Saturday, November 12, 2011

How Old Are You Now? Music Edition

In a few weeks, I'll be 42 years old. That seems ancient. But is it?

In 1955, Boyd Bennett & the Rockets had a hit with "Seventeen." This would make her 73 years old today.

In 1958, Chuck Berry had a hit with "Sweet Little Sixteen." That same year, Johnny Maestro & the Crests had "Sixteen Candles." This would make both girls now 71.

In 1959, Sam Cooke sang "Only Sixteen," in which he played a kid who said that he and his then-girlfriend were that age a year ago. This would make both characters 71 as well.

In 1960, Johnny Burnette had a hit with "You're Sixteen." ("You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.") This would make her 67. In 1973, Ringo Starr covered the song -- his version's girl would now be 54.

In 1961, Neil Sedaka sang "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen." This would make her now 66.

In 1963, Chuck Berry wrote "Memphis," in which a man tells a long-distance phone operator to "get in touch with my Marie." At the end of the song, we find out that "Marie is only six years old" and is his daughter, taken away by his estranged wife -- or perhaps his sister, and the singer is a little boy now living with "my uncle"; either way, Marie is not his girlfriend. Johnny Rivers had a much bigger hit with the song the next year. If Marie was 6 in 1963, she's 54 now.

In 1963, in the Beatles' song "I Saw Her Standing There," Paul McCartney sang, "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean!" Assuming that this had just happened, she would now be 65.

In 1970, Alice Cooper had a hit with "I'm Eighteen." Which means the character he played in the song is now 59. Alice, real name Vincent Furnier, is 63.

In 1971, in her song "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," Cher sang, "I was 16, he was 21." Assuming that the events in the song had just happened (probably hadn't), she's now 56, he's 61.

In 1975, Harry Chapin released a song titled "She Is Always Seventeen." The song begins with John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address in 1961. If she was 17 then, that means she's 67 now.

In 1976, in his song "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," Bob Seger sang, "Well, now Sweet Sixteen's turning 31." Which means she's now 66. This would match Seger's actual age.

In 1977, in his song "Running On Empty," Jackson Browne sang, "In '65, I was 17" and, "In '69, I was 21." This is true: He was born in 1948. Which means he's now 63.

In 1977, KISS had a hit song titled "Christine Sixteen." Which means she's now 50.

In 1983, the Stray Cats had a hit song titled "She's Sexy & 17." Which means she's now 45.

Probably the best-known song in which a character's age is mentioned in the lyrics, but not the title, is "It Was a Very Good Year," first recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1961, with the best-known version being the one in 1965 by Frank Sinatra.

In the song, the singer remembers the very good years he had when he was 17, 21 and 35. But the singer does not specifically say how old he is now, only that, "Now, the days are short. I'm in the autumn of the year." (Sinatra titled the album for which he recorded it September of My Years.)

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915. So if he's playing himself in the song...

* He was 17 for nearly all of 1933. I seriously doubt that this Depression year was a good year for an Italian teenage boy in Hoboken, New Jersey.

* He was 21 for nearly all of 1937. It might have been better, but he didn't become famous as a singer until 1940 or so.

* He was 35 for nearly all of 1951. That was actually a horrible year for Sinatra: His 2nd wife, the fabulous (in more ways than one) actress Ava Gardner, left him, and his career was going badly. He began to lose his voice due to psychosomatic stress.

But the days did not turn out to be short for him, at least not at that point. September of My Years actually boosted his career, and at 50 he became bigger than ever before. He continued to perform before adoring crowds until 1994, when his health started to fail. He died on May 14, 1998, age 82.

If you were 13 and screaming over Sinatra outside the Paramount Theater in Times Square in 1944, you're now 80.

If you were 13 and screaming over Elvis Presley when he went national in 1956, you're now 68.

If you were 13 when the Beatles arrived in America in early 1964 (if so, surely, you were screaming over them), you're now 60 or 61.

