Sunday, February 08, 2009

One of the Grand Moments of 1976

I'm still watching those "Midnight Special" DVDs, and now I'm on 1976, which appears to be the year of the piano-playing frontman.

It's all fine and good, but after watching the over-the-top antics of Tom Jones and the multiple cocaine orgasms of Donna Summer, I found myself knocked flat on my butt by Janis Ian's "At Seventeen."

This is the first song on the DVDs that I don't remember at all, and it made me cry. Wow.


Anonymous said...

This is a terribly wonderful "coming of age" song that underscores the angst which accompanies the realization of certain life truths in the late teen years.

It has gotten extensive airplay in the States for many years, and even now can be occasionally heard on the easy-listening or oldies stations.

There is an awful lot happening to the song’s heroine, and one hopes that she doesn’t resign herself to the role of the poor, socially-inept scullery maid Ruby (from “Upstairs, Downstairs”) who eventually commits suicide. That’s what the song evokes for me, even to this day.

I see parallels between At Seventeen and Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby (minus the schizophrenia); also the total social awkwardness (but minus the parapsychology and telekinetic abilities) in Carrie.

Other songs in a similar vein (to me, anyway): Both Sides Now, and The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.

Now that I’m thinking about it, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a follow-up song in which the girl blossomed into a self-confident young woman, who will not be destined to sing about her love-starved life when she’s a bitter old lounge singer with a voice besotted by too many cigarettes and inferior whiskey?

Get me rewrite!

Adam Thornton said...

It could truly be that I'm the last person on earth to hear this song.

What's notable about it for me are the unorthodox and clever rhymes, and the sheer 100% downbeat tone. Like, not a single happy thought in the whole thing. Janis Ian must have been one unhappy teenager.

Interesting you mentioned Helen Reddy...on the Midnight Episode clip I watched, she introduces the song (and seems quite taken with it). I don't think I've heard "Angie Baby." I might be the last person on earth to stumble across that one too.

Anonymous said...

By all means, check out Angie Baby (and Reddy's Leave Me Alone, sometimes known as "Ruby Red Dress"). Two songs about two different but dysfunctional women - one young and crazy, one seemingly an older vagrant. One definitely pushed over the edge by love.

Another - Delta Dawn - about another (you guessed it) woman whose life seems to have been disrupted by love, but in a bad way.

What happened to all of these fictional women (and, especially, the people who wrote these songs)? Can they qualify for group-rate therapy?

Inquiring minds want to know - sort of.

These songs can be found on a Reddy album titled, "All The Best."

Cure yourself after hearing all of these downer songs with You And Me Against The World - a bit of a tear-jerker, but uplifting nonetheless.