Everything you ever wanted to know about the Greg Kihn Band song “Jeopardy.”
They say the best songs write themselves and that was exactly what happened with Jeopardy. The one word that summarized everything about Jeopardy was “magic.” It was magic from the first note.
It was 1983 and Steve Wright (my songwriting partner in the GKB) had just bought one of those new-fangled electric keyboards made by Casio. This particular one had a funky drum machine built in. Steve dropped by my house to show me his new toy. He played a riff he had just composed on the Casio with that funky semi-disco beat. Sometimes it seems that you pull a song out of the air, and that’s what happened with Jeopardy. It was as if the song was floating around in the atmosphere and I just snatched it up. I started singing “our love’s in Jeopardy, whoo-whoo-whoo. It was completely spontaneous. Steve looked at me and we both realized what we’d done. Jeopardy was a natural. We knew it from the first time we played it. It took fifteen minutes to write it. We recorded a demo on a boom box and played the tape for the band. Each guy heard his part perfectly, and we worked up an arrangement in a few minutes. It sounded so natural. One of the things that sets Jeopardy apart from the rest of the GKB material was that our regular bass player, Steve Wright, played the keyboard and our keyboard player, Gary Phillips, played bass. That weekend was had a gig in Chicago at the Park West and we played Jeopardy for the first time at the sound check. It sounded so good we decided to do it in the show that night. It was a hit from beginning. People loved it.
We rushed home to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to record Jeopardy before the magic dissipated. We nailed that sucker in two takes. Like I said, it was magic from start. The record came out and rocketed up the charts and duked it out with Michael Jackson for the most part of that summer.
We recorded the infamous Jeopardy video at Delores Mission in San Francisco, the church in the first “Dirty Harry” movie. We taped it in one monster 72-hour video session. We shot the first zombie-themed video in the actual church after hours. I know we’re all going to hell for the things we did in the church at 3:00am. We had to get creative with the special effects and director Joe Dea had a giant latex dragon, which was supposed to crash out of the floor and attack me. We wrapped the snake around me and shot the scene in reverse, so when they played it back, it really looked like it was grabbing me. Also I’ll never get the taste of Campbell’s Pea soup out of my skin after getting several gallons of it shot in my face with squirt guns to simulate the dragon’s blood. The video was one of the first “concept videos” and enjoyed a ton of airplay on MTV.
Jeopardy went on to become a number worldwide hit. I won the coveted “International Artist of the Year” and performed on the Eurovision in the south of France. Maybe the biggest kick was appearing with Weird Al on his parody of “I Lost On Jeopardy.”
In the meantime the band played constantly and got a huge amount of radio airplay. We did a huge tour with Journey and played all the big arenas around the country. We opened for the Rolling Stones and performed on Saturday Night Live. Jeopardy remains one of my most requested songs. Now, this new mix brings a classic song back on the public eye.