I first heard ‘Eighteen with a Bullet’ during the long hot summer of 1975. It gradually moved up the charts and peaked (ironically enough) at #18 in November 1975. The song is a soulful lament about a young guy with girl trouble and my natural conclusion was that the singer was a young African-American. The actual artist was a 27 year old white British guy with a strong attachment to the American rhythm and blues scene. His name was Pete Wingfield and he managed to blend a doo- wop sound with an early 70s soul style. And he did all of this while the disco sound was sucking the life out of the pop music scene.
The retro song had a fairly simple message. The singer was toying with his options while analyzing his romantic status in what appeared to be a shaky relationship. “I’m eighteen with a bullet . . . got my finger on the trigger . . . gonna pull it” comprised the sing- along part of the chorus. Wingfield did the vocals in high falsetto and it sounded pretty good over the radio.
But, even then, I thought that the song had a dangerous message about a potentially dangerous gun owner with a potentially drastic solution to his girl problems. I was an English major at the time, so I did notice that there was some ambiguity in his message: It could have been a message about a symbolic rise on the hypothetical pop charts of the girl’s heart, but I go with the gun theory from a purely visceral point of view.
These days I am too lazy to sort out interpretive literature. It was always just an exercise in academic ass-kissing anyway.
The song was later included in the appropriately titled 1998 movie ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’; a title which suggests that the film producers’ reaction to the song is similar to my own. Either way it has a good beat and apparently you can fire off rounds to it.