“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade –
and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party”
– Ron White
Singer-guitarist Jack Hues of Wang Chung told K-Earth that the new wave band’s name derives from the Chinese phrase “Huang Chung,” which translates as “yellow bell” in Mandarin. Their 1986 hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” was written by Hues, bassist Nick Feldman and Peter Wolf, a producer, not the front man of the J. Geils Band.
“It started off as a little demo that Nick played me with a chorus which he thought I’d hate, because I always liked depressive stuff,” said Hues. “But I loved ‘Everybody Have Fun’ and when we did the demo, we came up with this little ad lib, which was ‘everybody Wang Chung tonight‘ … when we started with Peter Wolf, who was our producer on that record, he said, ‘you have to use that as the chorus.'”
“We released it on one of our hits albums, and it’s kind of slow,” Hues recalled in Popdose. “Not a ballad, but a medium tempo that’s very Beatles-influenced and a slightly ironic thing. I heard it as more of an ‘All You Need Is Love’ thing, more whimsical. But Peter’s sense was ‘Oh, no, you’ve got to make it so it’s like a Donna Summer record!’ [Laughs] And I was, like, ‘Oh, God.'”
Comedian and actor Eddie Murphy had already conquered television and movies when he decided to become a recording artist. Murphy and his brother Charlie arrived at Rick James’ Buffalo, N.Y. studio in 1985 to record his debut album, How Could It Be. Its single “Party All the Time” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985.
“When I did that track ‘Party All The Time’ with Rick, he really was doing everything,” said Murphy in Billboard. “In the early days of ‘Party All The Time’ and some other tracks I did with people like Larry Blackmon, I would do whatever they said. Rick did all of ‘Party All The Time’ and other stuff we did together. I was supposed to fly in for one day, then a snowstorm hit and we got snowed in and stuck in Buffalo for two weeks. One of my best early memories is that time with Rick James. The whole way I record, I learned from Rick James. I learned how to produce music from hanging around Rick James.”
For a long stretch during the making of that album, we were snowed in at Rick’s house in Buffalo, so all we did was party all the time,” wrote Charlie in The Making of a Stand-Up Guy. “There you have it: art imitating life.”
Singer-songwriter Randy Newman has said that he is sympathetic towards the narrator of “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” “He’s not a bad guy, just completely unsophisticated,” Newman explained in the Los Angeles Times. “He doesn’t know about this kind of thing. I’ll tell you, I never liked parties much. I remember the first thing I went to when I was like 11: boys and girls at somebody’s house or something, real loud, kids were smoking. It was alien. I can still hear the ringing in my ears.”
“‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ was a tune that I had been doing before Three Dog Night, when I still had my old group in Arizona,” said Cory Wells in Super Seventies. “I used to buy all these bizarre records — still do — and one of them was a Randy Newman album. On it was ‘Mama Told Me,’ and I became a tremendous fan.
“When I brought the song to the other guys, they didn’t like it. They hated it. Matter of fact, it took me three albums for them to accept it. I kept saying, ‘Please listen to this song. It’s a hit song. Man, will you please listen to it?’ And they said, ‘Cory, it just doesn’t have it. Why don’t you try some other song instead?'”
Three Dog Night’s 1970 version was a No. 1 hit. “At first I didn’t exactly like the way they did the song,” Newman said in the New York Times. “But when the royalty checks started drifting in, I figured they might be able to send my son to Harvard.”
“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Randy Newman
“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Three Dog Night
Lionel Richie topped the pop and R&B charts in 1987 with “All Night Long.” The song is famous for its African-sounding lyrics like “Tam bo li de say de moi ya, Hey Jambo Jumbo,” which Richie has called “a wonderful joke.”
“I needed some words in Swahili or African, something that said ‘infectious partying,'” Richie said in Rolling Stone. “I called my dear friend from Jamaica, Dr. Lloyd Greig and said, ‘What does Bob Marley mean when he sings Huah jaa huah jeebee goo?’ He said, ‘That means absolutely nothing, man. That means nothing.’ So I called some friends at the UN. I told them what I needed. They said, ‘Lionel, there are 101 African dialects.’ I said, ‘Wait, does one tribe not know what the other is saying?’ And he says, ‘Absolutely.’
“After that, I hung up the phone and just made it up. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve traveled the world and people go, ‘Oh my God, Lionel, the fact you put mambo with mumbo jumbo …’ They’re telling me what it means and I don’t want to tell them it doesn’t mean anything to me!”
“Working for the Weekend” by Canadian band Loverboy was a Top 30 hit in 1982. The catchy tune was written by guitarist Paul Dean, singer Mike Reno and drummer Matt Frenette. Dean told Guitar World that the original title was changed after the song was written.
“‘Working’ was originally called ‘Waiting.’ I was strolling through Kitsilano in Vancouver one spring day and the streets and stores were mostly deserted. I thought: ‘Where is everybody? This place is usually jumpin’! Oh I get it; they’re probably waiting for the weekend.’ I got the music part of the song started in Montreal a week later in my hotel room. It took a while to figure out all of the key changes, but eventually it made sense. Then, I brought it to the band and Reno says, ‘How about “Working for the Weekend?”‘
“Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy (song starts at 2:24)
Kool & the Gang‘s 1979 hit ‘Ladies’ Night’ featured the line, “Come on let’s all celebrate.” It would be the inspiration for the band’s 1980 hit ‘Celebration.’ “That song just kind of happened by itself and we just leave it alone, and we’re happy it did happen,” Robert “Kool” Bell told K-EARTH 101. “We were out in L.A. at the American Music Awards and we had won two awards that night for ‘Ladies’ Night’ and we were celebrating. My brother [Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell] had this idea and said, ‘I have this song called ‘Celebrate’ and it was from the tag of ‘Ladies’ Night.'”
