THINK of music artists and bands from the 1980s. The likes of Dire Straits, Madonna and Duran Duran come to mind.
But one British band enjoyed more success in North America than they did on these shores.
Wang Chung, formed by Nick Feldman and Jack Hues in the late 1970s, had six top 40 hits in America — and achieved cult status with their soundtrack for the 1985 film To Live and Die in LA, as well as contributing to the soundtrack for iconic film The Breakfast Club.
And they have become part of contemporary culture in North America thanks to their smash hit Everybody Have Fun Tonight, with its now-famous line “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight”, which saw the invention of a new verb: “to Wang Chung”.
“I love that fact, I think it is brilliant,” bassist and singer Nick told me. “It is a sign that we are truly part of the culture over there.
“It makes me proud, even if sometimes we were made fun of — it shows we have made a proper mark.”
The duo are back with their first album in seven years. Orchesography features tracks taken from their six albums and re-recorded with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
“It is good to reinterpret our stuff and add another string to our bow,” said London-based Nick.
“We are still pretty active touring and the 80s thing is still very much alive, so what is not to like about it?”
He admitted that Jack was initially a little hesitant about recording Orchesography.
“Jack was worried that it might be a bit naff,” Nick recalled. “I reassured him that it would be authentic.
“Making the record was an enjoyable process and it was everything I hoped it would be.
“The experience of being with the Prague Philharmonic was great, as well.”
Nick knew he had a musical talent from a young age, growing up in a traditional Jewish home in North London.
His father is Baron Feldman, a former Conservative member of the House of Lords, while his paternal aunt was actress Fenella Fielding, who died in September.
“Apparently, when I was a baby my mum used to sing a song called True Love to me and I would sing it back, so I was clearly responding to music at a young age,” the 63-year-old explained.
“Back then, there wasn’t much on television and the test card used to appear a lot, with its familiar beeping sound, which I used to harmonise with.
“Later on, what nailed it for me was The Beatles — I just loved them and they inspired me to pursue a career in music.
“The first time I saw them performing was on a TV in my best friend’s front room and I remember his dad saying how ‘bloody outrageous’ they looked, but I thought they were great.”
A spell reading psychology at the University of Liverpool was short-lived, as he knew he wanted a career in music.
Nick had formed a band with fellow Highgate School pupils Jon Moss — who went on to find fame as a member of Culture Club — and Pete Ellison.
“We made a racket together and didn’t have any musical education at all,” he explained.
“I taught myself through jamming and improvising and Pete, taught me some basic chords.
“My parents were worried about me going into a business where the chances of failure were incredibly high, but I was just glad to leave university and try and get on with my career.”
He worked for the DJM Live Music Agency as a way in, signing acts such as Adam and the Ants, and arranging gigs.
Nick said: “I did that for around 18 months and was engaging with the zeitgeist, but I worked with a lot of awful bands and I felt many of the people I worked with did not have an up-to-date vision.”
He placed an ad in Melody Maker magazine, which was answered by Hues, and they formed 57 Men, with drummer Darren Costin, which became Huang Chung.
Nick, who went under the name Nick de Spig in the early days, recalled: “Jack was reading a book and a footnote mentioned German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and the term ‘Huang Chung’, which means perfect pitch in Chinese music.
“The name appealed to me in some perverse way and it also sounded silly and onomatopoeic.
“We had an irrational belief that we would make it in the crowded music market which was the early 1980s.
“We had an inner sense that we would be successful, but that wasn’t to say we did not go through periods of self-doubt and rejection.
“I remember one gig in Middlesbrough, where we drove for hours in a horrible van. When we arrived, there was literally one man and his dog there, as the cliché goes. We had bottles thrown at us at other gigs.”
They signed a two-album agreement with Arista Records, releasing a self-titled debut album in 1982.
After the failure of Dance Hall Days to chart, manager David Massey signed them with Geffen Records, who insisted they changed the spelling of their name to Wang Chung.
Their first Geffen album, Points on the Curve, in 1984, included a re-recorded version of Dance Hall Days.
Costin left soon afterwards to pursue a solo career, but Wang Chung continued, achieving commercial success with Dance Hall Days.
The album attracted the attention of director William Friedkin, who asked them to record the soundtrack to To Live and Die in LA.
“That moment was like the cavalry coming over the hill for us,” Nick said. “Dance Hall Days was a huge hit and the record company was putting pressure on us to come up with the next hit, which we were struggling with and worrying about.
“Friedkin loved Points in the Curve and wanted us to do an instrumental score, which was a kind of palate cleanser because we could show another side.
“We recorded it in London and LA and he cut the movie to our music, rather than the other way round.”
Wang Chung’s biggest success, however, was Everybody Have Fun Tonight, from fourth album, 1986’s Mosaic.
It reached number two in America, behind The Bangles’ Walk Like an Egyptian, while the promo video was directed by Manchester-raised Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, formerly of 10CC.
“I guess because of MTV we started to be recognised all over the place,” Nick recalled.
“I remember Jack and I, whichever city we were in, we used to seek out the art galleries.
“We were in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and had stopped to have a coffee.
“Suddenly, there was a queue of people in the canteen trying to get our autographs. It was insane and we had to leave because it became silly.”
The song became a cultural reference point, particularly in North America, and has been used in many TV shows, from The Simpsons to The Goldbergs, and films, such as Cape Fear and Spider-Man Homecoming.
Nick said: “When we started recording it, it was initially a slower, Hey Jude tempo-type track.
“Our producer loved it, but suggested speeding it up and restructuring it a little, as well as using the lyrics ‘everybody Wang Chung tonight’ as part of the chorus, as it was originally an ad lib.
“We re-recorded, thinking, ‘is this any good or is it one of the worst things we have ever done?’.
“Our manager came to Vienna, where we were recording, and we were worried we had been wasting his and the studio’s time, but he loved it, which we were relieved about.”
Wang Chung split up in 1990 — their fifth album, The Warmer Side of Cool, released the previous year, had not charted highly.
Nick teamed up with Jewish school friend Jon Moss to form Promised Land and they released a cover version of Thunderclap Newman’s Something in the Air.
“Jon and I were strangely competitive over who was going to make it first — or even make it — and he got there first, but we always stayed in contact,” Nick explained.
“When Wang Chung split up, I went to live in Los Angeles and basically missed out on the acid house and dance explosion which happened here.
“Jon was more up to speed with everything and educated me a little about it.
“We put the record out anonymously and it became a big underground dance anthem.
“It was funny that NME named it Single of the Week, because they were always slagging off Wang Chung and Culture Club!”
Nick went on to work as an A&R manager for Warner Music UK and Sony, signing bands including Bullet for My Valentine, and working which acts such as Jennifer Lopez, Good Charlotte and Carlos Santana.
“I was able to speak the artists’ language, which helped, especially if I was working with opinionated ones,” added father-of-one Nick, who was married to Lucy Blair.
“I could sympathise with them and the pressure they were under.”
Wang Chung, however, was never far from Nick’s mind and they released a greatest hits collection in 1997, including new track Space Junk, and toured North America.
It was another 15 years, however, before they released their next studio album, Tazer Up!
As well as performing with the reformed Wang Chung, in 2011 and 2012 Feldman judged auditions for then-BBC talent show The Voice.
Nick, whose partner is Brazilian-born Valeria Perciany-David, added: “I am just grateful that we made it at what was probably one of the most profitable times for music.”
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