Four decades after the release of the album that spawned “Jessie’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything For You,” Springfield looks back on recording in the middle of the night — after Tom Petty had left — and how sudden stardom messed with his head.
Forty years ago today (Feb. 24), RCA Records released Rick Springfield’s now-classic LP Working Class Dog. The album, which perfectly blended pop, rock and a smidge of new wave, featured such enduring hits as “Jessie’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything For You.” It also made a rock star out of Springfield, who tells Billboard that when he looks back at making the project, “It’s all good feelings. I had great times recording it.”
The album’s success came after years of struggle for Springfield — his previous album had stalled at No. 159 on the Billboard 200. The seething jealousy and lustful yearning in “Jessie’s Girl” earned Springfield his first and only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and returned him to the top 20 a full 10 years after he peaked at No. 14 with the poppy, uplifting “Speak to the Sky.” The bitter resentment that fueled second single “I’ve Done Everything For You” into the top 10 and the tantalizingly sexy third single “Love Is Alright Tonite” helped propel the platinum album to No. 7 on the Billboard 200, and Springfield to years of sold-out tours, as well as nine more Hot 100 top 40 hits.
Though the pandemic has pushed back a 40th anniversary tour, Springfield plans to play the album from start to finish when he’s able to return to the road and has been relearning the tracks. “When I first started, they were the only songs that I had so I played everything,” he says. “But I haven’t played the whole record since ’81.”
Additionally, Springfield hopes to reissue the album, which he produced with Bill Drescher and Keith Olsen, to include demos of the songs that didn’t make it onto the finished set. Below, a genial Springfield dives deep into the making of the album with Billboard, recalling why he didn’t want his photo on the famous album cover, and how he juggled budding stardom with appearing on soap opera General Hospital, where he played the libidinous Dr. Noah Drake.
What was your mindset when you were recording the album?
I wrote the songs because I had given up on ever getting another record deal, and L.A. clubs were hot at the time. So I thought I’d write a bunch of short pop songs with catchy hooks that I could play with a three-piece band, and go do the L.A. club scene. I was surprised when I got the deal, [which] didn’t really seem to be in the cards for me.
You recorded it at the now legendary Sound City, which your then-manager, Joe Gottfried, owned. What was that like?
We’d get called at two o’clock in the morning saying, “Tom Petty just left. You got the studio till six or seven in the morning.” So Bill Drescher and I would run down and record and mix. Then when the paying client came in, we’d get kicked out. It basically was one of the cheapest albums I’ve ever made. I had it all demoed and knew all the parts and was ready to go.