Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Steam – "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (1969)

He might be thrillin' baby, but a-my love
So dog-gone willin', so kiss him
Go on and kiss him goodbye

(From the Genius.com annotation for this song:  “Not all pop rock songs have [lyrics with] very deep meaning.”  No sh*t, Sherlock.)

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In 1977, Chicago White Sox stadium organist Nancy Faust started playing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” whenever White Sox hitters knocked an opposing pitcher out of the game:

Pretty soon, other stadium organists began to play the song to serenade departing hurlers.

The song is still a staple at all kinds of sporting events.  It has also been sung by politicians from both parties to taunt their opponents.

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Nancy Faust wasn’t the first person to use Steam’s song to heckle visiting teams.  That honor goes to me and several of my Parkwood High School friends, who got the bright idea of playing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” on our kazoos in the waning minutes of basketball games when our school’s team led by a safe margin.

We called ourselves the “Kazoo Krew,” and were quite taken with ourselves.  Fortunately, we had a really good basketball team that season, so we had plenty of opportunities to gloat by playing the Steam hit and otherwise acting like the obnoxious little smart-asses that we were.

Here’s a picture of the kazoo that each of us wore on a ribbon around our necks at games that year:

A kazoo is played by humming into the larger end of the instrument.  It makes a nice little buzzy sound, although it doesn’t produce a lot of volume.  

The Kazoo Krew made enough noise to be quite annoying – especially to the many girls in the Pep Club and their advisors, who seems to think they had a monopoly of cheering for the home team.  (Get over yourselves, b*tches!)

I wish I still had my kazoo, but I'm sure my mother threw it away years ago.  THANKS A LOT, MOM!

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In 1968, a singer named Gary DeCarlo recorded four songs for Mercury Records.  His friend Paul Leka produced the four tracks, which impressed the folks at Mercury Records enough that they decided to  issue all four as singles.  

Singles need B-sides, of course.  For one of the B-sides, DeCarlo and Leka decided to use a song called “Kiss Him Goodbye” that they had written in the early 1960s when they were members of an obscure Connecticut doo-wop group.

The late Gary DeCarlo in 2014
Leka thought the song was too short, and needed a chorus.  “I started writing while I was sitting at the piano going ‘Na, na, na, na . . . na, na, na, na,’” he told an interviewer years later.  “Everything was ‘Na na’ when you didn't have a lyric.”  DeCarlo came up with the “Hey, hey,” and the rest is history.

B-sides are usually ignored by DJs.  But DJs started playing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and it reached #1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart in December 1969.  

Guess what record it displaced in the top spot?  “Something”/“Come Together” by the Beatles.  (Hooray!) 

The record was attributed to a group called Steam, but there was no such group.  With Leka’s help, Mercury put together a group of musicians to record an album and go on tour to exploit the single’s popularity.

DeCarlo didn’t hit the road with that group.  Leka said that DeCarlo was embarrassed by the record, and didn’t want to perform it in concert.  But DeCarlo says he was squeezed out of Steam by Leka and Mercury.

Gary DeCarlo died earlier this week of lung cancer.  He was 75 years old.  

Here’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” which is one of my favorite all-time one-hit wonders:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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