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