Ronald explained in Songwriter Universe that the idea came to him while reading the Bible. “I was reading the scripture about where God called the angels together, and made an announcement that he was going to create this human – the human being. He gathered the angels together and they said, ‘We don’t know nothin’, but we just celebrate you, God – we celebrate and praise you.’ And I thought, ‘Wow…That’s Big!’ [Laughs]
“That’s where I got the song ‘Celebration’ from. I thought, I’m going to write a song about that: ‘And everyone around the world … Come on!‘ That’s the intent, that it was actually written for mankind.”
Rod Stewart released a popular version of “Having a Party” in 1994 but the song was written and first recorded by Sam Cooke in 1962. Herb Alpert offered some insight into Cooke’s songwriting: “Sam had great instincts,” the trumpeter and record exec told Minnesota Public Radio. “He was just one of those guys that had a feel – I mean, if he walked in and showed you the lyrics that he had, you’d kind of wonder what it’s all about. But as soon as he picked up his guitar and played ‘Having a Party,’ the whole thing came to life. So he had this very personal way of expressing himself that was very touching.”
Cooke performed the song as his closing number until he died in 1964. “‘Having a Party’ was the song,” said Cooke’s drummer, June Gardner, in the liner notes of Portrait of a Legend. “All the other acts would be out on stage, and we’d be throwing confetti, and everybody be having a jolly good time.”
“Having a Party” by Sam Cooke
“Having a Party” by Rod Stewart
“I Just Want to Celebrate” was a No. 7 hit for Rare Earth in 1971 that continues to be heard in movies and TV commercials. The song was written by Motown’s Dino Fekaris and Nick Zesses. “They had staff writers and writing rooms, with a piano in each room, and these guys were going all day long, every day,” saxophonist Gil Bridges explained in Classic Rock. “They were writing material for all of Motown’s acts. And we happened to walk into the studio one night and they played ‘Celebrate’ for us. We were there to record something else, but we scrapped it right there and did ‘Celebrate’ instead. We recorded the whole song, vocals and everything, in one day.”
“Some of ’em are quick. Some of ’em take forever,” said drummer and lead singer Peter Rivera in Classic Bands. “When I struggled, I used to feel it’s taking me so long I must not be too good. The more that I sang and worked in the studio, I realized that some came quick, some didn’t. The ‘Celebrate’ thing was a fluke. It was the only one that was ever like that too.”
“One night I was hanging out at Studio 54,” Chic front man Nile Rodgers told WCBS-FM. “I went right from partying to the recording studio.” The result was “Good Times,” a partying song that topped the charts in 1979 during tough economic times.
“We were being criticized because we were talking about ‘These were the good times,” and it was 1979,” Rodgers told the Las Vegas Weekly. “This was during the gas rationing in America. And meanwhile, we’re going ‘Good times! These are the good times/Leave your cares behind.‘ And we were trying to explain to a lot of reporters and journalists that we had patterned Chic after the celebratory bands of the jazz era. So during the Great Depression there was Duke Ellington, Count [Basie] – all of this stuff going on. And that’s what our music was like.
“That’s why the song ‘Good Times,’ we actually used the lyric from the song ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’ The first lyrics go ‘Happy days are here again/The time is right for making friends.’ And there was another famous song by Al Jolson, ‘The stars are going to twinkle and shine this evening/About a quarter to nine …‘ And we go, ‘Let’s get together/About a quarter to 10…‘ [laughs] And then tomorrow, we’ll all do it again.”
Kiss had high hopes that their studio version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” would become a rock anthem when it was released as a single in 1975 but the song stalled at No. 68. A live version the following year became a hit. Written by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the song would become the band’s signature song, used to close many of their shows.
“Originally Gene and I would tend to help each other fill in the gaps,” Stanley recalled in Songfacts. “‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ came about because we felt we needed an anthem, a song that could be the rallying cry for all of our fans. So I went back to the hotel and came up with the chorus and the melody. Then I went down to see Gene and he came up with the verses. We used to write a lot like that. As Gene and I became better writers we became either less willing to bend on our individual ideas, or it may have been that we both figured our songs would be stronger if developed by the person who wrote them.”
“Birthday” was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and appeared on the Beatles‘ 1968 White Album. The raw rocker only took one day to compose and record at Abbey Road studios. “We thought, ‘Why not make something up?’ So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff,” McCartney recalled in Many Years From Now. “We said, ‘We’ll go to there for a few bars, then we’ll do this for a few bars.’ We added some lyrics, then we got the friends who were there to join in on the chorus. So that is 50-50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all on the same evening. I don’t recall it being anybody’s birthday in particular but it might have been, but the other reason for doing it is that, if you have a song that refers to Christmas or a birthday, it adds to the life of the song, if it’s a good song, because people will pull it out on birthday shows, so I think there was a little bit of that at the back of our minds.”
“It’s one of my favorites, because it was instantaneous,” McCartney told Radio Luxembourg. “Also, it’s a good one to dance to. As for the big long drum break, normally we might have four bars of drums, but, with this, we thought, ‘No, let’s keep it going,’ We all like to hear drums plodding on.”
Bonus Track: “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K.
No list of partying songs can be complete without “Party Hard,” the hard-charging party anthem from Andrew W.K., off his 2001 debut record I Get Wet. After all, W.K. is the preeminent party expert in the music business, even launching his own political party (the Party Party) geared around, well, partying. You do you, Andrew.