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Not Pete Atkin >> Off-topic >> Mystifying lyrics
(Message started by: Sylfest on Today at 19:14)

Title: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Sylfest on Today at 19:14
Nothing to do with Pete Atkin as far as I know, but a fine song nonetheless:
"At Seventeen", by Janis Ian, is not only a heartbreaker but an "ear-worm" of the first order. That simple bossa-nova riff is unshakeable from my head once remembered. (Like "With her it goes deeper", if a PA/CJ link there must be, but even more infectious.)

Here's a link to the lyrics if you aren't familiar with them: <http://www.guntheranderson.com/v/data/atsevent.htm>

What on earth does that 'financial' second middle-eight mean?

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity
Their small town eyes will gape at you in
Dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

I sense this is rather clumsily written, but it's worth persevering nevertheless, because the emotional force of the song is so powerful, and the bright spots so brilliant, e.g. "their small-town eyes will gape at you / in dull surprise..."

Midnight Voices is the best forum I've come across for song lyric discussions.
So what about this one. Anyone?


Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Fardel on 24.02.06 at 21:18
"not only a heartbreaker but an "ear-worm" of the first order"  
Oh yes!

As soon as I read your post, I instantly recognised the song, and it replayed in my head.  But where from?  I don't recognise the name Janis Ian, although reading about her on the 'net I certainly should have.  'My' version sounds like a male voice singing it, although this would be out of character for the lyrics.  (No it's not myself - I can't hold a note or a tune)  Who recorded this other than Janis herself?  It's not anywhere in my collection, but is Oh SO familiar, and I've always loved the words.  

Reading the lyrics, it is so very good.  I have to say thank you Sylfest, for awakening a wonderful memory.

Can anyone enlighten me to who also recorded it?


Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by BogusTrumper on 25.02.06 at 22:08

Playing Credits:
Lead vocal: Marty Clarke. Acoustic guitar: John Reynolds.


Marty had an original 45 of this Janis Ian teen-alienation classic, and it was his idea to cover it. The song happened to be a favorite of mine as a kid, so I was all for it. Marty really means it, and, to this day, I'm not sure how to react to the heartfelt performance and fact that he doesn't change the gender (i.e. "ugly duckling girls like me"). Is he trying to be funny? Is he trying to be pure? So many feelings evoked. I have to say, Marty took a couple of liberties with the lyrics, one of which I've always strongly disagreed with. The original goes, "For those of us who knew the pain / Of the valentines that never came / And those whose names were never called / When choosing sides for basketball." Marty changed "never" to "only," which made no sense to me in '92 and makes no sense to me now. He said the guys who got called first were tools. Now, I'm sure they had a peculiar way of doing many things over there at Bergen Catholic, but at every school I ever went to, the popular kids got called first. I mean, right?

Jane found the 45 of this and John quickly worked out all the chords. Considering the song’s content, John asked me, “Do you really want to sing this?” I said “Not only am I going to sing it, I’m going to mean it.”

I learned the truth at 17
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skin smiles
They married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on ones more beautiful
At 17 I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone who said
"Won't you come and dance with me?"
Or whisper vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems
At 17

For those of us who knew the pain
Of the valentines that never came
Or those whose names were only called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was young again today
They gave away some dreams for free
To ugly duckling girls
Like me

We all play the game
And when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting lives
But not our own
Who said "Won’t you come and dance with me?"
Or do something obscene to me
It isn't all it seems
At 17

Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Fardel on 26.02.06 at 10:34
Thanks Bogus,

But that's not the one.  At least I now have a copy to listen to.   :)

The Goatmen recorded in 1992, but my memory of this song goes back a lot further than that, I think, but not as far back as the original in 1975.  The version in my head is very smooth and lyrical, not at all hard-edged like the Goatmen.  Something like Val Doonican might have done it  :o  (not that I'm a fan of him at all).  Maybe it'll come back to me one day?  Thanks anyway.


Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Jan on 26.02.06 at 21:24
Janis Ian videos of this song can be seen at:


Searching the National Sound Archive catalogue at:
I've found a number of versions:
Valerie Lilley /Alan Bleasdale (Speaker)
Marion Montgomery (backed by Laurie Holloway)
Gordon Langford and his orchestra
Marti Caine
Catherine Porter
Jodie Brooke Wilson

None seems to match. Although a very useful source for individual songs the Archive is not exhaustive, for example the Lakeside Sessions  are missing  :(  although they do include Winter Spring  :)
There is probably a similar sound catalogue on the Library of Congress site:
but its down for maintenance until later tonight.

Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Keith Busby on 26.02.06 at 21:39
Blimey! Takes a reference librarian . . .


Title: Re: Mystifying lyrics
Post by Jan on 27.02.06 at 06:56
Can never resist a challenge!

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