The creepiest "love" songs in white pop history

Georgia Michael on tour in the Netherlands in 1988.

Georgia Michael on tour in the Netherlands in 1988. Photo: Rob Verhorst

Last month Eminem was the latest rap star touring Australia targeted on the basis of his misogynistic lyrics. A petition drafted by Melinda Tankard Reist asked for him to be refused a visa, lamenting that there has "been just too many misogynistic rap artists granted entry into Australia", such as Snoop Lion (nee Dogg) and Tyler, the Creator.

Now, I'm not about to defend any of those artists, but when we single out hip-hop, we give a free pass to all the other genres of music where sexist lyrics are rife. While explicitly violent lyrics may be the domain of rap, an astounding number of pop and rock songs are derogatory towards women. One common feature in white pop music is the older man lusting after under-age girls. As we all know there is a word for men "having sex" with young girls and that word is rape.

With that in mind, here is a list of the creepiest "love" songs in white pop history. Most of them are still played on radio and many of them are regarded as classics. I have left out obvious outrage-baiting songs (such as Ted Nugent's Jailbait) but what makes the following songs disturbing is precisely that they are so earnest.

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Evie (Part 1: Let your hair hang down): Steve Wright (1974) / The Wrights (2005)

Oh look, I know this song is an "Australian classic". I know Steve Wright was "Australia's first international pop star". I know it's a sad, tragic tale because he loses little Evie in Part 3 when she dies in childbirth. But you know, I just can't get passed these lyrics:

You got the body of a woman, the way you move it like a queen

You got the face to raise a riot, and still you're only 17.

Steve Wright was 26 when he first sang these lyrics. The Aussie "supergroup" featuring Bernard Fanning, who named themselves in his honour were mostly in their 30s. Eew.

Father Figure: George Michael (1988)*

I honestly don't know what George is going on about in this song. But I think that he is maybe telling his much younger lover ("Sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime") that their affair has to end but rather than cutting her* loose forever, he will just assume the role of her absent father instead?

*This song is so steeped in patriarchal imagery ('Put your tiny hand in mine'), I'm just going to go ahead and assume it's written about a girl.

You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful. And You're Mine): Jonnny Burnette (1960) ' Ringo Starr (1973)

Let's allow the Sherman Brothers-penned lyrics do all the talking:

You're my baby, you're my pet. We fell in love on the night we met. You touched my hand, my heart went pop. Ooh, when we kissed, I could not stop.

Burnette was 26 when he recorded his version of this unapologetic ode to patriarchal love ownership. Ringo Starr was 33. Enough said.

Young Girl: Gary Puckett and The Union Gap (1968)

Our 28-year-old hero is heartbroken, having just discovered the "woman" he is madly in love with is but a mere 'baby in disguise.' An inconsolable Jimmy implores the young girl, whose actual age is never revealed, to please just leave his house already before he loses all control and has sex with rapes her anyway.

While the chorus admits that the singer, being the presumably more responsible adult is "way out of line", the verses blame the entire affair on the girl. This child has, you see, hidden "the secret of her youth" and "led [him] to believe she's old enough to give [him] love."

Oh sure, we may laugh. Until we remember that just last year, a 41-year-old rapist was given a lenient sentence after the judge decided that the 13-year-old victim was "predatory in all her actions".  Also, this song went all the way to No.2 in the US. You would almost think we had a rape culture or something.

If you really want to feel your skin crawl, watch the end of the video, where the girl gives Jimmy one last, forlorn look before literally skipping away down the street.

 

Into the Night: Benny Mardones (1980)

Still, I guess we can give old Mr Puckett some props for showing a little restraint, which is more than I can say for this charmer. 33-year-old Benny is just so sad and angry, godammit! For some reason, the parents of his 16-year-old obsession want him to "leave her alone". Clearly, they must be, "fools" who "don't know what love is".

The song, which Marones later claimed is not above sexual love but … something else, is one long serenade to statutory rape. "If I could fly, I'd lift you up, and take you into the night. And show you love like you'd never seen." Like she'd never seen? She's 16 years old. Do these men think girls pop out of the womb fully sexually realised?

The shot of Benny singing at the kid through her window is surely one of the creepiest images ever captured on video. Also, they make out at the end. Seriously. Congratulations, Mr Mardones. You are officially the worst.

Disgraceful mentions:

My Sharona: The Knack (1979)

Oh I bet you didn't know this song was about lusting after a teenage girl did you? Well, read this line and weep: "I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind." Sharona was a real girl, though she was 17, so not illegal in some places. But still creepy. She and the lead singer went out for about eight years.

