The Infinite Jukebox: Lou Christie’s ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’


In the months immediately preceding my musical awakening, there were a number of ubiquitous hit singles that even I couldn’t miss hearing. One of these was Lou Christie’s ‘I’m gonna make you mine’ (though I found myself more in favour of its far-less-successful follow-up, ‘She Sold Me Magic’).
In Britain, ‘I’m gonna make you mine’ was a comeback hit for Christie, who’d had a Top 20 hit previously in 1966 with his American No. 1 hit, ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’, which reached no 11. When I heard that, I liked it. I’ve heard it on and off over the decades, enjoyed it when I heard it, never made a point of seeking it out when I didn’t.
A few days before I am writing this, comics writer and historian Mark Evanier, whose blog (https://www.newsfromme.com/) I follow daily, went to see Christie in concert, and even though the man is now in his seventies, he still retains the voice that powers all those characteristic falsettos. Evanier followed that up by linking to several videos of Christie doing this song at different stages of his life, and also a cover version as an example of how not to sing the song.
I like it, what can I say? I clicked on a link, enjoyed a couple of performances, had fun. But what gets me writing this today is that these have been the first time I have really listened to Christie’s lyrics. And oh my God, I cannot believe what he is actually saying!
I’ve spoken many times of the masculinist attitude to love and romance in many brilliant Sixties songs, and ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ is one blatant example of this. There is an amazing contrast between what Christie sings in the verses, in a normal voice, and what he launches into in the chorus, in his penetratingly high falsetto. Unashamedly as well.
The verses are about Christie telling his girl that she’s his girl, that she’s the one he wants to spend his life with. He wants her to stick around, she’s the girl he will trust to the very end, she’s in his heart all the time, and there’s a chapel in the pines waiting for them round the unquantifiable bend. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
There’s just one little problem. It’s there in the verses when he’s telling her, with a jarring cynicism, that’s she’s old enough to know the makings of a man, and a bit further on, he’s telling her that for the time being, she’s got to live by his rules. And what, pray, are these rules?
Here’s where that falsetto comes in, the one that makes Frankie Valli sound like Melvin Franklin from The Temptations. That she’s got to wait, and she’s got to not object to what he does, which he’s going to do at every possible opportunity, and that is grab every pretty girl he can find.
You see, it’s basically an obligation. He’s not ready to settle down yet, and when he sees lips waiting to be kissed, it’s like an overwhelming compulsion: he can’t stop, he can’t stop, lightnin’ is striking again. And of course this is the Sixties, so whilst he says its kissing, we know it’s not going to be stopping there, if she’s put together fine and she’s readin’ my mind, well, you would, wouldn’t you?
So the girl he loves, the one he wants for always, that he’s asking to stick around and in the meantime be pure as the driven snow, is meant to live happily through his screwing every sexy bint he can get his hands on, the little sluts, and say nothing and do nothing, on the understanding that when he wants to settle down (no matter when that is, how far removed), it’s be with her. And when he does, he’ll make up for all lost time, namely he’ll then start ‘kissing’ her and she can take her place at the bottom of a very long line of notches. Can you spell completely obnoxious double standards?
As it happens, there’s a very timely blog about this song, given that it’s exactly fifty years since this was the American No. 1, which I offer for its suggestion that Christie is hamming it up, going deliberately OTT, and it may be so, though I can’t really accept that myself.
No, we know there was a completely different attitude back then, to how men and women’s approaches to, and stance in relationships differed, but this is a lot too much. Any bloke who tried that on fifty years later would either find himself doubled up in the dustbin, or else confronted with the fact that she was going to shag around just as enthusiastically, and if she met someone a bit more palatable…
Yet without the words, it’s a classic Sixties song, full of life and energy and melody, that nevertheless wouldn’t work as an instrumental. It needs the words, it needs the falsetto to be complete as a song. What a pity the words ended up being so vile.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.