Not at seventeen

Nov 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Pop thinking

John Creedon plays the best music on RTE radio, sometimes there is a temptation to slow down on the journey homeward in order not to miss any of his selection.  The choices are eclectic, anything from the 1950s until the present day; the genres are wide ranging, tonight’s diverse tracks included Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Tamla Motown songs and lyrics that are always troublesome, Janis Ian’s ‘At Seventeen’.

As the opening bars began, the thought occurred to change channels, but Lyric was playing something heavily classical and the local stations were in country and western mode, Ms Ian would be endured.  Perhaps the track continues to be played because it has some timeless quality:

To those of us who knew the pain
of Valentines that never came
and those whose names were never called
when choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today

But there cannot have been that many with whom it found resonance; how would there be such a market for Valentine cards if there were too many who hoped for Valentines that never came?

‘At Seventeen’ has found its way into posts here before; perhaps a psychologist friend would offer insights more troublesome than the lyrics.  It continues to be an evocation of 1978 and an awkward kid, who stumbled over his words and who had no friends, looking forward from the unhappiness of being seventeen years of age.

Without even confidence to talk to anyone in the village, he spent hours in his room reading adventure novels and standing staring out of the window – looking out at a landscape which undulates to Glastonbury Tor and then to the Mendips beyond. The landscape, caught up with its own business, with the farming year, with the passing seasons, was indifferent to an onlooker.

Radio 1 filled the air, the Top 40 singles, the upbeat DJs, the stories of people whose lives seemed full of laughter. At seventeen he had never been to a disco, let alone knew how to be impressive like the people on the programmes. One day he would be a journalist, write for a big paper, but that day never came.

Perhaps John Creedon’s playing of Janis Ian was disturbing not for what it said about the past, but in its observations on the present, ‘The world was younger than today’.  There is a sense of loss of something indefinable; a time of options, choices, opportunities.  Even in the greyness of being seventeen, there was an irrational optimism about the future, the younger world presented a vista that disappeared with the passing years.  Maybe there should be the opportunity to request that he not play particular tracks.

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  1. Ian, At 7 we probably did much the same thing, playing with mates and stuff, reading your experiences at 17, just a short 10 years later our lives were poles apart……I regret losing touch after you went to the Dartmoor School. There is a lonliness in that paragraph about looking out of the window…..I know that things that happened to me from 17 to 20 shaped a lot of my future and my attitude …!!! A very important time of our lives….

  2. Herself gave out to me about writing that post – but what you see is what you get!

  3. John Creedon plays the best music on RTE radio…

    …oh no he doesn’t. I do.

  4. As soon as I had posted that, I thought, ‘I hope Donal doesn’t read this’!

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