I was watching episode seven of the second series of Sex Education (it’s on Netflix, brief synopsis- Otis is in 6th form, Mum is a sex therapist, his friends come to him for sex advice despite Otis’ own lack of experience in that department. In series one he is often bailed out by his friends Eric and Maeve). The penultimate episode of series two centres around the fall out from a party at Otis’ house and particularly the group of girls who form a bond in detention. At the end of the episode the six girls board a bus and a song began playing over the fade to the credits which sounded ace- I didn’t think I knew it but at the same time it sounded familiar. The problem with Netflix is that the next episode starts automatically in about twelve seconds which leads to rapid scrabbling for the remote to stop it, if it’s too late to go straight into the next one (which it was). This meant turning the song off. A little Googling the day after and it turns out it was this…

I saw Sharon Van Etten’s name all over the end of year lists, both magazines and blogs, and never went any further but this song is going to push me to do that. Seventeen has a proper emotional heft, capable of giving you a bit of bump and stopping you in your tracks (you meaning me I guess), there’s something about the rising chords and Sharon’s voice that goes hits the bullseye. The 80s production is what must have sounded familiar to me. I never thought that a song that seems to reference mid- 80s Springsteen would appeal to me so much. In the song Sharon addresses her seventeen year old self and her freedom/ naivety, wanting to warn her about what lies ahead and the poor decisions she’ll make but still knowing that she has to go through it all. She also gets pissed off with her younger self who she thinks wouldn’t fully like her as she is now, would think she’s lost it or sold out or something similar. One of the lines goes ‘I used to be free/ I used to be seventeen’ and judging by the comments on Youtube it seems that the line and the sentiment affects those much older than that and those around that age equally. I’m eleven years older than Sharon, turn fifty in a few months, and this song definitely nails a feeling, a sense of the loss of youth and the pain of looking back. That’s the literal definition of nostalgia isn’t it? Nostalgia usually evokes a sentimental looking back, feelings of wistfulness, the rosy glow of the past. But it’s literal translation involves looking back with feelings of sadness, of something lost and gone. I don’t want to be a person who’s nostalgic for being seventeen- there are other ‘better’ ages to be nostalgic about, it’s an age where you’re still not fully sure of yourself in a lot of ways, I certainly wasn’t, and an age where you know so little despite being so sure you know so much- but this song really does push all those buttons.

The fresh faced kid in the photograph is me, aged seventeen, on holiday in southern Scotland in the summer of 1987. Fucking nostalgia eh?