Do Kids Understand Pop Lyrics As Little As We Did?


In 1984 I was 14 years old. It was the year Alison Moyet graced our radio stations with Love Resurrection and I loved it. I knew the lyrics off by heart. Microphone (hairbrush, obviously) in hand and desperately and trying to perfect the tortured look of a woman scorned, I played it over and over on my Philips Portable Cassette Radio. Even the dulcet tones of Timmy Mallett whom I'd not been quite swift enough to cut off with the pause button couldn't dampen my enthusiasm.

I had, of course, no idea what I was singing. Belting out the lyrics on a loop into my bedroom mirror, I was blissfully unaware of what my parents must have been thinking. So clear to me now what Ms. Moyet was on about with her wish for a "warm injection" to ease the pain and the desire for him to "grow in her hand". Back in 1984, the teenage Suze was sinless, spotless and utterly clueless.


My mum and dad, fully aware of my sexual ignorance, never discussed the meaning of the words in the songs I chose to torment them with. Even, when in the same year (what a year that was), Frankie Goes to Hollywood tortured poor Mike Read's prudish soul, with "Relax" I sang along, without a whiff of understanding and probably, therefore, reproach-free.


I'm sure they would have preferred me to have stuck to my first love (mumbles under breath) Barry Manilow. After all, any man who can rhyme protected with respected can't possibly be out to corrupt unblemished teenagers!

Obviously, I learned, over time what the grown ups were singing about. In fact, in a time when sex education involved little more than a red-faced biology teacher handing out hastily sketched genitalia diagrams and instructing us to "read the appropriate passage in the book" whilst he went on a ciggy break, the songs were doing their jobs for them.

The day the meaning of Aerosmith's Love in an Elevator (Livin' it up when you're going down!) was explained to me is indelibly etched on my brain. For quite some time, reacting in a fashion not dissimilar to my daughter having learned about the birds and bees, I refused to believe it.

As for The Vapors' "Turning Japanese" I only found out about that one when I was 32!

Yesterday, over breakfast I chastised my daughter for singing with her mouth full and spraying globules of Weetabix all over the table. Wiping up before the cereal hardened to concrete, I explained I was happy to hear her sing but she should please wait until she had finished eating.

No sooner was her bowl empty, she began to sing into her upturned spoon:

"Sex bum sex bum, you're my sex bum!"

Torn between correcting her lyrics and suggesting she might want to stick to "The Wheels on the Bus", before she advanced to Tom Jones, I decided to leave it.

I did however make a mental note to take Cee-Lo Green's "F*** You" off my play list!