Single Stories: “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Single Stories: “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”

We’re kicking off another new feature today, one with a title that probably telegraphs exactly what it’s all about, but just to confirm what you may already have worked out, Single Stories is designed to tell the story behind certain singles.

See? We told you.

Today’s story is that of a song that was released by a band that didn’t actually exist but still managed to top the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1969. Not that this sort of thing hasn’t happened before, but it doesn’t make the story any less fascinating.

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was written in the early 1960s by three guys from Connecticut: Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo, and Dale Frashuer. At the time they were doing the doo-wop thing, but by the late 1960s, all three of them had relocated to New York City. After Leka produced four songs for DeCarlo for Mercury Records, the label liked the songs so much that they wanted to make all of them singles, leaving Leka and DeCarlo in dire need of B-sides. On a whim, they decided to haul “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” out of mothballs, recording it with engineer Warren Dewey on keyboards, with Dewey also splicing together a drum track for the song. The end result was released under the name Steam, with a single featuring a cover photo of a bunch of guys who took the music recorded by Steam on the road, but they didn’t have a thing to do with actually recording the music.

As for Steam, they ultimately released only two more singles: “One Good Woman” and “I’m the One Who Loves You,” neither of which charted, making them one of pop music’s greatest one-hit wonders. Since then, of course, “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” has gone on to become a sports anthem – indeed, that may well be the only way most younger listeners know the song – but it’s also found additional success as a single, with Bananarama taking their version into the UK top 5 and The Nylons hitting #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their a cappella rendition.

Not bad for a band that didn’t even really exist.