Wednesday, 18 February 2009

1981 Julio Inglesias: Begin The Beguine

In which a former Real Madrid youth goalkeeper tackles Cole Porter at Christmastime and scores a number one hit.

Just like my bad punning above, much was made of his footballing background at the time and it was great sport to portray him as a gimmicky Euro singer on par with Joe Dolce, when in fact Inglesias had quit the game as far back as 1963 and had been a recording artist since the late 60's.

"Begin The Beguine" has been covered countless times since Porter wrote it in 1935 and his complex 108 beats to the bar rhythm has been a popular source for jazz players to riff on. Hoary old warhorse the song may be, but that doesn't stop Inglesias bringing something new to the party by slowing down the tempo to a more sensuous level and coating it with a smooth Latin groove and a bassline Chic would have been proud of (though I'm not sure what Porter would have thought of it).

So, not quite a straight recording, not quite a novelty and not merely muzak, 'Begin The Beguine' just about earns it's number one spot by virtue of it being almost Christmas, a time when so many crimes can be forgiven, and by the fact that sometimes it's good to have a song at the top that parents (and grandparents) love but the kids all hate with a passion. As long as it doesn't happen too often.

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