Steam: ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’

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Your favorite team is trailing the home team toward the end of an elimination game. If it’s basketball, your best player has just fouled out. (And to make matters worse, it was a questionable call.) If it’s baseball, your slugger has just smashed a sharply hit, one-hopper that the opposing team’s third baseman has snared to start a rally killing, 5-4-3 double play in the top of the ninth. Even the eternal optimist in you realizes your season is about to be over.

And then you hear it through the speakers. And so does the sold-out partisan crowd. It taunts you, rubbing salt in your wounds, as everyone but you begins to chant the sing-song-y chorus:

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

You knew you hated the other team and now you hate every single one of their fans. The buzzer sounds (or the opposition’s closer gets the final out). Your team has lost and though the PA system is now playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” the sting of that earlier song is nearly as painful as the loss.

The Chicago White Sox organist is credited with being the first to use it that way in 1977 when the visitors’ pitcher was knocked out of the game. They even made a cheesy promotional spot for it…

It’s not the way that “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was intended when a non-existent group named Steam recorded it in 1969. And certainly its songwriters Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer had no idea it would become a Public Address system favorite when they first recorded what is described as a blues shuffle version of the song for their doo-wop group in the early ’60s.

Years went by and Leka enjoyed huge success as co-writer of the Lemon Pipers’ psychedelic hit, “Green Tambourine,” which reached #1 in 1968.

The song reached #1 at Record World on Dec. 13, 1969

The next year, he was working at Mercury Records and at his urging the label recorded some sides with his pal DeCarlo singing. “Kiss Him Goodbye” was recorded, as DeCarlo tells it, in one session that began at 7 p.m. one night and ended at 5 the next morning. There are no guitars on the song. “It’s all piano, organ and vibes, and a drum track in a loop,” DeCarlo told interviewer Tom Meros. It was released… as a B-side to a single, “Sweet Laura Lee,” by DeCarlo, using the stage name Garrett Scott.

As occasionally happened back in the day, a DJ gave a listen to the B-side, liked what he heard and put “Kiss Him Goodbye” on the air. In industry parlance, the phones lit up and the song, er, steam-rolled until stations all over the country were playing it. The B-side-turned-A-side was credited to a band called Steam on Mercury’s Fontana subsidiary and quickly became a #1 smash for two weeks on the Hot 100, beginning December 6, 1969, becoming one of the final #1 hits of the decade.

DeCarlo died June 28, 2017, after a long battle with lung cancer.

Our Classic Video…

Related: Top radio hits of 1969

For good measure… the recorded version…

And the song lives on.

Watch Cleveland Cavaliers fans got into the act as they serenaded the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry in the 2016 NBA Finals. (Curry and his teammates got their revenge in the 2017 Finals.)

National One Hit Wonder Day is celebrated every year on September 25.

Greg Brodsky

10 Comments so far

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  1. jay jay
    #1 jay jay 29 June, 2017, 09:38

    music has nothing to do with sports,,,why

    Reply this comment
    • melf
      melf 29 June, 2020, 04:18

      You’re right, music should be for the fans and artists. Sadly its morphed into sports and commercials.

      I do enjoy seeing that playlist for the song, deja vu to 1969.

      Reply this comment
  2. SRB
    #2 SRB 14 December, 2018, 08:50

    People were singing this it the end of high school sports games in 1973-75, the White Sox organist merely took what was already very common and gave it wider exposure. Note: my high school basketball team went 0-19 when I was a senior, we heard it a lot.

    Reply this comment
  3. steve b
    #3 steve b 26 September, 2019, 15:25

    The article says there were no guitars and the first video shows the band playing guitars

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky Author 26 September, 2019, 16:28

      The equivalent of air guitar for a lip synch video.

      Reply this comment
    • Mac Timred
      Mac Timred 29 June, 2023, 09:05

      Not only were there were no guitars, there was no band. The band in the video was recruited and they are not playing the music just lip synching.

      Reply this comment
  4. David Forman
    #4 David Forman 28 June, 2020, 17:39

    Classic song. The Spanish cover version really rocked out.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ktown
    #5 Ktown 29 June, 2021, 01:51

    this is my favorite website but I am here to tell you that Steam played at my high school. Now I know there have been mockup bands including a fake Fleetwood Mac that made the rounds in those days but the Steam I saw sounded good

    Reply this comment
  6. Mac Timred
    #6 Mac Timred 29 June, 2023, 09:08

    This song is underappreciated as a work of music (as opposed to the use in sports). In no way is this schlocky.

    Keyboard work is amazing. Vocals awesome. Highly layered production is outstanding.

    Recall this was an old song they had ditched years ago, so they did not need any rehearsal to get it right.

    Paul Leka really shows his brilliance on this.

    Reply this comment
  7. BMac
    #7 BMac 29 June, 2023, 16:30

    Possibly my all time favorite “accidental” hit – meant as a b-side, AND, there was no actual group called Steam. Well, not until after the song became a hit, then several guys who had nothing to do with the song were thrown together to go out and tour.

    Reply this comment

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