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.”
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”
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!