Thirteen

Album: #1 Record (1972)
  • Frontman Alex Chilton wrote this acoustic ballad about two kids in love with Rock & Roll and each other. He explained to Rolling Stone that it's simple musically as, "I was still learning to play and stuff."
  • The couplet "Won't you tell your dad to get off my back/Tell him what we said about 'Paint It Black,'" refers to the Rolling Stones song "of that title."
  • This was ranked #396 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs. They described it as, "one of rock's most beautiful celebrations of adolescence."
  • Artists who have covered this include Evan Dando, Garbage, Elliot Smith, Wilco and Kathryn Williams.
  • Chilton recalled to Mojo magazine November 2009: "I don't know where it came from but I made up this wild bit of guitar in 15 minutes. You don't hear many 20-year-olds doing that."

Comments: 4

  • Noah from MichiganI remember hearing this song on That 70's Show when Eric came back from Africa... loved that show and this song perfectly captures Eric and Donna's relationship.
  • Ichabod from Bristol, United KingdomI'm an English teacher and use 'Thirteen' to introduce the storyline of 'Romeo and Juliet'. The narrative of the song has a lot of parallels with the play. 'tell your dad get off my back', 'will you be an outlaw for my love' and in the play Juliet is described by old Bill Shakespeare as having not 'seen the change of fourteen years'. If Alex Chilton didn't write the song with a conscious link, he paid a fine tribute.
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationCritic author Robert Gordon wrote in Sleevenotes for 'Big Star Live' Rykodisc CD issue in January 1992: Though an adult when writing 'Thirteen', [Chilton ] Chilton thoroughly penetrates a teen world, singing cliches and quoting the radio: "Tell your Dad get off my back/ Tell him what we said both Paint It Black." The music and lyrics assign an intensity to a child's sexuality that is enough to disturb any grade-schooler's father. That it is this adult, who as a child had recently sung several hits about adult sexual longing, gives it a sense of the macabre. The gently-picked guitar on this live set, the calming background vocals on the studio version – the listener is lulled along the currents of the great perversity of American sexual imagination. Nabakaov's Lolita is off in the distance but down a different path; Dean Stockwell's ‘In Dreams’ in David Lynch's Blue Velvet is right next door.
  • Spanky from Charleston, ScPropaghandi,the canadian punk band,used the let me walk you home from school line in one of their sarcastic adolescent love songs.
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