From Robert Palmer's 1980 album, Clues. Rod Stewart said at the time that this was one of the best songs he'd ever heard. It was ahead of its time; that's for sure. Perhaps he was listening to a lot of Kraftwerk?
The first time I heard it was in the mid-80's in Chicago, IL, while spending a few days with some old college buddies up there. One had become a big shot in an ad agency, and we were staying at his house in the city. It was amazing how much he'd changed with his newfound wealth and position. And not for the better.
After a morning of golf at Kemper Lakes and an afternoon of serious croquet in his yard (and I mean serious, with bets and loud cursing and tempers flaring), we cooked out and sat on the deck listening to the boom box.
This song came on, and I was immediately taken with the sound of it. This guy's name was John, and it just seemed so correct as the story of his new life and his new situation. If his wife had been named Mary, it would have been perfect. (Her name did start with an M.)
I don't know how many times in a row I played this song, each time louder and louder. He finally got his fill of it and stormed inside. The ad game had not only turned him into a raging alcoholic, it had ruined him as a person worth caring about.
Johnny’s always running around,
Trying to find certainty.
He needs all the world to confirm
That he ain’t lonely.
Mary counts the walls;
Knows he tires easily.
Remaining lyrics removed due to © considerations.