Published Feb 16, 2010TRACK OF THE DAY: With apologies to She & Him, this might be the most successful song ever posted to Click Hear.
Joe Cuba was at the forefront of the boogaloo revolution of the 1960s which changed the entire notion of Latin music in New York City, and eventually the world. This transformation is chronicled on a double disc collection of his work called El Alcalde Del Barrio to be released February 23 on the revitalized Fania label.
Cuba's small combo marked a change from the large mambo orchestras of Tito Puente and Machito who had dominated New York's Latin scene since the 40s. Change was in the air by the mid-60s when records like "El Watusi" by Ray Barretto replaced the traditional time-keeping element of Cuban-derived rhythms, the stick-like clave, with a backbeat more directly related to soul and rock and roll. Cuba had a major hit in 1965 with "El Pito (I'll Never Go Back To Georgia)" in what was then called the boogaloo style.
"Bang Bang" came out the following year, the result of a gig where Cuba's sextet was playing for a black audience who wasn't terribly receptive to the mambo and cha cha cha. The piano player played a riff, and the audience started to dance immediately while chanting "Toot Toot! Ah! Beep Beep!" A hit was born, reaching the top 30 in Billboard's R & B chart and top 100 Pop - remarkable considering Cuba's label Tico was very small and focused largely on New York and environs. More importantly, the vocal refrain entered popular culture and grandly resurfaced as the hook for Donna Summer's smash "Bad Girls" a decade later, and regularly since then, as with R Kelly's "Ignition" from his Chocolate Factory album.
Cuba had more hits through the sixties, but as the boogaloo craze gave way to salsa, his popularity declined, though he gigged steadily until his death last year. Tico was absorbed into Fania during the 1970s, and Fania's relaunch a few years ago has brought the wide variety and sheer quantity of the label's catalog to a whole new audience. "Bang Bang" is a classic party song, no matter your tastes: nonsensical, food-oriented lyrics, that refrain, and a backbeat that just won't quit.
Download "Bang Bang" by the Joe Cuba Sextet here.