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The Meaning of Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”

Rupert Holmes in the 70s. Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Released in October of 1979, Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” peaked at number one in the Billboard charts at the end of December, giving it the distinction of the final number one hit of the 1970s.

This carefree song about an attempted affair-turned romantic rekindling took the airwaves by storm, and it was the first and only number one hit that Rupert Holmes released in his career.

He’s not a true one hit wonder, though, as his 1979 album Partners in Crime also contained two more popular songs: “Him” and “Answering Machine”, though none of them even came close to topping the charts.

“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” lends itself to sitting on the beach and relaxing, and the vibes are so immaculate that you may not even pay attention to the story being told in the lyrics. However, Rupert Holmes weaves a clever meaning into this smash hit that makes it more than just a beach song.

Looking closer, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” is actually a song about two lovers who reach a stale point in their relationship, and both start to consider looking for something new via the newspaper classifieds. The pair end up finding each other in the classifieds, and thus the song ends with the lovers happily reconnecting.

Holmes tells this story from the perspective of the man in the relationship, who is depicted in the first verse browsing the classified section late at night:

I was tired of my lady
We’d been together too long
Like a worn out recording
Of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleeping
I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns
There was this letter I read:

First verse to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

The man admits right away that he’s getting tired of his lady, as they had been together for too long and the relationship may be getting stale. However, referring to her as a “worn out recording / of a favorite song”, it’s clear that the feelings are still there.

That doesn’t stop him from opening up the newspaper and curiously finding his way to the classified section, while his lady is asleep beside him. There he finds a listing that says:

“If you like piña coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for
Write to me and escape”

First chorus to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

This listing intrigues him, as these are all things that he certainly enjoys.

Partners in Crime by Rupert Holmes (1979)

In the second verse, we can hear his thought process behind what he does next:

I didn’t think about my lady
I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady
Had fallen into the same old dull routine
So I wrote to the paper
Took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet
I thought it wasn’t half bad:

Third verse to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

Holmes doesn’t consider how his lady might feel about it, and he knows that it sounds bad, but clearly isn’t too concerned about that. He admits that the pair have fallen into a boring routine, and so he decides to take out his own personal ad in that same paper in response.

His personal ad goes a little something like this:

“Yes, I like piña coladas
And getting caught in the rain
I’m not much into health food
I am into champagne
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon
And cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malley’s
Where we’ll plan our escape”

Second chorus to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

As we can see from his own listing, he doesn’t want to waste any time in meeting this lovely lady. He lays out a few of his own likes and dislikes, and is ready to jump to meeting her tomorrow afternoon at a bar called O’Malleys. There, the two would plan out how they would run away together, and “Escape”.

Rupert Holmes in the late 70s.

In the third verse, Holmes sings about the moment of their encounter:

So I waited with high hopes
And she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant
I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady
And she said, “Aw, it’s you”
Then we laughed for a moment
And I said, “I never knew…”

Third verse to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

We picture our protagonist sitting there in the corner of the bar, nervously awaiting the arrival of his date. Despite meeting her via the personal ads section of the paper, he manages to have high hopes about this.

Then, when she finally walks in, he recognizes her immediately — from her smile, to the curve of her face. The woman who took out the personal ad was the same lovely lady who had been sleeping next to him in the first verse!

Another chorus depicts the pair connecting over the things they have in common that neither of them knew about, finding that these two had been the perfect match all along. Rather than making an escape to a new lover, they escape together, as two lovers with a renewed connection:

“…That you like piña coladas
And gettin’ caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean
And the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the cape
You’re the lady I’ve looked for
Come with me and escape”

Third chorus to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

The song closes out with two more choruses, each one a repeat from earlier in the song, giving listeners who may have already enjoyed their share of piña coladas the chance to belt it out at the top of their lungs some more.

Listen to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes belo.