They’re back with a Wang!
On the eve of the release of a new album, Jane Clinton talks band names with Wang Chung’s Nick Feldman
16 May, 2019 — By Jane Clinton
Wang Chung: Jack Hues, left, and Nick Feldman
NICK Feldman, one half of 80s new-wave band, Wang Chung, and former Camden stalwart is recalling the bizarre and many interpretations of the band’s name over the years.
For some reason the “verb” “to Wang Chung” captured the public imagination. There have since been many comical interpretations of what it means.
“If you look in the urban dictionary, there are many derivations,” laughs Feldman, who with Jack Hues made up the band.
Nick points out: “One meaning is the action of sitting on your own testicles!”
Others include to gently strum a guitar.
It all came about when a singer on their single Everybody Have Fun Tonight (which made No 2 in the US Billboard charts in 1986) ad libbed and sang “everybody Wang Chung tonight”.
A quick trawl of YouTube will throw up compilations of the numerous places where “to Wang Chung” has been referenced: everything from The Simpsons to Cheers.
The band’s music has also been used in television, films, adverts and even computer games including Sex and the City and The Walking Dead. There is a sense that they have remained present despite not dominating the charts.
This could well be about to change with the release of their latest album – Orchesography. Recorded in Prague with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, there are orchestral versions of all the hits, including their first single from it, Dance Hall Days.
Nick, who went to school in Highgate and for many years lived in the heart of Camden, admits that working with the orchestra on the band’s songs was a thrill.
Both he and Jack were very hands-on in the process working with the arranger.
“We are really pleased with the finished result and we do feel very invested in it,” says Nick
Wang Chung was formed when Jack responded to an advert placed by Nick in the classified section of Melody Maker back in 1977. After a few iterations with various different members, Huang Chung (as it was then known) was launched with Nick, Jack and Darren Costin on drums.
The name of the band came about when Jack was reading a book about the German electronic composer Stockhausen.
Nick takes up the story: “There was a footnote in one of the chapters which was about this thing called Huang Chang, which means – and I am being very reductive – perfect pitch in Chinese music. The Ming emperors would employ court musicians to achieve Huang Chang, which would bring peace to the kingdom and make them invincible in battle. We quite liked it.”
Eventually they changed it to Wang Chung to make the pronunciation easier for English speakers.
It proved a good move and the band enjoyed much success, particularly in the US.
In 1989 the band split. Nick started working with Hampstead resident Jon Moss from Culture Club in the band Promised Land.
After about a year, however, Nick and Jack were working together again. “Jack produced some of the acts I was A&R-ing,” he explains.
As well as moving into A&R, Nick, whose aunt was the legendary actor Fenella Fielding, worked as a regional judge on The Voice UK.
This latest idea for the orchestral album came when the band were approached by record label August Day and John Bryan.
“When it was first mooted I was really keen,” says Nick. “It could be another colour in our rainbow, if you like. We have always been quite varied in our work, like a laboratory of ideas.”
For Nick, whose son Max now lives in his old Camden home, the interest in the band continues to surprise him.
“The whole thing is bizarre. I never thought back then that we would all be doing stuff with Wang Chang so many years later.”