Jerry Fuller – (lets not forget he wrote the damn thing) – time hasn’t been kind to his songs. I guess in it’s time period (it was a hit in both 1968 & 1974 in the UK) the lyrics didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Is it possible the writer was incredibly naive ? These were after all far more innocent times. The popularity of the record in the 60s & 70s would seem to suggest the public didn’t recoil at his denials. I suspect though the truth is that even now the ‘sound’ of the record far outweighs the lyrical impact. The lovely melody and orchestral arrangement and Pucketts soulful voice still work for me and despite the possibly dodgy lyrics I have no guilty feelings about liking it. Mr Fuller himself believes his songs were about empowering women !! So that explains it then……..

  10. 10
    Daniel_Rf on 21 Aug 2006 #

    “Many cultural historians and sociologists now claim that the much-vaunted “sexual revolution” of the 60s was about the liberation of straight white men alone. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but the songs of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap do demonstrate a certain assumption of privilege on the part of those who fall into those categories.” – considering the amount of “the revolution’s coming so you gotta have sex with me” songs that the 60’s and early 70’s brought out, I’m not about to deny that there is something to this, but surely the Union Gap had bugger all to do with it? Judging by the instrumentation and general aesthetic of this song, I’d guessed that Gary Puckett got his #1 mainly from the adult-contemporary crowd?

  11. 11
    blount on 22 Aug 2006 #

    was there ac in the uk in 68? is there ac in the uk now? it seems to me very much am pop in the vein of the monkees other opener in 1986: the grass roots (albeit nowhere remotely as good as the grass roots). how did am/fm work in the uk? in the us i can imagine anything on here from ‘lady madonna’ and onwards that managed to get any play in the us (sorry cliff) being right up am’s alley until ‘jumping jack flash’ presents either a line in the sand or at the very least a headache – the schism between ‘rock’ and ‘pop’ even within a rock context definitely seems to be widening (though we’re still not quite at archies vs. zeppelin yet).

  12. 12
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 22 Aug 2006 #

    what’s ac? alternating current? yes we have that blount! OUR PLUGS AND ELECTRIC SYSTEMS ARE BETTER THAN YOURS thk you — also we had mobile phones b4 you and we invented hiphop

    prior to 1967, radio = bbc light (non-serious music), bbc home (non-music) and bbc third (serious music) + eg radio caroline, an offshore pirate devoted to 60s pop, and radio luxembourg (beaming pop in from the EU)

    after 1967, radio = bbc radio 1 (pop), bbc radio 2 (light), bbc radio 3 (serious), bbc radio (non-music)

    no commercial radio until the 80s, if memory serves (i could look this up but i need more coffee)

    i don’t think the AM/FM divide operates at all — the BBC broadcast in both once FM came online

    i had a nice old bakelight radio which picked long, medium and shortwave when i was a kid, with a dial that said “moscow”, “peking”, “hawaii” etc — but you could could never pick any of the far places up

  13. 13
    Pete Baran on 22 Aug 2006 #

    The AM / FM issue only really started rearing its head in the mid to late 80’s. Up to then the FM band was guarded by the BBC (though often not exploited) and “parts of the dial used for national security” (Save Our Static Snow campaign).

    Commercial Radio did not start til the mid seventies (LBC and Capital in 1973!), and were predominantly housewife favourite pop (slightly more grown up Radio One). In the mid-eighties some of the commercials (who often had an AM and FM frequency) split their frequencies to have AM Gold (oldies) stations.

    Radio One was predominantly on AM until the early nineties with the exception of particular shows and sequences (ie on Saturday afternoon etc).

  14. 14
    Mark M on 22 Aug 2006 #

    To answer Blount’s question maybe slightly more directly, the AM (pop) v FM (rock) divide that existed in the US was one of the many, many, many cultural tics that never crossed the Atlantic.

  15. 15
    Pete Baran on 22 Aug 2006 #

    Point taken. though now its taken me on a reverie on Capital Radio’s history which may turn into something more longform…

  16. 16
    blount on 22 Aug 2006 #

    i wonder how much of a role the fm/am divide in the states and the lack of it in the uk plays in the relative success of glam in the two countries – someone who ‘was there’ (dr mod, kogan maybe) can illuminate further but from what i can tell fm by the early 70s (in the us) very much firmly ‘rockist’ with am shifting away from rock then toward purer pop, easy listening, etc., away from the ‘glorious top 40 60s’ hence carpenters on one dial and yes on the other and seldom the two shall cross paths. i might be overstating am’s shift somewhat though – i can remember looking at wabc playlists and ‘happy’ and ‘tumbling dice’ (but i don’t think any ‘immigrant song’ or ‘stairway’ though i might be wrong) popping up – but is it fair to say that am radio circa 71 rocks less than am radio circa 66? in which case glam – which is kasenetz/katz + jagger/richards or zeppelin + archies – is out of place on either side – too rock for am, too pop for fm.

