This sounds like an upbeat love song, but it's more apocalyptic than you might expect. With lyrics about "the world crashing all around your face" and "a pilgrimage to save this human's race," it really does take place with the world about to end, and the melting is quite literal. Modern English lead singer Robbie Grey, who wrote the song with his four bandmates, explained: "I don't think many people realized it was about a couple making love as the bomb dropped. As they made love, they become one and melt together."
While the song was never a big chart success, it has stood the test of time and is considered a new wave classic. The song gained some traction when MTV gave the video plenty of airplay. It was also featured in the 1983 movie Valley Girl.
The line, "Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace" is a reference to Modern English's first album, Mesh & Lace.
This was the only hit for Modern English, but it wasn't typical of their sound. They were a punk band, and most of their songs were a lot more raw than this one. "We'd normally been more of a punk rock band, more edgy, so this was one of our first forays into verse, chorus, verse, chorus," Robbie Grey said. "We didn't really understand that songwriting thing."
According to Robbie Grey, he wrote the lyrics stream-of-consciousness style in just minutes while he was sitting on the floor of a London flat in 1982. So even he isn't sure what some of it means. Said Grey: "I like that line, 'Trapped in a state of imaginary grace.' Who knows what I was on at that point."
Robbie Grey took a different approach to his vocals on this track, which gave it more pop appeal. Speaking with Boom 97.3 in Toronto, he said: "I'd always been shouting on songs before, I'd never really sung on a song. And there's not really any singing on this either, it's more spoken, but Hugh Jones the producer said, 'Don't shout into the microphone, just talk into it.' I'd never done that before - I was a punk rocker. And so, I did. I just kind of stood back and mouthed the words. And I think that's a lot of the attraction of the verses on 'I Melt With You' is that almost spoken quality."
There is some famous humming in this song, which takes place after the bridge around the 3-minute mark. This was producer Hugh Jones' idea.
The song has been used in numerous television commercials, usually for food. Most famously, it featured in 1990 Burger King ads, but it was also used in commercials for Ritz crackers, M&M's and Taco Bell.
The video was made on the cheap but was still better than most of what MTV had available at the time, so it got a fair number of spins. It followed the template of band performance while an alternate storyline plays out, but in this case both were in the same room. "Storyline" might be a stretch, since we simply see a couple dancing and looking into each other's eyes as if some adventure awaits. It helped that Modern English made some intriguing fashion choices, like Robbie Grey's conductor's hat.
Bowling For Soup recorded this for the 2005 kids' movie Sky High
, with the lyrics, "Making love to you" changed to "Being friends with you." The song was also covered by Jason Mraz for 50 First Dates
and by Mest for Not Another Teen Movie
The song charted at #78 US in 1983 after it was first released. When Modern English re-released it in 1989, it did a little better, placing at #76.