Rick Springfield, Jessie's Girl and Working Class Dog

Rick Springfield’s 1981 album Working Class Dog – featuring his classic song Jessie’s Girl, which went to Number 1 in America — has been reissued. But this guy was more than just a one-hit wonder…

What other hits did he have?

Only one minor hit in the UK – Human Touch, which made the Top 30 in 1984. In fact, Jessie’s Girl didn’t even chart in the UK when it was Number 1 in the US and in Australia, Springfield’s home country. But he was big business in the US. There were two other Top 20 hits from Working Class DogI’ve Done Everything For You, which was written by Sammy Hagar, and Love Is Alright Tonite.

And later?

Don’t Talk To Strangers went to Number 2 in America in 1982. That was from his cheekily titled album Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet.

He had a sense of humour, then?

Certainly in his early years. In 1974 he made a single called Streaking The Australian Way. Sample lyric: “It’s not what you call your regular high school course/It’s a little like Lady Godiva without the horse.”

So who was Jessie?

The guy’s real name was Gary. Rick got to know him when they were studying stained glass making. Seriously. Rick was struggling to make ends meet before he had success as a musician, so he thought he’d find an alternative career. He wrote the song about Gary’s girlfriend, but decided to call it Jessie’s Girl after he saw a girl wearing a softball jersey with ‘Jessie’ printed on it. A smart move: Gary’s Girl just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

What was the girl’s name?

Amazingly, Rick never knew. And as he says now: “To this day, I don’t know whether she realizes she was the inspiration for the song.”

Rick was also a TV star, right?

He played the role of Dr. Noah Drake in the long-running US soap General Hospital. He got the job just before Jessie’s Girl was a hit, so ended up a rock star and a TV star at the same time.

Jessie’s Girl was featured in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights – in a memorable scene where two porn stars are trying to rip off a drug dealer with bogus cocaine…

Check out the brilliant performance from Alfred Molina as the drug baron singing along to the song while off his tits and stripped down to his kecks. The song that follows in this scene is another AOR classic – Night Ranger’s Sister Christian.

Springfield also featured in Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary Sound City, in which he cried on camera. Why?

Sound City was the LA recording studio where Rick cut Working Class Dog. The studio’s owner Joe Gottfried was also Rick’s manager, until Rick’s head was turned and he fired him. The two men made their peace before Gottfried’s death, but when Springfield talked about this in the movie, a lingering sense of guilt overcame him. “I wasn’t expecting emotionally to go there,” he said, “and it kind of caught me by surprise. It got me down.”

And what is Rick up to now?

Last year he published his debut novel, Magnificent Vibration, about a man who has God’s phone number. And he’s still making records. His 2012 album Songs For The End Of The World got a rave review in Classic Rock. And after Sound City, downloads of Jessie’s Girl increased five-fold. That song is the gift that keeps on giving.

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”