Inside Tracks #19: Hanson, “Where’s The Love” 1997 + the 2021 Bowling For Soup Cover/Collab!

By | March 20, 2023

Front Row & Backstage

Humble big innings: Sometimes worldwide superstardom starts at a 1994 softball game in the Texas capital (l-r): Isaac, age 13, Taylor, 11, and Zac Hanson, 8. While well-rounded players in the field, the trio had 1st and 2nd tenor spoken for, but somehow left 1st bass uncovered…no runs, no hits….yet.

Hanson traveled from their Tulsa hometown to play in Austin, TX during their annual, mid-March South By Southwest music festival (aka South By aka SXSW) in Austin, Texas, exactly 29 years ago, in 1994. Essentially, that’s where and when they were discovered.

Zac, the drummer, and the youngest Hanson, now 38, picks up the story from the lads’ 2017 interview with Spin: “We don’t think of it as discovered because we’re pretty positive that someone discovered us before that.

“But we have a deep connection to SXSW, just because we came down here when we were kids, a few years after we had started [by releasing two indie albums in Tulsa the previous two years].

“You know, we busked in the streets, nobody wanted to listen to us, but eventually we found a guy who came up and was like ‘let me hear your music,’ and that guy became our manager [entertainment attorney, Christopher Sabec], helped us get signed [to Mercury Records], and was with us for years.

“I think the real spirit of SXSW is more that kind of a story. There’s so many people in the streets who are trying to find a way to get their demo into somebody’s hands. Not just like the big showcase where the big band from where ever comes to play, but the kind of nobody who meets someone or gets a chance or networks their way into a deal.”

Along with Zac, the trio is filled out by guitarist Isaac, 42, and keyboardist, Taylor, who just turned 40.

Before “MMMBop”

Show-biz veterans they weren’t, but they also weren’t rookies a year or two before their Mercury signing, and smash-out-the-box, “MMMBop” hit in ‘97. Here they are on something called Carman Yo Kidz, lip-synching and acting through a re-enactment of the Biblical David and Goliath, with Taylor as David, Isaac as an announcer, and Zac and other family Hansons as spectators:

“What’ll It Be?” “One Order of Pop Cred, Please.”

The band’s follow-up to “MMMBop” was another song from their Mercury debut, Middle of Nowhere, “Where’s The Love.”

When the boys were signed to Mercury/Polygram in 1996, they had already released “MMMBop” on one of those Tulsa-distributed independent albums. Mercury brought in seasoned songwriters to work with the brothers on Middle of Nowhere.

The writers were asked to listen to “MMMBop” for much-needed musical direction. In this writer’s opinion, they should have been looking for a dash more polish and yes, sophistication, even with “kids”—with “Where’s The Love,” they succeeded.

Where “MMMBop” was rendered all but insufferable after only a couple listens, rapidly becoming a novelty/parody of itself, “Where’s The Love” is an exhilarating pop rock roller-coaster that bears up well on repeated plays; in fact, it begs…screams for repeated plays: Harmonies? In spades. An attention-grabbing drum riff by Zac to kick-start the song? Boy howdy!

Thrilling, exultant chorus? It’s why we’re here! Creative bridge? Yep. Searing Isaac guitar solo? Check. Wait…with wah-wah pedal? Of course; whaddaya think we are….rubes?

Lost Classics! The Hudson Brothers | 30 Days Out

”Where’s The Love,” then (as produced by Stephen Lironi), is a compositional collaboration between the three Hanson brothers, producer/songwriter, Sander Selover, and Mark Hudson, a show biz vet who was also a part of a brotherly trio, The Hudson Brothers (6 albums in the ‘70s on labels like Playboy, Arista, Elektra, Casablanca, and Elton John’s Rocket Records, plus a 1974 summer replacement show for the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour on CBS-TV…and more).

The convergence, from several angles, on next-level pop cred, circa 1975: The Hudson Brothers, with their single, the retro “Rendezvous,” written by Bill, Mark, and Brett Hudson, and the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston, who wrote the Barry Manilow smash, “I Write the Songs” and, that same year, produced David Cassidy’s first post-Partridge Family album for RCA, “The Higher They Climb”, and who was in the surf duo, Bruce & Terry, a decade before! This single was on Elton John’s MCA-distributed Rocket Records, and was produced by Sir Elton’s longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Pretty heavy for a little ole 7” slab o’ vinyl.

Mark Hudson (actress Kate Hudson’s uncle) later became a songwriter for other artists, co-writing songs like “Outside My Window” by country singer, Sarah Buxton, in 2009….

….and, with Steve Tyler and Joe Perry, “Livin’ On The Edge” by Aerosmith in 1993. Mark also produced several Ringo Starr albums around the turn of the century.

