When Jackson Browne sat down at the piano to perform this song live for BBC Television at London's Shepherd's Bush Theatre in 1978, he introduced it saying, "This is a true story 'bout a guy I knew... he met a really beautiful girl, and that's where the sad part comes in."
On the face of it, this is a fairly straightforward song about a concert technician who meets an attractive young girl before the start of the show, gives her his pass so she can get in, buys her a beer, and things are looking good, this could be the girl of his dreams, or if not that, then at least he'll get laid. At the end of the show, the girl is swept away by the drummer. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, our hero laments. But, if the girl leaves with the drummer, who is this Rosie who is sharing his bed in the chorus?
But Rosie you're all right You wear my ring When you hold me tight Rosie that's my thing When you turn out the light I've got to hand it to me Looks like it's me and you again tonight, Rosie
If the BBC had known Rosie's true identity, it is quite likely that in 1978, this song would have been cut from the broadcast, and if it isn't obvious by now, all will be revealed in the 1994 publication The Book of Lists: The '90s Edition, by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace.
Under Adam Block's Secret Subjects of 15 Pop Songs, "Rosie" is said to have been co-written with a roadie named Donald Miller. Rosie Palm or Rosie Palms is in fact a colloquialism for masturbation. Sometimes she is said to have a friend named Jill; the J is made with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, the I is the middle finger and the other two fingers make the L's.
During another performance, Browne explained this actually was a true story; the girl in question was wearing a green leotard and was sixteen years old. But rather than hit the sack with Rosie, the sound mixer exacted a rather embarrassing revenge on the drummer. After sitting brooding over a few drinks in the hotel bar, he nailed his hotel door shut with coins (apparently this is an old trick). When it was time to leave, the drummer had to call the desk to get them to remove the door, leaving him to explain the jailbait in his room.
Although songs about this particular aspect of the sexual act are not common, they are far from unknown, perhaps the best known being the Pete Townsend composition "Pictures Of Lily", and the most blatant Ivor Biggun's "The Winker's Song (Misprint)" which includes a reference to Mrs. Palm "and her five lovely daughters."
One footnote: When introducing this song, Jackson Browne would always stress that it was not about him - for obvious reasons!
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above