Album: Working Class Dog
. . .
One of the weird ironies of power-pop was that a genre dedicated to short, snappy songs really never generated a lot of massive hits. And then, when the occasional power-pop song did sneak through — from “My Sharona” to “I’ll Be There For You” — there was usually always a backlash from the aficionados of the form.
(Oh, and speaking of “I’ll Be There For You,” it is now probably the most-heard power pop song of all time, isn’t it?)
I mean, I’ll admit to initially being a bit of a snob when it came to “Jessie’s Girl,” the massive 1981 hit by Rick Springfield. I mean, after all, wasn’t it just another song that got big because of then-massive reach of General Hospital? (Which sounds ludicrous now, but, you know, 40 years ago.)
What I didn’t know, of course, was the Springfield had been a rocker since the mid-1960s, and Working Class Dog, the album from which “Jessie’s Girl” hails, was actually his fifth, though he hadn’t recorded since 1976, and it was basically his U.S. debut.
And of course, “Jessie’s Girl” is a helluva song, too, full of musical drama, tempo shifts and an off-kilter hook that shouldn’t work as well as it does. And, of course, it features a universal dilemma: being in love with your friend’s significant other.
I’ll play along with this charade
That doesn’t seem to be a reason to change
You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot
I mean, you could probably make a point that a guy as good-looking as Rick Springfield, and who was both an actor on TV and a pop star probably shouldn’t be whining about not being with a girl he hardly knows, but that’s just being churlish, I guess.
And I’m lookin’ in the mirror all the time
Wonderin’ what she don’t see in me
I’ve been funny; I’ve been cool with the lines
Ain’t that the way love’s supposed to be?
But, of course, you’re not supposed to listen to “Jessie’s Girl” through the lens of being Rick Springfield, you’re supposed to look at it through the lens of the big fucking loser that you are, and that’s why all of the longing, desperation and self-loathing Springfield sings about in “Jessie’s Girl” resonates so deeply, especially when he builds to that massive chorus.
In any event, “Jessie’s Girl” was one of the biggest songs of 1981, won Springfield a Grammy and essentially kickstarted his music career, which has been going ever since.
“Jessie’s Girl” Official Video
“Jessie’s Girl” live in 1985
“Jessie’s Girl” live in 2016
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