Chipper Cheatin’ Songs

I was listening to the radio the other day, and one of my favorite songs came on – “Runaround Sue” by Dion.  And it occurred to me, as deep thoughts often do, that it’s rather odd that a song about something rather depressing – i.e. a cheating lover – is sung to such an upbeat tempo.  The song is incredibly catchy.   Here are the opening lyrics in case you’ve managed not to hear it in the 50-something years since it was first released.  It starts out slowly, like this:

“Here’s my story, it’s sad but true / About a girl that I once knew

She took my love then ran around / With every single guy in town.”

Poor Dion.  Hey, what's that hanging from his mouth?

Poor Dion.  Hey, what’s that hanging from his mouth?  Spit?

And then comes the doo-wop!  “Hey, hey, hum-de-hedy-hedy, hey, hey!”  My girl is user friendly and probably has 27 venereal diseases!  Better get tested!  Sing with me, boys!  Get down!  Woot!”

I’m not sure why this guy is so happy.  Maybe it’s the VD drugs.  Or he has to keep dancing and clapping to avoid the, um, burning, itchy feeling.  So do his backup singers, who probably also dated Sue.  Actually, come to think of it, he says that Sue ran around with every single guy in town.  So who exactly is he warning here?

At first I considered that maybe Sue was innocent after all.  Maybe she was running in a marathon with all these guys.  But then Dion says that she broke his heart (let’s hope that’s the only thing that broke), so he must be talking about the love business.  My brother informs me that people didn’t actually have sex until the late sixties, and this song was released in 1961.  But still I think Dion wouldn’t be quite so upset with Sue if all she was doing was sharing the popcorn, if you get my drift.

So who do we blame here?  Sue, of course.  It’s all her fault.  Nevermind all the guys who succumbed to her charms.  They couldn’t help themselves.  I mean, she was there, and from what I can tell, for a teenage boy that’s pretty much the extent of the requirements for romantic interludes.  So shame on you, Sue, you made Dion cry.  And then dance and doo-wop with his pals.  But at least we got a good song out of the whole deal.

Here’s the video.  Check out the audience at around 0.53.  They are really groovin’.

Skip a few decades to 1991 and you have “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield.  Here’s another upbeat tune, this time about a guy who wants to bang his best friend’s girlfriend.  Not since Sir Lancelot have we met such an upstanding and noble young man.  Rick says:

“Jessie is a friend / Yeah he’s always been a good friend of mine

But lately something’s changed / It ain’t hard to define

Jessie’s got himself a girl / And I want to make her mine”

Check ME out - what don't she see in me?

Check ME out – what don’t she see in me?

Yeah, uh, no offense Jessie, but Rick wants your girlfriend.  Guys share, right?  Remember Sue?  That was awesome, huh?  He totally knows she’s watching you with those . . . those eyes, and loving you with that body.  He just knows it.  And you’re holding her in your arms late at night.  Yeah, he can imagine all of that.  Wait, Rick, are you interested in the girl, or Jessie, or are you just a creeper?  I’m going to go with creeper.

But there’s more.  Rick says “I’ve been funny; I’ve been cool with the lines.  Ain’t that the way love’s supposed to be?”  Yeah.  I mean what girl would not want Rick?  He’s funny, and he looks good, and he knows one-liners.  He just can’t figure it out.  Well, here’s a quick hint, Rick.  SHE ALREADY HAS A BOYFRIEND.  You remember, your buddy.  Yeah, that guy.  Go back to Sue, you two deserve each other.  And Jessie, learn to pick better friends.

Here’s the video.  You know, I think I know some other reasons why you can’t “find a woman like that” Rick.   One: You smash bathroom mirrors with your guitar.  Two: You wear a suit and play guitar in the alley.  Three: Chinos with a notable crease. On a rock and roll stage.  In 1991.  Really?  Also, not that Jessie’s girl is shown much, but she doesn’t look terribly impressed with either Rick or Jessie or well, life.  See for yourself.

So there you have it.  Two upbeat songs about cheating lovers.  Just kinda makes you wanna dance, doesn’t it?  Hum-de-hedy-hedy-heh!

