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Oct 12

Neil Diamond Wrote My Hit!, Part 4: Urge Overkill, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”

Urge Overkill -- Stull

The other gravestone they had photographed, “Wiczenowski,” didn’t have quite the feel they were going for.

Urge Overkill (1992)

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Neil Diamond (1967)

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Today’s Cover Friday post is the final one in my series of songs written by Neil Diamond and covered with chart success by other groups. And it’s a good thing too, I have to say: as much as I love the early Neil Diamond songs from his Bang Records years, there’s something a little odd about the fact that four of my last eight posts have had to do with Neil Diamond. I mean, come on. (No offense, of course, you Neil Diamond diehards, but you see how I risk whatever street cred I may still have left by doing that, right? I might have to do a week of unreleased Pavement rehearsal tapes just to realign Reselect’s karmic balance of coolness.)

So on to today’s song, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” This one’s a bit different, because when Urge Overkill covered it on their Stull EP in 1992 (famously showing up in Pulp Fiction a couple of years later), they were doing it as a reference to Diamond’s own performance of it, rather than as just a cover of a good song — if you see what I’m getting at. They played it so straight, it was over the top, not shying away at all from the somewhat creepy vibe of the song (the whole “older guy looking forward to a teen girl’s coming of age so that he can legally date her” kind of thing). In a way, by playing it so seriously, it’s a knowing nod to both how great and how creepy the song is. If they’d gotten all goofy about it, it certainly wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.

Nash Kato delivers his lines with a perfect balance of emotional sincerity and leering ickiness…

Well, I finally found
What I’ve been looking for
But if they get the chance,
They’d end it for sure
Sure they would
Baby, I’ve done all I could
It’s up to you

The band plays it crisply, wisely leaving the acoustic guitar intact, resisting the temptation to over-“rockify” the song. In a way, they perfect the song by recognizing its faults and playing to its strengths. Neil Diamond’s 1967 original (from Just for You), while musically excellent, falls short only in that Diamond seemingly didn’t recognize how melodramatically slimy the song could be taken. Like it wasn’t a big deal that he was hanging around the high school (metaphorically, of course — I’m sure he was too busy writing hit songs and making a name for himself to really be doing that) and convincing this girl that they’re meant for each other. But I poke fun at ’60s Neil only because I know that he knows that I love him just the way he is. But ’70s Neil? Or ’80s Neil? They’re on their own.

4 Comments

  1. Joy says:

    I have enjoyed your posts about Neil Diamond. You should quit worrying about your street cred where Diamond is concerned. (I recommend a book by David Wild (Rolling Stone Magazine) to help you along, “He Is . . . I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond”.) Don’t you know that Neil Diamond has been around so long that he has come to be ‘cool’ to a younger generation? I’ve read several articles like this recently:

    http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Neil-Diamond-I-m-a-believer-3922405.php

    The ’60’s Neil, ’70’s Neil, “80’s Neil? You forgot the ’90’s Neil up to the 2012 Neil. Did you see where Billboard will present Diamond with the “Legend of LIve” Award November 6th?

    According to Ray Waddell, Billboard’s Executive Director of Content and Programming, Touring and Live Entertainment:

    “Neil Diamond personifies a Legend of Live. His fans span generations, and he remains committed to making his live shows the best possible experience for those fans, right up to his hugely successful 2012 North American tour. Neil Diamond has received a wealth of accolades, but Billboard is thrilled to be the first to recognize Diamond solely for his contributions to the world of live entertainment.”

    About the song, “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon”: It is unfortunate that people consider it to have a ‘creepy’ element to it. I consider it to be a more mature version of “You are Sixteen going on Seventeen” from the “Sound of Music”, which came out in 1965, two years before Diamond’s song, and when he was still a young man himself.

    Like the article above highlights, this song is a favorite during his live performances because it often involves a kiss for a member of the audience. I guess I understand why someone who doesn’t really ‘know’ Neil would find it creepy, but those of us who have been fans for 40 years find it fun and endearing that women, from twenty-somethings to those who wear bifocals, still want that kiss, and that he still gives them, and the audience, what they want.

