She Blinded Me with Science
July 30, 2018
Todd plays "She Blinded Me with Science" on the piano.
THOMAS DOLBY - SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE
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. And, uh, you know how I said all [clip of The Cardigans - "Lovefool"] the requests I have taken so far seem to be from the '90s? Uh, yeah, I took a look at all the other requests and, um, that's not really gonna change. It's almost entirely from that decade, so just for the sake of variety, I decided to look at the one request I got from before the '90s. And boy, is it a doozy.
Clip of Thomas Dolby - "She Blinded Me with Science"
Todd (VO): I have been sitting on this one for a while. I said I got tired of new wave songs, so I've been avoiding them but, man, it's been too long.
Todd: Weird new wave songs are this show's bread and butter. It was made for guys like this.
Thomas Dolby: She blinded me with science
Magnus Pyke: She blinded me with science!
Todd (VO): This guy is named Thomas Dolby and he hit the big time in 1982 with his weirdo novelty smash "She Blinded Me with Science".
Todd: It's a strange song that's hard to imagine existing at any other time.
Thomas: Blinding me with science
Todd (VO): I honestly don't even know who this is for. Like, how do you listen to it? What am I supposed to do with this?
Todd: But it certainly has its fans. I have a friend who says it's his favourite song of all time. Look.
Brad Jones: Yes, I can confirm that my favourite song is, in fact, Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science".
Todd: Thanks! And, uh, two quick follow-up questions, Brad. One, really? And two, why?
Brad: Come on, the song's like poetry in motion, man!
Brad (VO): And it combines several things that I love, mad scientists, one-hit wonders, and it is the most...
Brad: ...1982 of 1982 new wave.
Todd: I guess that makes sense.
Brad: Also I was on a lot of drugs in my 20s.
Todd: That also makes sense. [picture of meth lab] Drugs are science too.
Todd (VO): But, yeah, when MTV first hit, it seemed like stuff like this was all they played. Synthpop had already been tagged as music for nerds, and "She Blinded Me with Science"...
Todd: ...was the logical outcome. A herky-jerky pop song by a guy who looked like [picture of Jeffrey Combs as...] the goddamn Re-Animator. Though, of course, that's not the best song by a guy that looks like the Re-Animator. That, of course, would be [clip of...] "Move Your Dead Bones" by Dr. Reanimator. Again, that is "Move Your Dead Bones" by Dr. Reanimator. I will bring this song up at every opportunity.
Dr. Reanimator: Reanimate your feet
Todd: But we probably wouldn't have Dr. Reanimator without [clip of "She Blinded Me with Science"] Thomas Dolby, and for that, we owe him a serious debt of gratitude. So get out your test tubes and pocket protectors, we're gonna do a deep dive into science. Which one? Doesn't matter, it's just science. So put on your safety goggles so you don't get blinded! By all the science!
Thomas: She blinded me with science
Magnus: She blinded me with science!
Before the hit
Picture of Thomas DolbyTodd (VO): Okay, so this guy's real name is Thomas Robertson from London, England.
Todd: His original stage name was just "Dolby" [image of Dolby Surround logo] but then the Dolby Sound people made him stop. But it's a fitting stage name.
Clip of Thomas Dolby live performanceTodd (VO): As you can tell, this is a guy who was really into sound technology. And this is from [clip of Kraftwerk performing "Autobahn"] back in the day, when synthesizers were insanely expensive. I mean, it's like nothing today, I mean, I got this...
Todd: ...electric piano I got used for $200, [Todd picks up another keyboard] I got, like, another synthesizer on top of it. [Todd plays a few notes on the other synthesizer] See, it's no thing. But back in the day, you had to be a serious nerd.
Clip of Thomas Dolby demonstrating synthesizerTodd (VO): And of course, this guy was. He was the nerdiest of them all.
Todd: In fact, let's listen to some of the geektastic synthpop that this guy made.
Clip of Foreigner - "Waiting for a Girl Like You"Todd (VO): Oh right, I forgot. Uh, before he started his career he got his start doing [clip of Foreigner - "Urgent"] session work for Foreigner.
Lou Gramm: UrgentTodd (VO): Yeah. Yeah, this guy's a real jukebox hero.
Todd: But anyway, he used that as a launching pad for his music career.
Clip of "Europa and the Pirate Twins"Todd (VO): He released his first album The Golden Age of Wireless in 1982. Here's his first single, "Europa and the Pirate Twins".
Thomas: I was 14
She was 12Todd (VO): It's, um... it's about a girl named Europa, and when she and the narrator were kids together they used to pretend to be pirate twins, and they promised that they'd meet again someday.
Thomas: We'll be the pirate twins againTodd (VO): But, turns out she became a movie star so he can't get in contact with her.
Thomas: EuropaTodd (VO): Also there was a war and people now travel by hoverport.
Thomas: In from my hoverportTodd: There's a lot goin' on here.
Todd (VO): Dolby says he writes songs like a frustrated novelist. And you can tell he was extremely influenced by [album cover for "Heroes" by...] David Bowie's Berlin work.
Clip of "Windpower"Todd (VO): But what I notice here is that he already has his persona completely nailed down. He said he first tried to be like a [image of Duran Duran] New Romantic, you know, lots of [image of Adam & the Ants] frilly clothes and makeup and [picture of Thomas] ...yeah, no.
Clip of "Radio Silence"Todd (VO): Just look at this guy. So instead he decided to lean into the whole nerd thing.
Todd: His dad was a professor, his siblings were professors, so...
Todd (VO): ...if he has to dress up, why not just go full Revenge of the Nerds-style nerd? He took a look at himself and he said, "I should at all times look like I'm cosplaying as [image of...] Egon from The Real Ghostbusters. No, that doesn't even exist yet, I am that forward-thinking."
Todd: But the album didn't generate any hits or anything. I kind of imagine the record executives being like [clip of "Windpower"] "What's with all this crazy shit about satellites? Why don't you write something normal? Why don't you just write a silly love song?" And Dolby's like "A silly love song, huh?"
The big hit