Everybody Wang Chung — tonight
BY JEFF ELBEL July 25, 2013 10:32AM
Wang Chung: Nick Feldman (left) and Jack Hues.
♦ 8 p.m. July 26
♦ Arcada Theatre,105 E. Main St., St. Charles
♦ Tickets: $29-$59
♦ (630) 962-7000; oshows.com
Updated: July 26, 2013 1:06PM
A little bit of mystery can go a long way. Although English band Wang Chung has been a household name since the ’80s, few people aside from founding members Jack Hues and Nick Feldman know the name’s intended meaning. It has been described as: the Chinese term for perfect pitch; the sound of a chiming electric guitar; and more questionable activities than one can imagine.
Singer and guitarist Hues suggests there’s more fun in leaving people guessing.
“There was always this question mark over the band name, and people have filled in the space with what they felt it meant,” he says. “That, in a sense, was the intention.”
People do know exactly what Wang Chung sounds like. The group enjoyed status as respectable hit-makers during the ’80s with the coolly detached vibe of “Dance Hall Days” and the tense, cinematic atmosphere of “To Live and Die in L.A.” Neither success, however, hinted at the enduring popularity to be gained by party anthem “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.”
Practically any child of the Reagan/Thatcher era can sing the song’s chorus by heart, answering the title with its inscrutable rejoinder, “Everybody Wang Chung tonight.” “Maybe we overdid it in some ways, because it’s so overtly commercial,” says Hues, thoughtfully. “But in other ways, it’s got a number of layers. It did bring a much bigger audience to the band.”
The No. 2 single from 1986’s “Mosaic” album has spawned countless pop-culture references. “Our website has a video clip containing uses of the words ‘Wang Chung’ from ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Frasier’ and so on,” says Hues. “I think it’s in the dictionary as contemporary slang as well. The ripples go out a long way.”
Although Wang Chung has flown further below the radar since 1989’s “The Warmer Side of Cool” album, the band has experienced other triumphs. The group placed its song “Space Junk” in the premiere of popular zombie drama “The Walking Dead.” “When it was singled out by Frank Darabont to close that first episode, we were really impressed that someone of his stature would be listening to an obscure Wang Chung track,” says Hues, who notes that such prominent use of the song earned renewed fan attention. “People have made their own videos for it on the web.”
Now, the band is touring North America behind “Tazer Up,” its first full-length album in twenty-three years. Contents range from the warped synthesizer textures of driving rocker “City of Light” to the slinky, acoustic pop of “Let’s Get Along.”
The latter song appears to be either about hooking up or celebrating diversity. “It’s a simultaneous thing happening,” Hues explains. “There’s a relationship that’s under strain. ‘Can’t we just sort it out?’ Then there’s the bigger sense of this very conflicted world. The overall sentiment is ‘all you need is love.’”
Appearing with Wang Chung are contemporaries and Cold War revolutionaries The Fixx.
“Wang Chung are a good match with us,” says Fixx vocalist Cy Curnin. “They have great, timeless songs.
“[And] any band that can plant its own name into one of its hit songs will have staying power,” he says with a chuckle.
Hues describes the self-reference in “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” as an ad-lib that the band’s producer insisted on keeping. “Back then, people would really raise an eyebrow at that,” says Hues. “Talking about yourself on a track was considered very bad taste. Now, no self-respecting rapper would ever make a record without mentioning his own name.”
Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer.