“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow
“All I Wanna Do” is one of those types of songs that follows a distinct storyline. In fact the entire narrative takes place in one setting, which is a bar on L.A.’s Santa Monica Boulevard during the earlier hours of the day. The singer presents herself as someone who “like(s) a good beer buzz in the morning”, which is why we find her in such a venue at this time.
And the story centers primarily on two factors. First are her interactions with some dude she meets at the bar whom she refers to as Billy. He’s not a romantic interest or anything like that but sets the stage for the narrative at hand by exclaiming that his only desire in life is to ‘have a little fun before he dies’.
Meanwhile the way the singer perceives him is as someone who probably never “had a day of fun in his whole life”. In other words, she doesn’t think very highly of him. But with Billy being her early-day drinking buddy and all, he is sort of a reflection of herself. And what this is all meant to point to is a concept like an unsuccessful attempt to drown out depression via alcohol consumption.
Then in terms of the second factor, it centers on the vocalist’s various observations while sitting in the bar, outside of Billy. And the way she analyzes what’s going on around her appears to be a reflection of the aforementioned mind state. For instance, she seemingly interprets working-class people going about their business at a nearby car wash as being indicative of the humdrum of everyday life. Moreover, she feels that a “happy couple” that comes into the bar is a bit too “close to one another” for their own good.
Sheryl Crow talks about “All Wanna Do”
So what can definitely be ascertained is that the narrator is an analytical person. But in Sheryl Crow’s own words, all of these observations she is making represent a “real extreme feeling of apathy and defeat” she came to notice in Los Angeles (herself being raised in Kennett, Missouri).
However, that sentiment is “masked” being a “light-pop ditty”. Or stated otherwise, this is one of those kinds of songs whereas if you get caught up solely in the hook and jovial sound, as we would presume most listeners have, then you’re totally going to miss what’s actually going on in the verses.
Yes, the singer is living up, if you will, in a bar. But she is doing so in an ultimately vain attempt to overcome a depressing mind state. And she may not be personally depressed per se, but she does perceive the world around her as being a dismal place. That is to say that it is not only her but also everyone around her who are engaged in their own routines of unsuccessfully trying to make life more edifying than it actually is. And to once again reiterate, this song is set specifically in Los Angeles.
Bill Bottrell, the producer of “All I Wanna Do”, is also one of its co-writers. And the others are Wyn Cooper, David Baerwald and Kevin Gilbert alongside Sheryl Crow herself.
The aforementioned Wyn Cooper is actually a poet from Michigan. And “All I Wanna Do” is based on his signature work, a 1987 poem entitled Fun, as well as another song Sheryl Crow was working on at the time called “I Still Love You”. And the success of the song also resulted in Wyn Cooper enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.
Fun itself was inspired by a conversation Wyn Cooper had with another individual by the name of Bill Ripley (d. 2006). And when “All I Wanna Do” blew up, Ripley actually sued Cooper in an unsuccessful attempt to score some of the royalties for himself.
Sheryl Crow is a pop singer who since the 1990s has been a household name in the music industry. And it was actually this track, which was her third single overall, that was her breakthrough tune. For example, it scored a number one on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Top 40 charts.
And apparently the reason it never topped the Hot 100 itself, peaking at number 2 for a solid 6 weeks, was because an even bigger hit, Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You”, held down that top spot for over 3 months.
Even More Success for “All I Wanna Do”
“All I Wanna Do” also performed phenomenally in other parts of the world. For instance, it was a chart topper in Canada and Australia. It also reached number four on the UK Singles Chart. And altogether it charted in nearly 20 major territories. This includes Japan, where it achieved platinum status, as it did in Australia.
This song also earned Sheryl Crow the 1995 Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as taking home the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance trophy. (It also received a Song of the Year nomination but lost to Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia“.)
The music video to this track was filmed in front of a venue called the Roxy Theatre in Clarksville, Tennessee. With David Hogan serving as its director. The original version features an actor by the name of Gregory Sporleder portraying the role of “Billy”, a character mentioned in the song. But there is also another version with said character edited out.
This track is from “Tuesday Night Music Club”, which was Sheryl Crow’s debut album. And as implied earlier, it was the third single from that project. And to note it was also its most-successful.
The intro to “All I Wanna Do” features a line that reads “this ain’t no disco”. That was actually derived from another song, by the Talking Heads, entitled “Life During Wartime” (1979).
Sheryl has pointed out that song is sorta autobiographical, as explained above, but it isn’t an actual reflection of her real life. For instance, whereas she was ‘drinking a lot’ with her Tuesday Night Music Club buddies when it came out, at the same time she never “spent a morning in a bar having a beer”.
Initially Sheryl was not impressed with this song and even cast it to the side. However, her younger brother assured her that it would hit.