When Wang Chung's 'Everybody Have Fun Tonight' Video Caused a Seizure Scare
Wang Chung—one of the most recognizable pop duo acts of the 1980s, comprised of Nick Feldman and Jack Hues—enjoyed a string of hits including “Dance Hall Days” and “Let’s Go,” but reached peak success with 1986’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” In the catchy hit, Feldman and Hues implored listeners to “have fun tonight” and “Wang Chung tonight.”
Fans in the UK could not Wang Chung as much as they would have liked. That’s because the music video for “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” was banned by the BBC over fears it could cause epileptic seizures.
The concern stemmed from rapid cuts in the video—which was edited by musicians and video producers Godley & Creme—that created a strobe-like effect. A doctor retained by the BBC advised that the flashing lights could potentially induce seizures in viewers with epilepsy.
Taking such a precaution isn’t totally without merit. Among those with photosensitive epilepsy, light displayed at frequencies between 10 and 30 hertz, or the number of cycles per second, can bring on a seizure by prompting nerve cells in the brain to fire electrical impulses. The effect is worsened by sudden and frequent changes from color to black and back again. A 1993 commercial that aired in the UK for pot noodles was pulled for similar reasons. So was an animated segment created for the 2012 Olympics. The most notable example might be a 1997 episode of Pokémon that aired in Japan, where a scene with red and blue flashing lights sent hundreds of children to hospitals complaining of headaches, dizziness, or seizures.
Out of an abundance of caution, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” was prohibited—a fact that Feldman considered overly conservative. “That was typical, maybe, of the slightly staid aspects of England,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1987. “You either get eccentricity or this rather conservative view of things. Our video violated their guidelines on how many frames per second you can have on any transmission, so it was banned. They said that if we wanted, we could speed it up or do something to change it. So we sped it up to make it ‘legally OK,’ and they still wouldn’t show it.”
Feldman said the video did wind up airing on the BBC after all, thanks to Entertainment USA, a show that covered what was popular in major American cities that week. There was also a top five song chart; because “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” was in the number one slot, they had to screen the video.
There’s no evidence the video was altered for airing in the U.S. Wang Chung is still active and touring.