Rewinding the Charts: In 1997, Hanson Bopped to the Top

From left: Taylor, Zac and Isaac Hanson backstage in Chicago in 1998.
C. Taylor Crothers

From left: Taylor, Zac and Isaac Hanson backstage in Chicago in 1998.

The sibling trio's debut single, "MMMBop," became a No. 1 smash on the Billboard Hot 100.

FANS OF HANSON WHO REMEMBER the sibling trio's debut single, "MMMBop," as one irresistibly bouncy song may be surprised to hear that Zac Hanson, the youngest of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, brothers, calls it "pretty somber."

A nod to the impermanence of most relationships — "In an mmmbop they're gone," Taylor Hanson sings — "MMMBop" originally was recorded as a ballad for the band's 1996 indie album of the same name. But when Hanson, which formed in 1992, entered the studio to record Middle of Nowhere, its major-label debut for Mercury/PolyGram, producers the Dust Brothers (Beck's Odelay) suggested redoing the song at a speedier tempo.

The result was a pop-music rocket fueled by the song's hook and the boys' teen-dream wholesomeness: Isaac was 16; Taylor, 14; and Zac, 11. The track topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks beginning May 24, 1997.

Middle of Nowhere reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 4 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Music. But in 2003, after releasing two more top 10 albums, the brothers found themselves "on a rap label with nobody we had originally worked with," says Zac, after Mercury was subsumed in two mergers. "It wasn't that they didn't care; it was that they weren't even qualified," he adds. "[We'd ask], 'What do you think?' [and they'd say], 'Hold on, let me ask somebody ... what I should think.' "

Hanson has since returned to releasing music independently. New single "I Was Born" drops May 26, before the band begins its Middle of Nowhere 25th Anniversary Tour on June 1. On May 21, Hanson staged the Hop Jam in Tulsa and added yet another honor: induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Said Jim Blair, the Hall's executive director, "They were all over the media back then, all over the world. We are pretty proud of them."

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