Mercury, Poisoning

In the U.S., “Where’s The Love” was released a few months after “MMMBop,” but curiously, only as a promotional single, serviced by Mercury solely to radio, but not made available to retail.

Wait…what? You might love hearing it on the radio, but you can’t buy it?

Sans retail sales, the single wasn’t eligible for the industry trade publications’ customary charts. And, because it wasn’t available for purchase, the song’s airplay helped boost sales of the album, according to Songfacts. Was that really Mercury’s strategy going in?

It didn’t do nearly as well as “MMMBop,” unsurprisingly (with sales out of the picture), garnering only enough airplay to reach #27 on Billboard’s Airplay chart in August 1997. Imagine the pop chart placement had there been retail activity!

For that answer, a look to the UK reveals that the song, released as a commercial single to go with its attendant airplay, went to #4!

On Pins’n’Noodles, 2021: Bowling For Soup’s Fanboy is Showing

INTERVIEW: Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup discusses longevity, the  Grammy's, and the future
Recipe for mischief: “Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.” While spending the summer at the Camp For Unwed Mothers (helping attendees get their start), Bowling For Soup crunches the numbers, and realizes that a full three-quarters of available hands are below the surface. We’ll be eagerly checking diary entries later.

“The song in question is a rather curious cover — especially since it features the act they cover!” was beside themselves in June 2021, covering the new cover song Bowling For Soup covered: The coverers dutifully covering, and with the coverees themselves!

“Turns out,” they continue, “frontman Jaret Reddick has been friends with Taylor for years, so when guitarist Chris Burney suggested ‘Where’s The Love’ as a cover to do, Reddick hit up Taylor to ask if he’d sing on the BFS version’s bridge.”

In the end, all of the Hanson brothers sang on it.

HANSON | The Hop Jam
“Hey, boys, the camera’s over here……HEY!” Oh, well, in 2013 the gents (l-r) Taylor, Zac, and Isaac, launched HANSON Brothers Beer, premiering their new venture with a signature Pale Ale, Mmmhops, and in 2014 they launched the Hop Jam Beer and Music Festival in their hometown of Tulsa. After a sold-out world tour celebrating 25 years together, HANSON marks their 26th birthday with a musical experience unlike any other: HANSON STRING THEORY – a musical manifesto with new and career spanning works from HANSON, arranged by David Campbell, performed with the world’s leading symphonies.

As Reddick relayed to in June ‘21, “Taylor Hanson and I have been friends for a long while. So when Chris threw the idea of ‘Where’s The Love’ into our ‘cover songs to record’ mix, I thought, ‘Never hurts to ask!’ Those guys stay BUSY!

“The idea was [just] for Taylor to sing the bridge. You can imagine our surprise when he sent it back with himself, Isaac and Zac all singing on the song! And WAY above and beyond what we had asked!

“Our voices sound so cool together, and hearing them sing over the huge guitars is freakin’ amazing! I have high hopes for this one!”

Back to “Now, in Bowling For Soup’s hands, the song proves not only that Hanson could write some great hooks, but also that pop-punk is still an enjoyable genre.

“With a video that pays faithful homage to the Scooby-Doo cartoons of yesteryear” (with animation and illustration by Dave Pearson), “this ‘Where’s The Love’ take is a fun offering that provides Hanson’s songwriting chops with some much-needed perspective.

“Back at the time when Hanson was mega-popular (around 1997), any pop-punk band of the day deciding to cover a song of theirs would have surely been doing so with their tongues in cheek. Popular acts [like Hanson at the time] were part of this dividing line you could not cross back then — because, if you liked popular things and also punk music, that just meant you were a poseur.

Rock Sound on Twitter: "Bowling For Soup's Jaret Reddick is livestreaming  some special acoustic shows" / Twitter

“Anyway, this latest BFS cover — cover songs, frontman/lead singer, Jaret Reddick (shown above), once told us, are part and parcel to the Bowling For Soup business model — is exactly what you’d expect from a pop-punk song, tempo- and vibe-wise.

“But it’s not exactly simple and forgettable, either, when you consider the layers of melodies at play here. In the case of this ‘Where’s The Love,’ the strongest hook comes pre-chorus, with an ascending guitar paired with the oohs and ahs that will sound familiar to fans of the original.”

And, there’s that pick scrape…don’t forget the pick scrape!

“To their credit, the Hanson brothers — fresh off their recent appearance as the Russian Dolls on The Masked Singer — have kept going ever since their Middle of Nowhere breakthrough. Granted, they’ve never eclipsed those heights, but they’re still around.”

Hanson’s recent appearance as The Russian Dolls on The Masked Singer:

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