Surf City here we come, indeed.
I grew up listening to 1950s and 1960s “oldies” music on the radio and records and cassette tapes. It all seemed really normal since it was my mom’s favorite, until I realized that she was born in 1955, which means that she was still worshipping music from her preschool years–and worse yet, subjecting me to it throughout my impressionable youth. Thanks, Mom. I could have been raised on the Stones. Or The Doors. Or even ELO. Those were your contemporary groups! Instead, I spent the 80s listening to Buddy Holly and the Crickets tracks over and over on some enormous headphones that would’ve fit in at NASA.
Okay, I kind of like it. There were some beautiful tunes and amazing vocals that still hold up. And if that all fails, there’s always great kitsch (see “Sugar Shack” and “Sunshine, Lollipops”, etc.).
But as an adult , I’ve started to hear some of the oldies lyrics in a much different light. I’m rocking out to some of the classics in my kitchen, washing dishes and cooking dinner, and suddenly I catch what I’m singing in front of my daughter and I’m halted upright and make that lemon-sucking face.
What did I just sing out loud? Oh my god, did I just sing about sexually attacking a teenager?!
And I want to hit the “next track” symbol or start nervously laughing at Alexa as if it was her fault the song came on. “Oh, Alexa! What kind of crazy music do you think I like? Ha. Ha. Yeah. Next track! Next track!”. But the truth is, some of the creepiest songs are also the catchiest, so my finger hovers over the iPhone and then I just keep grooving, while making coughing noises and mumbling over the choicest lyrical bits.
Damnit, Baby Boomers, you guys are messed up. Your generation sang about some pretty sick relationships, and you weren’t trying to be shocking or emo. You were happy and bopping about it! Dudes. Messed up.
Can’t recall what I’m talking about? I present as evidence, five pretty horrible offenders:
“Surf City” – Jan & Dean (or The Beach Boys) (1963)
I don’t buy for a moment that this tune isn’t all about a few twenty-something dudes getting some teenage fish tacos down at the beach. A lot of them, apparently.
“Two girls for every boy.” That is the main thrust (ziiiiing!) of the entire song.
Apparently that is what awaits them and their “woody” which isn’t “very cherry, it’s an oldie but a goodie”. Enough talking about your penises, already. “Surf City here we come.” Of course, by “Surf City”, they mean vaginas.
“You know we’re goin’ to Surf City, gonna have some fun, You know we’re goin’ to Surf City, ’cause it’s two to one.”
“Yeah, and there’s two swinging’ honeys for every guy, and all you gotta do is just wink your eye”
That had better be a really impressive woody if all you have to do is wink your eye. I mean, record-breaking. And still, you expect a lady to respond to a wink and then share? Never, ever gonna happen.
If you think that’s the worst of it, it gets really crude near the end of the song. Are you ready for this?
“And if my woody breaks down on me somewhere on the surf route, I’ll strap my board to my back and hitch a ride in my wetsuit. And when I get to Surf City I’ll be shootin’ the curl.”
I understand that these are all legitimate surfing terms, but puh-lease. That last stanza could be a euphemism for several nasty things, including the guy losing his boner and giving her oral instead, or him getting rejected so he rubs one out behind his surfboard. Either way, yikes, Jan & Dean.
“Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” – Neil Sedaka (1961)
This is the song that everybody wants to be able to play for their daughters, sisters, or friends on the day they turn 16. Until they listen to the lyrics. Sedaka makes it weird.
“Tonight’s the night I’ve waited for, because you’re not a baby anymore”
What the hell’s happening tonight, Sedaka? She’s still a minor, by the way. Keep those pants zipped, buddy.
“When you were only six I was your big brother…but since you’ve grown up, your future is sewn up. From now on you’re gonna be mine.”
So, how old are you?? Here’s a hint: Sedaka was singing this tune to girls in the audience starting when he was 22. So a 22 year-old is planning to bag a girl who, just yesterday, was only 15. And she has no choice about it. I wonder if he’ll dim the lights before or after she does her homework. Gross.
“Silhouettes” – Herman’s Hermits (1965)
I’m sure Herman and his Hermits were trying to make a cutesy song here, but it’s just really stalkery. No question.
“Took a walk and passed your house late last night, all the shades were pulled and drawn way down tight. From within, the dim light cast two silhouettes on the shade…Put his arms around your waist, held you tight. Kisses I could almost taste in the night. Wondered why I’m not the guy whose silhouette’s on the shade.”
How late was it, Herman? And what the hell are you doing peeping at your lovely lady? Are you checking up on her? Or hoping for a beaver shot? Were there binoculars involved, Herman? Herman, there are laws against stalking and peeping. Herman?
“Lost control and rang your bell, I was sore. Let me in or else I’ll beat down your door”
Threatening violence. Classy. And are we even sure that this girl he thinks he’s stalking is even his girlfriend? Call the cops, amorous couple, call the cops! Wondering now if Herman is wearing a goalie’s mask.
“When two strangers…said to my shock you’re on the wrong block.”
Now I’m just confused. You’re so in love with this girl that you stalk her late at night, when it’s so dark you can’t even tell that you’re on the wrong block. Or you really don’t know her, do you? Is there even a girl at all? Or is this all psychosis. Oh, Herman.
“Lightnin’ Strikes” – Lou Christie (1965)
This love ballad is all about a poor boy who can’t stop himself, he has to sexually attack women, and why can’t his girlfriend just be cool about it?
“Listen to me baby…you’re old enough to know the makings of a man. Am I asking too much for you to stick around?
“When I see lips beggin’ to be kissed (Stop!) I can’t stop (Stop!) I can’t stop myself (Stop, Stop!) Lightning is striking again. Lightning is striking again.”
Why do I hear the rattle of Tic Tacs and Billy Bush giggling like a girl when I hear those lyrics? Anyway, this song is at least honest enough to contain women shouting “Stop!” over and over again. That might be a clue that this guy is not okay. Also, “lightning striking” is a pretty gross euphemism for ejaculation.
“Nature’s takin’ over my one-track mind. For the time being, baby, live by my rules.”
Yes, nature. It’s all that damn lightning that makes some men just rape women, I guess. But the moral is: Ladies, live with it. I wonder if he dated Lesley Gore?
“Young Girl” – Gary Puckett and the Union Gap (1968)
This song lives in infamy for just how alarming it is, and how it just lays it right out there. Here’s the question: How young is this girl? Are we talking about Sedaka’s sixteen year-old?
“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.”
Wait, why does she need to run? I think you should run, pal.
“You led me to believe you’re old enough to give me love, and now it hurts to know the truth.”
Oh, you’re hurt? I think your childhood and innocence is still intact. She’s the one who will be on mood altering medication the rest of her life and have intimacy issues. You porked an underage teenager! Creep.
“Beneath your perfume and your make-up you’re just a baby in disguise.”
Oh, gods. She was at least sixteen, right? Right?
“And though you know that it’s wrong to be alone with me, that ‘come on’ look is in your eyes.”
No, that’s fear. She’s scared. Or confused, hurt, and abused. Where’s my baseball bat?
“Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind, ’cause I’m afraid we’ll go too far.”
So this creep hasn’t learned his lesson, and what we have is a (really damn catchy) song about a warning for a girl to run far, run fast, before he rips her clothes off to love her all over again. A young girl. After the cops stop to question Herman the Stalker, I hope they can catch this guy. And the guy who did this to women: