“Run-Around” by Blues Traveler
“Run-Around”, which A&M Records made public on 28 February 1995, stands as the biggest hit in Blues Traveler’s discography. This song peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the only time this band broke the top 10 of that list (and one of only two times they appeared on the Hot 100 at all).
Moreover, it reached second place on the Adult Top 40 and fourth place on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Top 40 charts. Additionally, this song represents the only Grammy Blues Traveler has ever won. That was in 1996 in the category of Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
And even though the band had already put out three previous LPs prior to “Run-Around” serving as lead single to their fourth studio album, “Four”, this track proved to be their breakthrough hit.
“Hook” and “The Mountains Win Again” are two other singles Blues Traveler released from “Four”.
THE TEAM BEHIND “RUN-AROUND”
“Run-Around” was written by Blues Traveler frontman John Popper. To note, at the time he was backed by Chan Kinchla on guitar, Brendan Hill on drums and the late Bobby Sheehan (1968-1999) on bass. The tenured Chuck Leavell, who isn’t a member of a group, held down keyboardist duties on the track.
The producers of the song are Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. And its music video, which was inspired by The Wizard of Oz, was directed by Ken Fox.
The thesis sentiment of this song revolves around the vocalist questioning the addressee as to ‘why she wants to give him the run-around’. The term “run-around” is a colloquialism pointing to a person intentionally avoiding confronting or, in this context, accepting a certain matter. And as far as this narrative goes, that would be, more simply put, the addressee evading the vocalist’s romantic feelings for her.
Or put even more bluntly, this is a song of unrequited love. As revealed by Chan Kinchla, it is based on a real-life story, i.e. a crush John Popper had on one Felicia, who was basically Blues Traveler’s fill-in bassist until Bobby Sheehan showed up.
Felicia was trained in classical violin, and she went on to become a doctor, not a professional musician, so it wasn’t as if she was intending to remain with the band long term. But in any event, as illustrated in these lyrics, Popper caught feelings for her nonetheless.
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?”
And as far as songs of unrequited love go, this one is quite wordy. But that’s because the vocalist runs the gamut in terms of illustrating his associated feelings. Indeed, any man who has been rejected by a woman he has fallen in love with, especially if it’s someone he continues to see on a regular basis, is bound to have a variety of emotional reactions.
First there’s persistence, then a reluctance to believe she isn’t interested, followed by a bit of animosity towards the object of his affection and then finally, or let’s hopefully, acceptance.
And all of those sentiments effectively come through via these lyrics, though Popper takes a mature approach to it all. For instance, getting near the end, it can be gleaned that he’s bitter or at the very least compelled to defend his heart against rejection.
But the vocalist doesn’t proceed to diss the addressee. Instead his love is real, and therefore John is left wondering why she won’t give him a chance to begin with.
But there is a happy ending to this story in real life, in that Popper and Felicia did remain friends despite never becoming romantically involved. And to note, Blues Traveler proceeded to drop a track in 1997 that is in fact titled “Felicia”.