June 6, 2018
Todd plays "Missing" on the piano.
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL - MISSING
A one-hit retrospective
Todd: Welcome back to "One Hit Wonderland", where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. Okay, I still got a huge backlog of requests here. And check it out...
Video for "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Dop)" by Scatman JohnTodd (VO): ...you know how last time we looked at a goofy techno song from 1995? Well...
Todd: ...guess what? We got another one! Except, uh... minus the goofy part.
Video for "Missing" by Everything but the GirlTracey Thorn: And I miss you
Like the deserts miss the rain
Todd (VO): Yes, Everything but the Girl. The band with the evocative name and the extremely evocative single, "Missing", released in 1994, but then remixed in 1995 and eventually peaking in the early months of 1996 at number 2.
Todd: It would have been a number 1 hit if not for the unstoppable juggernaut...
Video for "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey & Boyz II MenTodd (VO): ..."One Sweet Day", still the biggest Billboard hit of all time. I mean, which fits. They're both songs about missing people.
Todd: But they're so very, very different.
Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men: One sweet day
Todd (VO): There was no way that "Missing" was gonna hit number 1 over "One Sweet Day". Mariah and Boyz II Men are a...
Todd: ...steamroller of grief...
Video for "Missing"Todd (VO): ...while "Missing" by Everything but the Girl is...
Tracey: And I miss you, oh
Todd (VO): ...it's just not over the top, it's just low-key and haunting...
Todd: ...and fucking heartbreaking.
Tracey: Like the deserts miss the rain
Todd (VO): And though I'm not super familiar with the band, it just feels extremely wrong that this band is a one-hit-wonder. Even though I know nothing about them, I mean, a band with that...
Shot of album cover for Everything but the Girl's self-titled debut albumTodd (VO): ...interesting of a name.
Todd: It just deserves more. I mean, this is a song that says "Hey everyone, listen to me more".
Todd (VO): But it just didn't happen. Everything but the Girl would have everything but a second hit.
Todd: And I mean everything. 'Cause guess what? [various shots of Everything but the Girl album covers] There is more. A lot more. A whole lot more. A ton more.
Todd (VO): This episode was a ton of research, and I would have never gotten to it if not for your requests.
Todd: See? I do it all! For you!
Tracey: And I miss you, yeah
Before the hit
Todd: Okay, we've got about 15 years of music to get through before we even touch the hit, so let's get to it.
Clip of "On My Mind"Tracey: My friends, I don't care what they say
Todd (VO): Everything but the Girl was formed in 1982 in Hull, England.
Picture of Everything but the GirlTodd (VO): This is Tracey Thorn, [text "the girl" appears under Tracey] "the girl" in Everything but the Girl, and this is Ben Watt, [text "everything" appears under Ben] the "everything" in Everything but the Girl, I guess.
Todd: They're named after a furniture store ad they saw once that said something like, you know...
Shot of furniture storeTodd (VO): ..."Setting up your new apartment, well, we'll sell you everything but the girl!" Ha ha!
Todd: And then they decontextualised that joke ad into something disquietingly poetic and sad. They seemed to be good at that.
Clip of "Each and Every One"Todd (VO): But though Tracey Thorn's voice is indeed a crushing gravity-well of emotion, they were not exclusively a sad band, they were kinda all over the place. And a lot of their stuff is pretty upbeat. Like, here's their first minor-ish hit in the UK.
Tracey: All that was over and done
But I still get the same from each and every one
Todd (VO): See? No trancey techno or even synthesizers up in here. We got a long journey ahead of us before we get to the [shot of album cover for Jungle Hits Volume 3] mid-90's electronica. This is more like coffee shop folk/jazz music, so...
Todd: [Todd reaches down to get a mug and places it on the piano] ...I'm gonna get myself a cappuccino and we're all gonna snap instead of applauding. [Todd snaps his fingers a bunch]
Clip of "Mine"Tracey: You must give the child a name some time
Well, you mean his and what's wrong with mine?
Todd (VO): Yeah, I think [pictures flash up of Robert Smith from The Cure, Morrissey and Thompson Twins] all British indie bands had this haircut in the mid-'80s.
Live clip of "Night and Day"Tracey: Night and day
Todd (VO): So, yeah, you notice how this is all very smooth and jazzy and [clip of Astrud Gilberto performing "The Girl from Ipanema"] all kinda sounds like "The Girl from Ipanema"?
Clip of "Don't Leave Me Behind"Todd (VO): Yeah, there's a word for this kind of urbane, 80's, light jazz-rock. It's called...
Todd: [glittery text appears on screen with chimes sound effect saying...] ...sophisti-pop. I've mentioned it before.
