One of the great songs of the early 1990s was Concrete Blonde‘s “Joey,” which appeared on the band’s album Bloodletting (1990). Like many great works of art, “Joey” came out of real anguish felt by its writer, Concrete Blonde lead singer Johnette Napolitano.
Although you may have sung along with lyrics like “Joey I’m not angry anymore,” if you delve deeper into the words of the catchy tune you find great pain. The song captures the feeling of loving someone fighting their own demons, helplessly watching while you cannot do anything as your loved one struggles with addiction: “I just stand by and let you / Fight your secret war.”
Napolitano wrote the song about her relationship with Marc Moreland of the band Wall Of Voodoo. Napolitano has explained in interviews and her book Rough Mix how painful it was for her to write and record the lyrics.
Because of that pain, Napolitano kept the band waiting for the song. She initially wrote the music for the song and the band loved it. But Napolitano kept them waiting on the lyrics because she knew that her song about Moreland was going to be heart-wrenching to write. Eventually, the words came all at once to Napolitano, and she wrote them down in a cab on the way to the studio. “Joey” was the last song recorded for the album.
And though I used to wonder why,
I used to cry till I was dry;
Still sometimes I get a strange pain inside;
Oh Joey if you’re hurting so am I.
The song became Concrete Blonde’s biggest hit, eventually hitting #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After a couple of more albums, the band broke up in 1993, although it would reunite at several points and is together today. The song’s subject, Marc Moreland would eventually die of liver failure in 2002.
And now you know the story behind the song.
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