Falcone's Crossroads

Where This Meets That

Heartache in the ’80’s: “Jessie’s Girl” vs. “Somebody’s Baby”

1981 was a pretty eventful year.  President Reagan and Pope John Paul II were both shot near fatally, AIDS was first recognized, and soap star Rick Springfield broke it big with “Jessie’s Girl”.

“Jessie’s Girl” seemed to rise straight from the public bowels during all the global upheaval of its day and gave an American public a platform for everything they were really thinking: “You know I feel so dirty when they start talkin’ cute. I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot.”

All kidding aside (most of it, anyway), “Jessie’s Girl” is the timeless tale of unrequited love. Springfield thinks he loves his friend’s girl, and he oozes self confidence, saying, “I’m lookin’ in the mirror all the time, wonderin’ what she don’t see in me.” He continues, “I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines,” revealing that he has been actively wooing her, despite his friend’s devotion to her.

The following year brought the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High to the screen, driven by a hit-heavy soundtrack that included Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby”.  Unlike Springfield, Browne doesn’t know with whom the object of his affection is “talkin’ cute” with, only that it’s “got to be somebody” because, “she’s so fine.”

Springfield clearly loves himself (i.e., “I’m lookin’ in the mirror all the time . . .”), and the opening verse gives us reason to believe that he’s not so much in love with Jessie’s girl as he is jealous of her and resentful that she’s drawn Jessie’s attention away from himself. He sings, “[Jessie’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 wanna make her mine.”

So basically, as much as I love the song, “Jessie’s Girl” comes from the emotions of a jealous narcissist, if not an outright sociopath.

Browne’s personna, meanwhile, is much more likeable. He just knows he’s unworthy; everyone’s unworthy for the girl he’s stalking eyeing.  He notes, “All the guys on the corner stand back and let her walk on by.”  No wolf-whistles or catty comments, just straight-up admiration.

Nevertheless, Browne is determined. Whereas “Jessie’s Girl” is about condescension, “Somebody’s Baby” is about elevation; if nobody’s worthy, then why not me?  He’s pumping himself up, singing, “I gotta get over my fright. Well, I’m just gonna walk up to her. I’m gonna talk to her tonight!”

By the end of each song, Springfield is stuck spinning wheels while Browne is declaring, “I’m gonna shine tonight, make her mine tonight, yeah!”

You go, Jackson. Chalk one up for the little guy!


2 comments on “Heartache in the ’80’s: “Jessie’s Girl” vs. “Somebody’s Baby”

  1. anon
    December 3, 2013

    I’m sorry. For a “crossroads” essay, this one completely misses the important similarities and connections between the two songs; it also includes some glaringly false statements. The importance of the connection ought to be the uncanny–or derivative?–resemblances in the rhythms, themes, riffs, and other qualities of the two songs. Who wrote the original idea? That’s the first key. What makes the songs seem to mimic each other? Nothing here helps with those points. Meanwhile, saying that Rick sounds like a “sociopath” for wanting Jessie’s girl is so wrong it’s idiotic. Whether lust or desire or adoration, it’s a legal impulse by any male for a beautiful woman. Asserting otherwise is medieval, reactionary, boorish, or worse.

  2. Grande Falcone
    December 3, 2013

    Ha! As well-played of an apology of Jessie’s Girl as I ever thought I’d read. Nicely done Anon.

    Actually, throw in The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” and you could make a intriguing trilogy!

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This entry was posted on June 9, 2012 by in Music Notes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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