The Passionate Feelings Behind “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones

Back in 1989, the world was going through some major changes. The Berlin Wall had come down at the end of the year, signaling a retreat of communism in Eastern Europe that would follow in the coming years. The Perestroika period of greater political and economic transparency was underway in the Soviet Union. Student protests in Tiananmen Square represented a new spark of rebellion against the communist Chinese government and their human rights abuses. And it felt like the Cold War that had been hanging over the heads of Americans and Russians like a scythe—including the potential threat of nuclear destruction—was dissipating.

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Many artists noticed these changes, and two years later these global events inspired some striking songs. Seal was inspired by such world events when he came up with his hit single “Crazy,” and Scorpions scored their biggest hit ever with “Wind of Change,” a ballad that emphasized optimism about the future of in Eastern Europe and changes within Russia itself. The young British band Jesus Jones also offered their take on these events with “Right Here, Right Now,” which not only expressed optimism in the future, but the excitement of living through a time when such change was possible. Originally released in September 1990, it would become a hit in America by mid-1991.

Fun fact: All three of these artists resided near the top of the Hot 100 singles chart at the same time in 1991.

A Euphoric Moment

In speaking to the Guardian in 2020, Jesus Jones frontman Mike Edwards spoke about how he came up with “Right Here, Right Now.” It was the end of 1989, and he was listening to the Simple Minds version of Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times,” which the Guardian author said “lamented the concerns of the era—from AIDS to urban poverty and drug addiction.” Edwards was watching television coverage of the Berlin Wall coming down and Germans celebrating its demise.

“I never thought that I’d see such a thing in my lifetime, and I wanted to write a sort of updated but positive ‘Sign o’ the Times’ to reflect what was happening,” Edwards told The Guardian.

Saving the Track

Edwards built up the song by using a two-bar looped sample from the Prince song for his “rhythm section,” over which he played guitar chords. The guitar solo was a mash-up of Jimi Hendrix solos. But producer Martyn Phillips, who had been stung by a lawsuit over unauthorized use of an opera sample on a track by the Beloved, nixed Edwards’ use of any samples. So he had to come up with new music. The finished song combines a subdued, funky guitar line, bright synth brass, a wailing guitar solo in the break, and Edwards impassioned, raspy delivery.

“Straight after finishing it, we went to play in Romania,” Edwards tolds The Guardian. “It was just after the fall of the Ceaușescu regime and his execution, and we saw bullet holes in all the buildings. It looked like a place that had been in a war. People there had this saying, ‘We couldn’t trust the pillow we slept on,’ because the secret police had been everywhere. The country was emerging out of a tunnel, which was exactly what I was singing about.”

A woman on the radio talks about revolution
When it’s already passed her by
Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about
You know it feels good to be alive

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
Watching the world wake up from history

A Truly Iconic Hit

Appearing on the band’s second album Doubt, “Right Here, Right Now” turned out to be Jesus Jones’ biggest hit. It would reach No. 2 on the U.S. Hot 100 singles chart and No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks radio chart (now known as Alternative Airplay). At the end of the year, it was the fifth-most played song in the Modern Rock Tracks format. The song also went top 20 in Switzerland and Canada and Top 40 in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

According to keyboardist Iain Baker, both Bill and Hilary Clinton used the song for their presidential campaigns. It has also shown up in television commercials for Ford, Nissan, Discover Card (in 2021), and T-Mobile (2023). The song has also been licensed to the Alvin and the Chipmunks video game, four television series, and two movies.

It’s important to note that, contrary to what some people might believe, “Right Here, Right Now” was not Jesus Jones’s only hit. It was the second single from their sophomore album Doubt; the lead single, “Real, Real, Real,” made it to No. 4 on the Hot 100. Additionally, “The Devil You Know” from their next album Perverse also made it to No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while “The Right Decision” from the same cracked that chart’s Top 15. They had two Top 10 hits in the UK (“International Bright Young Thing” and “The Devil You Know”) and five other Top 40 hits, including “Right Here, Right Now” which hit No. 31.

Jesus Jones continued to regularly record albums up until their fifth release London in 2001. Their sixth album Passages came out in 2018, and numerous compilation albums have also been released. They have intermittently toured throughout the 21st century, and other than a 14-year break for their original drummer, Jesus Jones is still touring with the same lineup they started with over 35 years ago. In fact, if you Google them, their website entry humorously declares, “No, we didn’t split up. Come and find out. …”

What’s interesting to note about the lyrics to “Right Here, Right Now” is that they don’t actually reference the world events that inspired them. In that sense, this techno-rock anthem can also be applied to other moments in people’s lives. So from a very specific meaning, it became translated into a more universal feeling that explains much of its enduring appeal.

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Photo by Indie Images Photography via Facebook

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