Sunday, May 13, 2018

The People vs. The Lyrics Of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”

Column 1 since my departure from my newspaper publisher. I hope you will continue to read this column on Sundays, pass it on to your friends, and consider “leveling up” via my Patreon page, where you will find funny Patreon-subscriber-only bonus content (vintage “best of Wa” columns, audio recordings of me performing these essays and more.) 

But now to the good stuff. I’ve slipped my newspaper column-inch restraint of 400 words and just busted loose below. I feel almost as free as someone getting caught in the rain...

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Let the record show that even though almost 40 years have passed since the heyday of “Escape,” the damage done to the eardrums and psyches of people who were exposed continues to this day. We, the people, hereafter referred to as Peeps, have brought suit against the lyrics in an effort to, in some small way, make amends for this egregious wrong of the past. 

Peeps: Do you deny that in the autumn of 1979 you put forth in a public venue, where even children could be exposed, the lyric “I was tired of my lady / we’d been together too long”?

Lyrics: Not at all. It’s the opening line. It expresses the dilemma, like any good song, like, I don’t know, like “You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Lucille.” It makes you wonder, why did Lucille leave? You get invested in the story.

Peeps: So how long is “together too long”? I’m just curious.

Lyrics: It’s just a hook, it’s not based on a real couple.

Peeps: But for the record, just your opinion. How long is too long?

Lyrics: I don’t know. Like, a year maybe.

Peeps: A year, and then it’s whoosh, to the personal ads?! This guy in the song is a piece of work. 

Lyrics: But his own lovely lady wrote the ad! That’s the twist. She was bored too. She didn’t know he would answer the ad. She was fishing. He’s not a bad guy. They were both to blame.

Peeps: Objection!

Lyrics: Objection?

Peeps: I’ve just always wanted to say that. So...they were both to blame. Fair enough. But she is the more likable of the two, because she makes clear that she wants a man who is not into yoga, and, just by inference, does not have a pony tail. And a man who has half a brain. This is clearly a commentary on the men of the time, who had embraced disco a little too whole-heartedly (Sample lyric: “Get down, boogie-oogie-oogie.”) 

Lyrics: I believe you might be over-think—

Peeps: Then the husband responds to the ad, via your lyrics, with perhaps the worst come-on since humans ventured out from caves, “I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape.” First of all, who shoots for noon when she clearly offered midnight, and second, what red tape? It’s not like what’s keeping their love apart is the DMV. “Red tape” was obviously just used to rhyme with “escape” in the next line. 

Lyrics: Look, I was on a deadline.

Peeps: How about “I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, so our love can take shape”?

Lyrics: Where were you in 1979?

Peeps: “I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, show you all my manscape.” 

Lyrics: Um.

Peeps: You put forth the idea, to a vulnerable public, a public which just a few years earlier had lost in Vietnam and gone through Watergate, you put forth the idea that we should be all for getting rouged on champagne and umbrella drinks and running out into the dunes to get sand all up in our butts. How do you defend that?

Lyrics: Well, you would take a towel, I would hope.

Peeps: It’s indefensible. I rest my case. 

Lyrics: Does that mean I can go?

Peeps: If you can live with yourself.

Lyrics: It’s forty years. I think people look back on it with a certain fond appreciation of its campiness, like “The Love Boat.” It was about getting to know your partner better, getting closer, realizing that what you want is right there all along if you’re just a little attentive. 

Peeps: That’s a good message, but seriously, who likes piña coladas?

Lyrics: Nobody, but my original line, “If you like Humphrey Bogart,” had trademark issues.

Peeps: I LOVE Humphrey Bogart.

Lyrics: Right?

Peeps: That’s a shame. That would have been good.

Lyrics: Yeah. Well, it worked out. It was a hit. I bought a boat. Hey, can I ask you something?

Peeps: Sure.

Lyrics: Why DID Lucille leave? I mean four hungry children and the crops in the field? That’s cold. 

Peeps: I will never understand fictitious people. 

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