Ugly Kid Joe’s smash hit spawned by tinkering on the piano



By Steve Newton

When you consider that Ugly Kid Joe’s career skyrocketed on the strength of just one song, the humorous little ditty “Everything About You”, it makes you wonder if that tune might have been a well-calculated shot at the big time—if maybe a bunch of suits in a corporate boardroom decided the time was ripe for a comical anti-ballad. But the song’s author, UKJ guitarist Klaus Eichstadt, says calculation had nothing to do with it.

“I wrote that song in this house that I’m sitting in right now, about two years before Ugly Kid Joe even got together,” says the 25-year-old rocker, calling from his parents’ pad in San Francisco. “I was just tinkering on the piano like I do whenever I come home, and I just made up this little riff and started singing to it.

“To me, it was just like a really happy, kinda goofy melody, and that was the last thing I wanted, ’cause I’ve always hated ballads, especially love ballads. So I tried to go against that sort of thing lyrically, and I ended up with the line, ‘I hate everything about you.’ ”

Eventually, Ugly Kid Joe vocalist Whitfield Crane added a few of his own lines and a rap ending to the song, and when the band released it on its 1991 debut EP, As Ugly as They Wanna Be, all hell broke loose. It became the most-requested song in North America and launched the cheaply produced EP into Billboard’s top 10.

“It’s just a funny song,” says Eichstadt, “and everybody’s got a sense of humour. I don’t know how many times I’ve been doing an interview in a radio station, and someone calls in and says, ‘Yeah, I want to hear that song; I want to dedicate it to my ex-wife’—or ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, whatever. Half the requests were probably dedications, so that must have helped.”

More recently, Ugly Kid Joe showed its sombre side—or at least that of songwriter Harry Chapin—with a version of his ode to dysfunctional families, “Cat’s in the Cradle”. Their cover version also scored big with radio programmers, and its success has helped to maintain interest in the band’s full-length 1992 release, America’s Least Wanted. With a summer tour that will see the Santa Barbara-based quintet join up with Def Leppard, Tom Cochrane, Rockhead, April Wine, and Sven Gali for the Foxfest bash at Seabird Island on Saturday (July 3), Ugly Kid Joe is sitting pretty.

Eichstadt says it took a while for the band’s meteoric rise to sink in.

“We’ve been touring straight since the release of the EP—except for the two months that we took off to do the [follow-up] record—so it’s not like we were watching MTV all the time, or walking down the streets in Hollywood and getting asked for autographs. And when the EP went into the top 10, it didn’t faze us. It was just like, ‘I can’t believe this; this is ridiculous’—then we’d go and play the show.”

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