Remember that band? The band that had one hit in 1964?
Their lead singer wrote a song that was recorded onto a reel-to-reel recorder by the drummer’s uncle. A local promoter got the song played on the radio. Then, a major label released it nationally…and the song made it to number 2 on the charts!
The Wonders were a band from the mind of Tom Hanks. He wrote the script and directed the 1996 movie, “That Thing You Do!”, about a one-hit-wonder band in 1964. Hanks loves the music of that era, and it shows. The movie includes the joy of first hearing your song on the radio, and attaining minor stardom.
Besides being a fun movie…it was Tom Hanks’ first script and directing experience…the movie captures that time in the ’60’s perfectly. “That Thing You Do!” is the only movie set in that era that has original music that sounds like it actually came from the 1960’s.
The title track is a slice of infectious pop-rock similar to what The Beatles and other groups were putting out in 1964. The Wonders also do some other good songs “Dance With Me Tonight”, “All My Only Dreams” and “Little Wild One” in their concert scenes…such as being on the “Galaxy Of Stars” tour on the state fair circuit, like Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars” in the ’60’s.
One of the cool parts of the movie was the whole music history that went with this tour. It included other acts with their own hits. The character Diane Dane is a singer who probably is already toward the end of her career, but her song “My World Is Over” sounds like a Dusty Springfield hit, right down to the horn part similar to “Wishin’ and Hopin'”. The Chantrellines sing “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” and sound like the Crystals or Ronettes. These songs are so accurate to the time, that they can be dropped into the appropriate sixties playlists, and they sound right at home. The same is true for two instrumentals. “Voyage Around The Moon” sounds like it came from The Ventures’ album Ventures In Space, and “Shrimp Shack” could be by Junior Walker & The All Stars.
“That Thing You Do” was the first movie for Tom Everett Scott (Guy “Shades” Patterson, the drummer), and one of the first movies for Liv Tyler (Faye, the lead female character) and Charlize Theron (Tina, Guy’s girlfriend).
The other band members included Steve Zahn (Lenny the lead guitarist), Jonathan Schaech (Jimmy the lead singer), and Ethan Embry (T.B. Player, the bass player). And of course Tom Hanks played Mr. White who managed the band for Play Tone Records. Hanks obviously patterned his character after Beatles Manager Brian Epstein. There were some nice touches from Beatlemania throughout the movie.
Although the actors were taught to play their instruments and perform the songs for the movie, the actual recordings were written and played by professionals. Adam Schlesinger, the bassist for Fountains of Wayne wrote “That Thing You Do”, and Mike Viola of Candy Butchers provided the lead vocals for the songs by The Wonders. Tom Hanks also co-wrote some of the songs for the movie, and obviously made sure the songs accurately represented the era.
The That Thing You Do! soundtrack made it to #21 on the Billboard album chart, and the single hit #18 on the Adult Top 40 chart. The song also got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Critics give the film a very positive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
If you like this type of 1960’s music…”That Thing You Do!”, is a make-you-smile look into that era. Enjoy!
Extra: For another fictional Rock band, here’s the link to an article on Daisy Jones & The Six: