Am I really calling this out as one of the greatest 50 songs of all time? Song… Maybe. Version? Maybe not.
I knew this song in 1987 as a kid who heard it ‘A LOT’ on the radio. Tiffany was the 80’s version of a YouTube Star. She played Shopping Malls not concert venues to snag her audience. She bopped about being wholesome and clean when the money men behind her were basically thinking, ‘If they’re here to bop they’re here to shop’. Reagan, Capitalism. blah, blah, blah…
Write the song off here as 80’s cheese, only fit for dance sequences in Superhero series on Netflix if you must, and yet there’s an alchemy in I Think Were Alone Now.
It goes back. Of course we all know Tiffany didn’t write it, we know the previous versions because we are good indie kids with nerd-a-lific research under our belts and wax in our hair.
Way before Tiffany there is the original composition by Ritchie Cordell. Ritchie was the songwriter for an Italian American collar fest of grinning revue proportions called Tommy James & The Shondells who also had hit’s with Crimson and Clover, Hanky Panky and Mony Mony.
After that there came the 70’s and a song this good could not go uncovered. And so it was that The Rubinoos had a go at it. Thanks to a compilation album that was grasping for tracks by the end of side two I’ve always considered this a post punk classic.
Now The Rubinoos did some smart stuff with the greatest pop song going without portfolio in 1977. They titted about with the internation of
‘There doesn’t seem to be anyone around’
They gave it a garage rock chug and they kept it on the radar for the oncoming 1980’s.
You all know Tiffany’s version. It is the one that was the biggest hit. It’s so plastic and synthetic and fake. It is everything I dislike about music from the 80’s but I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. And it’s the version everyone measures other covers by.
The song is part of the fabric of our world now. It’s a short hand for retro left, right and centre.
Robert DeNiro sings a line of it to Juliette Lewis when he’s being the biggest baddest wolf Max Cady in Cape Fear. There’s a whole scene in 10 Cloverfield Road dedicated to the song. Hell there’s even an end of the world post apocalyptic movie named after it.
Plastic pop Princesses, Girls Aloud wrung another disco dance chart position out of it in an even less inspired do over than Tiffany’s in 2009. They seemed to be channeling the previous year’s Goth Disco cover by The Birthday Massacre with their synth set to rock guitar and played with fists of ham.
And yet we still haven’t actually got to my favourite version of the song. It’s a very SeteveForTheDeaf version of the song. Comedy punk agitators Snuff covered it in 1989 and I didn’t know any of the back story apart from Tiffany. I heard this rapid pop punk (with the emphasis on the punk) run through and thought they were ripping the image of the squeaky clean popstar down a peg.
When I got my hands on a guitar and got a band together in my buddies garage this was one of the songs we made an attempt at. Snuff’s version of I Think We’re Alone Now seemed doable (it wasn’t, we sucked) so we had fun all summer long with the different ways we could phrase ‘There doesn’t seem to be anyone around’