No-one would want to make light of the current scandal unravelling around Jimmy Savile – the scandal that everyone already knew about, sort of – and the allegations have now gone way beyond just being a story about stars of the seventies taking advantage of their celeb status to pursue underage girls. Some – who presumably haven’t read the full extent of the revelations – have tried to justify the behaviour as being “of a different time”. What is criminal now was still criminal back then. But it’s fair to say public attitudes have changed. Would any of these songs pass the test these days?
The Drifters’ were presumably aiming their songs at a teenage market, but a little chubby bald fellow hanging around school singing “Can I take you home little girl?” or “We can’t have too much fun, until all your homework’s done” would probably be enough those days to merit a call to the cops.
Then there are the somewhat sinister songs about girls growing up…. watched by predatory older men, waiting to pounce. “Girl I’ve known you very well, I’ve seen you growing every day, I never really looked before but now you take my breath away” sang the definitely old enough to know better Bee Gees in “More than a Woman”. “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon” crooned Neil Diamond… “soon, you’ll need a man”. Grooming, we’d call it these days.
More defensible are the ones about trying to resist the charms of teenage temptresses, such as Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s “Young Girl” (‘get out of my mind, my love for you is way out of line, better run girl, you’re much too young girl… with all the charms of a woman, she kept the secret of her youth, and though I know that it’s wrong to be, alone with me, that come-on look is in her eyes…’) And “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police, which generated quite a bit of controversy at the time.
Then there was the Stranglers. Never a stranger to sexism, their “Bring on the Nubiles” is deliberately pushing the boundaries of yukkiness in a not very big or very clever way.
The Boomtown Rats “Mary of the Fourth Form” was basically perving about a 15 year old in her school uniform (“shifting in her seat, yeah, she slowly moves her hips aside”)
And MotÃ¶rhead’s “Jailbait” utilises what may sadly become known as the John Peel defence “I donât even dare to ask your age, Itâs enough to know youâre here backstage, you’re jailbait, and I just canât wait…”
Just for balance, there’s Joan Jett lusting after a 17 year old in “I love Rock and Roll” (although Joan was singer a cover of the Arrows classic song and the sex of the person may or may not have been switched around…) and the original cougar Maggie May, whose young conquest eventually says “I suppose I should collect my books and get on back to school”.
The prize for perviest, grubbiest song of all time however has to go to the Knack for “My Sharona” if only for the way in which the singer’s eye bulge lasciviously as he sings “such a dirty man, I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind…” Yuck.