by Ryan Wasoba
November is national Child Safety Protection Month. Part of protecting the young, naturally, is raising awareness of stranger dangers. We do that through warnings about taking candy and rides from unfamiliar people. As kids approach dating age, the advice sometimes includes "Stay away from musicians." This is generally, but not entirely, unfair. Here are the six best songs about inappropriate relations between age groups, or as we like to call it, statutory rock. Feel free to interject songs we forgot in the comments, but ask your parents for permission to use the Internet first.
6. The Beatles - "I Saw Her Standing There" "She was just seventeen / You know what I mean"
Admission - I was not alive in 1964. I was not there to write off the Beatles when the band first came across the pond to make the teen girls scream. Yeah yeah yeah, the bubblegum pop phase would end up enabling later greatness. But I can totally see how "I Saw Her Standing There" would have come off like pandering to the underage ladies. The only questionable part of this song today is the "You know what I mean" line; it's something Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed And Confused would say while oogling the high school girls. But the song can be forgiven in the name of marketing and the need to rhyme, and since Paul McCartney sings the lead at the tender age of 21, we'll let it slide.
5. Emperor X - "Ainsley" "Ainsley I know I'm too old for you / And the youth group is wrong for me"
Chad Matheny (code name Emperor X) is a mad genius, kind of like if Daniel Johnston actually made the decision to be insane. He writes almost entirely from his own experiences, but usually filters them through his bizarre perceptions. "Ainsley", from his awesome 2005 album Central Hug / Friendarmy / Fractaldunes is a rare track that leaves nothing to the imagination. It's a confession to crushing on a young girl, bonding with her over video games, and admitting he'd convert to Christianity just to get close to her. Icky subject matter for sure, but it's made all the more unsettling by Chad's voice, which goes into a vulnerable falsetto not unlike the old man on "Family Guy" who's always trying to get Chris Griffin into the sack.
4. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts - "I Love Rock And Roll" "Saw him standing there by the record machine / I knew he must have been about seventeen"
Kind of unfortunate, really, that Joan Jett's only other seriously remembered hit was her cover of "Crimson And Clover", because "I Love Rock And Roll" is all the general population has to draw conclusions about her. And since the first lines are about checking out the fresh meat by the jukebox, and she still performs this song well into her fifties and hasn't adjusted for the half-your-age-plus-seven formula ("I knew he must have been about thirty two and a half" just doesn't flow right), Joan Jett is rock and roll's most prominent cougar. 3. The Police - "Don't Stand So Close To Me" "Temptation, frustration so bad it makes him cry / Wet bus stop, she's waiting, his car is warm and dry"
There's something to be said about the teacher character in The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me", because he knows what he's doing is wrong. The song makes implications, but as far as we know, there's no direct crime in the legal sense between him and the student seductress. Does this make it okay? God no, but at least he ain't bragging. The original recording (not the destroyed re-arrangement from Every Breath You Take: The Singles) captures the conflict with that mysterious vibe that Andy Summers oozes from his guitar. And Sting, thankfully, takes the song into the third person for all except the chorus. Good thing for the unnamed student in this parable, because given Sting's reputation as a Tantric sex god, she'd have a long, long night ahead of her.
2. Aaliyah - "Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number" "Age ain't nothin' but a number / Throwin' down ain't nothin' but a thang"
In the title track from her 1994 album, Aaliyah (RIP) tries to convince an older guy that her age should not be a factor. If you erase the verses, with lines like "let me show you ecstasy", it could come off like she's saying she's not too young to be taken seriously as an artist. Uh..until you look at the production credits and see the name R. Kelly, the-peeing-on-an-underage-girl-and-somehow-getting-acquitted R. Kelly. And then the weirdness steps up a notch when you find out that the then-fifteen Aaliyah lied about being eighteen so she and the 27 year old R-Kel could secretly tie the knot. And then it gets better when you discover that her parents had the marriage annulled a year later when they found out. Through all this, we have "Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number", which appears to be a mantra of Kelly's. I can see Aaliyah writing this song around a quote from her hubby producer. Let's be thankful that she didn't name the song "Don't Tell Your Parents, Okay?"
1. Winger - "Seventeen" "Daddy says she's too young / But she's old enough for me"
I think we can all agree that '80s pop metal artists were the smarmiest of all rock stars. Considering how late Winger was to the game - its self titled debut trailed Def Leppard's Pyromania by a good five years - the sketchiness of "Seventeen" feels like a band wanting in on the debauchery and trying too hard to play catch up. All this makes Winger's "Seventeen" particularly detestable. There's no internal turmoil, no second guessing, just boasting about the conquest. Phrases like "she likes to work me overtime" and "feels good dancin' close to the borderline" are certain to be used against Kip Winger in a court of law. Next time you complain about how mainstream music sucks, just close your eyes, imagine you have a seventeen year old daughter and sing this song in your head. Coldplay doesn't seem so bad now, does it?