If you grew up in the 80s you’ll recognize the above song instantly: “Oh Yeah,” by an otherwise little-known techno duo called Yello. Though it didn’t make much of a splash when it was first released, “Oh Yeah” became enshrined in popular culture and its history by its inclusion in the 1986 John Hughes movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
How a simple song like this came to almost epitomize an entire era is a pretty fascinating phenomena. The song’s first appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is associated with the main characters’ longing to drive a pristine 1961 Ferrari owned by Cameron’s (Alan Ruck) father. As the camera lovingly caresses the gleaming cherry-red sides of the Ferrari, the soundtrack pulses with Yello’s iconic “BOUNT BOUNT…(chickachicka)!” and the audience instantly understands the characters’ deep need to possess this car.
I think it’s more than that, though. The sound of the song itself seems to ooze 80s-ness: its deep masculine vocals, its unabashed avarice, its highly synthesized techno beat, and the various electronic tricks used, especially in the later stretches, to spice up what is actually a pretty repetitive and one-idea song.
Yello, the group that created “Oh Yeah” in 1985, was founded in Switzerland by millionaire businessman Dieter Meier. After a rather unimpressive 1980 debut, the duo (the other one is Boris Blank) churned out techno dance music in the early 80s and sought to insinuate itself into the MTV-driven music video scene, with some success. The choice of “Oh Yeah” for the Ferris Bueller movie was a stroke of creative luck. Unfortunately it transformed Yello into the quintessential one-hit wonder, in an era chock full of them. The group was still active, though, as late as 2009.
Since its debut in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Oh Yeah” has appeared in numerous other media, usually somehow evocative of its appearance in the John Hughes film. In the 1987 Michael J. Fox comedy Secret of My Success, the song is associated not with a car but a bodacious babe that the main character wants to bed. It’s also been lampooned on South Park and appears in some video games.