Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics: “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap

Music Features Gary Puckett

Get excited everyone, because today is a big day in “Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics” history. For the first time ever, we’re using a reader submission! Hooray! The democracy works!

Reid Butler, friend of Paste and lyrical watchdog, sends in the oldies hit “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap. The song, which has over two million hits on YouTube despite being released in 1968 (which I believe predates the site), is undoubtedly familiar to any fan of ‘60s music. The only lyric I really remembered, off the top of my head, was, “Young girl, get out of my mind,” but the title immediately raised an eyebrow. Because let’s be honest: The “young girl” theme is a potential minefield in terms of sheer disturbance factor.

So thanks to Reid for the suggestion. If you’d like to join the fun, you can send your favorite horrifying song to [email protected]. And of course, please check out our previous installments at the end of this post if you’re craving more lyric-induced terror.

Okay, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, let’s see what you’ve got. As always, I won’t be looking for real-life context or explanations until after the song has been thoroughly analyzed. I want my horror, and yours, to be raw and unfiltered. Let’s take this baby line by line. His lyrics are in bold, my commentary follows:

Young girl, get out of my mind

Nothing too scary yet. There’s a girl in his mind, she’s young, maybe he’s in love with her. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, right? The word “young’ here could mean anything. He could be 90 years old and she could be 70. That’d be romantic and adorable. There’s nothing more inspiring than old people still pursuing love after a lifetime of bitterness, pain, regret, and GETTING SCREWED BY THE MAN. (Long pause.) Sorry, I think I brought some of my own baggage into play just now. Just forget I said anything.

My love for you is way out of line

Okay, now I’m starting to get a little concerned. Why is your love “out of line,” Gary? I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you a question: Exactly how young is this girl? Please answer soon, Gary, or I won’t be able to enjoy your song anymore.

Better run girl

Wait, what?! Why does she have to run? Are you going to chase her? Is there a threat of violence here? Is this like in The Shining when Jack realized he was about to go nuts and told Danny to get the hell out before the madness hit? Is this a REDRUM situation, Gary? Why aren’t you answering me?!

You’re much too young, girl

GARY, HOW YOUNG IS THIS GIRL, DUDE?! We’re only five lines in, and you’re freaking everyone out. The readers are uncomfortable! Tell me she’s at least over 18 years of age, Gary. Just tell me that, and we can move on. That’s all we want to know. Throw us a bone here.

With all the charms of a woman
You’ve kept the secret of your youth

I wonder what “charms of a woman” means. Does she wear a bunch of jangly bracelets and a huge belt like a woman in her 50s? Does she pull her sweatpants too high and own a leopard-print purse? Are those unfair stereotypes of a woman in her 50s? If so, my bad. I take my conceptions of 50-year-old women almost exclusively from a combination of Molly Shannon’s “I’m 50!” and “Joyologist” sketches. Really, though, what’s up? Does this girl fake hot flashes and constantly reference Keith Richards? Does she do water aerobics on Saturdays and drive a minivan? Does she drink white wine and talk about Oprah too much? Does she keep a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey hidden under couch for when she gets lonely? I BET SHE DOES NONE OF THOSE THINGS. WHY? BECAUSE SHE’S 15!

More to the point, Gary, I see you’re starting to make excuses for yourself. Be honest, man: You knew. Maybe you wanted to fool yourself, but deep down you knew what was up.

You led me to believe you’re old enough
To give me love

Right now we’re reaching peak-horrifying levels, because Gary is blaming a girl who might be, like…gah, as young as 14?…for fooling him. She’s not at fault here, you lecher! This is not her bad! You know how she always made an awkward joke whenever someone asked to see her license at a bar? That should have been your first hint. You know how she always biked to your place because she said she was “into fitness,” even when it was raining? She can’t drive a car, Gary. This is on you. You missed some obvious clues. She was super into snap bracelets.

And now it hurts to know the truth

We’re all so sad that you wanted to sleep with an underage girl and now you can’t, Gary. This is me playing “My Heart Bleeds For You” on a violin. I’d offer to let you play it yourself, but the violin was made in the late ‘80s and would be way too old for you now.

