From the Vault...


"That Thing You Do!"

© Play-Tone/Epic Records

Year of Release: 1996

track listing
  • Lovin You
    Lots And Lots--
    The Norm
    Woodster Singers
  • That Thing You Do--
    The Wonders
  • Little Wild One--
    The Wonders
  • Dance With Me Tonight--
    The Wonders
  • All My Only Dreams--
    The Wonders
  • I Need You
    (That Thing
    You Do)--
    The Wonders
  • She Knows It--
    The Heardsmen
  • Mr. Downtown--
    Freddy Fredrickson
  • Hold My Hand
    Hold My Heart--
    The Chantrellines
  • Voyage Around
    The Moon--
    The Saturn
  • My World Is Over--
    Diane Dane
  • Drive Faster--
    The Vicksburgs
  • Shrimp Shack--
    Cap'n Geech &
    The Shrimp Shack
  • Time To Blow--
    Del Paxton
  • That Thing You Do
    The Wonders

  • WSVNRadio Archives
    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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    "That Thing You Do!"

    One of my favorite Rock n Roll movies, would definitely have to be That Thing You Do!, a film released in 1996. A Tom Hanks production, he wrote/co-wrote songs for the soundtrack. If you're a fan of the early Beatles, the band portrayed in the movie, The Wonders, will definitely be the comparison.

    Plot (taken from the Wikipedia article): In 1964, Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) is a drummer who works at his family's Erie, Pennsylvania struggling appliance store -- "Patterson’s Appliances". Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech) and Lenny Haise (Steve Zahn) ask Guy to sit in with their band at the annual Mercyhurst College talent show, because their regular drummer Chad (Giovanni Ribisi) has broken his arm. The last member of the group is the unnamed bass player (Ethan Embry). In the film, the character is never addressed by name and is credited as "T.B. Player". The group rehearses a ballad titled "That Thing You Do". Afterwards, Guy asks if they only have to perform that one song for the talent show, and when told that's the case, he says "Wonderful!" Jimmy's girlfriend, Faye Dolan (Liv Tyler), is inspired by Guy's exclamation and suggests that the group call themselves "The Oneders" (pronounced "Wonders," after Guy's use of the word "Wonderful"); with various people mispronouncing it later in the film as "oh-need-ers".

    At the talent show, Guy launches into a faster tempo for "That Thing You Do" than in rehearsal and the audience goes wild for the song. The Oneders win the $100 top prize and obtain their first paying gig at a local pizza parlor. With the help of Guy's Uncle Bob (Chris Isaak), they begin selling a single of "That Thing You Do", which attracts the attention of local manager Phil Horace (Chris Ellis). At a Pittsburgh gig, record company A&R representative Mr. White (Hanks) offers the band a development contract with Play-Tone Records. The boys sign the contract, and White changes their band name to "The Wonders" to avoid further confusion.

    The Wonders tour state fairs across the Midwest during the summer with other Play-Tone artists, including Freddy Frederickson (Robert Torti), The Chantrellines (Kennya Ramsey, Julie Harkness, and Darlene Dillinger), and Diane Dane (Chaille Percival). "That Thing You Do" enters and climbs the Billboard Top 100. As time goes by, The Wonders go from being the opening act to the feature attraction, and throngs of teenage girls mob the band. When the song enters the Top 10, The Wonders leave the Play-Tone tour for California where they appear in a low-budget beach movie and several radio shows. The bass player leaves the band with a group of Marines and never returns. White brings in an experienced studio bassist, Scott "Wolfman" Pell (Larry Antonino) to join The Wonders for a live performance on a prestigious national television variety show. During the broadcast, the caption "Careful girls, he's engaged!" is superimposed beneath Jimmy's close-up. Jimmy is upset by this, and after the show claims he has no intention of marrying her. A heartbroken Faye ends their relationship.

