GUILT-FREE PLEASURES (A Defense Against The Dark Arts): R.Dean Taylor, “Indiana Wants Me”

There is really no such thing as a guilty pleasure in pop music. Unless you happen to love neo-Nazi ditties or glorifications of hatred or violence, I’d say it’s okay for you to dig whatever you wanna dig. Yes, even the hits of The Eagles. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE POP SONGS! Guilt-Free Pleasures (A Defense Against The Dark Arts) celebrates pop songs. The guilty need not apply.

R. DEAN TAYLOR: Indiana Wants Me

Written by R. Dean Taylor

Produced by R. Dean Taylor

Single, Rare Earth, 1970

He fought the law, and the law won.

R. Dean Taylor‘s “Indiana Wants Me” was all over AM Top 40 in 1970, the very year I began listening to radio with more deliberate intent and focus. Is it a guilty pleasure? SPOILER ALERT: no, don’t be silly. It’s a terrific single, I love it, and I still attempt to sing along with it each time I hear it play.

But let’s talk about its story.

“Indiana Wants Me” tells the sad tale of a guy on the run from the police. This fugitive is a murderer; he confesses his guilt in the song’s first line, If a man ever needed dyin’, he did. We learn immediately that the murder victim had said something inappropriate about the murderer’s wife, thus prompting his violent demise and the murderer’s status as a wanted man fleeing justice. The murderer has no remorse whatsoever for his crime; his only regret is the pain he’s caused his beloved wife, his only real wish that he could see her, their home, and their little baby. One last time. The law catches up with him, he refuses to surrender, and his story ends in a hail of gunfire. 

Pulp as pop. But I think there’s even more pulp beneath this story’s surface.

For reference, let’s give our three principal characters names, just so I can stop calling them “the murderer,” “the victim,” and “the murderer’s wife.” I thought of calling them Archie, Reggie, and Veronica, but–let’s face it–the Riverdale TV series has done enough damage to those names. I almost went with Pancho, Lefty, and Emmylou, but that woulda been unfair to Emmylou (and besides, Pancho needs your prayers, it’s true, but save a few for Lefty, too). So we’re gonna go with Manny, Moe, and Jaqueline. Manny is our killer on the run, Moe is his late victim, and Jacqueline is Manny’s soon-to-be-widowed wife.

What in the world could Moe have said about Jacqueline that so enraged Manny? No one had the right to say what he said about you. I guess it’s possible that Manny’s skin was so thin that an offhand comment about our Jacqueline’s looks or demeanor ignited homicidal fury. If so, well, it’s amazing Manny lived as long as he did before running afoul of the whole Thou shalt not kill thing. Instead, I keep coming back to one line of thought:

What if?

What if Moe said he loved Jacqueline? And what if Moe swore that Jacqueline loved him? Furthermore, what if Moe claimed that he and Jacqueline had consummated their love. Y’know…physically. Bouncy-bouncy.

If a man ever needed dying, he did. How dare Moe tell such an awful lie?

With that, we understand what sparked Manny’s sudden rage. We don’t excuse it–Manny is very much guilty of murder–but at least we can comprehend what happened. But I say that ain’t all.

Because Moe wasn’t lying.

Moe and Jacqueline were together. Whether a single night’s shaking of the sheets or a long-term affair (or more), Moe and Jacqueline did it, marital vows be damned. 

And I’ll add one more little detail: the little baby that Manny wishes he could see, just once more? The baby ain’t his. Moe is the father. 

Regardless of R. Dean Taylor’s actual real-world intent in crafting the lyrics, I’m convinced that “Indiana Wants Me” is about a guy whose wife cheated on him, and the hijinks that ensued thereafter. Whether Manny is in willful denial of the affair or knows (but won’t admit) what really happened, the sins of the flesh led to the mortal sin of murder. And it’s so cold and lonely here without you. All that’s left is the loss.

And the guilt.

VERDICT: Well, the song’s characters are guilty as sin. But the song itself? Innocent, not guilty.

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