What do you say when you’ve coined a phrase that’s been quoted by major 20th century philosophers like Frazier Crane, Austin Powers and Homer Simpson?
If you’re Jack Hues, the vocalist/ guitarist of the 1980s band Wang Chung, you say, “Thank you very much.”
Wang Chung plays June 17 at Anthology, and if you don’t remember, Hues is the guy who originated the immortal phrase, “Everybody have fun tonight / Everybody Wang Chung tonight,” which, of course, was the title of a huge hit in 1987 that climbed to No. 2 on the U.S. charts.
“I was impressed when I heard Homer Simpson say it because of the cultural significance,” Hues said. “But my children were more impressed when Frazier Crane said it.”
The phrase has guaranteed a certain amount of pop culture immortality for the band, whose other hits include “Dance Hall Days” and “Let’s Go.” It also has ensured that some comedian is going to make fun of them every time VH-1 airs one of their specials about the Reagan decade.
Hues and partner, bassist Nick Feldman, can live with that. One might even say they are embracing their mulletness.
Their newest album is called “Abducted By The ‘80s” and features rerecorded versions of their hits as well as new cuts like the title song, which has lyrics that make no bones about the fact that they are aware of the 80s label.
I Was Abducted By the 80’s
I never saw them coming.
I was on my way home one night
At about three in the morning,
Minding my own business
when BAM! Without warning
I was being catapulted from scene to scene,
To the music from The A-Team
Dressed for all the world like a new romantic
Feeling a bit sad and starting to look it,
With some pointy shiny shoes,
And a Mel Gibson mullet.
I Was Abducted By The 80’s.
Some people might think that confronting the mullet millstone around their neck is a way of giving up and becoming a nostalgic act, but not Hues.
“We’re embracing what people expect from us, but using that to point them into a different direction,” Hues said. He figures the casual fans who are only familiar with the hits “don’t know what to expect.”
This isn’t anything new. Much of the band’s music had a yin-yang (or wang-chung?) aspect to it. For instance, Hues admits the hit, “Dance Hall Days,” has lyrics that dissect a dominant-submissive relationship.
And let’s take that big hit of theirs; you know, the one that Homer Simpson would be screaming for from the opening song, should he attend the Anthology gig.
“We conceived ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ as ironic,” Hues laughed. “The idea is, 'How can you have fun when the end of the world is near?' We modeled it on ‘All You Need Is Love,’ although I think the Beatles were sincere. It was very chaotic and circusy, but the end of the world part was squeezed out.
“At the time, we had recorded the soundtrack to ‘To Live And Die In L.A.,’ and while it was a critical hit, it had no impact to the bottom line, so we were under pressure to create a No. 1 hit.”
Well, No. 2 isn’t too bad.
So now many fans of 1980s music tend to look at British pop bands like Wang Chung or Duran Duran or Heaven 17 as bland pop music, but, truth is, all of those bands had political overtones linked in part to Margaret Thatcher being the Prime Minister of England.
“There was a lot of political unrest at that time,” Hues said. “Many people felt that Margaret Thatcher was trying to make Britain more like America and make people fend for themselves. There is an upside to that, but an awful downside.”
While Wang Chung gets dumped into the catchy pop bandwagon, Hues believes that people who listen to more than the hits will hear melodies, harmony and irony comparable to another duo that writes deceptive ditties: Steely Dan.
“We’ve been compared to Steely Dan and were considering working with their producer Gary Katz,” Hues said. “That’s what attracted me to Nick when I met him. He was trying to start a punk band, but all his songs had major 7th and ninth chords.
“He was a big Frank Zappa fan and I liked jazz, like Miles, Coltrane and Monk. I think it’s easier to hear those influences now, than back in the 1980s.”
So while Hues is willing to joke about being abducted by that decade, he wants folks to know that the group isn’t stuck in a musical time warp.
“People who hear us now hear a very musical band that been through – and played through – the ups and the downs,” Hues said. “We are contemporary real musicians, not TV people. There was always this ambiguous sense of what Wang Chung is and maybe now, people will have an idea.”
Wang Chung performs at Anthology Thursday, June 17th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the box office (619-595-0300), from $10 - $44, based on seating selection. Anthology is located at 1337 India Street in Little India.