19 (song)

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Single by Paul Hardcastle
from the album Paul Hardcastle
B-side "Fly by Night"
Released 17 February 1985
Format 7", 12"
Recorded 1984
Genre Synthpop,[1][2] electro,[3] freestyle
Length 6:20 (album version)
3:37 (single version)
Label Chrysalis
Writer(s) Paul Hardcastle
William Coutourie
Jonas McCord
Mike Oldfield
Producer(s) Paul Hardcastle
Paul Hardcastle singles chronology
"Eat Your Heart Out"
Music sample

"19" is a song by British musician Paul Hardcastle released as the first single from his self-titled third studio album Paul Hardcastle (1985).

Some people believe the song has somewhat of an anti-war message, focusing on America's involvement in the Vietnam War and the effect it had on the soldiers who served. The track was notable for early use of sampled and processed speech, in particular a stutter effect used on the words "n-n-n-n-nineteen" and "d-d-d-d-destruction". It also includes various non-speech samples such as crowd noise and a military bugle call.

"19" features sampled narration (by Peter Thomas), interview dialogue ("I wasn't really sure what was going on") and news reports from Vietnam Requiem,[4] an ABC television documentary about the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by veterans. In 2009, the song placed at 73 on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s.[5]

"19" topped the charts in the UK for 5 weeks, and reached the top 20 in the US, where it also topped the dance chart. For a while, it was the top selling single in 13 countries (helped by the fact that versions of the song were recorded in French, Spanish, German and Japanese), and it received the Ivor Novello award for Best-selling single of 1985. The song's English language release came in 3 different 12" versions ("Extended Version", "Destruction Mix" and "The Final Story"), each with an alternative cover design.

Background and content[edit]

Hardcastle was inspired to create the song after watching Vietnam Requiem,[4] and comparing his own life at 19 to those of the soldiers featured: "...what struck me was how young the soldiers were: the documentary said their average age was 19. I was out having fun in pubs and clubs when I was 19, not being shoved into jungles and shot at."[6]

The title "19" comes from the documentary's claim that the average age of an American combat soldier in the war was 19, as compared to World War II's 26.[7] This claim has since been disputed.[8] Undisputed statistics do not exist, although Southeast Asia Combat Area Casualties Current File (CACCF), the source for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, shows a large number of deaths (38%) were ages 19 or 20. According to the same source, 23 is the average age at time of death (or declaration of death).[9] The song also comments that while the tour of duty was longer during World War II, soldiers in Vietnam were subject to hostile fire almost every day.[7]

Musically, the song was inspired by electro, particularly Afrika Bambaataa, although Hardcastle also "added a bit of jazz and a nice melody", and beyond the sampling of the documentary narration, the song incorporated pieces of interviews with soldiers.[6][7] The song's hook, the repetitive ""N-n-n-nineteen", was developed due to the limitations of the early sampling technology used. The E-mu Emulator could only sample for two seconds, so the hook was based around "the only bit of the narrative that made sense in two seconds."[6] Hardcastle wasn't optimistic about the song's chances in the charts. His previous two singles for independent labels had failed to make it into the UK's Top 40 and the musical policy at Radio 1 was felt to be unsupportive of dance music.[6] News interest in the song helped, with the 10th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War seeing Hardcastle interviewed by Alastair Stewart of ITN.

Tony Blackburn, then breakfast DJ for Radio London was an early supporter of the song and it reached number 1 in the UK and around the world, with Hardcastle producing more mixes of the song to help maintain interest.[6] Although the song did not climb as high in the United States chart, Hardcastle claims "it outsold everybody else for three weeks solid, it only reached number 15, because back then the chart was based on airplay as well as sales."[6] The song was held back in the US by some radio stations refusing to play it, feeling that the song took an anti-American stance, something Hardcastle denies, noting "I had tons of letters from Vietnam vets thanking me for doing something for them."[6]

The success of "19" meant that Hardcastle's manager Simon Fuller, who had recently left Chrysalis Records to set up on his own, was able to use the funds to continue his business. He named the business 19 Management in acknowledgement and the number 19 has become of great significance to Fuller.[10] Fuller went on to become the most successful British music manager of all time and was behind the success of the Spice Girls and American Idol. Hardcastle has continued his connections to 19 Entertainment and in 2009 created the sound for the end card used at the end of 19's television shows.[11]


After the song's unexpected, rapid climb to the top of the UK Singles chart, Chrysalis asked directors Jonas McCord and Bill Couterie to rush a video into production.[12] Due to the lack of a band able to perform the song, the video was primarily composed of clips from the Vietnam Requiem documentary, edited together by Ken Grunbaum. The first version of the video included footage from the television networks NBC and ABC, including a newscast by ABC anchorman Frank Reynolds.[12] After it was aired on MTV in the U.S., NBC and ABC objected to the "bad taste" of using the serious clips in a "trivial" form of "propaganda."[12] McCord and Couterie were forced to produce a new cut incorporating public domain footage, but ABC permitted Reynolds' audio to remain.[12] Couterie asserted at the time that the television networks opposed the video because it involved rock music:[12]

