I have a tendency to say what is supposed to be a funny or intelligent remark and embarrass myself by being corrected for using false information. Examples are abundant and shameful. It could range from thinking Kirstie Alley was that woman in 3rd Rock From the Sun to calling Jeff Daniels “Jeff Bridges” to saying George Orwell wrote Fahrenheit 451.

I have certainly played the fool with the cards I dealt myself.

One area I really try to not mess up in is music. Of course I’ve done that, too (i.e. major flaw in Broken Social Scene feature last semester), but for the most part I seem to at least feign a strong handle on all things sonic and singable.

Today, for myself but for you too, I write about something that causes what amounts to a horrible 10 car crash with defective child seats and boxes of oversensitive fireworks in my mind. This mind explosion is the ultimate triumvirate of jealousy songs: “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, “Is She Really Going Out with Him” by Joe Jackson, and “My Best Friend’s Girl” by The Cars.

All three songs were written between 1978 and 1981, all songs fit the same lyrical theme, and they all for sure have the same time signature. The confusion is warranted and hard to get past what with so many things in common – similar production and new wave-ish style, and all being tremendously catchy pop songs. Without thinking, I could easily sing segments of each song seamlessly threaded into one another. Though unimportant to some, I find it imperative to straighten this out because each song deserves distinction.

The Cars 1978 debut featured this gem of love lost and betrayal. Anyone can tell you that dating a best friend’s ex is beyond any normal faux pas. Ric Ocasek crooned how “she used to be mine.” A highlight of the track is the little Beatles “I will”-like guitar riff that finds its way in at the right moments, but when push comes to shove, the whole song is like a Deion Sanders who in turn was a human highlight reel.

The very next year, Joe Jackson’s debut featured his own song of lament and jealousy. Though more general and more tongue-in-cheek, Jackson is also very unhappy with how women seem to pick their men. Sugar Ray hilariously covered this later on and, personally, I found Mark McGrath’s performance unconvincing. I don’t really think he ever had problems finding an available lady.

Mark McGrath is to host of TV’s Extra as Rick Springfield is to Soap Opera Star. Yes, both of these rock hotties turned to the small screen after their initial musical fame. “Jesse’s Girl” came out in ’81 and is both the most recent and the worst of the trio. I wouldn’t be very surprised if this song is a direct rip-off/homage to The Cars’ hit years before. Still, the hook and the swagger (not to mention the hair) is very hard to resist.

Though near identical in a lot of respects, each of these songs have enough individuality and spunk to remain on radio rotations nearly 30 years after their releases. And in terms of what songs are stuck in my head, each would probably be on my most played list. Try to keep them straight and you can do no wrong. At least next time you feel loveless, you have options on how to dance your sadness away.

Brian has had all three songs stuck in his head this week and can be reached at brianmcgo@gmail.com

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