‘Lust, Desire, and Excess’: New Doc Explores the Everlasting Legacy of Yello’s ‘Oh Yeah’
Maybe just seeing the song title “Oh Yeah” written out plainly on the page like this won’t trigger any immediate memories — but trust us, you know it. Recorded in 1985 by Swiss electronic duo Yello, “Oh Yeah” is the song that blew up thanks to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Secret of My Success — the one that goes “doo bow-bow” and then, “chick, chicka chick-ahh” —and has remained an enduring part of the pop soundscape for nearly 40 years.
The song’s story, its singular longevity, and the two musicians behind it all — Boris Blank and Dieter Meier — are the subjects of a new short documentary from filmmaker Nick Canfield. Canfield has already filmed much of the project, including extensive sequences with Yello in Switzerland, but has launched a Kickstarter to raise $15,000 to complete the film and premiere the movie by next year.
Canfield, like many others, first encountered “Oh Yeah” in those two seminal Eighties flicks, telling Rolling Stone, “They’re adventure movies; classic Eighties stories of fun and overcoming the odds, and the song just grabbed me and has always popped up throughout my life.”
To offer a brief, incomplete catalog, “Oh Yeah” appeared in more Eighties movies, as well as a contemporaneous widespread ad campaign for Twix. Later, The Simpsons used it as the theme song for Duff Beer mascot Duffman, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia made a great bit out of referring to the song by its bass melody, “Day Bow Bow.” It’s shown up in Rick and Morty, Saturday Night Live, and a McDonald’s ad directed by Edgar Wright that debuted just two months ago. And of course it’s soundtracked the various nostalgia-bait ad campaigns built around Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, from Domino’s to Honda.
“‘Oh Yeah’ has a particular place in the America psyche and embodies our culture in the Eighties more than any other song,” Canfield says. “It immediately connotes lust, desire, gratification, and excess. Even though it’s European, it’s become quintessentially American. I wanted to explore that, and the song’s incredible staying power.”
Just as intriguing as the song itself are its two creators, especially Meier. Though Yello are still best known for “Oh Yeah,” they’ve been making and releasing music regularly since their 1980 debut, Solid Pleasure (their most recent LP, Point, came out in 2020). This prolific musical output has gone on uninterrupted even as Meier has become an equally prolific entrepreneur and investor. He used money from “Oh Yeah” to help build a portfolio that includes stakes in railway companies, restaurants, and vast tracts of land in Argentina — he’s also the second largest shareholder in the company that literally prints Switzerland’s currency (behind only the Swiss National Bank).
Despite all that, Canfield says Yello have never lost the unique creative spirit that spawned “Oh Yeah.” “They don’t take themselves too seriously,” he says. “I found them humble and also very funny. They might be the last truly avant-garde artists on the planet.”
With the money from the Kickstarter campaign, Canfield hopes to cover the costs of the rest of filming, including interviews with the Ferris Bueller music supervisor, other notable musicians and writers, and hopefully Matthew Broderick. Any extra cash raised will be used for post-production and licensing costs.
Of his hopes for the documentary, Canfield says he wants viewers to come away with “something about what makes us who we are as Americans, how a song enters the cultural lexicon, and why it stays there. I want people to discover how music can make us feel a visceral way that we never think about. I also want people to be exposed to the amazing story and personalities that are Yello.”
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