I love this song. Joe Jackson is fantastic and the song is so intimate, and just right.
The stripped-down accompaniment, the clean sound, the plain old “in the box” chord progression:
Describing the progression in Roman Numerals doesn’t really do it justice. V – II – IV – I implies an overall motion to the final chord. The fact that the progression returns to the beginning is perhaps more defining than its resolution to the final chord. But that’s the reason I like it so much, and it rings so true to the song.
The song describes a snapshot in time, without any resolution. The point is not the expression of any process that is to be resolved, but of the feeling experienced within that process. The recurrence of the progression is part of it, the fact that over and over again Joe (the fictional character) sees these pretty women out walking with gorillas. This fact is further emphasized by the repeated elision in the melodic line, the late arriving G# that descends to the F# in order to return to the beginning. The chorus is a soliloquy on how the process feels (“Is she really going out with him?”) and the B section (“But if looks could kill…”) is his waking dream of breaking from the recurring nightmare.
Better, this analysis provides us with a justification for the Raconteur’s identical progression in “Steady as She Goes.”
Here I was thinking I was smart for hearing the similarities, but it has been mentioned before in at least two places. The first place, a blog, seems to be concerned with whether or not Jack White was conscious of the similarities and the second seems concerned with which is better: “”Steady” proves White’s non-Stripes chops (he’s not allergic to bass after all!), but Jackson’s track is a stone classic.”
The circling progression allows the listener to relive the moment over and over again—“Steady as she goes…” Isn’t that really what this music is all about? Hmmm.