    Here’s one from this year’s tour:

    http://youtu.be/lg9jTMR9vtU

    1. Joy, thanks for yet another insightful comment to my Neil Diamond posts — I appreciate the input from the diehard fans, rather than the fairweather fans like, admittedly, myself. I didn’t include the “2000s Neil” because I like what he’s done recently — if anything, I guess I did leave out “’90s Neil.” My “street cred” comment was of course somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but as you might have guessed there are limits to what I’ll listen to when it comes to Neil Diamond (not really into the “Song Sung Blue” or “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” kind of thing, for example). Thanks for the link — nice overview of the show, and the bit about him kissing the woman at the edge of the stage does demonstrate him to be a guy with his heart in the right place. If only all performers cared about their fans as much (not that they all need to start kissing them, of course).

      As for the creepiness of “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” I can’t not think of it as a bit “creepy,” I’m afraid. But I really do think it’s a great song, nonetheless.

      1. Joy says:

        Dave, first of all, thanks for your graciousness. I meant for my response to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek too, but perhaps I sounded too zealous. I really don’t eat, drink and breath Neil Diamond like you might think from these posts, but I am A Believer, and you know that Believers want to make converts of those who aren’t!

        You mentioned that you just can’t ‘go there’ with some of his songs and I get that; there are some that I don’t like either. Yet, one reason I like him so much is that he has written in so many genres of music; there’s something for every mood. His top 40 stuff is just the tip of his total discography. Some of my favorites never made it to a radio station or Billboard chart.

        Let me explain a little of my history with Neil, if that’s okay. I ‘met’ Neil when I was about 12 (1970). Saw him on TV – The Johnny Cash Show. Believe it or not, I found a YouTube clip of it last year.

        http://youtu.be/zCgeWUKcumA

        I was love struck, just by him at first, but eventually by his music. I finally saw him live in 1976. For several years his music played in the background of my life, cheering me up, making me dance, identifying with me, consoling me when I was sad. No other artist spoke to me like he did. Something about that voice…

        Well, I eventually got a life. I married, had three kids, and Neil faded away from my every day existence. The albums gathered dust for nearly twenty years while new technology made them practically obsolete. And then, one day a couple of years ago, I stumbled across a DVD that caught my eye: “Neil Diamond: Hot August Night NYC, Live at Madison Square Garden” It was recorded in 2008. I had no idea he was still touring. I thought to myself, “Hello, my friend, hello!”

        I bought it and took it home, popped it into the player and had a wonderful time for the next two hours getting reacquainted with my long lost friend. He looked and sounded happy and was in great form physically and musically. His band and back-up singers (most of them with him for 30 years) were tight and evidently having a good time too.

        (If you haven’t been to a live performance, this recording will give you a good idea of the relationship between Neil and his audience. You have to turn it up loud, though, to get the full effect!)

        Anyway, I’ve spent some time since then getting to know him again, listening to his new stuff, re-listening to the old and I have really come to admire the man and his music and his long career. It is not so easy to find someone in the music business that finishes well – so many crash and burn along the way. I saw him live again this past summer, 36 years after the first time, and it was such a sweet treat.

        Here is a nice (and somewhat rare) interview with Neil. It was on Irish television. (The sound is a little off sync, but it is worth watching until the end.) His personal persona is so different from his stage persona. He is soft-spoken, almost shy. Makes one realize just how much he stretches himself for his concert performances. Although, he has this audience in the palm of his hand too.

        http://youtu.be/njnipD2NqyQ

        Before I leave you alone, I have another entry for “Neil Diamond Wrote My Hit”. Elvis Presley, “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”.

        http://youtu.be/gYM5lHP-41E

        And one more, going way back. Remember Lulu? She had a hit in 1967, mostly popular across the pond, with “The Boat that I Row”. Here she and Neil do it together in 2010 at BBC’s Electric Proms to the delight of the British audience (and to mine).

        http://youtu.be/VyDszCGAuFQ

        1. Well, Joy, you certainly do have some history with Neil! I really enjoyed that Johnny Cash clip, by the way. And yes, I do know Lulu — in fact, I’ve got plans for featuring her here sometime in the not-too-distant future (not for her cover of “Boat…,” though).

          By the way, in case you didn’t come across it already, this wasn’t the first time I’d had Neil Diamond on the blog — I did a post last year too, for my favorite song of his, “Solitary Man”: http://reselect.com/2011/07/neil-diamond-solitary-man.

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