(Editor’s note: This column was inspired and encouraged after multiple Facebook posts of hearing this song daily for the past two weeks.)
It’s a running joke in our house that I like what is termed “Yacht Rock.” A few years ago, it was called “soft rock” and was pretty much what the middle-aged former listeners of harder rock tuned into as their tastes matured. I think “yacht rock” is a goofy term, but there is a whole station on satellite radio devoted to it, so they just might be on to something. A lot of the music is from the mid ‘70s to early ‘80s and is mostly Doobie Brothers, Christopher Cross, Boz Scaggs, Fleetwood Mac and other similar artists. Most of the songs are classics, some are not so classic, and some are simply hated. You know the kinda song, the one that was just “okay” when it was new, experienced a rebirth for a short while and now is the leisure suit of the rock era.
The official title is “Escape,” but everyone knows it as “The Piña Colada Song,”, so they changed the title to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” It’s one of those songs that brings back memories of bars filled with bleached wood and brass fixtures, dripping with big ferns and cooled by big ceiling fans that look like palm fronds. There are polo shirts with popped collars, boat shoes and big frozen drinks with huge chunks of fruit stuck to the sides of the glass. Listening to the song is supposed to bring you back to these more innocent times when you were young and carefree. It’s light and airy and dusted with frivolity. Well, so you think. Listen to it closely and you will discover something that should have been crystal clear to all of us way back when.
It’s about a coupla jerks. Really. Listen to it. What should have been a lighthearted tune about escaping from everyday monotony is a three-minute lesson in dishonesty and infidelity. Our protagonist is a nameless young man who decides one day that he is bored with his significant other and decides, on a whim, to respond to a personal ad to attract someone less boring than his current love. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s like Tinder, but for older people. It’s pretty much a classified ad for yourself and people would answer your ad by sending a letter to the paper and it would be forwarded to you. If you were 25 and looking for someone, you could expect a response to your ad by your 30th birthday. Romance in those days worked slowly, folks. He responded to the ad by listing things he is looking for in a mate.
He hopes to find someone who, naturally, likes piña coladas and walking in the rain. He’s not much into health food, but he likes the taste of champagne. I can already imagine he likes sweaters tied around his neck and those canvas belts with the little whales on them. The song is from 1980, so I guess he had a pretty sweet entry-level Porsche, as well. I’ll bet you a dollar he has a soap on a rope that smells like Brut. His girlfriend is equally vapid, but we will get to that later. Our “hero” composes a response to the ad that while, as the song claims, he is nobody’s poet, is not half bad. While writing his letter to this stranger, he didn’t think about his lady, which — by his own admission — sounded kinda mean.
To make a long story short, his letter is answered and the duo plan to meet at a bar called O’Malley’s. In songs like this, it’s always a bar called O’Malley’s — because somehow a bar with that name is cheerful and fun and not as potentially sinister as a place called “Kaos” or as politically incorrect as “Guadala Harry’s.”
The following day, at O’Malley’s, he waits anxiously for her to arrive and when she does, he’s just as shocked as she.
“Oh, it’s you.” she says glumly.
It’s his “own lovely lady.” He tells her he never knew all these things about her. He didn’t know she liked piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. Let’s conveniently forget about the fact that they both caught each other trying to cheat. This columnist had no idea that infidelity was so romantic. This pair of dolts seem to think it’s just the thing to revive their tired lives.
Let’s take a moment and recap: Shallow guy is bored with his shallow girl. He reads a personal ad from the most unoriginal woman of the 1980s and connects with all the trendy buzzwords. Walks on the beach? Check. Tropical drinks? Check. Champagne? Check. Intimate encounters where you take a chance on a sandy undercarriage? Check. The only thing these two winners don’t compare are zodiac signs, but they were so 1970s, and with this being 1980, they need to look to the future. Shallow girl has written the original ad, so she’s pulled the trigger on cheating first. Neither one of these people are what my grandmother would have called “a catch.” With this kinda catch, you’d probably need penicillin.
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.