Thanks to Lester Bangs for pointing me to one of the more unusual storylines in pop music – B.J. Thomas‘ 1966 single, “Plain Jane“:
A dramatic narrative about a serious issue, “Plain Jane” might strike today’s ears as being a bit hokey or kitschy, even though this sort of thing still happens and will continue as long as our popular culture puts a premium on looks and surface appearance. Quoth Bangs:
But dig the denouement: the kids pull a fake phone call from a football hero, ‘inviting’ her to the prom, and when he fails to materialize on the big night, she commits suicide! Take a lesson from that, kids. Your brothers and sisters certainly did, at least until the next day at school where class lines were the lessons that mattered, where pariahs were pariahs, and the sentimental compassion mushed up from the pop songs was just that: sentiment.
“Plain Jane” – released December 17, 1966 – “bubbled under” Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart, peaking at the #129 position the week of its release. The single appears to have originally been released on a small independent label, Pacemaker, before being picked up by Scepter for national distribution.
“Plain Janes” was composed by Mark Charron, who wrote quite a number of single sides for Thomas, as well as The Vogues, fellow Scepter artist, Chuck Jackson, Hanna-Barbera legends, Pebbles & Bamm Bamm, and many others.
Seven years prior in 1959, Bobby Darin, had also voiced something called “Plain Jane” written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, a song that manages to charm the listener, despite the lyric’s male chauvinism, nice trick that. Eddie Hickey, Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, and Sammy Hagar, among others, have written original compositions entitled, “Plain Jane.”