  17. 17
    Atnevon on 23 Aug 2006 #

    This is my least favorite of the four big Gary Puckett hits, but it’s still wonderful. That is all.

  18. 18
    Doctor Mod on 23 Aug 2006 #

    Blount–You ask about the AM and FM divide in the States and how this affects any number of things. That would take a long essay (maybe a book) to answer, but here’s a few random thoughts. 1968 is a bit early in this particular history–my own recollections in this regard are wound up in that other icon of US culture, the automobile. In the 1960s, virtually no one I knew had a car with a radio that picked up FM stations. We had such a radio at home, but there was hardly anything to listen to on FM anyhow. At the beginning of the 70s, though, the situation was rapidly changing, and I recall that in 1971, I seriously coveted a car radio with an FM band, and all of a sudden all the people of my own age were listening to the “progressive” FM rock stations. (I won’t even start on a discussion of the term “progressive” in this context as that’s a huge story in and of itself.)

    Most of my peers had started to become alienated from what was becoming the usual pop fare, and I’m of the opinion that the Beatles calling it quits was a watershed moment for this. Around 1969, there was the rise of bubblegum (another term as problematic as “progressive,” as certain groups–e.g., the Bee Gees–were capable of falling on either side of that dichotomy). There was also the rise of pre-adolescent lead singers in “family” groups like the Jackson 5, the Osmonds, the Partridge Family, the Cowsills, ad nauseam, who were definitely retreating from the sex-drugs-rock&roll references and “lifestyle” (I hate that word) that was an increasingly overt part of rock culture. One might want to see it as the split between liberal and conservative–after all, the so-called Moral Majority was a big issue kicking off the Nixon era–even though that too was quite simplistic.

    I don’t want to go off on too many digressions, so just let me say, in answer to your question(s), that you probably wouldn’t hear “Young Girl” on FM in the late 60s/early 70s. You definitely wouldn’t have heard Engelbert, Des O’Connor (who was never heard in the US anyway), or any other nostalgic, sentimental, or “cute” performer. (Somehow, though, Cat Stevens and Gilbert O’Sullivan were often played on FM in the mid-70s.) You could indeed, though, still hear the Stones/Led Zep/Yes back to back with Archies/Osmonds/Carpenters–as well as soul music!–on AM. (Ironically, this phenomenon is nowadays replicated on FM “oldies” stations in the US.) By the mid-70s, the gap between the sort of popular music on AM vs that on FM was quite large. To my mind, the 70s were a pretty sad decade for popular music in the US. At this late date, I find most 70s music–AM and FM types alike–mostly unlistenable.

    My AM listening days ended around 1971/72. Even now, I only listen to AM (and only in my car) for news broadcasts, which tend to be few and far between on FM.

    From some of the scholarly/archival work I’ve done on 60s rock/pop, I’ve noticed that a lot of artists who had relatively enduring successes throughout the 60s (and here I’m thinking particularly about the female singers of the period) vanished from the radar screen around 1970. Apparently, they were too pop for FM and starting to go in directions that were above the relentless banality of AM.

    Glam is another matter altogether. It depends on whom you regard as glam. Gary Glitter, for example, was strictly AM, but T-Rex, on the other had, was mostly FM. David Bowie was (sort of ) problematic, and I think most stations, whether AM or FM were slow to accept him. FM tended to be super-macho (very, very few female performs were played) and generally homophobic, but curiously Bowie and Freddie Mercury managed to become FM icons–probably because the “dudes” refused to see what they didn’t want to see and Queen were, after all, LOUD.

    But now I’m getting way beyond 1968. More on this as the time comes.

  19. 19
    Lena on 4 Oct 2006 #

    This gets played fairly regularly on an FM station I listen to here – CHFI – on their oldies Saturday night show. It’s a really scary song and without going into much personal history, reminds me of being a girl, or rather some unpleasant incidents from my girlhood. How it could be said to empower anyone is beyond me…

  20. 20
    Waldo on 29 Oct 2009 #

    I think it’s a fucking bit rich of yon Puckett telling the young girl to leg it when it is he who’s doing the kiddie fiddling. And if Gazza had jumped on this little madam in Mississippi or Alabama back in ’68, he would have been looking at a rape charge and the prospect of fixing rail roads for the next fifty years with some demented prison warder called Muskie standing over him clubbing him with a rifle. You literally don’t fuck about down home, boy. Y’hear?!