Clip of "Living in a Box" by Living in a BoxTodd (VO): That was during the Living in a Box episode, but I never thought [clip of "Don't Leave Me Behind"] Living in a Box fit the genre all that well. Everything but the Girl is way closer to that description.
Clip of "Native Land"Tracey: Never let me hear you say
Todd (VO): Now obviously this didn't hit big in America and they were never quite hitmakers in their home country either. They were always just kinda there, always just kinda barely scratching into the charts in the UK.
Clip of "Love Is Here Where I Live"Todd (VO): I'm not sure why they weren't bigger. Maybe they were just too restrained for the big '80s, which was only getting [clip of "The Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue] gaudier and stupider as the '80s went on. And they weren't a super visual band either. They were very laid-back and muted. [clip of "When All's Well"] Although I do respect whoever had to decide that the video for the song "When All's Well" should be in an actual literal well.
Clip of "I Don't Wanna Talk About It"Todd (VO): But there were one or two actual real hits in there, this was one of them.
Tracey: I don't wanna talk about it
How you broke my heart
Todd quickly snaps his fingersTodd (VO): See, this one made it all the way up to number 3. And that's as close as they got, one top 10 UK hit in 1988. And that's as close as they got to famous in the '80s.
Clip of "Old Friends"Todd (VO): But they were certainly trying to have hits. They changed up their sound a bunch of times, and their fans called them sellouts each and every time. There's a funny story about how their boss at the record company was like "come on guys, I don't wanna have to wait eight albums for a hit from you two".
Todd: Which is funny 'cause eight albums is exactly how long it took.
Todd (VO): And it was frustrating for them 'cause acts that came up after them, like...
Todd: ...Suzanne Vega...
Clip of "Luka" by Suzanne VegaSuzanne: My name is Luka
Todd: ...or Tracy Chapman...
Clip of Tracy Chapman performing "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution" liveTracy: Don't you know
You're talking about a revolution
Todd (VO): ...and other retro neo-beatniks like that were actually starting to get pretty huge and play big venues and stuff.
Todd: And you can read interviews where they're actually kinda frustrated. [screenshot of article: "Everything but the Fame"] They started way ahead of the game and they got no reward for it. And then once the '80s were over, that stuff kinda started fading too.
Clip of "Driving"Todd (VO): Sophisti-pop and the neo-folk artists had their day, and then it was the '90s. It just wasn't happening for them.
Todd: And also Ben got some horrible rare illness [cover of Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness by Ben Watt] that was so bad he wrote a whole book about it. So, yeah, in 1993 and 1994 things weren't great in the Everything but the Girl camp.
Clip of "The Only Living Boy in New York"Todd (VO): They'd been doing this for 10 years, if they were gonna have a hit by now, they'd have had it, right? Yeah.
Todd: So, let's talk about trip-hop.
Clip of "Glory Box" by PortisheadBeth Orton: So tired
Todd (VO): Trip-hop was a British form of techno that was very hip in the early '90s.
Clip of "Daydreaming" by Massive AttackTodd (VO): It was extremely chill, good for smoking pot to, and it also has the Brits' first real semi-attempts at rap.
Todd: Like, the British are terrible at hip-hop, they, they can't do it.
Todd (VO): But they're good at turning rap into other genres that they can do, and trip-hop was the first. Very popular in the '90s over there, especially with the [shot of NME cover featuring Massive Attack] snobby British music magazines.
Clip of "Protection" by Massive Attack feat. Tracey ThornTodd (VO): And at some point, and I'm not clear how this happened, but Tracey Thorn got involved with it. Something about her calm but very emotionally heavy vocals, it fit with the genre perfectly.
Todd: And I don't think this was intended to be a career shift...
Clip of "Rollercoaster"Todd (VO): ...seeing as their next album was almost entirely acoustic. [shot of album cover for Amplified Heart] Amplified Heart. [text "UNPLUGGED" pasted over the word "Amplified"] Wrong. No.
Clip of original version of "Missing"Todd (VO): But there was one song on there that had that kinda Portishead, smooth techno feel to it. And when they released it, it became absolutely...
Todd: ...not big at all. But then there was a remix!
The big hit
Clip of "Missing"Todd (VO): So here it is. Trip-hop's one quasi-entry into America. It was this, [shot of Becoming X album cover by...] The Sneaker Pimps, [brief clip of House intro] and the House theme. [back to "Missing"] I'm not sure if this counts as trip-hop or not, actually. I just know writers say it is because it's a chill electronica song with a smoky female voice on it. I can tell you it placed simultaneously on the pop charts, the rock charts, and it even kinda snuck onto the R&B charts.
Todd: But, not the dance charts. Even though it's a techno remix.
Todd (VO): I mean, if you heard just the opening measure, you'd think there was a slamming club track at the end of it.
Clip of opening measureTodd (VO): "Wooo!" No.
