Spin Doctors lead singer Chris Barron wrote this song's lyric about his stepmother, who he was happy to see leave the family.
With the opening line, "been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town," Barron had some explaining to do, as he was accused of misogyny. He often pointed out that his beef was with one specific woman, and that he had great respect for women in general. "The song is really about life being short, so we should all be nice to one another," he told Sky magazine. "It's about one specific person, not a generalization about women. When I wrote those lyrics, I was a poor guy in New York City who wrote songs. I never dreamed that it would be on the radio all over the world. It's about a person, who happens to be a woman, who is very unkind, very unforgiving and couldn't be wrong. It could've been a man... and I promise to try and write more constructive songs in the future."
This was the first Spin Doctors single, and the song that got the band noticed. Signed to Epic Records, the band was an anomaly: a New York act that played music that sounded like it was from Seattle. Epic didn't give them much respect, and when Pocket Full of Kryptonite, their first studio album, was released in August 1991, they did little to promote it.
A breakthrough came when the Vermont radio station WEQX used part of the Spin Doctors song "Big Fat Funky Booty" in a promo they produced to promote a local concert with the band and some acts from the area. Listeners phoned in asking to hear the promo, so the station began playing Spin Doctors songs and also championing the band, making an appeal to Epic that helped convince the label to put some promotion behind them.
With a push from Epic, other stations put "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" in rotation, and it made a slow climb up the charts, peaking at #17 in the US the last week of 1992.
1993 was the big year for the Spin Doctors - they headlined a tour with Soul Asylum and Screaming Trees, and their next single, "Two Princes," rose to #7 in America.
Chris Barron's stepmother had a huge impact on his life: He had to drop out of Bennington College in Vermont, where he was studying ceramics, when she spent his tuition money on (according to Chris) "a Ferrari Dino and a lynx and a mink and a couple dozen Saks Fifth Avenue suits."
In a Songfacts interview with Barron, he explained: "I came back to New York City and I lived in a little apartment above a music store and at night I would write songs. I wrote 'Jimmy Olsen's Blues' up there and I wrote 'Two Princes' up there in that apartment on Spring Street in Princeton, New Jersey. Then during the day I would work in this kitchen at a place called The American Diner. I worked there during the day and I wrote tunes at night."
When this song started climbing the charts, Epic Records commissioned a video, which did well on MTV despite (or because of) the band's ragged look. In the video, the petulant "little miss" was portrayed as a girlfriend type.
The video was directed by Diane La Verdi, who talked them out of a concept where the "bitch" is a female dog.
Growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, Barron got little encouragement for his dreams of becoming a rock star (a notable exception: John Popper). His stepmother was especially dismissive, which made it so much sweeter when this song about her became a hit.
"There is an irony to the fact that my stepmom used to tell me that I would be a guitar-playing janitor and that I would live in the basement of the high school and 'play guitar for the rats,'" Barron told Songfacts. "They say success is the best revenge, and I certainly savored the irony that she was so unkind to me in regards to my future and my career, and that my future and career were assured by a song that I wrote about her."
Chris Barron mentions two literary figures in the line, "She want one man made of Hercules and Cyrano." This reflects his interest in mythology and literature - he was known for always having his nose in a book or watching a play.
You cook so well All nice and French You do your brain surgery too, mama With a monkey wrench
Barron's stepmother was indeed a great cook, making the best chocolate cake he ever had. Regarding the brain surgery/monkey wrench line, he told us: "She's an extremely intelligent person but she couldn't relate to people, so, it's sort of a metaphor. She could have done brain surgery but she didn't have the tools. Rather than actually perform a delicate cerebral treatment on another human being she'd bash their brains out with a wrench."
Like many of the Spin Doctors songs, this was written by the entire band.
This song was used in the movies Son in Law and Malice (both 1993), and also in a 2004 episode of the TV show Friends.
Many in the Spin Doctors circle thought Barron wrote this song about his ex-girlfriend, Heather McKearnan, since they broke up just weeks before he introduced the song. Barron did write a song about her - "You Let Your Heart Go Too Fast" - but stresses that their split was amicable, and that she is not at all a "little miss" type.
In 1995, Sesame Street spoofed this as "Little Miss Count Along," with The Count and Zoe celebrating the joy of counting. The following year, the band appeared on the program to perform a parody of their hit "Two Princes."