On this day in music history: October 17, 1998 – “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Ed Robertson, it is the biggest hit for the rock band from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Formed in 1988, Barenaked Ladies begins a duo with Ed Robertson and Steven Page. The pair attend the same school, but do not become friends until meeting each other, following a Peter Gabriel concert. Both sharing an interest in music, Robertson and Page bond further, as counselors at a music camp. Their name comes about, while seeing Bob Dylan live, amusing themselves when they become bored during the show. In 1989, they begin writing songs, making their first recordings on a four track tape machine. The five song demo tape titled “Buck Naked”, is sold at early gigs. Barenaked Ladies send their demos out to record labels, but are rejected by all. They soon invite brothers Andy (percussion) and Jim Creeggan (bass), two friends from music camp to join them. This line up records another demo tape titled “Barenaked Lunch”, featuring “Be My Yoko Ono” and “If I Had A $1,000,000”. Andy Creeggan leaves in 1990, and is replaced by Tyler Stewart on drums. When Andy returns in 1991, it is primarily on keyboards. They then record their self-titled third indie tape release. Including a cover of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and “Brian Wilson”, it outsells their previous releases. The EP piques the interest of Sire Records, who sign them in 1992. Their first three albums, all perform well in Canada, also developing a following from college radio in the US. Kevin Hearn joins as their new keyboardist, when Andy Creeggan leaves for good in 1995. Feeling primed for mainstream success, they record their fourth album “Stunt” with former Prince recording engineers turned producers David Leonard and Susan Rogers. Full of the band’s uniquely quirky and humorous songs, one of the standouts is “One Week”. It features stream of consciousness rap like verses sung by Ed Robertson (the choruses sung by Steven Page). It’s framed around a couple having an argument, while name checking people and making pop cultural references. Those include LeAnn Rimes, Aquaman, Sting, Harrison Ford, and references to The X-Files, tantric sex, Snickers candy bars, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa to name a few. The song is accompanied by an equally frenetic and funny music video directed by McG (“Charlie’s Angels”). In one sequence, Ed Robertson and Steven Page are in a car chase, driving replicas of the General Lee from The Dukes Of Hazzard and the Ford Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch. Entering the Hot 100 at #3 on October 3, 1998, it leaps to the top of the chart two weeks later. Spending exactly “one week” on top, “One Week” propels the “Stunt” album to 4x Platinum status in the US.
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