Nathan Jolly

200 Sad Songs: #157 Joshua Kadison – Jessie (1993)

Jessie is a problem we’ve all had. The grating drunk phone call from the ex we never tamed, one that promises all and delivers nothing. But still we believe.



“From a phone booth in Vegas, Jessie calls at 5am, to tell me how she’s tired of all of them.” Considering that Vegas isn’t exactly an early morning kale-shake power-walk type of city, I think it’s fair to say that Joshua Kadison got drunk dialled by an ex. And not just any ex, either – this song is reportedly (in other words: it is) about Sarah Jessica Parker, who dated Kadison sometime in the blurry pre-Carrie, post-Flight Of The Navigator period of her career.

Wistful and windswept, ‘Jessie’ is a remarkably poignant piece of songwriting: perennially uncool, defiantly romantic, and the musical offspring of Billy Joel and Elton John.

Let’s say, for libel’s sake, that this is a fictionalised piece of work. And what a piece of work, she is, too (BAM!) calling poor Joshua at 5am and spinning him some fairytale fiction about the happily-ever-after they always daydreamed about and never quite got right. She’s tired of chasing something else, someone else, chasing whatever lifestyle led her to Vegas. Of course, it’s unfair to make a value judgement regarding such a commonplace reaction: pinning hope where there is none; taking comfort in both the past and the future when the present seems so chaotic and unformed. Everybody has blurry far-off dreams, and clinging to these dreams during low points is vital. It’s one of their main functions, to keep us plodding forward – if only in our minds. So give poor SJP Jessie a break!

Jessie and Joshua share an ideal future together, but have different ideas of the present. Joshua allows himself to be pulled back into the romance each time, and each time he believes, and gets swept away in it because he just doesn’t want to give up on this big, messy, love story. Which is totally fine. As long as they both allow themselves to believe in the trailer by the sea in Mexico with Moses the cat, and tequila, and seashells and all those things that exist primarily on holidays or on mementos of holidays – it’s a possibility. “Who knows,” he sings at the end of the bridge, “Maybe this time, things will turn out just the way we planned?”

It’s a nice thought. And when you are in love with a person and a plan – or either one – ‘maybe’ is more than enough.

Nathan Jolly

Nathan is a Sydney-based journalist who has written for numerous publications over the years, including Junkee, This Recording, New York Post, The BRAG, SBS, Triple J Mag, Channel [V], and He used to be pretty good at hitting three-pointers, and can still cartwheel, although he never learnt to swim, drive, or manage money.