Picture Postcards From 1994

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Does anybody here besides me remember Joshua Kadison?

Kadison’s first hit, “Jessie,” hit the Hot 100 in late 1993, and it rose to #26 at the end of January 1994 in a 22-week chart run. It was #11 on adult contemporary for five straight weeks that winter. In the summer of ’94, “Beautiful in My Eyes” got to #19 in 21 weeks on the Hot 100 and went to #4 on AC. Finally, “Picture Postcards From L.A.” hit a Hot 100 peak of #84 in November, although it lasted into January 1995 on the AC chart, peaking at #16. The album containing all three singles, Painted Desert Serenade, ran the charts for 52 weeks and got to #69 (nice). Although Kadison would release a followup album at the end of 1995, neither it nor its singles went anywhere, and he hasn’t returned to the American charts. I haven’t heard him or played him on the radio since then.

On “Jessie,” Kadison sounds like Elton John, both in his vocal timbre and his piano style—so much so that when you google “Jessie,” the first thing that comes up under “people also search for” is “Elton John Jessie song.” It’s romantic, tasteful, extremely unthreatening VH1 suburban soccer mom pop music, and in the video, Kadison is panty-dropping handsome. None of that has to be bad, and “Jessie” isn’t, not really.

But I can’t exactly say that it’s good, either. I remember playing it on the radio and wanting to throw a heavy object when Kadison sang the following verse:

She asked me how the cat’s been
I said “Moses, he’s just fine”
But he used to think about you, all the time
We finally took your pictures down off the wall
Jessie, how do you always seem to know just when to call
She says “Get your stuff together, bring Mose and drive real fast”
And I listened to her promise
“I swear to God this time it’s gonna last”

There’s never a single moment in the song when you feel like these are real people, or this is a real experience. Again, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it feels off nevertheless. Do we really need to know the cat’s name, or is it in there for the sake of the syllables? And does Jessie like the cat more than she likes Joshua?

Nearly everything you can find about “Jessie” online quotes the Wikipedia article about the song. It speculates that Jessie is actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Kadison’s romantic interest at the time. However, again according to Wikipedia: “This has never been confirmed, and it has also been pointed out that Parker has never been known to be called ‘Jessie’ or own a cat named Moses.” That’s kind of legalistic, isn’t it, Wiki Writer? In addition, the footnote with that factoid directs a reader to the “Jessie” entry at Songfacts. And Songfacts, far from being an unimpeachable source, is vastly more full of shit than Wikipedia a lot of the time.

Just because you have a footnote doesn’t mean you have confirmation. After all, this blog you are reading right now is cited as a credible source by at least one Wikipedia entry, and we all know that ain’t right.

And isn’t Moses supposed to the singer’s cat?

Where the “Jessie” video put Kadison on the beach with his piano, the “Beautiful in My Eyes” video has him in front of a dancing string quartet, his hair blown picturesquely by a wind machine. The song is even more radio-friendly than “Jessie,” if such a thing is possible. While the lyric is less distinctive (“You’re my peace of mind in this crazy world / You’re everything I’ve tried to find / Your love is a pearl”), the melody on the refrain is an all-timer, and it’s not surprising that “Beautiful in My Eyes” ended up the somewhat bigger hit.

(Wikipedia and Songfacts are johnny-on-the-spot for “Beautiful in My Eyes” too, quoting what are supposed to be Kadison’s actual words explaining that it’s a song about how “you’ll always be beautiful in my eyes.” The HELL you say.)

I remember thinking in 1994 that, when you played them up against the other stuff getting adult contemporary airplay that year, “Jessie” and “Beautiful in My Eyes” sounded 20 years out of date. Not throwbacks, not homages, but songs that had been recorded around 1974 or ’75 and sealed in a vault. I still can’t decide if I like them or not. They remain uniquely weird, a thing entirely unto themselves.

7 thoughts on “Picture Postcards From 1994

  1. thomas m long jr

    I actually liked his music when I was on the radio. I know my interests are more pop music. Great info as always.

  2. Gene Baxter

    Some songs just evaporate after their chart runs, even into the Top 20, don’t they? I heard “Love Zone” by Billy Ocean on a countdown recently and had no memory of it. I certainly would have played it on the radio many times as a current too.

  3. Wesley

    Speaking of Wikipedia, although I admit to having written and edited some entries on that resource, I have made sure not to touch any article that credits me, or rather one of my books, as a reference. As desperate as I worry I can be sometimes, I thankfully haven’t reached the “propping up my name in Wikipedia for my ego” bottom yet.

    As for the subject of this post, I’d like to think that if Bernie Taupin wrote lyrics as bad as what you quoted in “Jessie” for Elton John, the latter would’ve told him they sucked and thrown them back it him. And then Bernie would’ve kept the lyrics, given them to Starship to record in the 1980s and seen it become a top 10 hit then. My apologies for being really cynical tonight.

  4. Jake

    Jesse and Beautiful in My Eyes got a ton of airplay on KDWB in Minneapolis. As did a parody song that Kadison sang himself about Tonya Harding called “Tonya”. I haven’t heard it for nearly 30 years but still find myself singing “Tonya beats her rivals/By wackin em on the knee”.

  5. I heard “Jessie” on the radio a few times, enough to remember it when Kadison’s two CDs popped up on the cheap rack back in the early Oughts. I’ve since gotten rid of them, but the mp3s remain on the hard drive. Pleasant audio wallpaper.

  6. John Gallagher

    Back in the late 1990s into the early 2000s, “Beautiful In My Eyes” was a semi-popular choice for first dance at weddings.

  7. Pingback: Work Ethic of a Hobo – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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