Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Billy Idol - "Sweet Sixteen"

Sweet Sixteen - Whiplash Smile

(Debuted April 25, 1987, Peaked #20, 14 Weeks on the chart)

While it may seem contrary to Billy Idol's stage presence and image nowadays, in 1987 it really didn't seem like such a stretch for him to do a softer song. By that time, he had already done songs like "Eyes Without a Face," "To Be a Lover" and "Don't Need a Gun," so it wasn't too far out of left field for him. This time, however, he is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, which did seem to drop the pretense of his reputation.

I was a teenager at the time this song came out. In fact, my girlfriend at the time turned 16 during the song's run up the chart so the words stuck with me. However, today I'm struck how weird it is to have a thirty-something year old man singing what is essentially a love song to a sixteen year-old girl. However, despite the fact that Idol wrote the song, the story in the song is supposedly inspired by the story of an eccentric named Edward Leedskalnin, who is shown in a picture during the beginning of the video for the song. A girl he was engaged to in his native Latvia was called his "Sweet Sixteen," and she walked away shortly before the wedding. Later in life, he built a monument to her in Florida called the Coral Castle that is still open for tourists to see.

It wasn't exactly the "candy castle" that was mentioned in the words of the song, but perhaps "coral" didn't sound right in the lyrics.

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