That Thing You Do! (song)

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"That Thing You Do"
That Thing You Do - The Wonders.jpg
Single by The Wonders
from the album That Thing You Do!: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  • "Voyage Around the Moon (The Saturn 5)" (cassette)
  • "Dance with Me Tonight" (45)
  • "All My Only Dreams" (fictitious 45 from the film)
ReleasedSeptember 24, 1996[1]
GenrePower pop[2]
Songwriter(s)Adam Schlesinger

"That Thing You Do" is the titular song appearing in the 1996 film of the same name. Written by Adam Schlesinger, the song is performed by the fictional 1960s band The Wonders, who are the focus of the film. The song peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1997.[3]

In the film[edit]

In 1964, an Erie, Pennsylvania band named "The One-ders" (later known as The Wonders) goes from a college talent show to climbing up the Billboard charts thanks to the song "That Thing You Do". Written by guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Mattingly II, it was originally crafted as a ballad. During the performance at the talent show, drummer Guy Patterson produces a much more up-tempo beat and the rest of the band follow suit, turning the song into an upbeat, Beatles-esque rock number. The song is a hit with the audience, and they win the talent show. From there, the band is picked up by a local manager who helps them get more shows in the area, and eventually the song receives radio airplay. The band is then signed to Play-Tone Records, under Mr. White's guidance, and the song climbs up the Billboard Hot 100, starting at #93, then #71, #49, and #21. The following week, "That Thing You Do" climbs to #7, becoming the quickest charting song ever on Play-Tone Records. However, Jimmy walks out on the band before they can produce another record, so they eventually become one-hit wonders.

Early in the film, when Jimmy and Lenny are asking Guy to join them at the talent competition at the college, Jimmy mentions they'll perform a song he wrote. Lenny takes offense to that by slapping Jimmy on the arm. Jimmy begrudgingly corrects himself by saying, "We wrote." Later, when the vinyl 45 is officially released, the label states: Written by James Mattingly II. Later still, when being interviewed live on radio station KJZZ, Jimmy says of the song, "We wrote it in my garage back in Erie, PA".

In the film, the song is performed by James "Jimmy" Mattingly II on lead vocals and guitar, Leonard "Lenny" Haise on lead guitar and backing vocals, "T.B. Player" on bass and backing vocals (as a running gag, the bass player in the film is unnamed), and Guy "Shades" Patterson on drums. For their live performance of the song on The Hollywood Television Showcase, studio bassist Scott "Wolfman" Pell replaced T.B. Player on bass and backing vocals.

In the fictitious "mockumentary" liner notes from the soundtrack CD, "That Thing You Do" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of 1964.

In reality[edit]

The song was written by Adam Schlesinger, the bassist of the alternative rock group Fountains of Wayne. Schlesinger did not expect his song to be chosen, but tried as "a personal exercise." Performers include Mike Viola on vocals with Schlesinger on backup vocals.

The song was released as a single, and although not as successful as was depicted in the film, the track still did moderately well in the US, peaking at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100. (It also reached #22 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #18 on the Adult Top 40, and #24 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart.)[4] The song also reached #50 in Australia.

The song was a bigger hit outside of the US, reaching #31 in Canada in December 1996,[5] and #22 on the UK Singles Chart in February 1997.[6] The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 69th Academy Awards as well as Best Original Song at the 54th Golden Globe Awards, losing out on both occasions to Madonna's "You Must Love Me" (written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber) from the musical Evita.[7]

On April 25, 2017, three quarters of the actors who played The Wonders—Tom Everett Scott (Guy "Shades" Patterson), Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy Mattingly II) and Ethan Embry ("T.B. Player")—performed the song live during a surprise appearance at the Roxy in Los Angeles.[8] The occasion was the Goddamn Comedy Jam, a live show series in which comedians tell funny stories about a meaningful song and then perform it with a live band.[9] Comedian and show creator Josh Adam Meyers persuaded the actors to perform the song with him. After initial hesitation on Scott's part, Meyers managed to persuade him with help from The After Jam producer Jason Gallagher, who happened to be Scott's brother-in-law. The other actors soon followed suit, with Gallagher helping them learn how to play the instruments. Steve Zahn (Lenny Haise) was unable to participate due to living in Kentucky; comedian Jeremiah Watkins took his place on lead guitar while wearing a cut-out mask of Zahn's face.[10] On April 10, 2017, Embry posted a video of himself playing the song's bass line; it is now apparent that the video was a teaser for the event two weeks later.[11]

