The very last #1 single of the 70’s. Escape hit the peak on December 22nd, 1979 for 2 weeks, fell out of the Top spot to make way for K.C.’s Please Don’t Go, then climbed back up in the a week. So it was #1 in 2 different decades. But at its heart it’s a perfect song to represent the Me decade.
Rupert Holmes’ 70s success had its own bookends, with a tune he wrote, Timothy, for the Buoys hitting the Top 20 in early 1971. The fact that either was a hit was a miracle. While Timothy had its own controversies, the record label that Escape was released on went belly up as it was climbing the charts. MCA, who was distributing the 45, picked it up and kept the promotional train going. Was it the faux tropical groove, the sudden interest in Pina Coladas or the hey-that’s-me storyline that kept people engaged? Irregardless it was the prefect song to end the 1970s.
Not bad for a song that was written out of desperation or rather on a low budget when an album needed another track. Rupert sampled a groove from a song recorded years back and tried to write lyrics over it, but nothing sounded right (Sampling back then meant cutting, splicing and taping recorded tape many times over. A very tedious and time consuming process.) And since the groove was repetitive, Rupert needed the focus to be on an interesting story. That’s when, while spotting an add in the personals on the Village Voice he was inspired to construct a story based on a scenario where ‘he’ answered that ad. It turned into a story about a guy bored in his relationship answering a personal ad, meeting the woman only to find out it was his girlfriend who place the ad. Everyone has a good laugh at the end and many pina coladas and some champagne were downed.
Now, imagine that the song was a movie. Here is a guy reading the personal ads in bed next to his lover. He’s planning on cheating while she snores next to him. What a sleazebag, we think. We then find out that the girl who placed the ad loves pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, the feel of the ocean and the taste of champagne. Wow, sounds like she likes getting wet & drunk. We wanna know what she looks like. So he plans to meet her at a bar called O’Malley’s where they’ll plan an escape. Don’t know what they’re escaping from, since I assume they have jobs and a house, but we go along with it.
The final scene – the guy is waiting nervously in O’Malley’s. Then in walks his girlfriend. Now how does he know that she placed the ad? SHouldn’t he be more like,’ Oh hi, my lady.. what…are… you…doing here? I’m just meeting….Jim for a drink and to watch the, uh, Battle of The Network Stars…‘ something like that. Instead he & she immediately realize that they were answering each other’s ads. Really? What a bunch of self-absorbed Yuppies! They do belong to each other.
If that was me, I’d be pissed off. I’d make something up like, ‘A-ha, I caught you. I knew you were up to something.’, at least, play it off somehow. And by the way how does someone not know that their partner likes pina coladas? What did they think all that coconut snow in the pantry was for?
Rupert recorded the vocals in one take and actually changed the opening chorus line from ‘If you like Humphrey Bogart’ to ‘If you like Pina Coladas’. That change made his career. The song, originally titled Escape was eventually changed upon 45 release when radio listeners started asking about that Pina Colada song. The funny thing was that Rupert had never had one before, but eventually boosted its recognition in bars, outside of tropical locales. Don’t know how much he boosted cheating on one another through personal ads though.
Contrary to what you think, that is not Cheri Oteri singing backup.