Tracy: It's years since you've been thereTodd (VO): So why now, after more than a decade of trying, did they finally get a hit? Well, according to Tracey it was like...
Todd: ...well, we were coming down off this huge swell of much louder music...
Clips of Nirvana - "Heart Shaped Box", Haddaway - "What Is Love?" and Björk - "Hyperballad"Todd (VO): ...you know, grunge was on its way out, the house scene was dying out, and suddenly everything was a lot less in your face in both alternative rock and techno.
Todd: I mean, check out the big rock hits at the same time.
Clips of No Doubt - "Don't Speak", Oasis - "Wonderwall", Hootie & the Blowfish - "Time", Collective Soul - "The World I Know" and The Goo Goo Dolls - "Name"Todd (VO): "Don't Speak", "Wonderwall", Hootie, Collective Soul, The Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently we were all just burned the fuck out and...
Todd: ...we wanted to turn it down a notch.
Picture of Todd Terry and clip of The Todd Terry Project ft. Class Action - "Weekend"Todd (VO): Even the remixer himself, Todd Terry, he was a house music veteran. He made all sorts of gigantic late '80s club tracks. But the difference between where he was in 1988 versus 1996 is humungous.
Clip for "Missing"And I guess it was a novelty that they had this, you know, this minor-key acoustic song with a backbeat under it, but there's a lot more to it than that, it's just... it's just a devastating song.
Todd: See, some bands try to come up with, like, these flowery, poetic titles, and sometimes they decide to go with just the most direct statement they can.
Tracey: And I miss youTodd (VO): "I miss you" is just about the simplest lyrical emotion you can write.
Todd: And those three words are apparently a shortcut to deep feelings 'cause it works every single time.
Todd (VO): [clip of Aaliyah - "Miss You"] There are tons of songs named "Miss You", [clip of John Waite -...] or "Missing You", or [clip of Blink-182 -...] "I Miss You", and without fail, each and every one of them is heart-rendingly sad.
Clip of The Rolling Stones - "Miss You"
Mick Jagger: I've been sleeping all alone, Lord I miss youTodd (VO): Oh right, except that one. Ignore that one, I...
Todd: ...I never liked that song anyway.
Clip of "Missing"
Tracey: And I miss youTodd (VO): Now, they could have easily just made those three words the entire chorus, but they went the extra mile. They finished that line with...
Todd: ...what I think is one of the single best lyrics of the entire '90s.
Tracey: And I miss you, oh-oh
Like the deserts miss the rainTodd: "Like the deserts miss the rain".
Tracey: ...deserts miss the rainTodd (VO): It's literally the first thing anyone remembers about this song. I've talked to people who had no memory of it until I sang that one line.
Todd: It's literally...
Shot of album cover for Everything but the Girl - Like the Deserts Miss the RainTodd (VO): ...the title of their greatest hits album. So that you'll remember who they are.
Todd: [examining CD] Everything but the Girl? Who the hell are they? I don't remem... [album cover shows up on screen] oh, "like the deserts miss the rain". Oh, of course. Yeah, I remember them. [beat] Why am I sad all of a sudden?
Clip of "Missing"
Tracey: Like the deserts miss the rainTodd (VO): Seriously, I can't even look at a desert now without thinking how sad it is!
Todd: I used to think deserts were pretty fine being deserts. [various images of deserts] They know what they're about. Being in a desert, got sand, got cactuses. And now I know that it's a biome of [shot of sad face drawn in sand] sheer misery because it misses the rain so much. Like, the point of that line is that the rain isn't just not there, it's been absent a long, long time. [shot of mountain with lots of dead trees on it] Long enough to reduce the landscape to a lifeless wasteland and who knows if it's ever coming back.
Tracey: And I miss you, yeahTodd (VO): Like I said, there are lots of songs about missing somebody, but Everything but the Girl lets you know what's up in the title.
Todd: It's not "missing you", it's [shot of missing person template] "missing", as in missing person.
Tracey: Now you've disappeared somewhereTodd (VO): This person didn't just leave, they vanished. All we know is that this person had a house once, and now...
Tracey: You don't live there anymoreTodd: ...that, that's it. What happened between then and now?
Tracey: Could you be deadTodd (VO): Wait, "could you be dead"? Jeez.
Todd: Dear god, they are not holding back. And that's why it's so powerful, there's no closure, there's no answers, there's just a giant gaping hole.
Todd (VO): I mean, if this were written after Facebook existed she could at least find out if this person was alive at least. But no, she's got nothing. And weirdly this all works exactly the same even with the remix pumping it up on steroids.
Tracey: And I miss youMore so, even. And even though it's a sad song, it's a very happy story for the band. It took them more than a decade to have their monster hit, so they were actually...
