Episode 112: Wang Chung
Everybody has fun in the studio as Jack Hues and Nick Feldman sit in to discuss the '80s and beyond.
From August 29, 2013
The show starts out with no fun n' games this week, because the gang has some big shot guests in the studio today: Jack Hues and Nick Feldman, known collectively as Wang Chung!
Gary tells the story of The Dreyfus Affair: A 19th century French army captain who was framed for treason. Emile Zola wrote an open letter in a Paris newspaper, condemning the action, titled "J'accuse" meaning "I accuse."
Besides being an ardent condemnation of anti-Semitism, J'accuse as a phrase also sounds pretty cool. Thus, the musician Jeremy Ryder became Jack Hues.
Though known now for their sophisticated sound, in 1977, after they met through Melody Maker, they had a more punk rock, angry sound.
Gary and Pat talk to Wang Chung about their early days, playing with U2, Human League and Depeche Mode, and others.
Pat asks what Wang Chung means. The boys are evasive, calling it a bit of a cosmic thing.
Wang Chung's first album (when they were known as Huang Chung) was released to high hopes, but it failed to hit. Since then, though, the album has gained a bit of a cult following, being name-checked by Trent Reznor as a favorite of his. [ed. note: I found a quote from Trent stating that it was "all guitar-base-drums. Still a real good record."]
America's first popular introduction was the super-catchy "Dance Hall Days" from the album Points on the Curve.
Gary clearly remembers hearing it for the first time and appreciating this song's combination of Roxy Music smoothness and mysterious, aggressive lyrics admonishing the listener to 'grab their baby' in various places.
One interesting story about Dance Hall Days: while Michael Jackson was putting together Thriller, Wang Chung met with Quincy Jones. Michael wanted to record the song, but he wanted to change the lyrics. In the end, it didn't work out.
Next, Pat plays a deeper cut from Points on the Curve titled "Wait".
When Pat compliments Nick's bass playing on the track it is revealed that the bass was actually an electronic bass sound produced by the Fairlight CMI.
Nice low-end sound, dude.
This leads to an interesting discussion about balancing acoustic and electronic music and how it influenced their sound at the time.
Jack, very subtly, steers the conversation to Wang Chung's new album Tazer Up!. Pat plays a track off the album titled "City of Light".
Gary asks about the Tazer Up! song "Abducted by the 80s". Nick's daughter heard comic/poet Rob Gee read a poem of the same title. She shared it with her dad, who decided to make it into a song.
Pat plays the band's other big song for Point on the Curve: "Don't Let Go".
After the song, Jack chuckles about how they were so serious back then.
The gang talks about making videos back in the day. The band had varying degrees of involvement with the video concepts. For their iconic vid "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" they had quite a bit of input. The band notes that one channel in the UK banned the video, for fear that it would cause seizures.
A year before "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" director William Friedkin asked Wang Chung to do the soundtrack for his new movie To Live An Die In L.A. They did it without seeing the movie first. Friedkin wound up cutting the movie to the music.
Jack tells a funny story how neither the director nor the band wanted to have a song named after the movie, but the song apparently just flowed out of him.
Pat plays "To Live And Die in L.A." from the original soundtrack.
Another soundtrack the band worked on was for The Breakfast Club.
"They were worried that they wouldn't be considered 80s enough."
- Gary, on why Wang Chung did The Breakfast Club soundtrack
The song from the Breakfast Club soundtrack, "Fire in the Twilight", was written along with the producer which was a "interesting" according to Jack.
The band favors the gang with an in-studio performance of "Space Junk", the single from their Greatest Hits album.
After the awesome live song, Pat plays one of their new songs: "Driving You"
The band says that the live crowds are really responding well to the new stuff. They're expressing that they like it, which Nick really appreciates.
Today, we're playing Wang Chung, Wang, Chung or Wang Chong Game!
Each correct answer will be from one of the following:
A Wang Chung song
Fashion designer Vera Wang
TV news reporter Connie Chung
or First-century Chinese philosopher Wang Chong
• "When Maurie and I decided to have a baby, we took a very aggressive approach"
• "Believe, do and share in what is true."
• "When I design a wedding dress with a bustle, it has to be one a bride can dance in."
• "On the platform I saw your hat form a kind of halo in the crowd."
• "Heaven has neither mouth nor eyes arms nor legs."
• "On the edge of oblivion all the world is Babylon and all the love and everyone a ship of fools sailing in."
• Bonus question: "Dave's not here, man!"
Cheech and Chong
Pat moves on to their smash 1986 album Mosaic, kicking it off with "Everybody have fun tonight"
The song "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" originally had a slower pace and meant to be a bit ironic.
Pat next plays "Hypnotize Me" from the same album.
Both "Hypnotize Me" and "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" went to number two on the charts.
After a long tour to support Mosaic, the band records The Warmer Side of Cool, which didn't do as well. Pat asks how that happens. The band explains that the pendulum swung away from the band's sound. The new album was also a bit heavier, as demonstrated by the track "Praying to a New God" and "What's so bad about feeling good?"
Gary can't let the band leave without having them talk about their triumphant rendition of Nelly's "Hot In Here." They wanted to a Brittney Spears song, but it was already taken, so their "Dance Hall Days" producer suggested the Nelly song.