“Johnny Run Away” by Tones and I
Tones and I’s “Johnny Run Away” originated from a conversation Tones had with a person whom she describes as her “best friend”. Said dialogue was extremely-heartfelt and focused on the moment that said friend, Kurt, let his family know that he was in fact gay. Even while recounting the experience, Kurt was “so upset” and had revealed a level of emotion to Tones which she never witnessed from him prior. So the logical implication is that the moment he did come out to this dad and co. was a memorable one – and not in a good way. So Tones, who was only 16 and also shaken by her pal’s ordeal, decided to write a song about what Kurt went through. And the result of that effort is “Johnny Run Away”.
Johnny and Jimmy
The song starts off with “Johnny” (aka Kurt) being presented as your average young, innocent boy who ‘likes playing at the park’. Then there is one of his peers who is introduced, named Jimmy, who is actually described as “a cutie” whom Johnny has ‘chosen’. So the connotation is that Johnny befriends Jimmy because he is attracted to him.
Eventually their friendship grows, and Johnny’s dad becomes privy to what’s going on. And after becoming aware of his son’s homosexual tendencies, he tells Johnny “no, no” repeatedly. Or stated differently, he explains to Johnny that gay is not the way.
Johnny and Pete
Then the timeline shifts to Johnny now being older, as in just beginning high school. He befriends a group of boys, and once again he finds himself attracted to one of them named Pete. The insinuation is that between the time his father advised him (as described earlier) and his falling for Pete, Johnny had suppressed his homosexual urges. But now the feelings have come “rushing” back in. And this seems to be the moment when the titular character truly realizes that he is in fact gay.
Johnny Runs Away with his Lover
As the title states, Johnny is being compelled to “run away” with a gay lover (who might be Pete). And the fourth and final verse seems to be relayed from the viewpoint of him having already done so. The sentiments being relayed therein is that despite fleeing, Johnny has held on to his dreams. Also even though the lyrics don’t go into deep detail, it is pretty obvious that the reason he (and his partner) have fled in the first place is to avoid “getting picked on by another”. In other words, they go looking for a place to settle where their sensual preference will not result in the pair being persecuted.
And that is also the idea which the title and chorus harp on. Tones is indeed telling Johnny to depart and “run for cover”. She hopes that by doing so, he can avoid being “picked on” by the likes of his dad, who is the only flat-out anti-gay character presented in the song. Or another way of looking at it is that she is telling Johnny to flee to spare him first and foremost the emotional pain of having to deal with his dad and likeminded individuals who visibly frown upon his lifestyle.
Facts about “Johnny Run Away”
Being released on 28 February 2019, “Johnny Run Away” is actually the first single Tones and I ever dropped.
Tones and I is a solo musician from Australia who was actually a busker before blowing up. In fact “Johnny Run Away” put her on the map after the song was featured on Triple J Unearthed, a platform where amateur Australian musicians can get discovered.
Tones and I wrote “Johnny Run Away”, and the track was produced by her frequent collaborator and fellow Australian musician, Konstantin Kersting. This song is featured on her debut EP, which is entitled “The Kids Are Coming”. On that EP also appears her global hit song “Dance Monkey“.
Tones and I wrote “Johnny Run Away” at the age of 16, but the song was not released unit she was 25 years old. And within that time-frame, the good news is that Kurt has actually been reconciled with his family. Moreover he and Tones remain friends, with her having even brought him on stage once.