And, if, like me, you were 13 in 1983 when Michael Jackson changed from Motown kid to an Elvis-sized phenomenon in his own right, you're now 42.


For me, 17, 1987, was a very good year -- until the end; 21, 1991, had its good moments, but also some dreadful ones; 35, 2005, was, in some ways, the best year of my life, but in some aspects (sports, for example) it was not a year I would care to repeat.

42? According to Douglas Adams, in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, 42 is "the answer to life, the universe and everything."

It's also the only uniform number retired for all of baseball, for Jackie Robinson.

In the original, British, soccer-themed version of Fever Pitch, the climactic scene revolves around the final game of the 1989 Football League season, in which London-based Arsenal Football Club had to defeat Liverpool Football Club by 2 goals in order for the tiebreakers to fall into place and give them the title. This at a time when they hadn't won at Anfield, Liverpool's home ground, by any score in 15 years.

When the game reaches halftime scoreless, Steve (played by Mark Strong) says, "We're doing okay, aren't we?"

Paul (Colin Firth): "Well, what's the use of 'okay'? We might as well be losing 8-0!"

Steve: "I don't think that's really true, Paul. I'd say, if you want to win a game 2-0, you've got a much better chance if it's 0-0 (pronounced "nil-nil") at halftime than if you're 8 goals down. You see where I'm coming from?"

Paul: "You're living in cloud-cuckoo-land! Join the real world!"

Steve: "In the real world, it's 0-0 at halftime!"

Paul: "Might as well be 8-0."

Steve: "Jesus, Paul! You need medical help! You've got some kind of disease that turns people into miserable bastards!"

42 times 2 = 84. These days, it's hardly surprising for a man to live to be 84 years old. Unless he's lived his life like a cross between Evel Knievel, Charlie Sheen and a Mob hitman.

No, life isn't great for me. But it's been considerably worse. I haven't had a lot of offense, but I haven't allowed too many goals, either.

Maybe my life really is "nil-nil at halftime."

And Arsenal did win that game, 2-0, and win the title. If they could do it...


capt paul said...

Can't resist pointing out, a personal fave of mine--Andrew Gold's Lonely Boy would be 60 this year being born on a summer's day 1951--In the summer of 53 his parents brought him a sister, making his baby sis 58...

Topaz said...

"16 Candles" by The Crests (Johnny Maestro [1939-2010] singing lead) was released by COED Records on November 10, 1958. Five days later I turned 16. On November 15, 2011, I will turn 69. "16 Candles" is still my favorite birthday song.

capt paul said...

Also can't believe I forgot Steeley Dan's Hey Nineteen (1980), now the object of SD's affection is clearly on the other side of the generation gap and just going old at the age of 50...

Walk On Liverpool Football Club said...

Uncle Mike, great Blog overall. Even though you are an Arsenal fan I would like to link it on mine. Your Yankees qualities make up for any soccer shortcomings.
Hal White
Liverpool Football Post and minority Yankees supporter in Eastern Canada

Uncle Mike said...

Paul: "Lonely Boy" is not an oldie I heard played over and over again on WCBS-FM (just found out 12-3 PM man Bill Brown died last month at 69) or New Jersey 101.5 (when they're not badmouthing liberals and otherwise giving "Jersey Guys" a bad name, that is), so I'm not familiar with it. I am familiar with Paul Anka's hideous song of the same title... And what about "Diana"? The age difference between them doesn't make much difference anymore!

Also, even though Steely Dan's Donald Fagen grew up in neighboring South Brunswick, I have always hated that band (except for "Deacon Blues"), so not including "Hey Nineteen" was perhaps more than an oversight.

Topaz: Sorry I missed your birthday. That'll teach me to keep up with my Comments. By the way, my mother HATES "16 Candles." Hates it, hates it, HATES IT! She also really, really hates "Mack the Knife."

Hal: Thanks for the vote of confidence. I find Liverpool fans much easier to deal with than fans of The Scum, the Chavs and ManUre.