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MICKEY

Mickey One Hit Wonderland

Date Aired
February 18, 2016
Running Time
14:47
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Todd plays "Mickey" on the piano.

TONI BASIL - MICKEY
A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Hello and welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. And tonight we're going yet again to this series' favorite decade: the 80s. In fact, we're going right back to the start of the 80s: 1982!

Clip of The Human League - "Don't You Want Me"

Todd (VO): Yeah, 1980? 1981?

Clip of Barry Manilow - "I Made It Through The Rain"
Barry: I made it through the rain
I kept my...

Todd (VO): ...yeah, that's not really the '80s. That's still the '70s or... possibly the aborted remnants of some other uncompleted decade.

Todd: The real '80s, the Big '80s, don't begin until...

Clip of...

Todd (VO): ...MTV takes off and music videos turn the pop world into the giant spectacle we know and love. From that point onward, the music world would be defined by image.

Todd: For better or for worse.

Video for "Mickey"
Toni Basil: Oh Mickey you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind
Hey Mickey
Hey Mickey
Oh Mickey...

Todd: Ooh I think I've found myself a cheerleader.

Toni: Oh Mickey what a pity you don't understand
You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand

Todd (VO): When MTV started out, it had about, like, five videos. Toni Basil's "Mickey" was one of them. Hell the song practically is the video. The second you hear this song, you cannot help but think about Toni Basil in her cheerleader outfit running around and doing somersaults. For that matter, when you see cheerleaders, half the time you've got "Mickey" playing in your head! [Clip from OMI - "Cheerleader"] Or at least until that other song came around last year to replace it.

Toni: Been around all night and that's a little long

Todd (VO): Mickey is one of the most requested songs I've ever had. And whenever anyone anywhere does a ranking of top one hit wonders, Toni Basil is always right near the top.

Todd: I mean, Christ, this one.

Toni: Oh Mickey you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind
Hey Mickey

Todd (VO): Yeah, to put it mildly, it sticks in your head. And there's just the novelty of it too. When you talk about one hit wonders, you instantly start thinking of the flukiest ones, and...for most people the video has so superseded the song that Toni Basil doesn't even seem like a real artist. She seems like an actual cheerleader who fell into a music career by accident. Surely, if there's anyone I cover on this show who had a nothing little blip of a career, it would be her, right?


Todd: Well, we'll see. [As the song continues to play in the background, Todd leans over to pick up some pink and blue pom-poms and starts shaking them.]
[Cheering] Two-four-six-eight, who will Todd evaluate? That person! What's-her-face! Wooooo!

Toni: Oh Mickey, you're so fine
You're so fine, you blow my mind
Hey Mickey

Before the hit

Todd: So um...who was Toni Basil before the hit? Cheerleader? Yes, yes, she was...

Todd (VO): [Picture of Toni Basil dressed, of course, as...] a cheerleader. In Las Vegas High School. That's not really relevant to the story.

Todd: What is relevant is that she had a super long-ass career starting from the mid-60s and continuing to this day!

Clip from Viva Las Vegas

Todd (VO): Okay, not as a singer, to be clear. As a dancer/choreographer. Here, uh, this is Viva Las Vegas one of the few watchable Elvis movies. I'm told she's in there somewhere. [Clip of Pajama Party] And a bunch of other silly dance movies in the 60s. She also helped choreograph [Promotional image and clips for...] the T.A.M.I. Show, which was one of the first of the big giant all-star concerts. Uh, she got to work with James Brown and a whole bunch of other people. [Clips from Head] Oh and remember that time the Monkees got really high and made a near unwatchable drug movie? Yeah, there she is again, dancing with Davy Jones; may he rest in peace.

Todd: And while we're speaking of movies, she also had a pretty good off-and-on acting career!

Clips from...

Todd (VO): Uh, you know Easy Rider? One of the greatest movies of the 60s? Yep! There she is. And he she is [Clip of...] in the Jack Nicholson movie Five Easy Pieces. Also a critically beloved classic. [Clip from Village of the Giants] I mean she wasn't like famous or anything, but...considering most actresses in Hollywood are lucky if they get to be in an Oreos commercial, she was already more successful at that point than many of the bands I cover on One Hit Wonderland were in their entire lives! And we've barely started the '70s yet! We've got an entire decade to get through before we even get to the music!

Todd: What else, what else?

Clip from concert from...

Todd (VO): Oh, uh, she worked with David Bowie; may he happily travel the cosmos into eternity; choreographed his Diamond Dogs tour. [Clip of Soul Train] She uh, she also joined a dance troupe and sang on [Clip of...] Saturday Night Live, back in the super-early days when Saturday Night Live had basically no idea what it was doing. Uh... [Clip of ...] She's good friends with David Byrne from the Talking Heads. She did the choreography for their landmark video for "Once In A Lifetime."

David: "Where is that large automobile?"
And you may tell yourself
"This is not my beautiful house"

Todd (VO): See, I always assumed this was some kind of neurological issue, but apparently there's some very tightly-planned dance steps.

Todd: And just a second about music videos here: uh, when you read about the early days of...

