This having nothing to do with the fact that I absolutely adore Tom Hanks and think he is the ultimate genius, That Thing You Do!, a comedy written and directed by him, is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the funniest and most well-made films I have ever come across, in every sense imaginable. Released in 1996, the movie tells the story of The Wonders — aka “I wonder what happened to The O’Needers” — a one-hit wonder rock ‘n’ roll band, that experienced a quick rise in the summer of 1964 with their hit song “That Thing You Do!”.
The movie’s soundtrack is what got me through the last couple years of school, when no class was bearable without the soundtrack playing secretly though my headphones. Featuring original music by Tom Hanks, Rick Elias, Scott Rogness, Gary Goetzman, Howard Shore, Mike Piccirillo and Adam Schlesinger, the soundtrack album was a hit when it came out, peaking at #21 on the Billboard 200 albums charts. The whole concept and design of the CD also plays along with its dedicated fans, refusing to ruin the dream by waking them up to reality. Featuring artwork of the (fictional) Play-Tone record label, with which the Wonders saw their huge but short-lived success, as well as liner notes written in a mockumentary style, the soundtrack allows whoever really needs to, to carry on believing that The Wonders were a real band. And that they did look great in black, red and gold.
But let’s take this one step at a time. To begin with, the opening credits song, titled “Lovin’ You Lots And Lots” is written by Tom Hanks and sounds like a Ray Conniff and Mitch Miller, 60s style radio recording, beautifully and stylishly dressing the 60s overall style and setting of the film. For the all the romantics out there, the track is written by the Norm Wooster Singers.
“That Thing You Do!” is written by James “Jimmy” Mattingly II. Oh, yeah, and Leonard “Lenny” Haise. They wrote it together in Jimmy’s garage. “Little Wild One”, “Dance With Me Tonight”, “All My Only Dreams” and “I Need You” are also accredited to The Wonders, but as we all know, it was Jimmy again that really did all the work. Now, for those with a tighter grasp on reality, all the tracks are written by Rick Elias and Scott Rogness, except for the film’s main score, which was composed by Adam Schlesinger.
“But first record I ever bought was theme from Mr. Downtown”. For me, this track is written and smoothly performed by Freddy Fredrickson, although The Wonders’ drummer, Guy “Shades” Patterson, does a great impression of the performer, which shouldn’t go unnoticed. “Darkness falls and the night’s begun, the river of light burns as bright as the sun, under the waning moon is danger to be found”… He sings it better than even Freddy does. (For people interested in the truth and nothing but the truth, the song is written by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mike Piccirillo).
And for whoever wants something that sounds way more Motown-y, then “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” performed by The Chantrellines, is definitely the track they should skip straight to. Three matching dressed, matching hair-styled gorgeous women, clapping their hands on the side every time, along with the chorus. Sometimes even having The Wonders’ bass player with no name, clap along. In real life, the song is again written by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mike Piccirillo.
And “Miss Diane Dane! There she is. Diane Dane. Look at that dress, huh? That’s a — that’s a gold dress, like a Wisconsin sunrise”. Diane Dane, who we hate because she’s flirting with Jimmy right in front of Faye, the lead singer’s “girlfriend” — but if he wants her on the tour, then “costume mistress” — comes out all dressed in gold to sing her latest hit “My World Is Over”. Or so they’ve told us. But I think that the song is actually Mike Piccirillo’s, and she’s stolen it.
“Shrimp Shack”, written and performed by Cap’n Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters, aka The Wonders during weekend at party pier, is one of those songs that bring back memories from the summer, the beach, Rick and Anita. However, The Wonders at the time had a top ten record, so they shouldn’t have been there… At least they got to keep their wardrobe, and then they just gave the song to Mike Piccirillo, who now claims to have written it.
Last but not least, “Time To Blow”. A good old classic jazz tune, composed and performed by Del Paxton. A pure, dry, primitive sound that only Del Paxton could create. The kind of music you spend years collecting in special edition records, but then end up having most of them swiped when you’re stationed in Germany. For the cynics, “Time To Blow” was written by Steve Tyrell and Robert F. Mann. In any case, if you want to hear some good jazz like that, then “get in the cab… Get In The Cab! And take this young man to the Blue Spot”.