I went through a big Francois Truffaut phase. The local Blockbuster had most of Truffaut’s films on video so I watched many of them repeatedly. My favorite was Les Quatre Cents Coups, but I probably had more fun watching Jules et Jim. It always made me think about Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”, a wonderful collision in my mind of foreign art house film versus mainstream pop rock and roll. When I saw that Greil Marcus had sang the praises of “Jessie’s Girl” in Ranters And Crowd Pleasers I knew I wasn’t alone in appreciating Springfield’s smash hit.
His first couple of RCA releases was full of great power pop and even though he was still writing decent material most of his later releases were marred by over production. The Written In Rock 2-CD set that was recently released presents a chronological overview of his career and the trajectory away from skinny tie guitar rock into electronically enhanced drum overkill makes the second disc almost unlistenable. It’s the sublime universal truth of “Jessie’s Girl” I get stuck on anyways.
It’s a deceptively simple song. On the surface it just seems to be a rote examination of the singer’s jealousy, but there is a depth and yearning to the piece. The bridge where Springfield gives us this evocative lyric, “and I’m looking in the mirror all the time, wondering what she don’t see in me, I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines, ain’t that the way love’s supposed to be” is the key as Marcus noted. How often have you looked at yourself and wondered what people didn’t see in you? Its self reverence gone askew as the following lines point out the wrong assumptions on love like being funny and cool are all that matters in a relationship. It’s a yearning for something deep and meaningful, but Jessie’s friend is stuck in the shallows. The song also rocks and was perfectly arranged to function as a 3 minute slice of transistor radio heaven.
Springfield’s first two RCA releases are well represented on Written In Rock. Springfield also wrote the liner notes. If you like his later work, it’s a must have. I’ll just put disc one and hit repeat. Then I think I’ll go watch Jules et Jim again.