Clip of Devo - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Todd (VO): ...MTV, it's kinda shocking how artsy and avant-garde it was. The musicians who were really excited about it were like, experimental artists who liked the idea of making short art films as opposed to... [Brief clip of Nicki Minaj - "Anaconda"] ...nowadays where it's just a way for Dr. Dre to sell stereo equipment. [Clip of Laurie Anderson - "O Superman"] That's honestly where I think Toni Basil fits in the picture. Seriously, in, in the artsy, new wave crowd, trying to do ground-breakingly creative things in an exceptional new medium. [Beat] Seriously, yes...

Todd: ...I'm still talking about "Mickey."

The big hit

Video begins

Todd: [singing] I stay out too late.

Toni: Oh Mickey you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind

Todd (VO): Now I always just thought of this song as one of those silly, stupid, stupid stupid joke songs that the 80s spat out like, "Rock Me Amadeus," or "Don't Worry, Be Happy." You know, stuff that came out of nowhere and has nothing to do with anything. But, as a preeminent historian of shitty music, it's my job to try and contextualize all this stuff, so...

Todd: ...first off: this song is actually a cover.

Clip of Racey - "Kitty"
Richard Gower: Oh Kitty what a pity you don't understand
You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand

Todd (VO): It's an obscure album track by a British band called Racey. Yeah, it was called "Kitty," at first. Which makes sense because "Oh Kitty what a pity" scans a whole lot better as a lyric. It was written by the same guys who wrote "Ballroom Blitz," but like I said, it wasn't released as a single. It was just missing that certain something.

Todd: [Patting his chin] What could it be missing?

Toni: Oh Mickey you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind
Hey Mickey

Todd: Of course! An obnoxious cheerleader chant!

Todd (VO): Look, I haven't come right out and said it yet, but let me be clear: I hate this song! I have never, ever liked this song! In fact, I think this song is what made me realize that just because a song has survived and been remembered doesn't mean it's any good!

Todd: I mean, that's the way it works, right? If it stands the test of time, it must be something really good! Noooo! No, it's not!

Todd (VO): I don't like it. Apparently a lot of people don't like it! A lot of people still really hate this song! It hasn't survived because it's any good; it's survived because it is just one of the most unkillable ear worms that God ever invented!

Todd: And obviously the main reason is the cheerleader-ness of it all!

Toni: Oh Mickey you're so pretty can't you understand
It's guys like you Mickey

Todd (VO): Now, uh...I, I don't know how it was in 1982, but I feel like cheerleaders probably weren't given a lot of respect back then. Hell, even the [Picture of Bring It On] grand testament to cheerleading featured this line!

Clip from said movie

Sparky Polastri (Ian Roberts): ...are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded.

Todd: I actually don't think that's fair! [Beat] Also we're not supposed to use that word anymore, movie from 1998.[1] It's, it's different now, things...people get offe...anyway. Look at her!

In the video, Toni dances for a bit without lyrics

Todd (VO): She is just working it so goddamn hard in this video! I mean, you can't look away from her! And not just because many of us still have cheerleader fetishes leftover from high school! Although I imagine that was also a big part of it. She choreographed and directed this video for the record. This is all her. You know she was pushing 40 when she filmed this? Crazy, right? I'd never have guessed! [Toni is hanging upside down] See, look at that! That takes a lot of effort, you know, I'm really impressed!

Todd: But as for the actual song?

Toni: Please baby please
Don't leave me in a jam Mickey

Todd (VO): Like, I do kinda think cheerleaders deserve as much credit as dancers but...singing? Yeah no...

Todd: ...maybe they actually are singers gone ret...ah...well they're not good singers.

Todd (VO): It's, it's just so...grating! Ugh... Actually, now that I listen to it, it actually sounds a little like...[Brief clip of "Pump It Up" by...] Elvis Costello back around that era. So I really should like it for that at least, but...ugh...just the, the cheering, it just overwhelms the song!

Todd: Christ, now I get why I hated "Shake It Off" so much. No one actually wants to listen to cheerleader chanting!

Todd (VO): I mean it's not...they're not cheering because anyone likes it, they're cheering to make sure the stoners don't fall asleep on the bleachers during pep rallies!

Todd: They're just stupid chants! Anyone can do them! Here. [Gets out his pom poms again.] We've got spirit! Yes we do! We've got spirit! Yes we do! Two-four-six-eight! What's that spell? Twenty-four sixty-eight! Yaaaaay! [He puts down his pom poms with a disappointed expression.] I'm bad at everything...

The failed follow-up

Todd sits silently for a couple seconds, and the scene cuts to the single cover for "Shoppin' From A to Z". The camera then cuts to Todd, still sitting silently before he moves his lips to speak again.

Todd: The follow-up single is called, "Shoppin' From A to Z." [Beat] Well, only one way to find out what the hell this is!

Video starts. After a few seconds, scene cuts back to Todd who has his mouth agape at the sound.
Toni: Good girls shop
Bad girls shop
Shoppin' (Shoppin')
From A to Z
Good girls shop
Bad girls shop
Shoppin' (Shoppin') Shoppin' (Shoppin')

Todd: Uh... Women be shoppin'! Can't stop women from shoppin'! Eh...