What is the difference between the words in our song and the 7 o'clock news? The only difference is rock'n'roll. And why did they love the documentary and hate the video so much? Every word in the song is from the film, and there was never any argument with the facts. The only difference is the music.[12]

The song's reliance on sampling also caused problems with legal clearance. Grunbaum recalled in 2012 that "there were no precedents for something like this. We ended up having to pay Peter Thomas, the narrator, royalties."[6]

Chart positions[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

In the same year of release, British comedian Rory Bremner, using the band name The Commentators, released a parodied version of the song as "N-N-Nineteen Not Out", about England's tragic performance in test cricket, with references to the England cricket team's disastrous 1984 home series against the West Indies in which the England captain David Gower had averaged 19.[33] In 2002, Hardcastle admitted in an interview with Q Magazine that, despite objections from his record label, he had helped contribute towards the making of The Commentators' version of the song.

Manchester United used the "19" soundtrack to celebrate their 19th Premier League title in May 2011,[34] and the song made a reappearance in the UK Top 40.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ We-Enhance (16 March 2011). "SIMON FULLER: FROM "AMERICAN IDOL" TO FORMULA 1 IDOL. - B*tchBack". B*tchBack. We-Enhance Inc. Retrieved 21 July 2013.  "Simon Fuller (...) produced “19″ for Paul Hardcastle- a very cheesy slice of Eighties’ synth pop"
  2. ^ Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2002). All Music Guide to Jazz: The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music. Backbeat Books. p. 547. ISBN 978-0879307172. 
  3. ^ Steve Huey. "Paul Hardcastle biography on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 21 July 2013.  "Paul Hardcastle debuted as a solo artist in 1984 and scored the following year with "19," an electro-oriented record featuring news reports and other sources on Vietnam."
  4. ^ a b Vietnam Requiem at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Rahsheeda Ali. "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ’80s". VH1. VH1.com. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Dave Simpson (24 September 2012). "How we made the pop song 19 by Paul Hardcastle and Ken Grunbaum". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c James E. Perone (2001). Songs of the Vietnam conflict. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-313-31528-2. Retrieved 9 December 2009. 
  8. ^ Roush, Gary (2 June 2008). "Statistics about the Vietnam War". Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network. Archived from the original on 6 December 2009. Retrieved 6 December 2009. "Assuming KIAs accurately represented age groups serving in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman (MOS 11B) serving in Vietnam to be 19 years old is a myth, it is actually 22. None of the enlisted grades have an average age of less than 20." 
  9. ^ "Statistical information about casualties of the Vietnam War". Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "From Wannabe to Pop Idol: 19 ounder to e presented with MMF's top accolade". Music Week. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Zip Design - 19 Sting". Zip Design. Retrieved 21 March 2010. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b c d e f Jim Bessman (1 June 1985). "Anti-War Clip Provokes Network Wrath". Billboard: 38–39. 
  13. ^ Danyel Smith, ed. (1985). Billboard 15 june 1985. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Paul Hardcastle – 19 – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Ultratop.be – Paul Hardcastle – 19" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  16. ^ "19 - paul hardcastle". VRT (in Dutch). Top30-2.radio2.be. Retrieved 25 July 2013.  Hoogste notering in de top 30 : 1
  17. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 42, No. 22, August 10, 1985". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  18. ^ "Lescharts.com – Paul Hardcastle – 19" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Paul Hardcastle - 19". Charts.de. Media Control. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". IRMA. Retrieved 1 June 2013.  4th result when searching "Paul Hardcastle"
  21. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1985". HitParadeItalia (in Italian). Creative Commons. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
    10. 19 - Paul Hardcastle [#1]
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Paul Hardcastle - 19 search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  23. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Paul Hardcastle – 19" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  24. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Paul Hardcastle – 19". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  25. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Paul Hardcastle – 19". VG-lista. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  26. ^ "19 - Paul Hardcastle". Nowe Media, Polskie Radio S.A. LP3.polskieradio.pl. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  27. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (H)". Rock.co.za. John Samson. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  28. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Paul Hardcastle – 19". Singles Top 60. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  29. ^ "Paul Hardcastle – 19 – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  30. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  31. ^ a b c d "Paul Hardcastle awards at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 1 June 2013. [dead link]
  32. ^ a b "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  33. ^ "West Indies in England, 1984 - Test Averages". Cricinfo. Retrieved 2 February 2009. 
  34. ^ Greg Roughley (9 May 2011). "Manchester United fans campaign to get 19 to No1 when club wins title". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Move Closer" by Phyllis Nelson
UK number-one single
11 May 1985 – 8 June 1985
Succeeded by
"You'll Never Walk Alone" by The Crowd
Preceded by
"You Can Win If You Want" by Modern Talking
German number-one single
7 June 1985 – 18 July 1985 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco
Preceded by
"Into the Groove" / "Angel" by Madonna
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
6 July 1985 – 13 July 1985
Succeeded by
"Glow" by Rick James