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56 responses

  1. Laughing at the Stepford Audience. I bet the ones who smiled were reprogrammed when they went home, that night.

    1. I know! I saw the audience and they all looked bored out of their minds. Then you see the one lady realize the camera is on her and attempt a smile. But that lady in front of her – she looks like she does NOT approve of that naughty song!

      1. Lol…another one…I think the cars my best friend’s girlfriend. She’s my best friend’s girl and she used to be mine, complete with cheery music and catchy hook.

        1. Yes! I love the Cars. I’m just happily singing “My best friend’s girrrrrrrrlfriend!” without a thought that hey, he’s wanting to steal his friend’s girlfriend. Also, I am not a lesbian . . .

  2. I was rolling by the time you said, ““Hey, hey, hum-de-hedy-hedy, hey, hey!” My girl is user friendly and probably has 27 venereal diseases! Better get tested! Sing with me, boys! Get down! Woot!” LMAO

    1. Thanks. It’s so weird how many songs are like that. “My girl dumped me, wanna jump off a bridge, woot, woot!” Guys in the background “Hey, hey!” Jazz hands. Etc.

      1. Don’t forget snapping fingers…

        1. Yes, I like how that one backup singer was clapping but you never did see him play the sax that was strapped on him. Like was that a decoy sax or what?

          1. Fake sax never sells.

          2. So true. I bet he could get a real one from Sue. Wink, wink.

          3. He can get anything from Sue.

  3. Haha great post! Runaround Sue keeps coming up in conversation for me lately – 50 years later and it is still relevant! Such a good point though, a very upbeat song about a loose girlfriend. And the lyrics of Jesse’s Girl always make me laugh. Do you think that line about “I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines, ain’t that the way love’s supposed to be?” is meant as a joke that pokes fun at that philosophy or do you think it was meant for real?

    1. I dunno, but I’ve known guys like this. Like, what don’t she see in me? Why ain’t she fallin’ at my feet I is so charming! I actually didn’t realize what he was saying in part of that song until I looked it up and I was like – lamer than I thought it was. I’ve been funny and cool with the lines – yeah, wtf Jessie’s girl? Why aren’t you jumpin’ this guy by now?

      1. haha I guess you are right, there are certainly some guys who think that way

  4. Jessie’s Girl is my jam. Love that song. Great post! 🙂

    1. Thanks. I think it’s on practically every 80s compilation ever, which is funny since it says 1991 as the date. Eh. I LOVE 80s!

  5. Dude’s gonna go back to Sue, no question about it. She’s like a bad drug.

    1. Yeah, you’d think a lot of guys would be going WOOOT, I’m gonna put her number on the wall beside Jenny’s!

  6. “Here’s another upbeat tune, this time about a guy who wants to bang his best friend’s girlfriend.”

    This line made me laugh really, really loud. Thanks for that…

    1. I’m glad it made you laugh. Truly, my prose is like Shakespeare, no?

      1. I hope not, I can’t stand Shakespeare.

        1. Forsooth, you mock the Bard? Cool. I like some of his stuff when it’s explained to me (Cliff Notes all the way!) At least his stuff had some good old violence in it so I didn’t totally fall asleep. I also like the idea that he was kind of the Maury Povich of his day.

          1. Thou art NOT the father.

          2. Haha! Aye, verily, the boy art not my son, Billie Jean.

          3. Forsooth.

  7. Lol. I never thought about the deep implications of Runaround Sue before. Thank you. The More you know…

    Btw, I love that song, too, and I’m currently listening to it.

    1. It’s so catchy. Hey, hey, hum-de-hedy-hedy, hey, hey! Why do I have a feeling, though, that the guys he was warning said “Gee, that’s too bad” and then made a bee-line for Sue?

      1. Probably very true.

        Incidentally, I’ve never seen a bee fly in a straight line nor queue up for anything.

        1. Yeah, what is with all that crazy flying in circles? Are they all drunk on honey?

          1. Yeah, those stupid drone bees. Doin’ the same dead end job every single day . . . wait.

  8. One of my all-time favorites is “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. You know, that wholesome song about an obsessed, possessive lover? Great stuff.

