The Meaning Behind “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby and How Foreigner Indirectly Played a Role in It

It’s a bittersweet time for Foreigner fans. The sad news that founder and chief songwriter Mick Jones has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease came not too long after the band’s nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Foreigner has accomplished so much as a band. But did you know they indirectly played a role in Thomas Dolby‘s “She Blinded Me with Science,” one of the ’80s most unique hit singles?

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What is the song about? Who’s that fellow shouting Science throughout the whole song? And how did Foreigner help make this song happen? It’s a song that only could have come from the ’80s, which is where this unlikely story begins.

Dolby Sound

Foreigner‘s brand of radio-ready rock made them an instant sensation in the latter half of the ’70s. Lou Gramm‘s tough and soulful vocals powered through the hook-heavy songs written by Mick Jones. As the decade came to a close, Jones worried about the band’s direction, and made the decision to fire two members prior to the recording of the album 4, which would be released in 1981.

Jones and producer Mutt Lange also wanted to modernize the band’s sound for the record, which meant more of a reliance on synthesizers. But they needed someone to play them, since Al Greenwood, the band member who had handled the keyboards in the past for the band, was one of those let go.

After some auditions, the band decided to give the job to a 22-year-old Brit with experience in the newest synth sounds and a notion to become a singer/songwriter himself. Thomas Dolby came aboard and added some subtle but crucial textures to massive hits like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Urgent.” With the money he made for the sessions, he headed back to England to pursue his own ideas as an artist.

Science Class

As Dolby set about writing and recording his debut album The Golden Age of Wireless, he became fascinated by the exciting development of music videos, what with MTV taking off in the culture. He decided he’d write a song that he could then use as the basis for his own video. After creating a forward-thinking, synth-heavy, danceable track, he came up with a unique scenario for these lyrics, as he explained to this author in the book Playing Back the ’80s: A Decade of Unstoppable Hits:

“I suppose I sort of focused on the scenario of the absent-minded professor and a rather beguiling, hot Japanese lab assistant. I very often close my eyes and imagine things cinematically and then sort of write down the details; that’s the approach I often have to my lyrics.”

Dolby then decided that he wanted to be more of a supporting player in the video, which is why he enlisted Dr. Magnus Pyke, a well-known scientist and television presenter in the UK, to fill a co-leading role. Pyke gave Dolby some headaches in terms of how he thought he should look on camera and how his line readings should sound. But in the end, his cries of Science throughout the song made “She Blinded Me with Science” immediately stand out.

The Meaning Behind “She Blinded Me with Science”

“She Blinded Me with Science” goes a long way based on Dolby’s underdog persona dealing with a relationship in which he’s clearly in over his head. He’s swept away by desire, despite her somewhat unorthodox allure: When I’m dancing close to her / I can smell the chemicals. She also seems to hold the power in the relationship, considering that she’s failing him in both geometry and biology.

Still, the attraction is undeniable, reaching an almost cosmic level: The spheres are in commotion / The elements in harmony. Flustered, he lashes out in the bridge about how she’s befuddled him by misplacing his instruments: She’s tidied up and I can’t find anything / All my tubes and wires and careful notes / And antiquated notions. It’s that last phrase that proves that she’s in the right, and that he needs to play catch-up in order to be with her.

“She Blinded Me with Science” blasted into the Top 5 in the U.S. in 1982. In terms of ’80s surprise hits, it holds up well today because the music is still invigorating and Dolby’s sense of humor shines through. Not a bad result at all for a session synth player taking his first big shot at the pop music brass ring.

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Photo by Anthony Harvey/WireImage

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