Quirk Your Enthusiasm (9)
August 9, 2016
One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite New Wave songs from c. 1977–1982. Josh Glenn’s series introduction is here, and you can listen to the QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist here. Enjoy!
“TOO YOUNG TO DATE” | D-DAY | 1979
D-Day’s one hit, “Too Young to Date,” was the first New Wave single I ever purchased. Though my friends and I thought of it as a novelty song, appreciating its synthy vocal textures and bouncy rhythms (its “New Wave” aspects) mixed with a raw punk edge, I bought the single immediately after it debuted on KROQ in 1979.
On “Too Young to Date,” a chirpy Betty Boop-like voice confesses, “It’s hard to ignore / The boy next door / He’s such a dream / But I’m only fourteen.” Adults clamored to ban it from the airwaves. I was 14, attending a single-sex high school in Pasadena, and for me the song had everything: cute boys, power dynamics, unrequited lust, a strong backbeat, and raunchy lyrics hated by parents. My mother almost drove off the road the first time she heard De Lewellen coo, “Got to know the guy and his name was Michael / He just told me about my menstrual cycle / Says he really doesn’t want to marry / He just wants to pop my cherry.” My carpool friends and I yodeled along: “Too young to date / I really need it, but I’m too young to date / I gotta have it, ’cause I can’t hardly wait.”
Today, the song would be reviled as a pedophile’s fantasy, and critiqued as an anti-feminist effort to indoctrinate compliant and sexually available young women. Still, “Too Young to Date” epitomizes my groovy childhood in the ’70s, when hedonism and sexual liberation were synonymous with women’s lib and self-actualization. The song echoed a then-popular, now-buried pop cultural trope: the journey of a young woman’s sexual initiation. Virgins, according to movies I watched as an adolescent — Little Darlings, Foxes, Smooth Talk, Fast Times at Ridgemont High — were uptight. Girls of my generation were encouraged to rid ourselves of our virginity as quickly as possible so that we could find fulfillment as liberated beings. Feminist elders told us that matrimony was a choice but orgasms were a divine right.
Later, there were a number of New Wave acts that achieved notoriety by emphasizing the female singer’s raw sexuality in a new, frank way. White female vocalists with high, girly voices weren’t allowed to swagger like Mick Jagger until then. (Black women vocalists, however, have been swaggering since the invention of rock’n’roll.) Along with Debbie Harry, D-Day’s De Lewellen paved the way for pretty white girls with a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude.
QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Mark Kingwell on Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE | Joanne McNeil on Gary Numan’s METAL | Devin McKinney on Suicide’s FRANKIE TEARDROP | Douglas Wolk on Family Fodder’s SAVOIR FAIRE | Elina Shatkin on Marianne Faithfull’s BROKEN ENGLISH | Steph Burt on Altered Images’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY | Greg Rowland on Jilted John’s JILTED JOHN | Gordon Dahlquist on XTC’s RESPECTABLE STREET | Adrienne Crew on D-Day’s TOO YOUNG TO DATE | Jonathan Lethem on The Blue Nile’s I LOVE THIS LIFE | Josh Glenn on Tim Curry’s I DO THE ROCK | Molly Wright Steenson on Missing Persons’ WORDS | Anthony Miller on The Nails’ 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN | Luc Sante on The Normal’s WARM LEATHERETTE | Mimi Lipson on Dolly Mixture’s HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Tim Carmody on Talking Heads’ LIFE DURING WARTIME | Ingrid Schorr on Ian Dury’s CLEVOR TREVER | Adam McGovern on Lene Lovich’s LUCKY NUMBER | Deb Chachra on Rough Trade’s HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL | Tor Aarestad on Oingo Boingo’s LITTLE GIRLS | David Smay on The B-52’s’ DANCE THIS MESS AROUND | Jessamyn West on Blondie’s HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE | Drew Daniel on The Human League’s MARIANNE | Erik Davis on Tuxedomoon’s TIME TO LOSE | Dan Fox on Thomas Dolby’s EUROPA & THE PIRATE TWINS.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.