Escape (The Piña Colada Song)

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"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"
Single by Rupert Holmes
from the album Partners in Crime
B-side "Drop It"
Released September 21, 1979
Format 7"
Recorded 1979
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length 4:35 (album version)
3:50 (single version)
Label Infinity Records
Writer(s) Rupert Holmes
Producer(s) Rupert Holmes, Jim Boyer
Certification Gold (RIAA)[2]
Rupert Holmes singles chronology
"Let's Get Crazy Tonight"
(1978)
"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"
(1979)
"Him"
(1980)

"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" is a song written and recorded by British-born American singer Rupert Holmes for his album Partners in Crime. As the lead single for the album, the pop song was recommended by Billboard for radio broadcasters on September 29, 1979,[3] then added to prominent US radio playlists in October–November.[4] Rising in popularity, the song peaked at the end of December to become the last U.S. number one song of the 1970s.

Content[edit]

The song speaks, in three verses and three choruses, of a man who is bored with his current relationship because it has become routine and he desires some variety. One night, he reads the personal advertisements in the newspaper and spots an ad that catches his attention: a woman who is seeking a man who, among other little things, must like piña coladas. Intrigued, he takes out an ad in reply and arranges to meet the woman "at a bar called O'Malley's", only to find upon the meeting that the woman is actually his current partner. The song ends on an upbeat note, showing that the two lovers realized they have more in common than they had suspected, and that they do not have to look any further than each other for what they seek in a relationship.

Reception[edit]

After its release as a single, the song became immediately popular, though initial sales were slow due to the song's actual title, "Escape", going unnoticed in the place of the oft-repeated cocktail. Holmes reluctantly agreed to rename the song "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)". The song shot up through the charts, becoming the last number-one Billboard Hot 100 hit of 1979 (and the last number one song of the 1970s). "Escape" returned to number one again on the Billboard Hot 100 charts during the second week of 1980, having been displaced for a week by KC and the Sunshine Band's "Please Don't Go".[5]

The song was the 11th best selling single of 1980 on the Billboard Hot 100.[6]

Background and writing[edit]

Recorded for Holmes' Partners in Crime (1979) album, the song came from an unused track for which Holmes wrote temporary or “dummy” lyrics:

This version, "The Law of The Jungle", was released as part of his Cast of Characters (2005) box set and was inspired by a want-ad he read whilst idly scanning the personals one day. As Holmes put it, "I thought, 'what would happen to me if I answered this ad?' I'd go and see if it was my own wife who was bored with me." The title of the song was originally going to be "People Need Other People", which was written years earlier for Holmes' own amusement.

The chorus originally started with "if you like Humphrey Bogart", which Holmes changed at the last minute, replacing the actor with the name of the first exotic cocktail he could think of.

Holmes regards the song with a mixture of pride and chagrin: while it has made him wealthy and famous, it drew attention away from his more serious musical works. He does not care for the drink; he once said on the Uncle Floyd Show that piña coladas taste like Kaopectate.[citation needed]

Production[edit]

During the session in which the background musicians laid down their tracks, Holmes found both drummers so intoxicated that they were barely able to perform. He has stated in many interviews, and the liner notes of the 2005 box set:

After just one take, one of my drummers had fallen unconscious and the other one wasn't far from it. Nowadays it wouldn't be any big deal, but in those days if you wanted to copy a piece of a track, you had to either copy it over to another reel of expensive tape or fast-forward to an unused section of your original tape, cut it off and wind it onto another reel and sit there for days on end cutting and splicing the copy until you got what you wanted.

I found out we had about 16 bars that were really tight and sounded good, but we didn't have the kind of budget to be rescheduling a session or throwing away $250 on extra reels of tape so that I could loop that 16-bar section.

But I still had to sit there for a whole afternoon making sure I got the splice right before I got out the razor blade and made the cut. I thought I was going to end up having to buy a second reel anyway so that I had someplace to put the spliced-together song about which I was NOT happy. I remember we got a breakthrough. Somebody had come in to do a multi-media presentation a couple weeks earlier and had recently mixed down their session. Having no further need for their master 2-inch, they told their producer to leave it behind for somebody else to use again.

After splicing in the one good intro and one good outro I had, we went in the next day to record the vocal. I did it just once as a scratch track so that my lead guitarist, Dean Bailin, could familiarize himself with the song, and also ad-libbed a harmony track a third above myself on the chorus.

I left the song and came back the next day to record the proper vocal, but when I came back to lay it down, I couldn't get the same energy, excitement and enthusiasm as I had singing it that one time straight through—so we left it the way it was and that's the record you hear.

In other media[edit]

Advertising[edit]

Films[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • The song, presumably the one playing in the elevator from Tartarus, in Rick Riordan's young adult novel The House of Hades (2013), is described as "that song about liking piña coladas and getting caught in the rain".[8]

Television[edit]

  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Monster A Go-Go, the characters Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot complain about the song, questioning logical inconsistencies and the overall seemingly nonsensical nature of the song's narrative, such as how unlikely it would actually be for the man and woman in the song to find and respond to each other's personal ads.
  • In the season 2 Better Call Saul episode, "Nailed" (April 11, 2016), Jimmy McGill sings the song to two women at a school where he wants to shoot an advertisement for his law firm, in an effort to convince them to allow him to shoot there without a permit.
  • The chorus of the song is the cellphone ringtone of Dr. Chris Taub from the TV show House.
  • The song is also played in the CW hit show Veronica Mars, in the prison experiment S03E02, as the "guards" use music to intimidate the "prisoners".
  • In the HBO TV show True Blood it is sung by main character Sookie, when she is drunk (Season 5, Episode 4 "We'll meet again").[9]

Web[edit]

  • In the RiffTrax for Twilight, Bill Corbett jokes that Bella Swan was listening to the song before nearly getting crushed by a car in her school parking lot.
  • Internet music critic Todd in the Shadows ranked the song 9th on his list of "Top Ten Songs About Mediocre Romance."

Personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart successions[edit]

Preceded by
"Babe" by Styx
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
December 22–29, 1979
Succeeded by
"Please Don't Go" by
KC and the Sunshine Band
Preceded by
"Please Don't Go" by
KC and the Sunshine Band
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
January 12, 1980
Succeeded by
"Rock With You" by Michael Jackson
Preceded by
"Babe" by Styx
Canadian RPM Singles Chart
number-one single

January 12–19, 1980
Succeeded by
"Rapper's Delight" by
The Sugarhill Gang

See also[edit]

References[edit]