Several months ago I visited a tractor show. This guy had this huge steam engine. Seeing this picture reminded me of the following story.
In October 2011 Paul died of lung cancer. He was 68 years old and had been a songwriter, producer and arranger. Paul was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1943, one of four children of Albanian immigrants. He had begun playing the piano as a child and was attempting to sell his own songs to music publishers in New York by the time he turned sixteen.
During the early sixties Paul and a couple of friends Gary and Dale, formed a band in Bridgeport, called the Chateaus.
In 1968 he was the co-writer and producer of the Number 1 hit “Green Tambourine” by the ‘Lemon Pipers’. Paul went on to produce arranged music for artists such as Harry Chapin (“Cat’s in the Cradle”), the Peppermint Rainbow (“Will You Be Staying After Sunday”), Peter Nero, Paul Mauriat, the Left Banke and REO Speedwagon.
While working at Mercury Records in 1969, Paul persuaded the label to sign his friend Gary who had been singing solo under the name Garrett Scott. Of course this was in the day of 45 RPM records. These records had an A side and a B side.
After the two recorded four singles it was decided that all four songs were A-side material. Therefore, they need to quickly come up with some new B-side material. It just so happened that their friend Dale happened to visit them, which led group to resurrect a song they had written in 1961.
In a 2005 interview Paul said that he thought that the song would be perfect for the B-side. The B-side songs were referred to as throwaway songs. They would even make the song longer so that deejays wouldn’t play them.
This song was about a love triangle. The singer is telling his girl that the other guy will never love her, the way that he loves her ’cause if he did, he wouldn’t make her cry.
However they needed more lyrics to make it longer. We certainly don’t want anyone playing it on the radio. So Paul began singing Na na na na, na na na na , and then someone else added the words hey hey.
The next evening without even the full complement of musicians the guys began recording the song. A drum track from one of Gary previously recorded song was spliced into the recording and the song was finished.
The only problem was that when the Mercury executive heard “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” he said it sounded too good for a B-side and should be released as a separate single.
Paul was livid and said that compared to Gary’s four other songs that this was an “embarrassing record” and an “insult.”
So Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo, and Dale Frashuer decided that the song that would become their defining achievement, the crown jewel of their career, should be released with Mercury’s subsidiary, Fontana, under the name of a fictitious one-hit-wonder band, Steam.
After spending two weeks at the Number 1 spot on the Billboard chart in 1969, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” took on a life of its own as the signature chant at sporting events across the country it also was used in movies, and TV commercials.
It even caught on at soccer games overseas, where the “goodbye” in the chorus is substituted with “Adios!” in Spain, “Au Revoir!” in France, “Ciao! Ciao!” in Italy and “Sayonara!” in Japan.
So with football starting this week, here’s hoping that your favorite team will be able to sing “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye”.