Certain songs penetrate one deeply, and for me, Big Star’s Thirteen is one such song.
Every time, nearly, that I hear the shimmering background vocals to this song, I get goosebumps, feel a shiver down my spine. Why do certain songs do this? Who the fuck knows, but I kept listening to Thirteen over and over tonight, and I will probably pick the needle up one more time soon as I finish typing the sentence. Ahhh…
The lyrics aren’t what do it for me, they border on silly (Take You To The Dance, and so on), but how they are sung is what gets me.
“Thirteen” is a song by the American rock band Big Star. Rolling Stone describes it “one of rock’s most beautiful celebrations of adolescence“, and rated it #406 a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It was written by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.
The song was originally featured on the 1972 album #1 Record. It was never released as a single by Big Star.
(click here to continue reading Thirteen (song) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
and from Bill Janovitz:
Big Star’s Chris Bell and Alex Chilton wrote some of pop music’s most memorable melodies — memorable for the relatively few listeners who were fortunate to hear them, that is. There are few songs that capture the aching innocence of adolescence as well as the ballad “Thirteen,” and fewer that are as pretty as this song. Often compared to their most immediate influence, the Beatles, Big Star produced some “Here Comes the Sun”-like gems. “Thirteen” is from the Memphis band’s debut, No.1 Record (1972). Over gorgeous folk-pop acoustic guitars, Chilton’s vulnerable-sounding voice shakes with the tentative insecurity of the 13-year-old narrator tenderly trying to gain the affection of his crush:
“Won’t you let me walk you home from school/Won’t you let me meet you at the pool/Maybe Friday I can get tickets to the dance/And I’ll take you, ooh/Won’t you tell your dad ‘Get off my back’/Tell him what we said ’bout “Paint It Black”/Rock & roll is here to stay/Come inside girl, it’s OK/And I’ll shake you/If it’s so, well let me know/If it’s no, well I can go/I won’t make you.”
(click here to continue reading Thirteen – Big Star | Listen, Appearances, Song Review | AllMusic.)
I guess maybe I need a Leslie speaker before I get a Theremin…
Chilton’s lyrics are so simple and so clear that they seem effortless. The song has a Zen/haiku-like quality in its concise, yet powerfully evocative form. The music is provided by acoustic guitars and vocals alone — backing vocals run through a rotating Leslie speaker.
There are other awesome songs on this album, by the way, Feel, The Ballad of El Goodo, In the Street, Try Again, Watch the Sunrise, and others, so if you see a copy of Big Star’s #1 Record somewhere, you would be well served to pick up a copy…