    The next day, during a recording session without Lenny (who ran off to Las Vegas and eloped with a Play-Tone secretary), Jimmy resists White's plan to cover songs from the Play-Tone catalog instead of songs of Jimmy's. White explains that their Play-Tone contract specifies the content of the album: one original song per side, with the balance consisting of corporate-owned material, but the original songs must be "snappy", not ballads. Jimmy steps up to the microphone and in a sarcastic "snappy" tone, sings that he's quitting the band and storms out of the studio. After Wolfman leaves, White tells Guy that although "The Wonders" are now technically in breach of contract with Play-Tone, this is not an uncommon occurrence with young, emerging bands and the record company will simply terminate their agreement and write them off as just another "one-hit wonder". White leaves, and a dejected Guy remains in the recording studio, playing an impromptu jazz drum solo, which is overheard by the recording staff, who are impressed with his skills and offer to record the session. Guy refuses at first, but then is bolstered when his idol, jazz pianist Del Paxton (Bill Cobbs), who overheard Guy's impromptu drum solo, suggests that they record a duet. Guy later tells Faye that Del thinks he has potential as a jazz musician. Faye tells Guy she plans on returning to Erie, and Guy finally takes the opportunity to declare his feelings for her.

    An epilogue details the subsequent lives of the band members: Guy and Faye marry, raise four children and start The Puget Sound Conservatory of Music in Bainbridge Island, Washington, where Guy teaches jazz composition. Jimmy records three gold albums with a new band (The Heardsmen) on the Play-Tone label and becomes a successful record producer in Los Angeles. Lenny ends up single (what happened to the secretary is not revealed) and manages a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. The unnamed T.B. Player serves two tours in Vietnam and is awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained at Khe Sanh and becomes a building contractor in Orlando, Florida.

    The soundtrack begins with "Lovin' You Lots And Lots" by the Norm Wooster Singers. This track has a 1960s sound similar (but is it really) to that of Mitch Miller, or is it a political sounding song? Definitely mid-to-late '60s era here. The next three songs by the Wonders: "That Thing You Do," (my personal favorite), "Little Wild One," and "Dance With Me Tonight." All these tracks have the early Beatles sound. "All My Only Dreams" (by the Wonders) is slowed down, rather than up-tempo. "I Need You (That Thing You Do)" (The Wonders) is a very good Pop sounding track.

    (All of the other bands and artists [like The Wonders] in the soundtrack are fictious.) The Heardsmen's "She Knows It" has a '60s Beatles feel. Another good track is Freddy Fredrickson's "Mr. Downtown," as it has an almost feel to that of the Peter Gunn Theme. The Chantrellines' "Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart" defines the 1960s "girl groups" category, just as it was popular in the 1960s. Another popular music trend from the 1960s was surf-instrumental music: The Saturn's "Voyage Around The Moon". More on the R&B/Soul side, Diane Dane's "My World Is Over" moves to the Soul sound, just as this kind of music was also popular back in the '60s. The Vicksburgs' "Drive Faster" has the early Beatles feel. As another surf-instrumental follows, Cap'n Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters' "Shrimp Shack." A very impressive Jazz track has Del Paxton's "Time To Blow." And the last track is a live performance from The Hollywood Television Showcase, "That Thing You Do" by The Wonders.

    As the movie was fantastic, so is the soundtrack. Interesting to learn that Tom Hanks wrote or co-wrote some of the tracks. Liv TYler was also cast in the movie, and I can't help but wonder if the actor Steve Zahn (one of the Wonders bandmembers) is related to Michael J. Fox. They sure look alike.

    If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Any fan of music (especially The Beatles) will enjoy this movie. Another Beatles-que band that comes to mind are The Rutles. The Wonders, The Rutles, they both depict the early sound of the Fab Four. All in all, it's a great movie, and the soundtrack is just as exceptional.

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    P.D.Q. Bach--Oedipus Tex
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    Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band--It's A Mystery