NOTE: This is a pre-production transcript and may not match the final show precisely.
Hey, Cuz! Welcome to the next episode of How Good It Is, and today, we take the advice of a famous psychiatrist.
Hi there! I’m Claude Call. And this is Dr. Frasier Crane:
Yes, indeed, but first a little Wang Chung trivia: Now, Wang Chung’s songs have appeared in several movies, but there is a film for which Wang Chung gets the full music credit, as in “Music by Wang Chung.” And it’s not an obscure movie; it’s a a film you’ve probably heard of. What film might that be? I’ll have that answer later in the show.
The core of Wang Chung first got together in 1977 when guitarist Nick Feldman placed a classified ad in the British music magazine Melody Maker, seeking other musicians. Jeremy Ryder, who was known professionally as Jack Hues, answered the ad, along with a few others, and they called themselves The Intelektuals, a name they deliberately misspelled. That band lasted for less than a year, and shortly thereafter they were joined by drummer Darren Costin, bassist Leigh Gorman, singer Glenn Gregory and keyboardist Simon Campbell. This band was called 57 Men. They lasted about a year and a half before breaking up, with Gregory going on to sing for Heaven 17, and Gorman playing for Adam and the Ants and later Bow Wow Wow. But Hues, Feldman and Costin stayed together and called themselves “Huang Chung”—that’s H-U-A-N-G rather than W-A-N-G. Nowadays it would be more like Huang Zhong, but the west hadn’t standardized that nomenclature yet. Anyway, according to Feldman, he came across the phrase in a book he was reading. “Huang Chung” translates from the Chinese as “Yellow Bell,” but it also refers to a manifestation of the divine and a perfect pitch for music.
In their first couple of years as Huang Chung, all of the members performed using fake names. For instance, Jeremy Ryder’s pseudonym was Jack Hues, a nod to Emile Zola’s open letter titled “J’Accuse!”. Nick Feldman was “Nick DeSpig”, and Darren Costin was “Darren Darwin” and later on, just “Darwin”). The band was signed to a label called 101 Records. And their first release, “Baby I’m Hu-man”, appeared on a 101 compilation album in 1980. Three live tracks were subsequently released on another 101 Records compilation in 1981.
From there they jumped to a label called Rewind Records near the end of the year. They released two singles from Rewind, both of which failed to chart, but they did get the attention of the folks at Arista Records, which signed them to a two-album deal in early 1981. They released a few singles, which were later collected as part of the first album, and none of it went anywhere.
In 1982 they started work on their second album. The first single, “Dance Hall Days,” again failed to chart, and David Massey, their manager, convinced Arista to just close the contract with Arista Records so that he could move them over to Geffen Records. It was at Geffen Records in 1983 that they finally made the name change to the one we’re all familiar with, at David Geffen’s suggestion. They released the songs “Don’t Let Go” and a re-recording of “Dance Hall Days”, both of which managed to break into the Top 40 on the Billboard chart, and gave them a reason to start touring in the United States. Between this point and 1986, there were a few personnel changes in the band, which left Hues and Feldman, who’d gone back to his real name, as the remaining original core of the group.
So now we’re at Wang Chung’s fourth album, and the one that truly broke the band as a pop act.
“Everybody Have Fun Tonight” was initially conceived as a ballad by Nick Feldman and Jack Hues. In an interview with a now-defunct website called “Kickin’ it Old School,” Hues said that he and Feldman would get together once in a while and play whatever they had for each other. Feldman had an idea for a chorus that involved the phrase “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, which Hues liked, but he heard it as very ironic, and envisioned a song which he described as being like “Hey Jude,” a slowish, long chorus, long fade-out kind of track. Hues wrote that song and they put together a demo—that’s what you’re hearing now.
Later on they took the song to Peter Wolf, from the J. Geils Band, who was working on the album with them, and he told them to ditch the irony and turn it into a party record. They decided they wanted a hit record, so they made the changes as requested.
[Everybody Have Fun Tonight]
Now, one of the more notable things about the song is the video that went along with it. It was directed by Godley and Crème, who you may remember as the forces behind the band 10cc and who subsequently moved on to directing videos such as “Girls on Film” and “View to a Kill,” both for Duran Duran, and a couple for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, among others. In this one, the band is performing in a wood-lined room with very quick editing between multiple takes of the band playing the song. The band played on camera in different physical positions about ten times, and then they ran the footage through software that allowed them to switch between the shots at roughly two-frame intervals. This gave the whole thing a jittery, flip-book kind of look. They’d actually tried doing this before for a different artist, but the mistake they made with that one was that the individual shots looked too different from one another. When they used the same background over and over, and repeated a couple of the group setups, it was a lot easier on the viewer’s eyes and was more effective. So it had a little bit of the feel of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video, which was huge at the time, but a completely different look. However, this video was banned by the BBC after a short time because the screening committee decided that it could induce seizure activity in a viewer.
The song peaked at Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 the week before Christmas in 1986, held out of the top by the Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”. It did make Number One on the airplay chart, and was also Number One in Canada, and Top Ten in Australia. I have to imagine that the lack of video support contributed to the song not doing very well in Europe.
As far as covers of the song go, there’s one from 1988 by James Last and his orchestra, which is interesting but not especially outstanding, and in 2010 the animated series Veggie Tales did its version. And that’s pretty much it, unless you count the re-make that Wang Chung did in 2020, when they re-wrote the song to reflect both Black Lives Matter and the Covid 19 pandemic. That track featured Valerie Day and was called “Everybody Stay Safe Tonight.”
And now it’s time to answer today’s trivia question. Back on Page Two I asked you about the film for which Wang Chung gets the soundtrack credit.
Well, that would be the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A., directed by William Friedkin and starring William Pedersen, Willem Dafoe and John Pankow, among others. Friedkin asked them to compose the score for his film after listening to Wang Chung’s album, Points on the Curve. He was so taken with the album that he took the track “Wait” straight off the album, and used it in the end credits.
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