This Day in Music History: 1996 – “That Thing You Do” (Song) is released

The song was written by Adam Schlesinger, the bassist of the alternative rock group Fountains of Wayne. Performers include Mike Viola on vocals with Schlesinger on backup vocals. The song was released as a single, it peaking at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100. (It also reached #22 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #18 on the Adult Top 40, and #24 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart.) The song was a bigger hit outside of the US, reaching #31 in Canada in December, 1996, and #22 on the UK Singles Chart in February 1997. The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 69th Academy Awards as well as Best Original Song at the 54th Golden Globe Awards.

That Thing You Do! is a 1996 American musical comedy drama film written, directed by, and co-starring Tom Hanks. Set in the summer of 1964, the movie tells the story of the rise and fall of a one-hit wonder pop band. The film also resulted in a musical hit with the song “That Thing You Do”.
One of the most influential events in American pop music was the British Invasion of the early 1960s. Dozens of bands, lead by the Beatles, came across the Atlantic armed with catchy guitar hooks and tight vocal harmonies that in turn inspired hundreds of musicians.

It was this period that actor Tom Hanks wanted to recapture in his 1996 directorial debut That Thing You Do. The film tells the story of an Erie, PA rock band and their rapid rise to fame on the power of one catchy pop song. To find that catchy pop song and other songs that sounded as if they were written three decades earlier, Hanks and the film’s producers sent out a call to musicians who were still carrying on that British pop tradition. The producers were soon flooded with demo tapes, with more than 300 entries vying to be the film’s title track. While a majority of the songs that eventually appeared in the film were written by Hanks, film producer Gary Goetzman and musician Mike Piccirillo, a few submitted songs did make it through the selection process, including rocker Adam Schlesinger’s own try.

In the film, in 1964, an Erie, Pennsylvania band named “The One-ders” (later known as The Wonders) goes from a college talent show to climbing up the Billboard charts thanks to the song “That Thing You Do”. Written by guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Mattingly II, it was originally crafted as a ballad. During the performance at the talent show, drummer Guy Patterson produces a much more up-tempo beat and the rest of the band follow suit, turning the song into an upbeat, Beatles-esque rock number. The song is a hit with the audience, and they win the talent show. From there, the band is picked up by a local manager who helps them get more shows in the area, and eventually the song receives radio airplay. The band is then signed to Play-Tone Records, under Mr. White’s guidance, and the song climbs up the Billboard Hot 100, starting at #93, then #71, #49, and #21. The following week, “That Thing You Do” climbs to #7, becoming the quickest charting song ever on Play-Tone Records. However, Jimmy walks out on the band before they can produce another record, so they eventually become one-hit wonders.

“I wonder what happened to the “O-neders.’” – Lenny Haise (played by Steve Zahn)

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