Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers. Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.
One of those (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s – the British Pop band, The Korgis – debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 this week in 1980 with their lone American hit, “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” (from the album, DUMB WAITERS).
Ever hear a song for the first time and know instantly that you’ll love it forever? Well, that’s how I felt the first time I heard “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime,” a simple song that apparently only took singer and songwriter James Warren 10 to 15 minutes to write.
What I didn’t learn until much later is that the instrument played after each chorus is an 18-string Chinese zither, an instrument in the guitar family, or more appropriately, the cittern family. A cittern is an instrument that dates back to the time of the Renaissance (14th through 17th centuries).
The Chinese zither used in “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” is also known as a guzheng, which could possibly be the oldest instrument in history, and whose history apparently dates even further back than the cittern; I read as far back as 2500 years. Pretty impressive. Also impressive is the fact it was used on a successful Pop song in 1980.
“Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 18 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 around the 1981 New Year’s holiday and spent a total of 19 weeks on the chart. Though the band would have a couple of other hits in their U.K. homeland, this was their only worldwide hit.
Around the globe, “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” reached No. 5 in the U.K. and Ireland, No. 6 in Switzerland, No. 11 in Australia and Holland, No. 12 in New Zealand, No. 14 in Belgium, No. 16 in Canada, three weeks at No. 1 in Spain, and a whopping nine weeks at No. 1 in France.
There have been notable covers of the song released over the years as well, including a 1987 version by The Dream Academy (from their second album, REMEMBRANCE DAYS), Erasure in 2003 (on their covers album, OTHER PEOPLE’S SONGS), and by Beck in 2004, whose version was featured in my all-time favorite film, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. London Folk Rock music legend Richard Thompson covered the song in 2009 during his “1000 Minutes of Popular Music” tour, saying it was the only good song to have been released in the 1980s. Surely he’s forgetting his own albums released in the 80s, including the excellent album, AMNESIA, released in October 1988.
The latest incarnation of The Korgis has been around since 2005, comprised of frontman, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist James Warren, and guitarist, keyboardist, drummer and vocalist Andy Davis. They organized a tour in the U.K. in 2015.
“Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” continues to be covered by recording artists throughout the world, most recently in 2012 by the Manchester, England Indie Rock band, Everything Everything, and this year by the Baltimore, Maryland Dream Pop band, Beach House. And, though I do dearly love the versions by The Dream Academy and Beck, it was the simple original 1980 classic with the simple message that I treasure to this day.
“Change your heart / Look around you / Change your heart / It will astound you…”