Rick Springfield: Working Class Dog

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Laugh if you will, but my love for Rick Springfield is not one iota ironic. I’ll defend his early material, fall passionately in love with his most recent releases, and I’ll definitively pronounce that the four albums that run from Wait For Night through Living In Oz are masterpieces. This is the second album in that run; you know it as “the one with ‘Jessie’s Girl.'”

This is the first tape I ever got. Yeah, we got tapes back then. I also got a Walkman, like an honest to got brand name Sony Walkman. Tapes are called cassettes now, but then they were definitely called tapes. And I’m willing to admit that a big part of my Rickers love comes from that birthday gift…with this serving as the foundation of my slowly building collection (tied for number two were Def Leppard’s Pyromania and Michael Jackson’s Thriller) I listened to it an awful lot and internalized Springfield’s songwriting tendencies. When he puts in a great bridge or key change in a new song, it feels right. But goddammit, I also think guitar-driven pop music is one of the crowning achievements of humankind, and Rick Springfield is one of its finest practitioners.

So the fact that I know this album inside and out is probably a part of the reason that I think that “Jessie’s Girl” is maybe the eighth best of the ten songs on here. But another big part of that is that, come on, if you’re a huge Rick Springfield fan you’re kind of sick of “Jessie’s Girl,” right? It’s like being a huge Faith No More fan and having them continually associated with just “Epic.” I can’t count the weddings at which “Jessie’s Girl” starts getting played and everybody looks at me for me to put on my performance, which is really hard when you get to the last third and the chorus keeps repeating without any more climaxes. I mean, at this point, I can’t even tell if I like it or not. Springfield himself has a much better attitude about the song, I think he calls it That Song or something like that, but he loves it as one of its own and recognizes all the fame and fortune afforded to him via that one song.

I don’t get flummoxed by an artist’s oeuvre being overshadowed by one song, but considering how much this album sold and how good it was it is pretty surprising that it’s not at least recognized as more than its biggest hit. When I was a kid “Daddy’s Pearl” was my favorite and I always wondered why it was buried in the middle of side two. The song, and especially its gang vocal chorus, seems a little less sophisticated than the rest of the album to me now, as do the next two tracks (see below). However, I have an even greater appreciation for the really awesome craft in “Love Is Alright Tonite,” “The Light Of Love” (which lead off their respective sides), “Hole In My Heart,” and “Carry Me Away.” The reggae-tinged “Everybody’s Girl” also holds up really well.

Now, let’s go back to those last two songs. “Red Hot & Blue Love” is fine. It’s a step away from the rest of the album to more of a doo wop boogie kind of feel. It doesn’t fit (in particular the husky female backing vocals don’t mix well with Springfield’s tenor), but it’s quite good and features a blistering guitar solo and a barn burner of an ending. And then the album closes with “Inside Silvia.” I have this really strong memory of unwrapping this tape, looking at the song listing, and feeling the need to say, “Oh it has [this track], too.” And since I didn’t recognize anything except “Jessie’s Girl,” I just went with the last one even though I had never heard of it. It’s a ballad. I appreciated it at the time. But I know I didn’t get the literal meaning of the title until I was much, much older, and now I think it’s just gross, though I recognize that kind of weird literal sincerity was prevalent in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Again, it’s fine, but it’s not great, and now I can’t listen to it without visualizing a vagina wrapped around Springfield’s member. And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So for the first seven tracks, this is definitely on a five-clown trajectory. And even through the first nine I’m kind of tempted to keep it up there. But “Inside Silvia” is just a misstep too blatant to ignore.

And now I feel bad that I spent two paragraphs on “Inside Silvia,” which is not even bad. This album is awesome and is so much more than “Jessie’s Girl.” If you write off Rick Springfield, you owe it to yourself to spend a few days with this power pop that has yet to be equaled.

Rating:
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Mix: “Carry Me Away,” “The Light Of Love”
Really Like: 
“Love Is Alright Tonite,” “Hole In My Heart”
Like: “Jessie’s Girl,” “I’ve Done Everything For You,” “Everybody’s Girl,” “Daddy’s Pearl,” “Red Hot & Blue Love”
Meh: “Inside Silvia”
Filed Between: Rick Springfield’s Wait For Night and Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading