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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. 61
    wichita lineman on 15 Mar 2011 #

    “Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind, ‘cos I’m afraid we’ll go too far” said an honourable Sir Sid to Dishy No.14.

    Right. That’s it. I’ve bought the box set off Amazon for a stupidly low price.

    Katherine Kath still going at 91!

  2. 62
    Jimmy the Swede on 15 Mar 2011 #

    Blimey, is she really? Wot, Engadine AND Mrs Butterworth still turning up at those wonderful parties in Paris? Well, with both Sid and Pat in the ground, it’s up to Peter Bowles now.

    Sheila Allen (Dishy Number 14) also still around, monitoring dreams at 78.

  3. 63
    Snif on 15 Mar 2011 #

    Are you sure Sid James wouldn’t have been better as Number Two?

    Just thinking of that bit in the opening titles..

    McGoohan: I am not a number, I am a free man!

    James: *laughs*

    Now really, apart from Mr McKern, who could have delivered that laugh as well?

  4. 64
    Erithian on 16 Mar 2011 #

    “Number Two” is a good Carry On character name for Sid too.

  5. 65
    punctum on 16 Mar 2011 #

    The real Prisoner/Carry On link is Fenella Fielding: “Congratulations on yet another day…today’s flavour is strawberry…”

  6. 66
    Jimmy the Swede on 16 Mar 2011 #

    Yes, well done, Snif. Sid, of course, would have been far better as Number Two and would have driven Paddy Mac bonkers. He might have even got all the secrets out of the pillock.

    “Arf Arf Arf Arf!!!”

  7. 67
    punctum on 17 Mar 2011 #

    With Tony Hancock as Number 6; “Stone me, what am I flipping doing in this place?”

  8. 68
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 Mar 2011 #

    Hancock’s Number 6 would never have made an effort to escape from the Village. Thus he would never have encountered Mrs Butterworth. He would have just sat moping around cotemplating the Buddah as he always did back at Railway Cuttings. Then Patrick Cargill would have turned up pretending to be a doctor when all along he was Number 2 and Tony would have sung like a canary for a cup of PG Tips and a couple of custard creams.

  9. 69
    punctum on 18 Mar 2011 #

    Cargill: “I see you know your Goethe.”
    Hancock: “Oh yes, he’s marvellous, I’ve got all his 78s.”

  10. 70
    Stevie on 21 Mar 2011 #

    More than a few Union Gap songs were about jailbait, but who cares when the hooks and riffs are so scrumptious?? As I’ve lamented elsewhere, WHY CAN’T ANYONE WRITE STUFF THIS CATCHY ANYMORE??

  11. 71
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Interesting choice of adjective: “scrumptious.”

  12. 72
    wichita lineman on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Re 70: Really? I can’t think of any others.

    …and with perfect timing, Young Girl pops up on Capitol Gold. Daily occurrence, I’m sure, but I only listen to it about once a month.

  13. 73
    Stevie on 21 Mar 2011 #

    “This girl is a woman now.. and she’s learning, learning how to love..”

    “Did no one ever tell you the facts of life.. well there’s so much you have to learn.. and I would gladly teach you…”

    Let’s face it, they’re not exactly singing about matrons here ;)

  14. 74
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    It’s not exactly “Cyprus Avenue,” is it?

  15. 75
    wichita lineman on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Punctum, I just spotted elsewhere that you think Young Girl is the WORST number one EVER and I’m intrigued to know why. It’s not Cyprus Avenue*, but then almost nothing else is, “raaaaaiinbooow riiiibbons” and all.

    Stevie, err, yeah, soz. Amazing how easily I’m taken by a singer who has words like “lady” and “woman” in his songtitles.

    *which I always thought was Cypress Avenue until I just checked.

  16. 76
    Mark M on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Re 75: I’d be surprised if anything less than about 85% of people who knew the track also presumed it was Cypress rather than Cyprus – I certainly did. You live and learn.

  17. 77
    punctum on 22 Mar 2011 #

    #74: Can’t remember where I said that but here’s something I wrote (privately) about the song five years ago which is a lot more generous than I would be inclined to feel now:

    Few singers of chart-topping songs have, I think, ever sounded as scared as Puckett does on “Young Girl.” The key line here is the first: “Young girl, get out of my mind” – note, not out of “my life” – and although there are references to “that come-on look…in your eyes” and entreaties to “hurry home to your mama,” the really disturbing factor in the song is that it gives no evidence that protagonist and girl (or victim?) have actually met. Puckett’s rather strained voice consumes itself in potential terror, as though he’s observing the girl through his bedroom window, or from the opposing street corner, or through the school playground railings – “’cause I’m afraid we’ll go too far.” Meanwhile the song alternately insists with Motown chorus beats and glides on mistakenly serene seraphims of strings, like an intercepted Gaudio and Crewe backing track. But nearly everyone who bought it and/or danced to it treated it simply as a tremulous, slightly beefier mid-tempo update of “Go Away, Little Girl.” And, to complicate matters further, the band were apt to dress in Civil War uniforms. So did “Young Girl” simply represent a 1968 Ashley Wilkes, anxious about Scarlett?

  18. 78
    wichita lineman on 22 Mar 2011 #

    You said somewhere on a Popular ’68 entry that a particularly bad Top 3 was Young Girl, B Goldsboro’s Honey, Eng Hump’s Man Without Love.

