Everybody Have Fun Tonight!
Wang Chung returns to Chastain Park as part of the Lost 80s Live tour
In 1977, Nick Feldman placed an ad seeking likeminded musicians in Melody Maker. Vocalist/guitarist Jack Hues replied and the two began a partnership that continues four decades later.
After a few false starts, the duo became the core of Wang Chung. When their first album (billed as Huang Chung) failed to garner much attention, the band was signed to a contract by music mogul David Geffen. With the power of a major label, they began to release a string of well-received hits from the Points On The Curve album, including "Don't Let Go" and "Dance Hall Days."
In an unusual career development, legendary film director William Friedkin ("The Exorcist," "The French Connection") specifically requested the band to supply the soundtrack of his 1985 film "To Live and Die in L.A." A soundtrack album was issued and was quickly bookended by their biggest hit, "Everybody Have Fun Tonight."
Following a lengthy hiatus, the band returned to live performances and sporadic touring a decade ago, followed by the release of a new album Tazer Up! in 2012. Currently on tour as a staple of the ever-evolving line-ups of the Lost '80s Live! tour, the band returns to Chastain Park in a slightly altered form.
Speaking via his cell, the U.K. resident spoke with INsite before a recent performance in New York.
As you prepare for tonight's show, how is the tour going so far?
We're a couple of gigs into it and it's been terrific so far. Big crowds, very responsive and really fun.
I notice on the tour poster that only you are pictured. It's not the usual shot of you and Jack. Has the line-up changed a bit?
Well Jack sort of stepped back from doing some of these longer tours a couple of years ago. He's still in Wang Chung but he does certain shows and some not. I've been collaborating with Cutting Crew and Gareth Moulton, the guitar player. He's been singing for Jack and it works really well.
You and Jack have worked together for many years. When someone new steps in, does it change the band dynamic a bit for everyone concerned?
Yeah but we still keep it faithful to the spirit of Wang Chung. Gareth sort of makes all the right moves, you know? He's a great musician and singer and it works nicely. We get on really well. Since we've worked together now for a few years, it's really bedded in. The audiences seem to completely accept it and more than that, we're getting terrific responses. I don't know if you'll get a chance to see the show, but it works really well.
I'm looking forward to it. I saw Wang Chung the last time you were in town, on a multi-act package at the same venue, and you blew the rest of the show away. Start to finish, it was one of the finest sets of its kind, eclipsed only by your current tour-mate Berlin.
Oh, thank you. I actually remember that show. I think it was the last gig of that tour, our first tour "back," after having taken about 20 years off. I really enjoyed that show. In fact, that's where we met Gareth, he was playing with Cutting Crew, of course. They were on that tour and that's where we started to become friends. As for the set, I think we'll be playing about the same amount of time, but they keep us moving because there are so many bands on the bill. But we do the hits and we do our best to sort of entertain the troops.
For a show like this, the audience is there because they love the music of the '80s, so you really can't go wrong.
[Laughs] Well hopefully not! We'll try not to, at least. It is incredible how it's all endured. The crowds are bigger and better than ever. The '80s just have that thing that has sort of crystalized in people's hearts. And it's continued to be an influence on contemporary music, too. Certain sounds from that period seem to resonate with the younger listeners partially because it gets used in commercials and TV shows and even in big films. It's remained in the consciousness of everyone and that really helps.
You're playing to people who weren't even born when the majority of your music was released.
Yes and I think that's amazing. We're quite happy the music has endured for so long. Quite happy.
The thing that continues to resonate with me about the '80s - and I was there - is the incredible melodies. Other than the '60s, no other decade seems to be able to match it.
Right and I think that's because there was a very interesting coming together of elements in the '80s. You had the melodies and guitars of course, but you also had the major introduction of synthesizers, electronics and sampling. Then on top of that, you had a mix of different styles of dance with rock. Then of course, MTV. It was great for, especially, the U.K. bands. So it all comes together to create a very strong lasting impression.
The whole MTV aspect was different than any other era because not only were you pressured to turn out hits, you often had to sell the song as a recognizable character in the music video presentation.
Yeah and that's very interesting, actually. I remember the first time we came to the states. We'd never been here before and then we came over as Wang Chung, during the rotation on MTV. So we came from being a relative obscurity to suddenly getting recognized on the street! It was like, 'What? What's doing on?, and it was kinda of fun.
But that was all down to MTV.
MTV was such a game changer in so many ways. Careers were made or lost because of it.
We always made an effort to do videos that were a bit quirky. I think the U.K. bands were doing that even a bit more than the American bands - at that time. The whole English kind of art school sensibility, you know. And the American audiences really responded to it.
It was like a new British Invasion.
It was, yeah. But we didn't do it as a conscious thing, it just happened. We weren't thinking, Oh we've got to be part of this Invasion.' We were just doing our thing and we got signed in America by David Geffen. So it all sort of came together. We were just in the right place.
But you certainly weren't an overnight success.
Oh no, this was after four or five years of struggling and really finding it quite difficult. We paid our dues, but when it happened, it just happened. And it was great.
What was it like on the inside of the band at the peak of all the media attention?
The recognition was great - to be able to express yourself as an artist, a musician and a writer. To be able to communicate your message in a way that means something to large amounts of people is, in itself, incredibly gratifying. Especially coming from a few years of pretty limited success - or no success at all really, just general indifference except for a few hardcore fans. To suddenly find ourselves in that was gratifying and of course, it's a bit strange too. I remember when "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" was at its peak, and just a smash hit. I remember being in New York City, where I am now actually. I remember thinking 'My God, I'm a little disconnected from it,' like it was all having its own life. It was running along by itself and we were no longer in control of it.
Wang Chung will be joined by Berlin, A Flock Of Seagulls, Naked Eyes, Farrington and Mann, members of When In Rome U.K., Animotion and Nu Shooz at 7:30 on Sunday, August 5 at Chastain Park Amphitheater. Visit www.lost80slive.com for lineups, ticket links and more information.