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1996–97) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) 50
Canada RPM Adult Contemporary[12] 33
Canada RPM Top Singles[5] 31
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 90
UK[14] 22
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 41
US Billboard Adult Contemporary 22
US Billboard Adult Top 40 18
US Billboard Top 40 Mainstream 24

Cover versions[edit]

  • The Knack recorded the song for their 1998 hits collection, Proof: The Very Best of the Knack.[16]
  • 'N Sync performed the song during their 1999 tour, as part of a '60s segment.[17]
  • New Found Glory did a cover of this song for their EP, From the Screen to Your Stereo in 2000.
  • Brennan Hillard covered the song in 2003 as a semifinalist on American Juniors, performing it in a higher key because he was a boy tenor at the time.
  • Japanese ska band Shaka Labbits included a cover of the song on their 2004 live album Burning Cylinder.
  • Scottish band Bubblegum Lemonade included the song on their 2008 EP Ten Years Younger.[18]
  • In 2010, the song was parodied by The Fringemunks to recap Fringe episode 3.03, "The Plateau."
  • Day6's Jae Park performed it on the South Korean reality show K-pop Star in 2012.
  • Pentatonix performed the song at the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors, paying tribute to Tom Hanks, the writer and director of the song's feature film by the same name.[19]
  • Set It Off used the beat as inspiration for their song "Ancient History."
  • Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day released a cover version of the song to YouTube in 2020.
  • REO Brothers recorded a cover in July 2020 on YouTube.


  1. ^ Your name here. "The Wonders - N/A - Music". Retrieved 2020-04-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Borack, John (2006). Shake Some Action. Fort Collins, CO: Not Lame Recording Company. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-9797714-0-8.
  3. ^ Hughes, Hilary (April 1, 2020). "With 'That Thing You Do!,' Adam Schlesinger Wrote One of the Best 'Fake' Songs in Film History". Billboard.
  4. ^ That Tune You Do- Writing The Music For THAT THING YOU DO Archived 2007-11-27 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1996-12-06. Retrieved 2020-04-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 610. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ "Golden Globes, USA (1997)". IMDB. Retrieved December 6, 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Romano, Nick (April 26, 2017). "The Wonders reunite to perform 'That Thing You Do!' in L.A." Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Goddamn Comedy Jam". Comedy Central. Retrieved April 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Pitchel, Samantha (April 26, 2017). "Here's how "That Thing You Do" band The Wonders ended up reuniting on The Goddamn Comedy Jam". The Laugh Button. Retrieved April 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Embry, Ethan (April 10, 2017). "I try and try to forget my childhood, but it's just so hard to do..." Twitter. Retrieved April 27, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1997-01-13. Retrieved 2020-04-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ " – The Wonders – That Thing You Do" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  14. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1997-02-22. Retrieved 2020-04-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  16. ^ Schadelbauer, Rick (September 1998). "Doug Fieger: The Circle Goes Back to the Beginning". Amplifier Vol. 3 No. 3. Archived from the original on 2006-10-27. Retrieved May 13, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Nsync- That thing you do." YouTube. 2006-06-28. Retrieved 2020-04-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Shaul, Aaron (February 2008). "Bubblegum Lemonade Ten Years Younger EP". Music Reviews. Ink 19. Retrieved May 13, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Robbins, Caryn (December 31, 2014). "VIDEO: Pentatonix Pay Tribute to Tom Hanks with 'That Thing You Do' Performance on KENNEDY CENTER HONORS". Retrieved January 2, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)