    You should do a post about movies too. “Pretty Woman”: classic RomCom, right? Um, it’s a movie about a hooker who falls in love with the guy who solicits her services. “Big” with Tom Hanks? A twelve-year-old has sex with a grown woman while he is in an adult body. Statutory rape, anyone?

    1. I’ve heard people have used that Police song in their weddings! Sting himself was like, dude, it’s not supposed to be romantic.

      You are so right on those movies. I was always a little disturbed by them, especially the Big one – like dude she did a 12 year old? Gross!

  9. Great post. I still say there is nothing like crying in your bear to “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” So much better than dancing a dittie to a darling who does it with damn near everybody in town.

    1. Be careful when crying in your bear, he might eat you (sorry I couldn’t help myself). Yooouuuuur Cheeeeeatiiiin Heaaaaaaaaart Will Tell on Youuuuuuuu! Okay, now that’s in my head. But yes, I highly doubt I’d be bouncing around singing if I figured out my boyfriend had been sharin’ the popcorn with the entire cheerleading squad.

  10. Reminds me of GIn Wigmore. Same idea, but a little more recent. I also got the same feeling from listening to Ana Ng from They Might be Giants. It’s not about cheating lovers, but about loneliness, all set to a chipper beat.

    1. Yes, that reminds me of the song “All By Myself”. Most obnoxious song ever, but so fun to sing when you’re wallowing in misery. Allllllllll Byyyyyyyyyy Myyyyyyyyseeeeeeelfffff!” Extra points for using the Celine Dion version for maximum wailing.

  11. But Alice. . . Rick Springfield was Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital! The best soap in the history of ever! Liz Taylor asked them to write her a role for Luke and Laura’s wedding, and this is so on topic! But my point is, Liz Taylor? It has to be good, so he has to be good in some weird way by association.

    Anyway, thanks for this. It made me smile, and now I will be singing “Jessie’s Girl” for the next few minutes until I leave for kickboxing. xoxo

    1. I never saw Dr. Noah – that might have changed things. I watched Days of our Lives, so you know, if it’d been Bo, then sure it would be totally understandable. I think he and Hope are still on that show even though they’re what, 50? I’m not sure. They age up the kids so fast, that there’s no telling how old anyone is anymore. Except there was that one kindly grandmother lady. Ah, Alice Horton. She’s probably dead by now. And I’m sure Marlena has probably been kidnapped by Stephano yet again.

      Man, I need to do a soap opera post!

  12. You should also look up these:

    Bryan Adams – Run to you:

    Bon Jovi – Dirty Little Secret:

    Del Amitri – Be My Downfall:

    Just while we’re on the subject, you know!

    1. Love it, Faith! Truly, those art gospel songs. Seriously, I’ve heard the Run to You a lot of times – that is a GREAT example. “Yeah, she thinks our love is true / but that would change if she ever found out about me and you.” Oh, do you THINK, Bryan? Bryan, you took me in with “Everything I DO” You suck.

      Haven’t seen the other two yet – I gotta get on that when I get a break. 😀

      1. I also recommend “The Last to Know” by Del Amitri. Listen to the words. The dude is seriously missing his ex-girlfriend who’s now with someone else – because she found out that the dude was cheating on her. It’s a nice bouncy pop-y number, with this wonderful little twist. I’d give you the link but I reckon you know how TubeYou works by now…. 😉

  13. It is amazing how depressing or creepy (or both) scenarios can be made into something fun and catchy. Billy Joel has one of my faves called, Christie Lee. I tried to be all spiffy and find the official vid for you, but couldn’t find it and I always feel weird posting a link to a video that is nothing but the cover of the album while the song plays.

    1. Oh, yes, I love that song! It’s so catchy AND horrible. I actually have most of the lyrics memorized. “They say that Joe became a wino / They say he always drinks alone / They say he stumbles like a blind man . . . (Yay, dance, woooohooooo, Christie Lee, Christie Lee!)

