Kip Winger was 27 years old when this song was released, making him a decade older than the groupie he sings about. Winger had long since lost interest in this game, but he certainly encountered many young vixens looking to share his company, which gave him plenty of inspiration for this song.
Winger says that most of his indulging came when he was 15. "I was playing in bars all the time and thinking I was a rock star and doing all that stuff," he told Kerrang! in 1989. "But I wasn't really anything. I was just in a bar band and I was having women every night. Now the women are in much more abundance and I don't really indulge myself at all. I feel more of a responsibility in this position."
Laws vary from state to state determining how young is too young, and in this song it sounds like Kip Winger might have something unlawful in mind when he sings, "Daddy says she's too young, but she's old enough for me."
In our 2014 interview with Winger, he explained that this wasn't the case. "Look, seventeen was legal in Colorado, so I didn't even get the joke, dude," he said. "I didn't get it. And then it hit and every seventeen-year-old girl in the United States thought that song was about her."
Thanks to a video directed by Mark Rezyka, this song did very well on MTV, where the photogenic frontman Kip Winger fit right in. The clip is mostly tight shots of the band, with fleeting images of the mystery girl seen in passing.
With help from the video, the song became Winger's first hit, going to #26 in the US. It was their second single; their first was "Madalaine," which didn't chart.
What does Led Zeppelin have to do with this song? A lot, it turns out. Listen to the Zeppelin song "The Crunge" for similarities. Kip Winger told us: "It's got that weird syncopation in it. It's got the same syncopation as 'Seventeen.' And I was like, 'Let's rip that Led Zeppelin song off on the verse.'"
Songwriting credits on this song go to Kip Winger, guitarist Reb Beach, and their producer Beau Hill. Beach was 15 when he came up with the riff, but he wasn't able to turn it into a song until he played it for Winger and Hill, who used it as a starting point.
Winger was the group's first album, but the group members were already very accomplished, especially their drummer Rod Morgenstein, who was acclaimed for his work in the Dixie Dregs. Winger songs are not easy to play, but that didn't stop folks from trying. Kip Winger explained in our interview: "Time and time again I've seen cover bands try to play it and there's no one I've ever seen be able to play that riff correctly. [Laughs] That song is very deceiving because it's cocky on the melody end and it's musically a difficult song for average bands to play, because it's all this intricate picking and a lot of riffs and syncopations and singing and playing that song has always been a challenge."
This is Winger's best-known song, but it wasn't their biggest hit: both "Headed for a Heartbreak" (#19) and "Miles Away" (#12) charted higher in America. According to Kip Winger, "Headed for a Heartbreak" is the song that most defines the band.
Winger never defined their sound as "Metal," but they became a piñata in the early '90s, taking the stick for everything regrettable about the late '80s Melodic Rock sound (also known as "Hair Metal"). More representative acts like Bon Jovi and Poison got their share of scorn, but nothing like what Winger endured: The kick-me character on Beavis and Butt-Head wore a Winger T-shirt; Lars Ulrich is shown throwing darts at a Winger poster in the Metallica video for "Nothing Else Matters." Winger felt so besieged that they named their 1993 album Pull, as they felt like skeet shooting targets.
The derision was clearly out of proportion, and a bit ironic considering their credentials. Kip Winger and keyboard player Paul Taylor came from Alice Cooper's band, and guitarist Reb Beach was an in-demand session musician - a job that required extraordinary chops.
Steven from Texas/oklahomaWhile 17 is illegal in most states, Texas says a consensual woman may have intercourse [discretion necessary] but she is still treated as a minor at 17. Though a significantly older man/woman would be cause for concern.