Johnny and Mary - Robert Palmer - 80sneverend - Timeless people

Timeless people

Robert Palmer – Johnny and Mary

So she combs her hair
Knows he tires easily
Johnny's always runnin' around
Tryin' to find certainty
#JohnnyAndMary #RobertPalmer

We all know songs that, in a sense, have always existed. Maybe we Dinosaurs have an idea of when they came out, or we can tell the story behind them, as in this case, but when the songs have been able to overcome the time limit, and perhaps still be transmitted after decades, even with variations or other versions, those who hear the song today have no idea of the origins of these songs.

Of course, in order to resist the grip of time, a song must have something special, sounds, rhythm, something that makes it beautiful and always current, so that even today someone still chooses to listen to or play a song from 1980, perhaps .

The story we are talking about today starts in September 1980, when the first single taken from an album called Clues was released; it was already the sixth album by a real gentleman of new wave and then of British pop. A gentleman, but absolutely brilliant, because we are talking about the great Robert Palmer.

Robert had alternated solo and group experiences since the 1970s, and often played for groups where his friends played, and his friends returned the favor by playing for him. In this case, he had on his album the featuring of friends such as Gary Numan or Chris Frantz, who together with his wife Tina Weymouth and of course with David Byrne was one of the founders of Talking Heads, the authors of Burning Down the House.

The first single from Clues was supposed to be a song called Looking for Clues, but in the end Johnny and Mary was preferred: a very special song, a ballad that seems harmless but is destined to stay in your mind for life. And this song, written when Robert Palmer lived in the Bahamas islands, brought a unprecedented success in his career.

We don’t know much about Johnny and Mary, but we can guess something between the lines of a certainly original text, maybe somehow hermetic, but not too much. Johnny is a bit nervous and insecure, if it’s true that he keeps walking around looking for certainty and that when he’s alone the world could buy truth from him, but after all he needs the world to confirm that he isn’t lonely.

Mary is different, from Palmer’s description of her she seems a bit bored and resigned, if it is true that she spends her time combing her hair and counting the walls. But Mary is probably waiting for Johnny and his insecurities, because in some verses she paints a precise portrait of him, saying that he constantly changes his mind, or that he lacks a sense of proportion. So some of Mary’s attention, and probably some of Mary’s feelings, are certainly directed towards Johnny.

And after all Johnny has noticed Mary too, but he doesn’t always really manage to talk to her, and sometimes he has the feeling of wasting his breath trying to talk sense to her. And time passes like this, between incommunicability, probably shyness, but also feelings, because from the video we understand that Johnny and Mary turn around each other, and it will take some time but they are destined to meet.

The video is simple but very funny, and there are only three characters: Johnny of course, dressed in black, who walks worriedly around the room; Mary, dressed in white, bored in the center of the room but with a protective look towards Johnny, and the third character is the narrator of the story, of course Robert Palmer, sitting at a typewriter, with a blind behind his back separating him from his characters, looking like a journalist or a writer.

Robert, however, often turns to look at his Johnny and Mary, and we don’t understand if he’s getting inspiration, or if he’s checking how the story he’s writing is progressing.

In addition to lyrics and video, however, there is another fundamental element for the success of this beautiful song, and it is of course music. Hard to believe that this song was written in 1980: Palmer was in his new wave period, but Johnny and Mary is already beyond, at the edge between new wave and pop, where the music will arrive within two or three years (in England). In addition, there is a very deep bass note, almost audible, which truly remains something unique in the history of pop: in short, truly irresistible music. And this song doesn’t even have a real refrain!

And in fact this song in the mid-80s was chosen for the commercials of a car manufacturer throughout Europe, and the choice was so successful that from then until today, through forty years of music and innovations, Johnny and Mary remains still the basis for the advertising of this brand, maybe using more modern versions and recent covers.

And although Robert Palmer’s career later experienced other peaks of absolute popularity, such as his participation in The Power Station with John Taylor and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Tony Thompson of Chic (think of Some Like It Hot or Get it On), or like the sensational video of Addicted to Love, which really defined a standard of glamour, for us Dinosaurs Robert Palmer will always be the gentleman who introduced us to the world and the insecurities of Johnny and Mary…because maybe after all Johnny and Mary are just like us!

Robert Palmer on Wikipedia

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