250. ‘Young Girl’, by The Union Gap ft. Gary Puckett

We’re back on fine late-sixties form, with our grooviest, swingingest chart-topper since The Love Affair’s soaring ‘Everlasting Love’. Brass section? Check. Strings? Check? Floaty backing vocals? Check. A soulful lead singer? Check, check, and check.

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Young Girl, by The Union Gap ft. Gary Puckett (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 22nd May – 19th June 1968

Throw in the horn solo and we’ve got a cute and catchy sounding #1 hit. A little cheesy at times, a little saccharine in its chord-progressions maybe, but overall a fun and breezy pop record. Shall we just wrap it up there…?

No. For we haven’t mentioned the lyrics yet. And what lyrics… Young girl, Get out of my mind, My love for you is way outta line, Better run girl, You’re much too young, girl…… It’s a song that sets its creepy stall out from the start, and then just gets creepier. Take your pick from lines like: With all the charms of a woman, You’ve kept the secret of your youth… or, Beneath your perfume and make-up, You’re just a baby in disguise… which leads on to the beautiful: And though you know, That it’s wrong to be, Alone with me, That come-on look is in your eyes…

I keep thinking that I must be coming at this with my super-woke, 2020 glasses on, and that I should be cutting a song recorded over fifty years ago some slack; but pretty much every line is a doozy. The final verse, in which the singer urges the girl to run back to her momma, could easily be shouted by a sweat-drenched serial killer who’s come to his senses just in time. Get outta here, he yells, Before I have the time, To change my mind…

He does, at least, realise that his feelings towards the girl are inappropriate. Credit where credit’s due. But all the blame is put on her… She’s the one who should stop what she’s doing! Typical eh, ladies? That’s probably the thing that dates ‘Young Girl’ the most – the idea that she’s a teenage temptress, an underage siren, who knows exactly what she’s doing. The song it reminds me of the most is ‘Does Your Mother Know?’, by ABBA. But that record somehow stays the right side of creepy, maybe because it’s half-sung by two women, or because Benny and Bjorn look like cuddly teddies… There’s also ‘U16 Girls’ by Travis, but they at least have a sense of guilt in that song, and take responsibility for themselves: ‘so make sure that she’s old enough, before you blow your mind…’

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The Union Gap were an American band formed, and led, by Gary Puckett. (Strangely, they were usually know as Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, but this record was released – in the UK at least – as The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett.) They only had one further Top 10 hit in the UK – though they had a few more in the States – and they disbanded as the decade ended.

I don’t know. One the one hand it’s a catchy pop song; on the other it is creepy. A quick go on your search engine of choice matches ‘Young Girl’ with articles like ‘Nine Songs That Just Aren’t OK Anymore’, ‘Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics’ and the bluntly put ‘Top 10 Jailbait Songs’. With 2020 vision, this is an uncomfortable listen. But… Isn’t that the problem with our modern day, woke, cancel-culturing, Twitter-storm world? That we apply the social standards of now to cultural products of bygone ages? From copies of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ being banned from public libraries to millennials being horrified by episodes of ‘Friends’…

I don’t have an answer to any of that. All I’d suggest is that you enjoy listening to ‘Young Girl’ from the privacy of your own home or earphones, and perhaps don’t bust it out at the next office karaoke night…

9 thoughts on “250. ‘Young Girl’, by The Union Gap ft. Gary Puckett

  1. Never a favorite of mine and not because of the lyrics but just the song itself. It is a catchy pop song though I agree.
    I’m not saying it’s right but these same people should read about Led Zeppelin in the seventies in California…and they think this song is bad lol…or listen to some rap songs that are out there…makes this one seem tame. It was a different world then…some things were better some things were not…Every era is different with different standards.

    You said it right…you can’t put 2020 standards on for every past decade.

    • Absolutely. The Stones wrote songs with even more questionable lyrics before (‘Under My Thumb’) and after this (‘Brown Sugar’), but get away with it because they’re the Stones. Same with Led Zeppelin, or most 70s/80s rock bands, and today’s rappers…

      I think thats why this song stands out though – it’s pop through and through, and the lyrics stand out crystal clear. You think it’s a catchy radio hit, and then you start listening…

      • Yes the song is clear and unlike the Stones… you can hear the words.
        I’m not a PC type person as you might see lol… I don’t condone wrong doing though…but people flip out at anything now and don’t consider the circumstances.

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  4. It’s a great pop record of the time, with a great vocalist – to put it in context, this was voted the best record of all-time in the UK in 1974 (when it was a top 10 hit all over again) on Radio 1. Who voted for it? Teenage Girls and women, largely. Second-most-popular was Honey, a Bobby Goldsboro partner-dying sob-story emotions. It’s not immoral in the sense that young girls who dress adult and try to look older to get older boyfriends was very much a “thing” at that time, girls often went for older teens and the preponderance of clean-cut popstar heroes posters-on-walls was everywhere. If half the 15-year-old girls I was at school with could have gone out with David Cassidy or David Essex they would have!

    Recognising that they aren’t remotely mature enough to know anything about anything and telling them to hurry up and go home is the right response, the rest of the song is pandering to teen wish-fulfillment and ignoring that it’s dodgy-sounding from a grown-up point-of-view. Lady Willpower, the follow-up, is much the same, but as it’s an adult you can safely listen to it these days!

    • Interesting take. If you do listen to it through the ears of a fourteen year old girl then I guess it sounds very appealing… He wants you, you’re irresistible, but won’t do anything…

      I guess it all fits into the same kind of theme as lots of syrupy girl group hits like Bobby’s Girl and He’s So Fine, where the singer wants nothing more than to be someone’s girl… (Though I’ve always preferred the sassier one’s from the Shangri La’s, or ‘Don’t Say Nothin Bad About My Baby’ – than again I grew up in the nineties, when it was all about girl-power…)

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