Sunday, July 22, 2012


For a long time I was embarrassed to admit I didn't love "Thirteen."

I thought it was fine, but I'd heard so much about how incredibly wonderful it was and knew that an appreciation of Big Star was an absolute necessity when it came to proving your cred that when I finally heard it I thought, well...okay. It's nice, but...

But then I heard Elliott Smith's cover

and then Garbage's

and those won me over and allowed me to better appreciate the original.

Except. I still found the song inherently creepy and just didn't get how that wasn't the focus of every discussion about the song.

And it was only today I learned that apparently Alex Chilton wrote the song...when he was thirteen years old. And that the song that I always assumed was a grown man singing to a barely teenaged girl was, in fact, from the point of view of a barely teenaged boy singing to a barely teenaged girl, despite the fact that the singer I heard singing the song was obviously a grown man.

In which case...yeah. Not creepy at all. Just lovely and forlorn and wistful and sublimely painful.

(Of course, that makes Garbage's wonderful cover kinda weird, since Shirley Manson can convey many things, but naïve and confused and wistful barely teenaged is not one of them. For all Manson has admitted to more than her share of personal problems in interviews, her singing persona tends more towards the "don't even think about messing with me, 'cuz I'm stronger and I will beat you like a rented mule." I suspect she wasn't even able to convey naïve and confused and wistful back when she was thirteen. If she ever was.)

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