Certain Songs #49: Big Star – “Thirteen”


Album: #1 Record.

Year: 1972.

Won’t you let me walk you home from school?
Won’t you let me meet you at the pool?
Maybe Friday I can
Get tickets for the dance
And I’ll take you, ooh-oh

Unlike “In The Street,” which is chock full of verisimilitude and incident, I think that “Thirteen” is more a mystery. It’s basically a series of questions to Alex Chilton’s love object, but it’s unclear whether or not she ever answer those questions. Or that he ever even asked them of her face to face.

Won’t you tell your dad get off my back?
Tell him what we said ‘bout “Paint It Black”
Rock and roll is here to stay
Come inside where it’s okay
And I’ll shake you, ooh ooh

And really, what teenage girl is going to use the awesomeness of “Paint it Black” and the permanence of rock and roll as a reason for her father to hang out with a teenaged Alex Chilton? (I mean, honestly, using “The Letter” might be a way better strategy. “Dad, he’s going to get money from that song for a long time!”)

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of?
Would you be an outlaw for my love?
If it’s so, well let me know
If it’s no, well I can go
I won’t make you, ooh ooh

So what ends up happening? We never find out.

And of course, the only reason that we’re even wondering about the words at all is because of how this song sounds, anchored by those amazing acoustic guitars.

One of the many things that makes #1 Record so special is the acoustic guitar sound.On “Thirteen” (and also “Watch The Sunrise”)  it feels like Alex Chilton and Chris Bell are sitting in your living room (or your car, or your bedroom, or wherever you happen to be when those songs come up) (which should be anywhere, because it’s Big Star), staring eye to eye, playing off of each other.

Add that guitar sound to the mysterious lyrics, Chiton’s tender singing, and the spacy backround vocals, and you get one of the more achingly gorgeous songs ever recorded. 

Fan-made video for “Thirteen”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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