This began as a song called "People Need Other People," which Holmes wrote years earlier for his own amusement. For his fifth album, he needed an uptempo song to balance out the ballads, so he decided to record "Escape." In his Songfacts interview, Rupert described how they recorded it:
"The drummer, Leo Adamian, suggested we have two drummers on the session because it was an interesting beat that was hard to pull off with one drummer alone. We got the second drummer and we did one take of the tune. It had some very interesting chord changes and changed key several times, and I'm singing away this lyric, 'people need other people.' We go in to hear back the first take and we listen to the cut, and I say 'you know, we can definitely do better than this,' and I look and I see that the second drummer was unconscious from having too much fun. We were able to wake him up and get him into a taxi, and that was that, we weren't going to record any more of that track.
I figured I'd just put the song away - I wasn't that crazy about the lyric anyway. Then I found that I really desperately needed another uptempo song on the album and the budget was getting low and I wasn't sure what to do. That's when we did something that now is pretty commonplace but was pretty unusual at the time - we did a very primitive version of sampling. I found there were 16 bars of music on that first take that were very tight, everybody was in a very nice groove on it. So we duplicated those 16 bars onto another multitrack master over and over again and edited them all together. I think there were 60 edits to make up a reel that was 5-minutes long of this 16-bar vamp.
I went through a million lyrics in my head. I wrote one song that went, 'That's the law of the jungle in the school of the street, you get out of the kitchen if you can't take the heat.' I thought it sounded too much like a Billy Joel song. I wrote another one: 'Everyone needs a victim, I believe you will find, when you're cruel to another, when you're cruel to be kind.' Right as I did that, I remembered there was a hit record out called 'Cruel To Be Kind
,' so I couldn't use that.
Now it's the day before the last scheduled day of recording and I have no lyrics. Because the song is just this steady vamp, I realized that I've got to make the lyrics the focal point of the song because the music is repetitive. I was in my apartment and there was a copy of The Village Voice
. Sometimes I look at personal columns to get ideas for songs because people fascinate me. I saw this ad that a woman had placed in which she described herself in such glowing terms that I thought to myself, 'Why on earth, if you're this wonderful, do you need to place an ad in the personal columns?' Trying not to be cynical, I thought, 'Let's be fair, maybe she's just looking for an adventure. Maybe she is as wonderful as she says, but she likes the idea of meeting a stranger and seeing what fate has in store for them. She wants something out of the ordinary.' Then I thought to myself, 'What would happen if I answered this ad,' and I thought, 'With my stupid luck, I would answer the ad and find out it had been placed by the woman I was living with, never realizing that she was bored with me.
The story sort of took hold of my mind. People always ask me if it was based on something true, and I know they would love to know it was based on a true incident, but it wasn't, it was based on the 'What If' scenario that I conjured up in my mind that evening."