Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventy-Nine -- Fearless Maria Considers Seis Canciones para El Cinco de Mayo

Fearless Maria is here today and she's been thinking it's time for another music fiesta.

Hola! Puedo ir al baño, papa?

Really? We're just starting this and you already need to make a trip down the hall?

No, just joking, Dad! Had to show off my Spanish speaking skills! After all, we do have our final test on Wednesday. Or should I say, Miercoles?

That's fine, Maria. Muy bien.

Well, sabes que hoy es Cinco de Mayo, verdad?

So I've heard. It is Cinco de Mayo, but your Uncle Carlos says that Cinco de Mayo is an invention of the beer companies. But he doesn't like Corona very much, so I'm not sure if he's right.

So they're putting beer cans in the piñatas now, Dad? That would hurt if the thing broke open on your head! And isn't that against the law anyway?

Oh, I don't know about that. What I do know is that when you come by, you like to talk about music, right?

Well, of course I do! Me gusta musica! So what were you thinking about today? Something reflecting our complete lack of Mexican heritage, other than Uncle Carlos?

Well, Uncle Carlos pretty much has the market cornered on that. I'd do my heritage but we've already done Cheesehead rock a long time ago, so we can do songs that are at least Mexican-American. How does that grab you?

That sounds good, Dad! Where do we begin?

We can begin almost at the beginning of the rock era. There was a guy named Ricardo Valenzuela who was an early rock star, but we knew him as Ritchie Valens. Sadly, he ended up on the same plane as Buddy Holly and he died when he was only 17 years old, but he had some hits, including this one:

Well, I have to say that I really like that song, Dad! It's a lot calmer than the stuff we usually do around here! Cough cough Slade cough cough. And he seemed to be able to spell better than Slade, too! But if his name was Ricardo Valenzuela, why did he perform under the name Ritchie Valens?

Well, in those days some folks who were of Mexican-American heritage tried to soft-pedal their heritage. It seems strange now, but that's how it was back then. I have even more examples of that. If we move on to 1965, we can see this strange occurrence. It's a guy named Domingo Samudio who called himself Sam the Sham. What's weirder, he dressed up his band in strange Egyptian outfits. And it looked something like this:

Boy, Dad -- they really are walking like an Egyptian! So how weird is that? That seems confusing. Are the Mexican-American? Are they from the Middle East? Or maybe they followed Bugs Bunny and took the wrong turn at Albuquerque? I'm not sure what to think about that!

I don't know why, but it kinda makes me sad. But the thing was, there were a lot of people pretending to be something they weren't in those days. Consider these guys, who came from just across the border in Texas. It was 1965 and all the British Invasion bands were coming over, so they decided to pretend they were a British Invasion band, too. Not sure they fooled anyone, though. It's the Sir Douglas Quintet:

Well, Dad -- it looks like you are up to your old tricks again! With bad hair and cardboard castle backdrops, which you would probably find at Michael's Craft Stores! I'm not going into the details again and I still am hoping Michael's will send me a royalty check, but so far they haven't! Propaganda wannabes! Besides that, I'll bet the only castles these guys ever saw was at a White Castle hamburger stand! It's a good song to eat a slider to, though, Dad! Not that you've ever bought me a slider. What's wrong with White Castle, anyway? We all have to depend on our castle on the chessboard!

White Castle isn't usually on my radar these days, but we could take you there sometime, but only if Gino says it's okay, as I have come to rely on him for restaurant reviews.

Good thinking, Dad. Gino has our back! And the youth of America! But I need more music. Was anyone else hiding back in the 1960s?

I don't think you can hide your identity much more than calling yourself "? and the Mysterians." The lead singer's name of this band was Rudy Martinez, and he uncorked this garage band classic not long after Sir Doug and the boys left the charts:

I have a few questions for this Question Mark guy! Number one, did he really count all 96 tears? He must be a real nerd or something! Number two -- why hide your identity when Rudy can't fail? And if I took the castles from Sir Douglas, could I play chess on Rudy's shirt? I do like the song, however, and I think it's quite catchy. I thought the keyboard with the reverse keys was pretty funky, too! But why did these guys all try to hide their identities? That seems strange to me!

I don't really know, Maria. It's unfortunate. But things changed quickly just a few years later, when Santana arrived on the scene. I've shown you Carlos Santana before, but here's one of his better performances from about 1971 or so:

Wow, Dad, it almost looks like Carlos Santana has an Afro! I can tell it's the 70s now because the hair is really big on these guys! So what is Neshabur, anyway?

I don't really know, but I think it's about a town in Iran that Santana may have visited back then. I'm guessing he hasn't been back in a while, though.

Iran? Geez, we must have set a record for geography in this post! We've got Mexican-American people talking about Egypt, England and Iran, all in America! It's just like watching the Travel Channel except without Adam Richman trying to eat 9 lbs. of food in a single sitting!

Yep. But by the time the great Mexican-American band Los Lobos came around in the 1980s, they just did whatever they liked without worrying about hidden identities or strange towns in Iran. And they could rock it, as they did on this song from 1992, Dream in Blue:

These guys are a lot more modern and they seem to be wearing regular clothing. Guess that's the way it is. So why did they name their band "Los Lobos," anyway? Isn't that a little frightening? Or do they have a sponsorship with the Humane Society?

I assume they're trying to make the world forget about these guys.

Lobo? Aw, come on, Dad! Well, maybe that wasn't so bad -- at least they're learning their rhyming skills! But I guess the wimp factor is pretty much off the charts.

That's right. No wimps here. And now it's time to vote, right?

That's right, people! I hope you had fun learning about various random heritage as we showed off our Spanish skills! And no, we aren't serving any Corona Beer, either -- Uncle Carlos told us not to! So vote for your favorite in the comments section or else we'll bring out some real lobos and chase you right up a tree! Not really, but we do want your vote! Arriba musica!


Night Writer said...

Another reason to keep your identity a a secret is because you're wanted by the police, and my wife thinks you're dead:

Night Writer said...

My earlier comment may be stuck in moderation due to the link. Nevertheless, if your best attempts to remain anonymous are foiled and someone thinks they are on to you, you can always insist, "You don't know me."

Mr. D said...

Sorry about the moderation, NW. Can't access the youtube from here, but we'll check it out tonight. Did you like any of the songs on offer?

jerrye92002 said...

What comes instantly to my mind is "Cuando Calienta el Sol." A great melody; here's a link:

jerrye92002 said...

I also like "Granada" arranged as a bolero, "[Blue] Spanish Eyes," and I know the Spanish lyrics to "Cielito Lindo."

Night Writer said...

I always liked the "Woolly-Boolly" song, though if Sam was trying to hide his ethnicity he shouldn't have done the "Uno, dos, one, two, tres, cautro!" lead-in. He makes an impressive-looking Indian though. Kind of reminds me of how Sal Mineo got cast for all kinds of "dark skin" roles: Persian, Mexican, Native American, Levantine. They kept the Sicilian kid busy!

Gino said...

every kid needs to go to white castle. its an american icon. take maria (and ben, he neds the education,too) and order up a couple dozen.

interesting selection this week, but you've left out Manic Hispanic if you were trying to cover/transition all bases and eras. you need to look into them. its a good act that keeps music fun.

my pick...
richie valens- Oh Donna. rarely has a song been written so beatifully and with such simplicity. when its real, and in this case it was, it will never be wrong.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I'll go with ? and the Mysterians. I like the song, the shades and the name.