Two songs, one title. Or a tale of two songs. Either way, pop rock group The Escape Club and New York rapper Kool Moe Dee both had hits on this day in 1988– both songs were titled “Wild Wild West.”
Popular music in 1988
In 1988, Music Television was still showing videos. Alternative rock music and rap were making important strides in terms of subgenres. Glam metal was arguably showing its age, but the genre was not without significant contributors.
In short, there seemed to be something for everyone regardless of taste. Creativity abounded from artist to artist and it was a relatively heady time. So it seems interesting or bizarre that two very different band’s would have songs with the same name that both hit their respective charts on the same day. That is exactly what happened with “Wild Wild West” by both The Escape Club and Kool Moe Dee.
The sound of “Wild Wild West”
Depending on where listeners live, one of the songs might have received more radio airplay than the other.
The Escape Club version of the song is a horn, guitar and hollow percussion tune wrapped in a catchy hook. One of its signature lines, “Heading for the nineties/living in the wild, wild west,” made it a perfect vehicle for capturing the musical and lifestyle free-for-all that characterized much of the late 1980s, with its forward-looking tendencies.
A looped male voice repeats the phrase “wild west” in a deep voice. The song is danceable. There is a rap of sorts that occurs later in the song, wherein the lead singer mentions the name of the band and some of its performance attributes.
The point of the song was fun, even as the band looked toward the 1990s, which were in the very near future. The song’s self-consciousness and catchy beat endears it to many listeners.
While The Escape Club’s “Wild Wild West” was fodder for both radio and television when it was newly released, Kool Moe Dee’s version was less so.
While the rap video did get shown on Music Television, it seemed to get more airplay on Rap City and other shows and networks geared toward a Black American audience. And as for radio airplay, again, depending on where audiences lived, they might not have heard the song on the radio. In cities like Fort Wayne, Indiana, for example, a person would likely only hear the song on COOL-FM (when a cable radio subscription was necessary) or WJFX, when the urban music station was made readily available.
The song itself posited rapper Kool Moe Dee and his entourage as not just performers, but as Wild West outlaws. With the one exception: “We don’t start trouble, but boy do we end it…”
The video finds the men dressed in highly stylized cowboy gear to play up the song’s theme. A deep bass line moves throughout the song, and like The Escape Club, it, too, has a deep-voiced male intoning the phrase “Wild Wild West.”
Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West” peaked at No.62 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and went all the way to No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
For their part, The Escape Club made history by being the only British performer to have a No. 1 US hit without having that same song chart in the UK.
Two songs with the same name by different artists are not necessarily rare. (See The Miracles and W.A.S.P. and “LOVE Machine”–same title, different songs altogether.) But two have those same songs chart and place well during the same time period is a little more rare. To remember that time in the late 1980s, is to recall an interesting period in popular music.