Toni: Shoppin' with a list from A to Z
Everything I needed for a happy family
A (Apples)
B (Bananas)
C (Chili)
D (Dog food)

Todd: [Scratches head] Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but...this appears to be a song about grocery shopping.

Todd (VO): And then it lists a bunch of food in alphabetical order.

Todd: I think I may have sung songs like this in kindergarten maybe?

Toni: H (Hairspray)
I (Ice)
J (Junk food)
K (Ketchup)
L (Liver)

Todd (VO): You're making a weird meal, lady.

Toni: U (Undies)
V (Veal)
W (Wieners)
X (Nothing)

Todd (VO): Pfft. Oh what's the matter? Didn't have to get any xylophones for dinner? C'mon, can't eat mac n cheese every night, mix it up!

Todd: Jesus... What on Earth is the point of this song?

Toni: Y (Yams)
Z (Zippers)

Todd (VO): Zippers?!

Todd: For what?!

Todd (VO): Since when do supermarkets carry bags of zippers? What do you even need zippers for that doesn't already come with a goddamn zipper on it?

Todd: There are actual food items that begin with Z, you know! You know...

Todd (VO): [Pictures of...] ...zucchini, ziti...zwieback? Z....zabaglione?

Toni: Oh no!
I've lost my list!
Uh-uh

Todd: [Hand to his forehead] You know, I can only speculate why this song failed to take off. But my first guess is that it's a goddamn song about shopping from A to Z.

Todd (VO): "Mickey", annoying as it was, you know, it's still pretty basic. It's a love song. That's what people wanna hear. It's been focus grouped and it works.

Todd: Who the hell writes a song about grocery shopping?

Clip of Meghan Trainor - "Dear Future Husband"
Meghan: I'll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buying, buying what you need

Cut to Todd, who has his hand pressed against his face.

Toni: Good girls shop
Bad girls shop
Shoppin'

Todd: You know, I feel like good girls and bad girls didn't really have much to do with the lyrics. Think she was trying to trick us in to thinking this was a real song?

Did she ever do anything else?

Todd: As far as her music career goes, not a lot.

Clip of "Nobody"
Toni: Don't want nobody

Todd (VO): There are a few other singles from this album and they're all much artsier and less pop than those other two.

Clip of "Little Red Book"
Toni: I thumbed right through my little red book

Todd (VO): Uh, three of the songs on her first album were written by Devo, so that should tell you what kind of musician she was. And the videos are all great, feature some pretty goddamn impressive dancing. Tff. Look at her go! [Clip of "You Gotta Problem] Sadly, none of the songs are all that great to listen to in my opinion. You could call her a predecessor to acts who were dancers first, musicians second like, you know, Chris Brown or Jason Derulo. Except she's a way...

Todd: ...way more interesting dancer.

Clip of "Over My Head"

Todd (VO): She released one more album in 1983. And judging by its first single, I'm, I'm guessing this one was trying to be a little more mainstream and less silly?

Toni: Oh, oh
Over my head
Oh, oh

Todd (VO): I, I could honestly sit here and watch music videos from 1983 all day. I mean, this is no "Automatic Man" but, you know, it'll do in a pinch. And that was it from her. She never released another album. She mostly quit music since she had like a billion other things she could be doing.

Todd: Mostly she went back to choreography.

Todd (VO): [Clips of David Bowie performing...] Let's see, uh, did more work with Bowie. [...My Best Friend's Wedding] Choreographed some movies. Believe me, [...Breakaway] I'm leaving out a ton of shit, like the short film she [...and Toni as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance] directed, the TV work, I can't possibly get to it all. She has done...

Todd: ...a loooot of things.

Did she deserve better?

Todd: I feel like if you asked her, she'd laugh pretty hard at the thought that she actually needed to do "better."

Todd (VO): No, she did pretty goddamn well for herself. Arguably music is the thing she's least successful for, seeing as "Mickey" never actually made her much money. Most of the money from her hits tends to go to the songwriter which, you know, she's technically not the songwriter even though she wrote the cheerleader chant which is the only part anyone remembers! But anyway, sometimes I do these episodes and I have to cancel them because I just cannot find any information about the band. I looked up her and I just found a goddamn ton of info from long-ass articles and interviews and retrospectives, it's...no, she is very, very big and important.

Todd: And she's still working today, in her 70s! So I mean this in the kindest way: no, she did not deserve better. [Todd puts his finger up as if to say "wait," then grabs his pom poms one last time.] Hey Toni, you did fine, you did fine do you don't mind, hey Toni! Hey Toni!

Eh...I still don't like this song very much.

Gets up and leaves

Toni: Do Mickey do Mickey
Don't break my heart Mickey
Video ends

Closing tag song: B*Witched - "Mickey"

THE END
"Mickey" is owned by Chrysalis Records
This video is owned by me

THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!

Footnotes Edit

  1. Bring It On actually came out in 2000, not 1998.

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