Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Steve Wariner, “Some Fools Never Learn”

“Some Fools Never Learn”

Steve Wariner

Written by John Scott Sherrill

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 4, 1985


#1 (1 week)

November 2, 1985

Steve Wariner’s first No. 1 single for MCA Nashville featured what was easily the strongest lyrical composition he’d recorded and sent to radio by that point in his career.

It’s a carefully crafted story of a man who is getting his heart repeatedly broken by the same woman, and he keeps going back, despite him getting burned each time.  The bulk of the song cultivates sympathy for the predicament that he’s in.

Then comes the twist in the final verse, where we learn that there’s another fool in the mix: the woman who truly loves him and keeps getting her heart broken by the man who is clearly in love with somebody else:

Somewhere in the city tonightThere’s a girl, and she’s lonely like meShe’ll be easy to see, and naturally
She’ll have that look in her eyesShe’ll be feeling that way, I see it all plain as dayOh, I’ll never beWhat she wants me to be, oh, but lucky for me
Some fools never learn

You can hear how this record influenced later hits like Sugarland’s “Stay,” which has a similar mostly acoustic structure, and Lee Ann Womack’s “The Fool,” which condenses the two storylines into one efficient hook (“I’m the fool in love with the fool who’s still in love with you.”)
The only downside to the song is its weak melody.  Wariner is a talented vocalist, but he isn’t given too much to work with here.  That makes Jimmy Bowen’s usually effective organic production feel like too little window dressing.  It sounds a bit too close to a songwriter’s demo tape for my tastes.
So not quite perfect, but still a pretty darn good record.
“Some Fools Never Learn” gets a B+

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I agree the original melody is a bit klunky. He re-recorded several 80s hits in the early 2000s on an album called Steal Another Day, and it’s a much better production IMO. The re-recording is how I heard it for the first time, so I almost never play the original, and that probably colors my opinion.

    I didn’t hear the twist exactly like you did though. The lyrics to me suggest that the woman he hooks up with at the end is just a random stranger, about to get her heart broken by a one night stand. Of course, the singer knows this – he’ll “never be what (she) wants (him) to be” – and on goes the cycle.

    This is one of my favorite Wariner songs – with “Leave Him Out of This” and “It Won’t Be Over You”.

  2. Even with the way my tastes in music have changed over the last 15 years or so, with all the stuff I’ve discovered from certain other genres that just clicked with me all of a sudden, this is still my absolute all-time favorite song, from any artist, in any genre of music. And believe it or not, that melody and its arrangement has every bit as much to do with it as the lyrics. That subdued electric guitar intro, Steve’s mournful vocal performance, those steel guitar fills in the chorus, the way he sings ”Damn my eyes, damn this heart of mine…”, the solo between the chorus & third verse…to me it is and always has been an absolutely perfect recording of an absolutely perfect song. Never fails to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

    (John Scott Sherrill also had his own recording. But let’s just say that Steve’s was far superior and leave it at that.)

  3. This songs has always battled for supremacy in my personal rankings of favourite performances.

    It and Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” are the two songs that literally give me the shivers every time I hear them.

    Those shivers hit me with the opening cascading strings of Cline’s performance.

    I have to wait a little for that same sensation with Wariner’s number.

    The guitar intro to Wariner’s song sounds like a person wearily shaking his head, communicating “I know, I know, I know” before entering into an exhausted conversation he has seemingly had with himself many times over.

    It perfectly sets the stage for the inevitability of what will follow.

    The spot-on word choices in the lyrics create the most believable and conversational of tortured inner dialogues. It feels “natural” as he will later identify in the song

    This is not a song about pretending, but, rather, surrendering to what you know you should ‘t do.

    It is the most honest of songs where we cannot even lie to ourselves about what we are doing.

    I finally get the shivers when the drums build and lead us into the fire of the chorus.

    Or what about the wonderful cinematic pause at the end of the chorus when Wariner acknowledges, “It’s only love when your loved in return” before collapsing into the titular refrain “some fools never learn.”

    The entire song sighs.

    All the instrumentation has such personality and purpose. From the steel guitar to the fiddle. They all brilliantly take us round and round this all too familiar ride.

    A brilliant and underappreciated performance and lyric.

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