At Seventeen – Janis Ian

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………………on September 11th of 1975 Janis Ian is awarded her first Gold record for the album “Between The Lines”. The LP contains her biographical single “At Seventeen”, which was still climbing the charts and will peak in the US at number three. In writing the the song “At Seventeen” Janis told us: “I wrote the first verse and chorus and it was so brutally honest. It’s hard to imagine now but people weren’t writing that type of song then. I was coming out of listening to people like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, who did write those kind of songs, but pop music and folk music really didn’t. I remember thinking I couldn’t blow this because it really was going to be a good song. I put it away for three weeks and it took about three months to write the whole thing. I couldn’t figure out the ending, I couldn’t figure out what to do with her, then I thought I would recap it, bring myself into it and bring it into the past.” When she went to record this, Janis knew it was going to be a hit and wanted to make sure it came out right. She kicked the lead guitarist out of the session because he wasn’t trying very hard to capture the feel of the song, replacing him with a young kid who was “so scared you could smell his sweat across the room.” This made the other musicians in the room pay attention, and helped capture the feeling of confusion and adolescence Janis was going for. Janis was 15 when she had her first hit song, “Society’s Child,” and had been on the road for two years by the time she was 17. Although her childhood was not typical, she knew what it felt like to feel out of place at a young age. The song was not released as a single in the UK.