Men Without Hats – Pop Goes The World (1987)

frontcover1Pop Goes the World is the third studio album by Canadian new wave band Men Without Hats, released in 1987. It contained the single “Pop Goes the World”, which reached the top twenty in Canada (achieving Gold status) and the United States. The album went Platinum in Canada.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull makes a guest appearance and plays the flute on the track “On Tuesday.”

The album was performed by Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk, with additional keyboards by Lenny Pinkas. “Jenny” and “Johnny” were actually characters from the opening song “Pop Goes The World”—the album graphics were designed to reference their roles in the song, which opens with the line “Johnny played gee-tar, Jenny played bass.” The album follows a loose conceptual thread, and Johnny and Jenny go on to appear as characters in numerous other songs on the disc, being mentioned by name in “Jenny Wore Black” and “The End (Of The World)”. The role of “Johnny” on the album cover (and in videos) was played by Stefan Doroschuk, the band’s actual guitarist. “Jenny” was played by Marika Tjelios, who remained with the band until 1990.

Drummer “J. Bonhomme” is also referenced in the song “Pop Goes The World” (as “a big bonhomme”). A Bonhomme de neige (fr) is a snowman; a character known as “Bonhomme” (a man in a stylized snowman costume with a top hat) is a common mascot at Quebec winter carnivals. The album cover shows the character Bonhomme as the band’s drummer. The initial J. would seem to be a multi-lingual pun, referencing both the French phrase “Joyeux bonhomme”, as well as the English rock drummer John Bonham.

The only credited musician aside from the Doroschuks and Pinkas is Ian Anderson of the rock group Jethro Tull. Anderson plays flute on track 3, “On Tuesday”.

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Early in recording sessions, a song called “The Same Halo” was recorded by the band for the album but was ultimately replaced by “Lose My Way” on the album. “Jenny Wore Black” was first performed live in 1985-1986 during the “Freeways” tour.

Another song left over from these sessions was “A Funny Place (The World Is)”, which was given to Mitsou who recorded and released it in 1991.

A French-language demo called “Pyjamarama” was recorded the following year.
Singles

Along with the title track, two other singles from this album were released, but neither got much notice. These singles were “Moonbeam”, which featured a complementing music video, and “O Solo Mio” that was backed by “Lose My Way” as a promo single.
Uses
The song “Pop goes the world” was used by Tide in TV advertisements for their “Pods” in 2012.

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Men Without Hats broke big with their 1982 debut, Rhythm of Youth. Though they never maintained that level of success, their third album Pop Goes the World was a smart, well-crafted, woefully underrated offering. The album chronicles the quest for and backlash of fame on songs like the title track, on which Ivan sings “Johnny and Jenny had a crazy dream/See their pictures in a magazine.” Perhaps it was a way of dealing with the band’s sudden success/failure, particularly on “Lose My Way” and “The Real World..” Thankfully, a wild sense of humor and a heartbreaking poignancy keeps the album from becoming too serious. Additionally, each song is vastly different: there are some lullabies (“Moonbeam”), some anthems (“Jenny Wore Black”), and some dirges (“Bright Side of the Sun” — which is criminally short, adding to its power). Cartoonish but dark, this album marries wide-eyed innocence with cynicism in its recurring themes (celebrity, loss, rejuvenation, the vastness of our world) and characters (Jenny and Johnny, who are credited with bass and guitar, respectively). It takes a few listens to fully absorb the stories and lessons interwoven in Pop Goes the World’s synthesizer-driven, somewhat goofy, sometimes somber cuts. Though there are some quirky aspects to the album (from the intro with a beckoning voice like that of Newcleus’ helium-driven “Jam on It” to an intro to “Walk on Water” that sounds like a faraway voice on a hissing vinyl album), nothing seems gimmicky. Overall, the album is solid, smart, haunting, and complete. (by Bryan Buss)

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Personnel:
A Baby (keyboards)
Ivan Doroschuk (vocals)
Stefan Doroschuk (guitar)
Richard Samson (drums)
Marika Tjelios (bass)
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Ian Anderson (flute on 03.)

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Tracklist:
01. Intro 1.49
02 Pop Goes The World 3.43
03. On Tuesday 4.08
04. Bright Side Of The Sun 0.42
05. O Sole Mio 3.57
06. Lose My Way 3.10
07. The Real World 4.24
08. Moonbeam 3.37
09. In The Name Of Angels 3.49
10. La Valse d’Eugénie 1.28
11. Jenny Wore Black 2.57
12. Intro/Walk On Water 5.43
13. The End (Of The World) 3.23

All songs written by Ivan Doroschuk

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