Johnny Get Angry

Album: Girl Group Greats (1962)
Charted: 7
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Songfacts®:

  • What a strange, strange little hit. This was Joanie Sommers' only entry on the Billboard Top 40, and it is notable as a historic piece, if nothing else. Such dark lyrics set to such a cheerful tune wouldn't come along again until Steely Dan formed.

    This song tends to make us cringe now because social standards have changed so much. These days, feminists would be picketing the record studio for such a song. While you will notice that the lyrics do not invoke actual domestic violence, it's heavily implied that things may go farther than "the biggest lecture I ever had." Still, this is the person expressing what they want - is she wrong in asking for it? Indeed, she's deliberately emotionally abusing "Johnny" in order to provoke him. Should we rush in with therapists and medications to treat the dysfunctional people? Should we threaten Johnny with anger management classes and a restraining order if he lays a hand on her? Or should we just leave the enigmatic couple to their little games if that's what floats their boat? The question hangs open. That such a taboo idea could be expressed in 1962 and still be taboo today, while other counterculture ideas of the '60s have become less shocking, says a lot for the daring minds behind the concept.
  • To make this song even more surreal, an ensemble of kazoos are just thrown in there like they were regular instruments. That's another mind-bender almost worthy of John Cale. Is that to make this seem like a novelty song? Or is it perhaps making a statement about the singer's unbalanced mental state?
  • "Emotional Masochism," our subculture department informs us, "is a variant of S&M in which the bottom wants the top to "mess with their head." Through such means as humiliation, name-calling, confrontation, provoking jealousy, and degrading treatment, the masochist hopes to reach an emotional low which would provoke the same triggered release of endorphins that physical pain would." It's considered shocking "edge play" even within alternative lifestyles, even if it's fully consensual and the parties understand that it's "just pretend."
  • One more bit of cultural ground this song opens up: Notice that the singer is disappointed with the way Johnny acts like a doormat instead of being her "cave man." Today we have the term "friend zone" for when a woman deflects a man who has romantic interest in her by relegating him to "just a friend." Or join an online discussion on dating and ask the ladies why men get friend-zoned. The responses generally even out to "he acted like a friend, not a lover." Hey, wait a minute. Michael Bolton would like to have a word with you.
  • This was written by Hal David and Sherman Edwards, who were part of the New York City songwriting community in the '60s - often simplified as "The Brill Building." David would later team up with Burt Bacharach and form one of the most successful songwriting duos in pop music history. These staff songwriters were always looking for topics that would resonate with the listening public, and emotional masochism was a winner here.
  • Sommers seemed to enjoy a relatively stable career for an early '60s vocalist, but also went on to do considerable voice-acting work in several animated TV and film works.

Comments: 10

  • AnonymousI never thought about deeply analyzing the singer and Johnny's relationship. I thought the lyrics were enjoyably ridiculous, and the kazoo break a tipoff that the makers of the record were in on the joke.
  • Steve from UsaFound this song by Googling "spanish songs about domestic violence," LOL. It's not in Spanish and I don't think it's about domestic violence. That's kind of the point--Johnny isn't as angry as the singer would like.

    Messed-up? Yes. Violent--his fault? No. Doesn't sound like she's doing anything physical, either. I could get very long-winded, but not much else is coming to mind, so I'll wrap it up.

    Humans and the situations we get into are so much more nuanced than any pamphlet (of any political opinion) would tell you.
  • AnonymousWho’s idea was it to play a gazoo on the music part?
  • Nancy from SeattleWho wrote these song "facts", that are just basically opinions? While the music and instruments used are rather bizarre, even for the 60s, the lyrics are not. Anyone listen to Amy Winehouse "Stronger Than Me"? Its from mid 2000's and of a similar vein. The subject of the lyrics in this song is not emotionally masochistic, merely wanting her man to show he cares enough about her to get upset about something once in a while. She breaks up and he is not upset, other guys dance with her and he doesn't mind, so she assumes then he doesn't actually care much about her, but she wants him to. Logical.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkYes, this is rather a bizarre hit considering it rose to #7 back in 1962 (the year of dance-crazes, surf music, hot rod music, Chubby Checker, Elvis, the Crystals & the Beach Boys). My oldest brother lived thru the Sixties & after he died in 2010 I found this 45 rpm single in his huge record collection. It looked brand-new & never played! The tune is sort of childish. It's a mystery to me how it became a hit in 1962. But I wasn't born way back then. My Dad, who's still alive, says he recalls Joanie Sommers as "the Pepsi Girl" in the early 60s & from some TV guest shots. He thought she was a real dimwit though. Thank goodness they don't have many songs like this any more!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 20th 1962, "Johnny Get Angry" by Joanie Sommers entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #95; eight weeks later on July 15h, 1962 it would peak at #7 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 14 weeks...
    She had two other Top 100 records; "One Boy" {#54 in 1960} and "When the Boys Get Together" {#94 in 1962}...
    Ms. Sommers, born Joan Drost, will celebrate her 75th birthday come next February 24th {2016}.
  • Bruce from Philadelphia, Pa"...and was also a perpetual game show contestant..."
    Nope, that was Brett Somers (one M), not Joanie. Brett was married to Jack Klugman and was a fixture on quiz shows, especially Match Game, during the 60s and 70s. Joanie is credited with a week's worth of appearances on Hollywood Squares in 1967, however.
  • Ted from Brazville, American Samoa"Should we rush in with therapists and medications to treat the dysfunctional people? " It might help you.
  • Neal from Fayetteville, Nc, NcJoanie Summers was the Pepsi girl in the early 60's. On radio and TV, we were bombarded with the Pepsi jingle, sung by Joanie to the tune of "Makin Whoopie."

    "Now It's Pepsi.........For Those Who Think Young."
  • Christopher from Charlotte, NcWhat's this trash about this song being about child abuse or domestic violence? It's a SONG and that's all!!!!
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