      He was married to Christie Brinkley at the time. You have to wonder – was their marriage on the rocks then and this was his not so subtle “tribute” to her? I mean, after Uptown Girl, that is. (Best video ever!)

      1. Maybe it was Billy Joel looking into the crystal ball (I just hope he got permission from Styx before using their song). Since it is off the same album as Uptown Girl, and Keepin’ the Faith, which also prominently featured her int he video, I’m going to go with it being just coincidence.

        But it is funny to look back all these years later and see the song as writing on the wall. He never did release another album of his own after they split. He did release a piano concerto played by someone else that he wrote, but that’s it. He’s also been battling alcoholism, his drink of choice being wine.

        Yeah, I think he should have been paying more attention to his own lyrics when he cut that song.

        1. True about predicting the future somewhat, but that wasn’t his last album. After Innocent Man was The Bridge, Storm Front (had “We didn’t start the fire” on it), and River of Dreams (crappy cover art by Christie). They divorced after that, and then he released Greatest Hits III which had some new songs. And he still does concerts. So he’s not doing too badly. He has depression, so most likely the alcohol was a way of self-treatment (good idea!)

          1. I meant to imply that after they split, he never released another album. They were still together when he was recording River of Dreams (a better album than it gets credit for). It was shortly after River that things “officially” went south for the couple.

            I do still wish he would do at least one more studio album after all these years away from recording. “Christmas in Fallujah” made it clear he still has great writing chops.

            I think everyone around here is tired of my listening to the same 12 albums all the time though.

          2. Yes, that’s true. Ha! My family is stuck with listening to Billy. I have his three disc Greatest Hits compilation. I’m not sure where all of it is now, but at least a lot of it is on the mp3. I have listened to Uptown Girl officially eleventy billion times by now and I still like it.

            River of Dreams – “In the Middle of the Night” is my favorite song. I love the dreamlike quality to it and how he references so much symbolism, etc. I read that he wrote it in his head while taking a shower. Also he pieced together “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by going through a history book. Geniuses – pfft.

          3. For all the flack it gets, and all the cheap shots and parodies of it out there, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is one of the most brilliantly constructed songs I have ever heard. I still can’t fathom how he managed to put history into a rhythmic poem like that and, with only one exception I can remember, he even kept each stanza in chronological order.

            “Scenes From a New York Restaurant” is another one created off-the-cuff, that makes me wonder how the guy’s mind works; written because of Joel was inspired by the waiter asking if he would prefer red or white that evening.

          4. It’s Italian Restaurant, isn’t it? Oh, of course, if someone asks me what wine I want I come up with a song sung in three parts each with a different tempo and story . . . which is then later used in a musical. Yeah, no problem.

          5. Yes, it is Italian Restaurant.

  14. I don’t think Dion deserves too much sympathy, after all, he’s the kind of guy who never settles down, who roams from town to town, and he hugs and kisses all the girls because to him they’re all the same…

    Then again, I’ve always wondered about the connection between those two songs and your post has finally given me the initiative to find out and after prolonged and diligent research (… okay, alright, so I did look it up on wikipedia, but it might have been prolonged and diligent!) I can now present the fact that Runaround Sue was released in September 1961 and The Wanderer in November 1961. So I guess we can assume that Sue broke his heart, upon which be became an embittered and superficial rake, playing with girls’ affections because he couldn’t trust any of them anymore.
    Perfect material for a romance. Who was the one who saved him, though?
    🙂

    1. Excellent research, there! I’d forgotten that Dion wrote the Wanderer. Isn’t it interesting how they just call him “the wanderer” but Sue is “runaround Sue.” Why isn’t Sue just a carefree wanderer? Oh, the mysteries.

      I think this begs another post!

  15. Rick does sound like a creep, but I have to give credit to Dion for his optimism. Or maybe he’s just happy that Sue is finally living the life she always wanted.

    1. Could be. Another reader commented that later he does “The Wanderer” song where he dates all these women cause “they’re all the same.” So maybe after his happy dance he decided to become slutty too?

  16. […] I wrote Chipper Cheatin’ Songs, I knew there were plenty I was leaving out.  Thankfully, I have readers who help jog my gerbil […]

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