If you were around in 1997, you simply couldn’t miss it: “MMMBop” was everywhere. The song, from Hanson’s debut “Middle of Nowhere”, helped sell more than 10 million albums, knocking Notorious BIG off the top of the charts. The song climbed to #1 in 27 countries, turning the child musicians into true global celebrities.
All these 25 years later, no one is more aware of the success of “MMMBop” than the three brothers who created it.
“We all know how catchy the song is,” Isaac Hanson said. “It worked.”
“It was a phenomenon,” Zac said. “It was, you know, a cultural wave, tsunami of sorts.”
Taylor added: “Kook his own life.”
“CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokoupil said, “It’s been described as sounding like a song made in a laboratory specifically designed to capture the attention of the entire world.”
“People mostly just feel that way and say those things just out of excitement,” Taylor said “”Oh, you’re a teen idol, you’re a heartthrob,‘ that sort of thing. But for you, you’re like, ‘That’s great, but we wrote this.'”
To hear Hanson perform “MMMBop,” click the video player below:
Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., the brothers formed a band and bonded over a compilation of rock ‘n’ roll hits from 1958. “It was one of those Time-Life compilations, and it was advertised on TV,” Isaac said .
“Very naturally from that we started emulating,” Taylor said. “I mean, songwriting starts with emulating something. And then all of a sudden you sing along and you make it your own.”
The chorus for “MMMBop” popped into their heads while they were working on a completely different song.
Zac said: “We were trying to write a backing track for a song called Boomerang,” [which] was already syncopated. Bing bang, hit me like a boomerang. The light turns green, the blood begins to flow. And for some reason we thought, ‘It’s not complicated enough. We should add a complicated part under it!'”
With the two parts combined, Isaac admitted, “It’s just a lot of gumbo!”
They ended up separating the two songs, and a year or two later, matched the irresistible melody of an idea…and a lesson you may have missed.
Dokoupil asked, “What is a MMMBop?”
“There’s a time frame,” Isaac replied. “In an MMMBop they are gone. In an MMMBop they are not there.”
Zac added: “It’s like, look, this is how (snaps fingers) you’re going to be at the end of your life. You’re going to be past this moment. Be aware that every choice you choose not to make is one you may not have the opportunity to make again.”
You have so many relationships in this life
Only one or two items
You go through all the pain and strife
Then you turn your back and they are gone so quickly
And they are gone so fast, yes
Oh, so keep those who really care
Eventually they will be the only ones there
And when you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who still wants to care
Dokoupil noted that when they wrote the song, Isaac was 13, Taylor 11 and Zac, 9. “And you’re singing about the ravages of time?”
“Yes!” Zac said laughing. “Well, we already got these messages from our parents. “Hey, you know, you just have to be you. And people won’t always understand you.” And it really connected.”
Although the band recorded other hits (“Where’s the Love,” “This Time Around,” “If Only”), nothing could match the commercial triumph of “MMMBop.” Nevertheless, the brothers found a loyal base of fans and a new path to success through their own independent label, 3CG Records.
Taylor said, “At that moment in our life, you say, ‘You know what? We’re going to decide to claim what success means. This for us is to own our own destiny, to talk to those fans, and let’s see if we could have a #1 Billboard independent album.’ And we did.”
“That’s what we’ve been doing ever since,” Isaac added.
“CBS Mornings” caught up with the band at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium as they tour the world for their latest album, “Red Green Blue,” featuring five songs from each brother.
Zac said: “I don’t think there are many bands like that where each member sings and plays and writes and can kind of do it all alone, but choose to do it together.”
To watch Hanson perform “Write You a Song” from the “Red Green Blue” album, click the video player below:
It’s that bond and that sound that continues to attract fans, who still flock to theaters to hear the band perform their latest and greatest. 25 years after they first harmonized on holding on to those who care, the Hanson brothers still live by those words.
Zac said: “We’re a band that’s probably not much more understood than we were misunderstood when we started.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Dokoopil.
“Because I think, just as we were influenced by music that wasn’t of our time, we’re a band in a way outside of our genre. Because it’s really just about what we say. And the story is what matters, the message behind the song.
“And if it takes 25 years, we’ll still be here!”
You can stream the Hanson album “Red Green Blue” by clicking the embed below (free Spotify registration required to hear the tracks in full):
For more info:
- hanson.net (official site)
- “Red Green Blue” by Hanson is available now