Who's Johnny

Album: El DeBarge (1986)
Charted: 60 3


  • This song was written by the husband-and-wife team Peter and Ina Wolf for Short Circuit, a 1986 sci-fi comedy about an experimental military robot named Number 5 who goes on the run after a lightning strike gives him the gift of human intelligence. The music video follows the robot's trial, with El DeBarge singing on the witness stand and some of the movie's cast members in attendance, including Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg (well, a cardboard cutout of Guttenberg). The movie's producers loved this song so much that they wrote in a scene where Number 5 adopted the name "Johnny."
  • This was El DeBarge's first single after leaving his family's group, DeBarge, earlier that year. He was concerned that the song was too different from his usual work, but was encouraged to give it a shot because a film tie-in could bring positive publicity to his debut album. The song was his first and only #1 hit (on the US R&B Charts) as a solo artist.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic spun this song into a Tonight Show-themed parody called "Here's Johnny," a reference to announcer Ed McMahon's famous introduction for former host Johnny Carson. It's featured on his 1986 album, Polka Party!.
  • Peter Wolf didn't even have to drag himself out of bed to write this song. "I wrote the song one morning, literally lying in bed. I woke up and I was toying with the idea and the whole thing was right there, chorus and all." he said in a Billboard interview. Peter also co-wrote Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" and Starship's "We Built This City," among other hits. He and his then-wife Ina collaborated on Kenny Loggins' "Playing With the Boys" for the movie Top Gun.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Mac Powell of Third Day

Mac Powell of Third DaySongwriter Interviews

The Third Day frontman talks about some of the classic songs he wrote with the band, and what changed for his solo country album.

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce PavittSong Writing

The man who ran Nirvana's first label gets beyond the sensationalism (drugs, Courtney) to discuss their musical and cultural triumphs in the years before Nevermind.

Cheerleaders In Music Videos

Cheerleaders In Music VideosSong Writing

It started with a bouncy MTV classic. Nirvana and MCR made them scary, then Gwen, Avril and Madonna put on the pom poms.

Kristian Bush of Sugarland

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Part of Their World: The Stories and Songs of 13 Disney Princesses

Part of Their World: The Stories and Songs of 13 Disney PrincessesSong Writing

From "Some Day My Prince Will Come" to "Let It Go" - how Disney princess songs (and the women who sing them) have evolved.

Intentionally Atrocious

Intentionally AtrociousSong Writing

A selection of songs made to be terrible - some clearly achieved that goal.