I first learned about The Hooters during my first semester at the New England School of Broadcasting (now the juggernaut known as the New England School of Communications), from Darlene, one of fellow students and one of my new friends attending the school from Great White North. And, from that first listen (on cassette) of their album, NERVOUS NIGHT, I was hooked for life.
The Hooters were formed in Philadelphia in 1980, and got their name from the melodica, an instrument with roots in Germany and which blends the keyboard and the harmonica. The band was formed by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, who had worked together in another Philadelphia band in the 1970s called Baby Grand.
Playing anywhere from clubs to high schools to TV shows, The Hooters were making a name for themselves in Philadelphia, and their original music was played on the big rock station in the City of Brotherly Love, WMMR. In 1982, they opened for The Who at JFK Stadium in Philadephia – a concert that also included Santana and The Clash.
In 1983, The Hooters released their first album, an indie album on Antenna Records called AMORE. It sold over 100,000 copies, which, at the time, was pretty impressive for an independent – and localized – album. This album contained original versions of songs like “All You Zombies,” “Hanging On A Heartbeat,” “Fightin’ On The Same Side” and “Blood From A Stone” – all songs that would appear on their major label debut, NERVOUS NIGHT. But I’ll come onto that in a bit.
Later that year, Rob and Eric were asked to help out on a major label debut album by new solo pop recording artist Cyndi Lauper, which turned into not only an amazing working relationship, but they all remain close friends to this day, and have a truly high regard for each other. Cyndi and Rob co-wrote the song “Time After Time,” which would become Cyndi’s first No. 1 song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, earned a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year, and remains as one of the most-covered songs of all-time. In June 1984, the same month “Time After Time” reached No. 1, Columbia Records signed The Hooters to their first major label recording contract.
NERVOUS NIGHT, their debut album on a major record label, was released on May 6, 1985. The album got off to a slow start, but first single, “All You Zombies,” worked its way to a No. 58 peak at the end of June 1985. For those who don’t know, “All You Zombies” has nothing to do with those popular creatures on current shows like THE WALKING DEAD or iZOMBIE (of which the song recently appeared, interestingly enough), but is actually about stories from THE BIBLE.
The Hooters got a boost on July 13, 1985, when they were featured as the opening band at the American version of the Live Aid benefit concert. Outside of Philadelphia, they were the least known band at Live Aid. Famous promoter Bill Graham wanted The Hooters to perform at Live Aid, against the wishes of organizer Bob Geldof, who asked in a ROLLING STONE interview, “Who the fuck are The Hooters?” Ironically (and I love this piece of trivia), many years later, Bob Geldof ended up being the opening act for The Hooters somewhere in the world, most likely in Germany, where the Philadelphia band are rock legends.
The second single off of NERVOUS NIGHT (and the album’s opening song), “And We Danced,” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 about a month after Live Aid. Replete with its fun and popular video set at a drive-in, “And We Danced” became the band’s first Top 40 hit, spending a week at No. 21 in late October 1985 and 20 weeks on the entire chart. In 1986, The Hooters were nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in a Video for “And We Danced.”
“Day By Day,” NERVOUS NIGHT’s second song, became the band’s third – and highest-charting – single, and helped propel the album to a No. 12 peak on the BILLBOARD album chart. “Day By Day” spent 3 weeks at No. 18 in February / March 1986 and spent 18 weeks on the Hot 100.
“Where Do The Children Go?” was the fourth single released from NERVOUS NIGHT, and was a collaboration between The Hooters and fellow Columbia Records label mate, Patty Smyth (of Scandal). It spent a sole week in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, peaking at No. 38 in late May 1988.
According to a February 1986 edition of the Allentown, PA daily newspaper, THE MORNING CALL, the ballad was written after Eric Bazilian read an article about three Quakertown, PA teens who committed suicide. Eric said, “The lyric opened up to include the theme of childhood loss of innocence. It’s a song with different meanings.”
A version without Patty Smyth recorded live at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater served as the video for “Where Do The Children Go?” and it won a BILLBOARD award for Best Concert Performance.
Other songs on NERVOUS NIGHT include “Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight” (they sure did love doing songs about cars!), “South Ferry Road,” a faithful cover of Love’s 1966 hit, “She Comes In Colors,” and three songs re-recorded from their original versions that appeared on their 1983 indie album, AMORE: “Hanging On A Heartbeat,” “Fightin’ On The Same Side” and “Blood From A Stone.” The title track, “Nervous Night,” oddly enough wasn’t on the LP release, but it did appear on the cassette and CD versions.
My love for The Hooters only grew with time, and when I had my first car in 1987, my license plate read, “HOOTRS,” which equally got me cheers and dirty looks on the highway, and I’m betting both groups of folks didn’t know it was actually about the band and not, well, you know. I saw The Hooters perform three times, twice headlining during their ONE WAY HOME tour in 1987. I got to meet the band on that tour, and even got a picture with Rob Hyman (check out that 80’s stash on me – yeah!).
The Hooters have always been one of my favorite bands, and during my 10-year tenure as Music Director for WMPG in Portland, Maine (which is where my little radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, has aired for 20 years now), I got to interview Rob and Eric for my radio show back in 2008, in support of their 2007 album, TIME STAND STILL. It was an amazing interview with two of my favorite musicians of all time, and one of the interviews I’m most proud of.
But it was the album, NERVOUS NIGHT, by the band once known as the Fab Philly Five – Rob Hyman (lead vocals, keyboards, accordion, melodica), Eric Bazilian (lead vocals, guitars, mandolin, harmonica, saxophone), David Uosikkinen (drums, percussion), John Lilley (guitar, mandolin, dobro, keyboards, vocals) and then-bassist and vocalist Andy King – that garnered my attention all those years ago.
The band is still around, touring throughout the world, still massively popular in Germany and in my heart. Hoping they’ll come back this way again soon, for what I’m sure will not be a nervous night…