Results: Puberty

Yohan John

The Who – Pictures of Lily

It’s my second turn at Iron Clef, and this time there’s voting! Oh, the peer pressure! Sounds a lot like … adolescence! To be very honest, my own adolescence was pretty laid back. In my lazy little home town, I was more or less unaware of the trials and tribulations of adolescence in urban India. My only notion of what being a teenager was supposed to be like came from Archie comics and The Wonder Years. My entry for Iron Clef this week is the song that first popped into my head when Alex mentioned the topic to me. The scribes and historians describe “Pictures of Lily” as a tribute to the Sin of Onan – masturbation. I probably wouldn’t have interpreted the lyrics that way myself, but it sounds reasonable. At any rate, if masturbation isn’t irrevocably linked with adolescence the world over, then I don’t know what is. The Who’s Pete Townshend has always struck me as an adolescent who never grew up. Only someone completely up his own arse could write a rock opera like Tommy. And yet he also wrote My Generation – the quintessential anthem of confused, stuttering, angry, independent youth. Proof that even a wanker can be a genius (and vice versa).

Here’s a little factoid that amuses me: The American writer and poet Dorothy Parker named her parrot Onan. (I hope its obvious why!)

Th McCaffrey

The Queers – Ursula Finally Has Tits

Ah, puberty. The gooey-est period of time in a person’s life. At first I thought I would try to find a song that expressed the spiritual changes a young girl or boy might go through during puberty. Perhaps a coming of age song: Neil Young’s ‘Sugar Mountain?’ Or something else just as poetic and nostalgic. Then I thought, no, there’s only one thing (ok, two) that could adequately sum up why all the angst and zits and gangly limbs and dead brain cells and boners in math class (or was that just me?) and door-slamming and warm beer and skipping school and ruined underwear were worth it: Boobies.

I don’t know if it was because I was stoned through my entire pubescent existence and forgot if anything was even heartwarming at all, but I do know that what I remember the most is boobies. So, boobies it is. Boobies: The other reason(s) besides teenage angst to be loud, immature and full of beer.

The Queers were loud, immature and full of beer. Puberty made me loud, immature and full of beer. And now, in my late twenties, I remain loud, immature and full of beer (oh, and zitty). The Queers’ ‘Ursula Finally Has Tits’ is about a young female punk rocker named Ursula who finally gets her tits and the boys get all excited and drink more beer.

Crass? Sure. Immature? Of course. But what else is the average fourteen-year-old heterosexual male going to get excited about? Besides, the only thing as exciting as boobies back then was rock and roll, and you remember why you got into that in the first place? Don’t you…? Boobies.

Svenllama Lisa Xu

Big Star – Thirteen

Huge thanks to Lisa for pinch hitting for Svenllama!
Early adolescence is such an awkward and unfortunate time. Exaggerated misery being another one of its noted hallmarks, I could be remembering that period of my life inaccurately, but really, what’s not to like about junior high? It’s cliquey as hell, no one listens to the same music as you do, the math teacher hates you, you hate your parents, and you go to the Friday night dance alone. High school is another thing altogether, but at least you’re easing out of puberty by then.

In any case, “Thirteen”, Big Star’s gentle paean to the first pangs of blossoming love and youthful rebellion, is probably the only song that would ever make anyone want to be thirteen again. Its sweetly tender riff and yearning harmonies wrench an enormous amount of poignancy out of such expressions of romantic hesitance as, “Maybe Friday I can/Get tickets for the dance.” Recorded in 1972 by young men reared on the British Invasion of the ’60s, it’s a nostalgic picture of rock’s adolescence, too – a reminder of a time when rock took itself seriously as an idealistic force. “Thirteen” is a metaphor for music as an entreaty, a supplication as emotionally honest (and maybe as doomed) as the efforts of a 13-year-old trying to woo a girl with talk of breaking the rules and how very important the Rolling Stones are. Its beauty suggests that buried beneath all of the painful awkwardness, there perhaps may have been something worth remembering from going through puberty after all.

For all of these reasons, it was also the perfect song for Elliott Smith to cover. Both versions are great, though, and will melt your heart just like they would.ve in junior high.

Sweet Pineapples! Now you can

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2 Comments

Filed under Lisa Xu, Response, Th McCaffrey, Yohan John

2 responses to “Results: Puberty

  1. carlene macmillan

    “Thirteen” (the Big Star version though I must admit I heard Elliott’s version first) is apparently haunting me this week. In addition to the shout out on this blog, it also played a key role in a memoir I just finished: rock journalist Rob Sheffield’s “Love is a Mixtape.” The memoir is about falling in love with his indie rawk wife, who died suddenly at age 31 of a pulmonary embolism and they basically met over a shared love of this song when it came on at a bar. Sorry to drag pulmonary embolisms into this….let’s get back to talking about boobies!

  2. Miss Anna Hymen

    Nice Onan reference. that’s totally puberty. Also, insert Pete Townsend pederasty joke here.

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