MAMBO NUMBER 5 is indisputably the greatest pop song of all time but few people know the tragic tale of Lou Bega’s four singles prior to his monster hit, which charted somewhere north of 788th in the charts.
“None of the women in my life at time of recording Mambo Number 1 were particularly vivacious, sultry, sexy or ‘fun’, so the lyrics were a bit more mundane, nothing really flowed musically speaking as a result,” Bega explains during an interview with him in his recording studio.
Mambo Number 2 was similarly uninspiring fare, as Bega went out with a woman from Belmullet who collected stamps, failing to spark a feel good song.
“Clare, she was lovely, but ‘a bit of Clare in the rain, collecting stamps’ it’s not pop magic, is it?” Bega admitted.
Then there was Rosie the hairdresser, who had a fungal infection, Laura the car clamper, an endless parade of women who Bega felt didn’t fit into a mambo style, try as he might.
Bega’s manager suggested the singer simply make up imaginary relationships and women who were for all intents and purposes far more fun, but Bega couldn’t do it.
“I’m a method songwriter, if it didn’t happen to me, I ain’t writing about it. Some frauds are okay with that, take Elvis and ‘Burning Love’, is love didn’t literally burn anyone and that’s dishonest, unless it was a metaphor for venereal disease in which case, okay Elvis, you win this time. I don’t like the fact we all know Elton John does not personally know a tiny dancer, dancers are mostly normal human size,” Bega shared with us, his frustration at previous failed attempts at writing Mambo-based songs apparent.
Bega was forced to search out relationship after relationship, hoping against hope he would find the type of love that could sustain the writing of a hit pop song.
“Mambo 1 through 4 gave me broken heart after broken heart, shite lyric after shite lyric. The tragedy is that the pain I had to endure before Mambo Number 5 saved my God damn life”.
The hitmaker credits meeting Angela, Pamela, Sandra, Rita, Monica, Erica, Rita again, Tina, Sandra again, Mary and Jessica with saving his songwriting bacon.
“Growing that pencil thin moustache was the best decision of my life, the women were like flies around honey after that, and Mambo Number 5 was born”.
While Bega is happy with the success of the 5th Mambo, he still carries the scars of writing the other four.
“So many women, so many awful lyrics, so much heartache that no amount of joyful brass could covert into a hit song”.