Songs About Los Angeles: “Valley Girl” by Frank & Moon Zappa

Photo by Jodi
If you like click on the photo it like totally gets bigger. Totally.

When Frank & Moon Zappa’s “Valley Girl” hit the airwaves in 1982, I was 11 going on 12. I guess these days I’d have been considered a “tween,” but back then I was just dorky and awkward. I can’t remember exactly when or where I first heard the tune or when I bought the 45 pictured on the left. What I do know is that I became obsessed with it, memorized the lyrics, and sang along in my bedroom. I’m pretty sure this was going on in preteens’ rooms all over the country.

I’d never heard anything quite like “Valley Girl.” Even though it was quite catchy, it was equally as odd and certainly different from other songs playing on the radio such as “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Eye of the Tiger.” It was a lot more fun though!

Enjoying “Valley Girl” essentially meant learning a new language, complete with its own accent. I learned to say things like “gag me with a spoon!”I’m so sure!” and “bag your face!” Perhaps more importantly, I picked up on inserting the word “like” into any and all sentences, multiple times if able. I imagine I drove my mother crazy with the “Valspeak.” She certainly got upset a few years earlier when I started mimicking the girl who moved from New Jersey to our small Southern town.

Like my mother is like such a space cadet
She like
makes me do the dishes and
CLEAN the cat box
I am sure
That’s like

At the time, I’m not sure that I completely understood that the song was making fun of these overly dramatic girls who loved shopping more than anything else. It is spelled out quite clearly, fer sure.

On Ventura, there she goes
She just bought some bitchen clothes
Tosses her head and flips her hair
She got a whole bunch of nothin in there

San Fernando Valley from southwestern edge. Woodland Hills in foreground.
San Fernando Valley from southwestern edge. Woodland Hills in foreground.

As a 7th grader in Richmond, Virginia, I enjoyed talking like a Valley Girl, but didn’t necessarily want to BE one. At that point in my life, I had no idea where my future would take place. It was still an unknown to me that in less than a year’s time, my family would pick up and move to Texas. So, to imagine that twelve years later I’d end up not only in Los Angeles, but in The Valley, might have made my head explode.

I’m a Val, I know
But I live in a really good part of Encino so it’s okay
So like, I don’t know
I’m like freaking out totally!

Just as I was able to shed my former Southern accent, I no longer talk like a Val. Okay,  a “ya’ll” does slip out from time to time and I probably do misuse the word “like.” I guess it’s sort of forgivable since I am now an actual Valley Girl. Hopefully a smarter, less self-centered Valley Girl. I do avoid the mall and shop mostly out of necessity. I’ll also try to stop telling people that I live in a “good part” of The Valley.

There is one Valspeak word I don’t like. Can you guess which one? [Hint: Look at my first name].

Click here to read more in our series on Songs About Los Angeles.

10 thoughts on “Songs About Los Angeles: “Valley Girl” by Frank & Moon Zappa”

  1. Growing up a blonde girl in the Valley, that song was an undeserved albatross around my toothpick neck. With every ounce of strength in my 84-pound 11-year-old body, I wanted to kill that bitch.

    I have since made peace with Moon Unit, & adore Zappa.

    But the song still occasionally makes me grind my teeth.

  2. In 1982, I was 19 and was referred to by many as a rock-climbing, long-haired, punk rock sex-pirate. Yeah…I was a handful.
    That song was confusing: I lived in the SGV (SGV!), and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I remember grabbing girls and kissing them just because they started reciting the lyrics- but only if it was a joke. Later, I moved to the hills of Encino with an Asian Valley Girl and that has made all the difference, hasn’t it?
    Plus, it was Zappa, which made it art, taking it beyond the realm of silly ass Doctor Demento novelty tunes. It described a subset of teenage humanity. You can argue with the accuracy, but why bother? We met those girls. We kissed them. We tricked them into buying us beer. They were real. Now, they’re moms and we avoid the topic of the past.

  3. I was was in Las Vegas at the time working part-time in the mall on The Strip. Every time it came on it gave us something to goof on. More so when we got a real “val” in the store shopping as we’d goof on them and their speak whilst shopping. They never, ever figured out it was a goof.

    Great memories, thanks.

  4. I was 12 years old and had that same 45. I’m sure it drove my mom crazy, but I played it over and over and over and over and…

  5. Damn I’m glad someone picked this song. Zappa and his various bandmembers over the years are among my favorite musicians ever.

    And though it happened before the release of this song, a few of them went on to form Missing Persons, and write their own song about L.A….

  6. That song and the lingo contained within it were the bane of my parent’s life for the year I was busy parroting it. They were certain I would never again use proper English. Thankfully I was only eleven or something and I reverted to my previous worship of formal language.

    My father later had his revenge with an MC Hammer song. He spent a good year telling me I couldn’t “touch this.” Not that I’d want to, dad. Srsly.

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