Seventeen: Winger (1988)

 Like Young Girl, this song is all about blaming the victim. "She says she was 19, I swear!" That doesn't stop the singer from lusting after her though. "Daddy says she's too young. But she's old enough for me." And because girls are possessions, he also compares her to a "magic mountain" and a "leather glove".

Seventeen: Foreigner (1980)

Ah, 17. That magical age where older men can ogle you but not creep everyone out quite as much as if you were a mere one month younger.

Christine Sixteen: Kiss (1977)

She's been around, but she's young and clean

I've got to have her, can't live without her.

Apparently, some radio stations refused to play this when it came out, while others would only play it at night. Because advocating for statutory rape is OK as long as young people don't hear about it, I guess?

Stray Cat Blues: The Rolling Stones (1968)

I can see that you're 15 years old

No I don't want your I.D.

You look so restless and you're so far from home

But it's no hanging matter

It's no capital crime

Yep, the great Rolling Stones once sang about "seducing" not one, but two under-age kids: the girl, or "stray cat" as Jagger likes to call her, has a friend who is "even wilder".)

And with that, it's time to erase my recent browser history and take a shower.

80 comments

  • Where the Wild Roses Grow - Nick Cave, Kylie and the Bad Seeds

    If you consider it a love song, most creepy song ever! Love it!!!!

    Commenter
    creepiest
    Location
    the vine
    Date and time
    March 17, 2014, 9:17AM
    • Don't forget Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire"..."Hey little girl is your daddy home? Did he go away honey and leave you all alone....got a bad desire..."

      And my favourite stalker hit song from The Police " Every move you make...I'll be watching you..."

      Commenter
      Disturbed
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 9:19AM
      • Thanks for reminding the world that rap isn't the exlusive owner of offensiveness. Although I don't condone the promotion of violence I find protesting a cherry picked minority of peaceful artists peculiar.

        Including George Michael was interesting. Specifying that it makes a difference as to whether he was singing about a boy or a girl was odd as surely seducing young men is the same as seducing young women.

        I think the idea that grown men having relationships with young women (most of those references were of consenting age) being creepy is patronising to the young women. These songs are from a time when young women aggressively pursed rock stars for sex…for their own pleasure. And to suggest that they are somehow victims implies the women lacked sexual interests of their own...which is strange to say the least.

        I think you’re smart Ruby, but you look for ways to divide the world in terms of race, religion and sex, which makes you seem pessimistic and ivory tower based.

        Commenter
        Tom Calthorpe
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        March 17, 2014, 9:21AM
        • You left out Sting "Don't stand so close to me." But seriously, are you suggesting that there is something fundamentally wrong with ALL relationships where there is a wide age gap, or just some? That it's ALWAYS wrong for a 17yr old boy/girl to be involved with a 30ish man/woman? Your brush is a tad too broad, IMHO.

          Commenter
          Doug
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          March 17, 2014, 9:23AM
          • More than that, the singer is not necessarily singing about the here and now. For example, "Evie Pts 1, 2 & 3" clearly covers a span of time of several years. I always took Pt 1 to be looking back at when she was 17...and he was around the same age. But then, maybe I just don't try hard enough to be offended by songs?

            Commenter
            Phil
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            March 17, 2014, 12:45PM
          • I agree, some very long bows being drawn here.

            Commenter
            Bushranger
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            March 17, 2014, 12:56PM
          • Agreed. Sure there are some creep ones (ie George Michael) I always assumed some of these were song about similar ages or close (ooohh an 17/18yo dating a 16yo controversy), singing about memories not current events.

            Another vote for Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" - creepy.

            Commenter
            James
            Date and time
            March 17, 2014, 2:13PM
        • What about "Hello" by Lionel Richie about a guy stalking a blind girl ?

          Or Police's "Every Breath You Take" ?. Every breath you take, every move you make I'll be watching you....

          Commenter
          Fit2Tri
          Location
          Adelaide
          Date and time
          March 17, 2014, 9:24AM
          • I saw Lionel Ritchie on telly recently in a beer ad.. Someone opens his fridge door, only to find him hiding inside, singing that stalking song. Very creepy!

            Commenter
            Man of Mystery
            Date and time
            March 17, 2014, 3:59PM
        • Could we now have the list expressing love to older women, Maggie May for instance?

          Commenter
          Joetoo
          Location
          Castle Hill
          Date and time
          March 17, 2014, 9:24AM

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