Obscure Bands And Great Songs: Wang Chung And Everybody Have Fun Tonight

The scene is a small, sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Alexandria, Virginia, just off Little River Turnpike.  It is the early summer of 1986, about 2 a.m. on any day of the week.  In the combination living room and dining room, I sit on a rocking chair, rocking and holding a squalling infant so that his belly presses against my shoulder.  Every light in the apartment is turned off, but my face is lit by the dim glow of the TV screen, which is tuned to MTV. The baby finds the noise of the music videos — because this is back in the day when MTV actually played music videos — to be strangely soothing, and listening to the sounds helps him to fall asleep.

One of the videos that seemed to play every night was Everybody Have Fun Tonight by Wang Chung.  It was one of those iconic, instantly and forever memorable productions that popped up occasionally during MTV’s heyday.  (Another was Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, for example, and yet another was Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.)  The video featured a constant series of quick cuts that created a herky-jerky, strobe-like effect.  The band members (one of whom looked vaguely like Sting) stood there while chaos occurred behind them.  I always wondered whether watching that video posed problems for people with seizure disorders.  The song was good, with its bouncy beat and strong drum backing, the lyrics seemed to have obvious sexual overtones, and the aside “Can you tell me what a Wang Chung is?” was funny — but the video took a good song and made it a classic.

By the time they recorded Everybody Have Fun Tonight Wang Chung had two members, Nick Feldman and Jack Hues.  The group had been around, in some incarnation or another, for a number of years and had changed its name a few times.  According to Wikipedia, Wang Chung was supposed to be a phonetic spelling of the Chinese words for “yellow bell,” which was used to describe the sound of a bass note, but it also had the slang sexual connotation everyone expected after hearing the song.  The group recorded a few other popular songs in the mid-80s — Dance Hall Days was one of them — but it split up within a few years and never again reached the heights it enjoyed with Everybody Have Fun Tonight.

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