Pop Goes The World

Album: Pop Goes The World (1987)
Charted: 20
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Songfacts®:

  • They're best known for "The Safety Dance," but Men Without Hats had another hit with this poppy number from 1987. Frontman Ivan Doroschuk, who wrote the song, introduced it in later years by saying it was about mescaline, but is not about "getting your clothes really clean."
  • This song fits in the "fictional musicians" category as it tells the story of Johnny and Jenny, who form a band called The Human Race.
  • The "big Bonhomme" mentioned in the lyric refers to the smiling white mascot for the Quebec Winter Carnival (the band is from that area). This creature shows up in the video, which like "The Safety Dance," was directed by Tim Pope.
  • Speaking with Boom 97.3 in Toronto, Ivan Doroschuk told the story of this song. "I wrote 'Pop Goes The World' originally as an instrumental. I was trying to get something like 'Popcorn' or that type of wacky instrumental, electronic song going. I wrote the song along with 10 or 12 other songs and I just tagged it on the end of the demo as a little kind of instrumental hook.

    Sent the demo off to Derek Shulman, who was the A&R guy at PolyGram in New York. Derek Shulman was also the lead singer of the prog rock band Gentle Giant. I sent him the demo – 12 songs and this little instrumental riff at the end – and he phoned me. He said, 'OK, what I want you to do is take that little instrumental song, that little 2-minute riff at the end, and I want you to write a song like that, a whole song around it. I want you to put lyrics on it and make a real song out of it. And then I want you to take those 10-12 other songs that you wrote, throw those away and write 10 more like that 'Pop Goes The World' song that you wrote.'

    And, I was like: 'What?' But, he was one of my prog rock heroes, so I said, 'He might know what he's talking about.' So, that's what I did. I went back into the studio and spent quite a while building a song, writing. It was actually one of the first songs that I sat down and worked on and wrote as a song. And then I tried to write 10 more like it.

    We put the album together and put it out. It was great advice and it's advice that I give now to young musicians: Sometimes you have to put your art in your back pocket and listen to people who, like Derek, know what they are talking about. It's sometimes a question of pride, but in my case it turned out pretty good."

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