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Charlene (I'm Right Behind You) is the Number One Hit by Stephen and the Colberts. It is considered one of the most heart-wrenching love ballads of the 1980's.
Every time I see you I think of you
Every time I'm near you I think of you
I think of you and I dream of you when I'm taking pictures of you
I think of you when I'm in a blimp looking down from up above you
You know I'm missing you
My mind is kissing you
I'm right behind you now Charlene
Oh so close
I'm right behind you now Charlene
You'll never be alone again, no
Song Transformed Pop Music
The song itself and the video created for it swept over popular culture like a tsunami when it was released.
When Stephen Colbert and The Colberts recorded Charlene, radio stations controlled popular tastes. Stephen refused to pay the 'ola needed to get radio airplay.
Instead, he convinced his bandmates to take the then-unheard-of step of releasing the video to a small-time video channel called MTV.
It was a sensation. Before the video, MTV was seen on only 15 cable systems. Word of mouth through jangling land-lines (that's all they had to communicate with back then) spread news of the video. Within weeks, popular demand had forced over 633 cable systems to pick up this new-fangled MTV channel.
MTV VJs soon learned that their viewers wanted to see Charlene and little else. It was played at least 12 times per hour on the station. It became an anthem for a generation. The press soon coined a name for the kids who were transfixed by the song: "Gen Charlene".
(Publications were later forced to change the name to "Gen X" because of successful libel suits filed by Charlene against Time, Newsweek, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Charlene's huge legal team at the firm of Nash DeBrutus & Short sent Cease and Desist letters to any other publication that tried to use the original term.)
Stephen Killed the Radio Star
Two years later, the Buggles recorded a song -- "Video Killed the Radio Star"  -- that told the story of The Colberts in those heady times.
"It's all about Stephen. We owe it all to him," said Hans Zimmer, keyboardist for the Buggles
Manilow Lone Hold-Out
Tributes to Stephen and the Colberts continued to pile on for years after the video's original release. In fact, Barry Manilow was the only recording artist of the era who didn't dedicate at least one song to Stephen.
In a little-seen interview in Beach Culture magazine, 80s star Peter Gabriel admitted that Stephen Colbert and The Colberts changed the course of his life. When he first saw the video, Gabriel was lead singer for Green Mary, a Pink Floyd cover band that played at Holiday Inns throughout the Midwest.
"Yeah, man. When I saw that video, I called my mates and quit as lead signer for Green Mary. Yeah! Like, I knew that this video was the start of something completely new. It just hit me like a sledgehammer," Gabriel said.
(Note the loving wonky-ear reference at 40 seconds into Gabriel's tribute video.)
Australian brothers Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk and their band, Men In Hats, had the most unlikely "Charlene" tribute. When Ivan heard about Charlene's unreasonable spurning of Stephen's advances, he was inspired to write a song that he hoped would help Stephen dance with her from beyond the confines of the then-100-foot limit of Charlene's restraining order.
The song, "Safety Dance",  became a remarkable one-hit wonder for the band. Unfortunately, Charlene played the song for a judge who was so horrified by it that he expanded the limits of the restraining order to 4 miles.
In September of 2008, "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)" was released as a free add-on track for the Harmonix video games Rock Band and Rock Band 2, allowing a new generation of fake plastic guitarists and drummers to test their chops against this legendary recording. Players also have the ability to attempt to match the angelic tones of Stephen's vocal track, though getting 100% on the Expert level has never been achieved, except by Stephen himself.
After the song’s release, it took harsh criticism. Charlene (whom the song was based on) filed a restraining order against the song’s writer. Many believe that this was the reason for the band’s break up soon after.