Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Chakachas: Jungle Fever (Polydor PD 15030)

This one gets my vote for one of the strangest records ever to hit the Top 10. At a time when AM Radio was dominated by the likes of Climax, Beverly Bremers and, of course, The Carpenters (despite T. Rex sneaking in their only US hit), there was absolutely nothing else that sounded like this.

I'm talking about the winter-early spring of 1972 when the Chakachas' only charting 45 would go all the way to the #8 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Who were they, exactly? A sextet of Belgian studio musicians, all middle-aged and married, who got together, recorded some sides and then went their separate ways. Polydor Records then issued those sides stateswide, and, to the surprise of everyone no doubt, "Jungle Fever" became a hit. (For more information, I refer you to Wayne Jancik's superb book "The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders."

1972 was also a year of oddball instrumental hits from Apollo 100's "Joy" to Billy Preston's "Outa Space" to Hot Butter's moog piece "Popcorn." But "Jungle Fever" had to be the oddest of the whole bunch. Also the most sexually explicit, even though it's an instrumental. Because the song is punctuated at various pauses by the sounds of female and male orgiasmic moaning. One has to wonder how, with all that moaning and heavy breathing going on, this record even got played on the radio in 1972, let alone become as big as it did.

The song is characterized by its persuasive percussion, consisting of maraccas, congas and drums, which remain the driving force throughout, backed up by a jerky funky guitar riff and low-key horns. Things pause just enough for a female voice to go something like "" or similar before the funky stuff kicks back in. This happens two more times before we get two french horns blowing a subdued riff over the jerky rhythms.

The structure continues like this until towards the end, the moans get louder, the horns go off, the guitar kicks off, the congas and drums vanish and finally it's just down to the moaning and the soft hum of the maraccas. Then, the band kicks in for the big finish, stopping for one last satisfied moan and a low note on a trambone. End of song.

After "Jungle Fever's" run was over, you hardly ever heard it again. It disappeared from the airwaves and oldies radio hardly ever plays it (at least I've never heard it). But the 1997 film "Boogie Nights" gave it another airing during an early meeting between Heather Graham's Rollergirl and Mark Wahlberg. Yes, it's a sex scene. What else could it be?


Anonymous said...

I definitely think this is a very sexy song, and a hell of a dance number, you just can't help but feel the beat!!!!

Anonymous said...

This song knows how to leave an impression!

One more run for this song: Welcome to Los Santos! (GTA:SA)

I actually think the song would work with some helicopter in the background (don't ask me why)...

DJ John England said...

It was the official beginning of disco, that's why it was so different!

David Downing said...

What disturbs me about this song is that it sounds like the woman is being raped. I mean, she keeps shouting "No! No! No! No!"

Anonymous said...

...and if she was shouting "Dear God!" would you think she was praying?

Bill said...

She was speaking in Spanish and she was clearly enjoying herself. It was no rape - but it was pretty good acting - if it was not real ?

Chainsaw said...

Spanish, huh?

To me it sounds like she's saying no more than yes, but more because she's dissatisfied than raped - with her voice, you'd think she'd raise it if raped and it would burn your ears off. Likewise, if whoever was diddling her actually got her off, she'd raise the roof, if not the dead.

This isn't official, but...
if it really is Spanish, I'd love to see a translation, and you can write this off as another Yatta

I, I can feel it with you, aye
No, no, no, oy, oy
You see, I see I see I oy

Sorry, no, no, no, see
Ah fuck muh oy I
I know, but my, my, my...

Leave me, darling, leave me, uh
No, no, no, no
Sorry, sorry, sorry, softer

Ah, I, uh, aye, uh yeah, I yeah,
(heavy breathing)
(little squeals and sighs)
the beat returns

and then it ends with a weird, shivery moan. It sounds like she's crying because she didn't get off, or because it was so disappointing. And it's cut off at the end but the guy's track keeps going. Very strange. I hadn't listened to it that closely. I suppose if I were going off to make a porno and found a half-dozen middle-aged Belgian guys, I might feel the same way.

Musically, there's an awful lot of people playing not very much - they make Booker T. sound like prog-rock. Each player's got one riff, take it or leave it. And if you're a trombone player, one note's a riff. You'd never know it from jazz, but two notes make a sax riff. The closest thing to a melody, let alone solo, is the French horn - he goes up AND back down, THEN he does it again, different.

Anonymous said...

there's nothing about "you see, I see" or "I know" stuff, she's speaking spanish and she just keeps saying stuff like suave,ay que fiebre, así, dame, and other word from my language's sexy vocabulary. By the way great song! love it. muy buena canción y muy buen grupo!

Anonymous said...

Actually the first thing the female vocalist says is "Ah, ay que fiebre, ay!"

(loosely translated, oh what a fever I have!)

Anonymous said...

Charter cable has that song semi-regularly on the 70's channel. Every time it comes on I mute it for my mom's sake. Too embarrassing.

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