Todd (VO): ...able to appreciate it, unlike most of the poor saps I cover on this show. A Flock of [image of the band] Seagulls were like, "nyeh, our one song sucks" after just, like, a year or two, but not Everything...
Todd (VO): ...but the Girl. After their first hit...
Todd: ...they were ready to roll.
The failed follow-up
Todd: So, they had their big hit, it was a dance remix of the original version, so they were just like "well, I guess we're an electronic band now".
Clip of "Walking Wounded"Todd (VO): And that's where they went. But even though they now had all that stuttering electronica behind them, they were still basically a pop band. They had choruses and verses and they got out of there after a good 3 minutes. They weren't gonna give you, like, [clip of Daft Punk - "Around the World"] ten minutes of three words repeated over and over again. They were the [back to "Walking Wounded"] acceptable, non-threatening face of mid-'90s techno.
Todd: And they got some decent mileage out of it, actually.
Todd (VO): This did well-ish in the UK. Me personally, I'm not a huge fan. I was never a jungle slash drum and bass guy, with all the breakbeats and stuff.
Todd: I prefer their other big single off that album, "Wrong".
Clip of "Wrong"
Tracey: Now you can pull a little bit
And there's a little give and takeTodd (VO): It's like the great [shot of album cover for Eurythmics - Touch] Annie Lennox song Annie Lennox never recorded. Granted, it is a lot more like their first big hit. Honestly, it's nearly identical. The bass line is almost the same.
Todd: It even has that direct, three-word hook.
Tracey: 'Cause I was wrongTodd: [sings] "Like the desert was wrong about the rain". Yeah.
Todd (VO): But this turned out to be pretty much the end of the spotlight for Everything but the Girl.
Todd: And the reason why is that they decided to have kids. Yes, the two of them...
A couple of pictures of Everything but the GirlTodd (VO): ...they were a couple the entire time. And they just didn't tell anyone. They're married now and everything.
Todd: That's nuts.
Clips of "Old Friends" and "Wrong"Todd (VO): They'd been frustrated for a decade by their lack of success, and they could have been playing up their romance for publicity. The indie press is desperate for Hollywood-style gossip. If there was an actual item in their ranks, they'd eat that shit up. And not only did these two not play that up...
Todd: ...they didn't even acknowledge it publicly! Why...
Todd (VO): ...in the world did they want their privacy that badly? I mean, I get a little privacy, but I, I, I don't understand what kind of person goes into showbusiness and yet decides to not...
Todd: ...share even the most basic facts about themselves, am I right? I'm right, right? [someone turns a light on and Todd immediately covers his face] Whoa, whoa!! Jesus, turn that off!! [light turns off] The fuck?! Did anyone see my face? That better not have shown up on camera or it's your ass! What idiot turned the lights on, I don't let anyone see my face!
Did they ever do anything else?
Clip of Deep Dish ft. Everything but the Girl - "The Future of the Future"Todd (VO): After the birth of their twins, yes, twins, Tracey and Ben put out one other album.
Todd: And, you know, they'd been busy with their kids. [image of U2 live in 1997] They turned down an opening slot opening for U2 to have those kids.
Todd (VO): You know, maybe if they'd taken up that offer instead of focusing on their family, you know, they could have kept up the momentum but it just didn't happen.
Clip of "Temperamental"
Tracey: This temperamental trick
The one you say you cannot predictTodd (VO): Or it might have just been that the record wasn't all that great. [sighs] Nah, me personally, I've listened to the singles off this album, I kinda feel like it all kinda got buried under its own production. You can't really hear Tracey's voice under those beats and, and Tracey's voice is, like, the entire appeal of this band.
Todd: And then, that's it. [picture of Tracey and Ben] After that album, in the year 2000, they officially went on hiatus.
Clips of Tracey Thorn - "Oh, The Divorces! (Live At Home Version)" and "Joy"Todd (VO): Tracey now has a solo career, and Ben has his own label where he does production stuff, and they've hinted that, you know, who knows, maybe someday, maybe they'll put out more music together again. I mean, after all, they are still married. I think.
Todd: But, you know, who can tell? Maybe they're divorced now and they didn't bother to tell anyone about that either!
Did they deserve better?
Todd: [nods] Yeah, yeah.
Clip of "Missing"
Tracey: And I miss you, yeahTodd (VO): This is really just a great band who did a lot of great things over the course of their long, long career. And even if they'd never really built up that legendary cult status like The Cure or The Smiths, I really do recommend their '80s stuff, it's, it's, they're just a damn good band. So yes, yes they deserved better. They deserved more success like the desert deserves the rain.
Todd: Does a desert deserve rain? I don't know if that makes sense. But yeah, [thumbs up] good band.
Tracey: Like the deserts miss the rainClosing Tag Song: "Missing" by Paradise Lost
"Missing" is owned by Atlantic Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!