  21. 21
    sandra Barr on 27 Jan 2010 #

    This morning I watched ‘Young Girl’ on you tube, I then went into a few of Pucketts other tunes…’like young girl, you are now a woman’! And after reading Cathy O’Briens book ‘Trance Formation America’ and other books on the CIAs mind control programmes, Puckett just reeks of pedophillia!
    His songs are sick…and he is a pervert! How come no one noticed this before! Google MK ULTRA!
    Things were not as innocent in the 60s/70s as some of you think! The Mind control programmes have been running from the 50s, and the music industry has been one of its many fronts. Pucketts song are not only full of pedophilia innuendo, they also include MK ULTRA mind control triggers, having listened to the testimony of recovered mind control slaves, and read their testimonies, I am in no doubt whatsoever, that Gary Puckett and his song writers were part of the programe!

  22. 22
    Pete Baran on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Milton Keynes Mind Control -RUN TO THE HILLS!!!

  23. 23
    Erithian on 27 Jan 2010 #

    No Pete, we’re talking Iron Maiden on the “Final Countdown” thread at the mo.

  24. 24
    thefatgit on 28 Jan 2010 #

    The older you get, the more disturbing the lyrics become.

  25. 25
    DADDYLOVESHER1 on 29 Jan 2010 #

    I don’t get you people at all . . too much head and not enough HEART in these comments above . . any FEELING, LOVING hearted person can identify with these lyrics . . . and hopefully FEEL what this is saying . . no doubt the interplay between the music, singer’s voice and lyrics ALL work together beautifully to evoke this effect–this song evokes great emotion in me and I think that is precisely what it is supposed to do . . I experience in the voice of Gary Puckett the sentimentality of watching your lovely daughter child growing up and no longer being “daddy’s little girl” . . it succeeds in making me cry uncontrollably when I hear it . . I do cry because I will NEVER EVER get over seeing my little girl . . once so close and so sweet and going everywhere and doing everything together . .then as if I turned my head . .and she was all grown up and experiencing her first love . . and possibly heartbreak. She is a “woman now . . she’s found out what it’s all about . . ” this is a tragic song that tears at my heart making me return in memory and stare hopelessly at photos of my beautiful little girl–that will never be that again-and those years gone and my life changed. WOW How tragic life is . .maybe most people can’t relate to my depth of feeling concerning my baby . . but she was my one and only and yes I DO have a great great sentimental attachment to her . . and this song is really successful in bring that out in me . .in that Mr Puckett succeeds as well as my vivid memories of that year 1969-and hearing it on the radio-so there is that element of one’s own childhood as well.
    All this PROJECTION into the song about sexual abuse of and such just isn’t there . . . consider the lyric:

    This girl walked in dreams
    Playing in a world of her own
    This girl was a child
    Existing in a playground of stone
    Then one night her world was changed
    Her life and dreams were rearanged
    And she would never be the same again
    This girl is a woman now, and she’s learning how to give
    This girl is a woman now, she’s found out what it’s all about
    And she’s learning, learning to live
    This girl tasted love, as tender as the gentle dawn
    She cried a single tear, A teardrop that was sweet and warm
    Our hearts told us we were right
    And on that sweet and velvet night
    A child had died, a woman had been born
    This girl is a woman now, and she’s learning how to give
    This girl is a woman now, she’s found out what it’s all about
    And she’s learning, learning to live
    This girl is a woman now,she’s learning how to give
    This girl is a woman now,she’s found out what it’s all about
    And she’s learning, learning, learning to live

    GOD ALWAYS BLESS YOU Lia .. you will forever be my little girl and the years we spent together were the BEST years of my life. I will go to my grave with you on my mind and in my soul an spirit !

  26. 26
    gapfan forever on 7 Mar 2011 #

    These comments are the dummest things I have heard in a long time. To suggest that Gary Puckett is a pervert is just a ridiculous rant of a jealous mind. I grew up listening to Gary sing these beautiful songs and I can assure you that I am neither warped nor disturbed by these lyrics. They got me through my adolescent years with hope and promise that one day I too, would be a woman and be cherished by someone like him. Listen to that emotional voice and forget about your wordly problems and just LISTEN to the music! To slam a man of his character and to declare that he is sick is a travesty to everyone who loved rock’n’roll. Everyone who loves his music should stand up for him and the things his music did for rock.

  27. 27
    punctum on 7 Mar 2011 #

    “dummest”

  28. 28
    Mark G on 7 Mar 2011 #

    God!

    GP is not a pervert (probably), he’s a singer.

    The song is about being conflicted. To like this song (I don’t, I have to say) doesn’t mean you automatically feel the same way.

    Oh, and girls grow up (I know). You can’t wish them forever babies/’innocent’.

    Grow up also.

  29. 29
    Mark G on 7 Mar 2011 #

    “Consider this lyric” um… ?

  30. 30
    Jimmy the Swede on 7 Mar 2011 #

    Dear God, who’s been eating our porridge? We’ll have bloody Sarah Palin onto us next. Better run, folks.

    See what I did there?

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