#1: Pop Goes The World by Men Without Hats
City: Burnaby, BC
Radio Station: CFML
Peak Month: January 1988
Peak Position in Burnaby ~ #2
Peak Position in Vancouver ~ #9
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #20
YouTube: “Pop Goes The World”
Lyrics: “Pop Goes The World”
Men Without Hats is a band formed in 1977 in Montreal. Founder Ivan Doroschuk, was born in Champaign, Illinois, in 1957. His parents are Ukrainian-Canadian. After growing up in Montreal from the age of five, Doroschuk graduated from high school and studied in Film and Communications at McGill University. Initially, Men Without Hats was a punk band, as this was the edgy sound in 1977. There were changes in the lineup and by 1980 the bandmates joining Ivan were Jérémie Arrobas on vocals and keyboards, and Ivan’s brothers Stefan Doroschuk on bass guitar, and Colin Doroschuk on guitar. The group’s name came about because the brothers, following a self-described principle of “style before comfort”, refused to wear hats during Montreal’s cold winters, calling themselves “the men without hats.”
Morr lineup changes transpired, and the Doroschuck brothers were joined by Allan McCarthy on keyboards and percussion, and Martin Cartier on percussion. They released an album titled Rhythm of Youth, which featured the single “Safety Dance”. The song became an international sensation. With an eccentric, goofy, music video, “Safety Dance” climbed to #1 in South Africa, #2 in New Zealand and West Germany, #3 in Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the USA, #4 in Switzerland, #5 in Australia, #6 in the UK, #7 in Austria, #10 in Belgium and #11 in Canada. In Vancouver, “Safety Dance” peaked at #3. Two followup releases, “Antarctica” and “I Got The Message” failed to build on the success of “Safety Dance”.
In 1984, Men Without Hats released Folk of the 80s (Part III). A single from the album, “Where Do The Boys Go?”, made the Top 30 in Canada and charted on the US Dance chart. After the album was released only Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk remained continuous members of Men Without Hats. Later in 1984, they were joined by Lenny Pinkas on keyboards. In 1987 the band released the album, Pop Goes The World. The title track was released as a single. On August 24, 1984, Men Without Hats came to Vancouver for a concert at the War Memorial Gym.
“Pop Goes The World” was written by Ivan Doroschuk. The song tells the story of “Johnny” and “Jenny”, the two members of a musical group called “The Human Race” on their quest for fame in the industry. However, at one point the lyrics note that they come to the realization that they could make “more money on a movie screen”. The members’ instruments of choice vary throughout the song, though Johnny is primarily a guitarist and Jenny is a bassist. The “big Bonhomme” mentioned in the lyric refers to the smiling white mascot for the Quebec Winter Carnival.
The song was originally written as an instrumental. Perhaps unintended, but there was some anxiety about a nuclear war during the Cold War. And a song with the title, “Pop Goes The World”, could infer that in the mix of getting on with ordinary lives – as described in the song – at any moment ‘pop goes the world’ should someone press the red button. After all, the band Johnny and Jenny are part of is named The Human Race. And in the midst of an arms race between the USSR and the USA, the human race was in peril with mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, the bouncy tune kept listeners smiling, as Doroschuk sang “Everybody here is a friend of mine. Whatever happened to the Duke of Earl?” This reference is to a 1962 song by Gene Chandler titled “Duke of Earl”. The song was about a guy named the Duke of Earl who was determined to make the object of his affection his Duchess of Earl.
“Pop Goes The World” peaked at #1 in Los Gatos/San Jose (CA) and Montreal, #2 in Burnaby (BC), and San Francisco, #3 in Salt Lake City and Calgary (AB), #4 in Houston, Saskatoon (SK), and Minneapolis/St. Paul, #6 in Ypsilanti (MI), #7 in Cleveland and Hamilton (ON), #8 in Erie (PA), #15 in Seattle, #16 in Sacramento (CA), Newport News (VA), New York City, and Los Angeles, and #17 in Portland (OR).
In 1989, Men Without Hats released The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century. Colin Doroschuk was back with the band. A single titled “Hey Men” had an anti-domestic violence message. The chorus implores men to “stop pushing your women down” and “quit knocking your children around.” After the École Polytechnique massacre on December 6, 1989, in Montreal, “Hey Men” climbed to #8 on the Canadian RPM Top 100 singles chart. The band had one more charting single, “Sideways”, in 1991 that stalled on the RPM singles chart at #50.
In 1997, Doroschuk, recording under the name of Ivan, released a solo album. In 2003, Men Without Hats released their sixth studio album titled No Hats Beyond this Point. It was not commercially successful, and the band broke up. In 2012 he reformed Men Without Hats with a new lineup and they released an album titled Love in the Age of War.
On May 7, 2000, Men Without Hats came to Granville Street in Vancouver for a gig at Venue. On August 26, 2018, the band came to the PNE for another concert. On June 29, 2019, Men Without Hats appeared in concert in Vancouver at the Rickshaw Theatre. On February 29, 2020, Men Without Hats gave a concert at the Hard Rock Casino, in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam. On July 20, 2023, Men Without Hats performed in concert at the East Beach in White Rock (BC).
October 7, 2023
Top Ten, CFML 104.5 FM, Burnaby, BC, January 18, 1988