Young girl, get out of my mind
My love for you is way out of line
Better run girl
You’re much too young girl

Note to the girl: Why have you listened to this much of the song and not heeded his advice yet? Seriously, RUN! Why are you still here?

Beneath your perfume and your make-up
You’re just a baby in disguise

Please tell me she’s not an actual baby. Please tell me she’s not an actual baby. Please tell me she’s not an actual baby. (I’ll just be here, shaking by myself in a corner, repeating that line until I die. Bring food. Or don’t.)

But really, you use metaphors, right Gary? You’re a poet who isn’t being literal? “Baby” is a metaphor for someone who’s just kinda younger than you thought? Gary?!

And though you know that it’s wrong to be
Alone with me

Yup. Wrong on both ends. Where are the parents here? I mostly mean her parents, but also yours, Gary. I wish your mom would show up and be like, “what the fuck are you doing?” and hit you with a rolling pin. Because again, that’s my conception of the kind of thing older women do. I’ve read Andy Capp comics.

That come-on look is in your eyes


I’m not even going to address that line, because it’s far past even the high levels of disturbing which I’m comfortable discussing. Instead, I’m going to address a question to Gary himself: Why did you write a song about this particular incident in your life? You could have chosen so many themes! Why revisit what was (hopefully) the shadiest moment you’ve ever experienced? Unless this is tame by your standards, in which case, thank you for not writing about anything worse.

Young girl, get out my mind
My love for you is way out of line
Better run girl
You’re much too young girl

DEAR GIRL: WHY HAVEN’T YOU RUN YET?!?!? Does Gary have you tied up in his basement? Is The Union Gap there too? Because right now, that seems like the most plausible explanation.

Also, let’s pause in the midst of this bizarre and unsettling saga to give credit where it’s due: Super catchy chorus. Great work.

Now back to condemnation.

So hurry home to your mama
I’m sure she wonders where you are

This confirms that the girl still lives at home. So, probably well under 18. Also, to be fair to Gary, this re-raises an important point about her parents. Why are they letting their daughter gallivant around town with some weirdo musician? Shouldn’t she be in school? What happened to this country’s morals!? I want my America back!

This 1968 song is Obama’s fault, and has officially made me a member of the Tea Party.

Get out of here
Before I have the time
To change my mind

Maybe I’m wrong for even thinking this, but should we applaud Gary for showing a little restraint here? Assuming she’s actually not tied up in the basement with The Union Gap gathered around, it does seem like he’s cutting things off before they go to a weird place. Not as fast as he should be, perhaps, but maybe there’s an ounce or two of conscience left in his brain, and we should encourage that.

‘Cause I’m afraid we’ll go too far

Honestly, Gary, every single one of us is afraid of that exact same thing. Same page.

Young girl, get out my mind
My love for you is way out of line
Better run girl
You’re much too young girl

Still no running, huh? Yup, this is definitely a basement situation. I give up.


So that’s “Young Girl,” which I would argue is the most disturbing song we’ve investigated so far. (And we’ve looked at a vengeful ex-lover making implied murder threats and a sinister girl who owns something called a “death kit.”) You, Gary…you take the cake.

Time for context. Wellll, the first thing that comes up is that Gary Puckett didn’t even write this song. Sorry ‘bout that, Gar-Bear. The credit goes instead to Jerry Fuller, a Columbia Records producer who discovered the band. And according to Wikipedia, Gary actually left the band because he was sick of singing Jerry’s “power ballads.” By “power ballads,” it’s quite possible he meant, “disgusting songs about statutory relations.” In any case, Gary went on to a solo career (and still performs), and Jerry is a registered sex offender.

No, I’m kidding. He still produces, and seems “okay.” But there’s no mollifying explanation for “Young Girl.” Or America: The song reached no. 2 on Billboard 100.

Official Horror Rating: 9.5/10

Check out our previous installments:

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
Fake Palindromes – Andrew Bird

And if you’d like to submit a song for consideration to “Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics,” send an email to [email protected]. Gratitude and full credit on these pages will be yours, and both are eternal.

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