    Good call on the Gaudio/Crewe prodn. I wonder if the latterday antipathy towards Young Girl would be eased if Frankie Valli was singing it, rather than the physically bigger sounding Puckett? He was often tortured inside a doomed relationship (the adulterer in Bye Bye Baby, the wronged serviceman in Toy Soldier, the boy from the right side of the tracks in Rag Doll). Or Del Shannon? I can’t think of an obvious lyrical precursor, bar Go Away Little Girl, but you wonder what’s behind the paranoia in Keep Searchin’ and Stranger In Town. Better to keep the mystery caged.

    Not sure that the man and girl haven’t met, though – how does he know she’s younger than he initially thought? “Get out of here…” suggests the setting is the singer’s family home. The stricken sound in his voice is what lifts this away from the patronising, sickly Go Away Little Girl (and I write that as someone who can put up with a LOT of middling Goffin & King) in which the protagonist barely puts up any resistance.

  19. 79
    Mark G on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Well, there’s “Only Sixteen” which is more in the irony olympics for “oh, I was 16, I’ve aged a year since then!”

    (however, not “Just Thirteen” by The Lurkers, which was not about jailbait but the frustrations of not being old enough to get into gigs, etc, but got banned by the beeb just to be sure)

  20. 80
    Erithian on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Remember the Regents’ “7Teen” – “… and not yet a woman”?!

  21. 81
    wichita lineman on 22 Mar 2011 #

    There are a few girl group 45s from the other point of view (which puts me on thin ice, so I’ll tread carefully): Goffin and King’s Just A Little Girl by Donna Loren , and the campy Is Thirteen Too Young To Fall In Love by The Petites.

    Best of all is Piccola Pupa’s awesome Put Two Extra Candles On My Cake (cos she’s only 14 and wants to go out with an older boy, you see), written by Neil Sedaka’s regular co-writer Howard Greenfield and Toni ‘Groovy Kind Of Love’ Wine, who must have been about 16 at the time.

    Piccola also did a terrific version of Breakaway , which is much closer to Tracey Ullman’s cover than the Irma Thomas original.

  22. 82
    Mark G on 22 Mar 2011 #

    #80, yes, and I know a story about that song, but it’s probably libellous so I’ll have to say no.

  23. 83
    Erithian on 22 Mar 2011 #

    #82 Ooh, is it anything to do with the band’s appearance on one of those short-lived Saturday morning’s kids’ TV shows? Gary Crowley was the presenter, and in his usual intensely irritating Cockney geezer style he did a quick interview with the lead singer. He asked (and even as he asked it I thought it was an odd question) “So how did you get the money together to do the record?” Singer (looking embarrassed): “Well, we did this, er, job in London.” Crowley: “Oh yeah, you’ve got a bit of a dodgy past aintcha?” And carried on with the show as though nothing had happened.

    Googling “Gary Crowley” and “The Regents” brings up lots of references to him and the band both having a bust-up with Devo on a show called Fun Factory in 1980, so perhaps it was then.

  24. 84
    Paulito on 23 Mar 2011 #

    @77 Methinks lines such as “And though you know that it’s wrong to be/ alone with me/ that come-on look is in your eyes” make it fairly plain that he’s directly involved with the girl. A similar ‘stalker’ theory has been postulated about “I’m Not in Love” (mischievously fuelled by Eric Stewart himself). In neither case does the suggestion stand up to scrutiny.

  25. 85
    Mutley on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I’m not sure where the criticism of “stalker” lyrics of songs from another era is leading. Should the songs be banned or the offending passages edited out? Each age has its censorship – for example, in the 1950s the BBC would not play “religious” pop songs or songs that mentioned brand names. Certainly, not even the mildest swearing in songs would have been broadcast. At the same time, Cliff Richard’s Living Doll could go to no.1 containing the lines “I’m gonna lock her up in a trunk so no big hunk /Can steal her away from me”. Elvis Presley’s Dirty, Dirty Feeling has the verse:
    I hear you’re pretty good at runnin’/ But pretty soon you’ll slip and fall/ That’s when I’ll drag you home with me girl /I’m gonna chain you to the wall.

    In a world that has experienced the activities of Josef Fritzl and others would such lyrics would be acceptable in mainstream pop now? I think the discussion of the lyrics of Young Girl, taken in isolation, leads nowhere.

  26. 86
    punctum on 23 Mar 2011 #

    #84: In your final sentence you missed out the word “my” between “to” and “scrutiny.”

  27. 87
    Jimmy the Swede on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I would suggest that “Out Of Time” trumps “Go Away Little Girl” but also understand the difference. The latter is telling a dolled-up, lovestruck early teen to push off, whilst the former involves a sneering bloke rounding on his cheating bird in a more adult setting. Poor old Mick. What did he do to deserve that?

  28. 88
    Mark G on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I don’t think that’s right about either song. The first doesn’t mention ‘cheating’ as such, only that the girl has been ‘away’. In Jail, on tour or back with her mum, who knows.

    And the latter isn’t sneery, is it?

  29. 89
    Jimmy the Swede on 23 Mar 2011 #

    #88 – I don’t actually mention cheating as far as “Go Away Little Girl” is concerned.

    As for “Out Of Time”, I think the aggrieved man is sneering all day long but naturally that’s just my opinion.

  30. 90
    Snif on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I was at a 50th birthday party last year where 80s music was the go – someone asked the DJ to play “My Sharona”, but was rebuffed with “I don’t play songs about paedophilia.”

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