In the first line of “Chuck E.’s in Love,” Rickie Lee Jones sings, “How come he don’t come and P.L.P. with me down at the meter no more?” What does “P.L.P.” mean?
It stands for “public leaning post,” old American slang used when one friend leans on another. (If somebody leaned against you, you might say “What am I, a public leaning post?”) The jazzy, bluesy hit (#4 in 1979) was an artifact of the bohemian friendship between Jones, her lover Tom Waits, and Chuck E. Weiss; the trio spent lots of time hanging out at the seedy Tropicana Motel in Los Angeles. Although at the conclusion of the song, Jones sings, “Chuck E.’s in love with the little girl who’s singing this song,” she says the twist ending was fictional. The person Chuck E. was actually in love with? A cousin in Colorado. Waits took the phone call from Denver, where Weiss reported why he had traveled halfway across the country. Waits hung up, and in his gravelly voice, gave Jones the phrase that would become the cornerstone of her career: “Chuck E.’s in love!”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)