Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Rick Springfield : Dark Genius
A few years ago, I shocked friends and family when I dropped this science on them; "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield is one of the greatest songwriting achievements in pop rock history. In fact, it's artistically awesome. Yeah, soak it in. The ripple effect of "what the (bad word)" was so great about my circle of people, I decided to not expand upon it and make them just think I had eaten something that didn't agree with me. I am hear to blog, I menat every word. Please, oblige me. Do I think Rick is a good songwriter, overall? No. His catalog is pretty thin. There are 3 good songs on the Working Class Dog album and one of them was written by Sammy Hagar, I've Done Everything For You. Rick is a one hit wonder, not because of chart history, he is technically a five hit wonder, but because on a Saturday afternoon in Southern California in 1978 after talking a painting class with a buddy and hit beautiful girlfriend, Springfield was inspired enough, to penn what would become a number one song, and the most kareoked tune in bar history.
Rick doesn't belong in the same breath with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Thom Yorke, any of the Beatles or Rolling Stones, Kurt Cobain or even Sammy Hagar. Rick Springfield deserves pop culture praise for creating a layered masterpiece that is only 3 minutes and 16 seconds long about longing for a buddy's girl, not doing anything about it, upholding the bros before hoes code (which is older than the Magna Carta) and writing the line "I've been funny, I've been cool with the lines, ain't that the way love's supposed to be". That's poetry, and every man can relate. The greatest part of Jessie's Girl is the irony.
Rick Springfield is a great looking soap opera actor who can get any girl he wants but he's singing about a girl he can't get, and he's masking a dark, subversive ode to sexual frustration around peppy pop melodies and a catchy guitar riff. That's beautiful. Throwing in dark lyrics while bouncing a pop tune has been around since the fifties. I have been to two weddings that had Every Breath You Take by The Police, a scary song about obsessive love, essentially the stalker's anthem, and The One I Love by R.E.M., a depressing song about a breakup that is more ominous than foreboding. Obviously the couple didn't listen to the lyrics. Both marriages ended up divorces. Rock and roll strikes again.
Every television show, news program, or pop culture special about shopping, dancing, trying on clothes, or some happy activity has Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind blaring in the background. Ever seen the lyrics to that one? It's about sex, drugs, and debauchery. It's a filthy tune.
What makes Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl genius is, it is part of our national consciousness. Generations after generation will belt that with smiles on their faces to kareoke machines and wedding dance microphones and the irony will dance the dance of love with art.
It's amazing what a drive home in heavy traffic will produce in my head as I listened to 80s on 8 on Satellite radio. All Hail Mr. Rick Springfield and his brooding belch about some chick he'll never even talk to. We've been there, brother.
Posted by Lance at Tuesday, November 23, 2010