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
Length 4:35 (album version)
3:50 (single version)
Label Infinity Records
Writer(s) Rupert Holmes
Producer(s) Rupert Holmes, Jim Boyer
Rupert Holmes singles chronology
"Let's Get Crazy Tonight"
(1978)
"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"
(1979)
"Him"
(1980)

"Escape", also known as "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,[1] then added to prominent US radio playlists in October–November.[2] 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 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 writes back 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 girlfriend/wife. 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 1970's). However, "Escape" reached number one again on the Billboard Hot 100 charts during the second week of 1980, therefore making this song the only song in pop music history (to date) to hit number one in two different decades.[3]

Background and writing[edit]

Recorded for 1979's Partners in Crime, 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 2005 Cast of Characters box set, and were inspired by a want-ad he read while 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 originally was 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.

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. As he states in any number of interviews, as well as in the liner notes of the aforementioned 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 ($2000 in 2014 dollars) 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 break though. 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]

The song has been featured in several films, such as Dirty Work, Mars Attacks!, The Sweetest Thing, Grown Ups, Shrek, Guardians of the Galaxy and Wanted, American Dad as well as a cover performed in the soundtrack for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by Jack Johnson. In HBO TV show True Blood it is sung by main character Sookie, when she is drunk (Season 5, Episode 4 'We'll meet again').[4] It's also presumably playing in the elevator from Tartarus in Rick Riordan's young adult novel The House of Hades, described as "that song about liking piña coladas and getting caught in the rain".[5] The chorus of the song is also the cellphone ringtone of Dr. Chris Taub from the TV show House. It is also played in the CW hit show Veronica Mars, in the prison experiment S03E02, as the 'guards' uses music to intimidate the 'prisoners'.


Personnel[edit]

  • Rupert Holmes - vocals, keyboards, synthesizer, saxophone
  • Dean Bailin - guitar
  • Frank Gravis - bass
  • Leo Adamian - drums
  • Steve Jordan - "double drums" with Adamian on "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1979–1980) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[6] 3
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[7] 10
Canada (RPM) 1
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM) 1
Ireland (IRMA) 10
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[8] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 4
United Kingdom (Official Charts Company) 23
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 8

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1980) Position
US Billboard Hot 100 11

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

References[edit]