GROW BIGGER EARS #9: English Hits Sung in Spanish by Original Artists! Kool & The Gang, Barry Manilow, Captain & Tennille, Gipsy Kings
Record companies in the 1970s extended their reach to other countries by re-recording original artists singing their hits in Spanish! Well-meaning gesture or shameless dinero grab?🤷♂️No sé.
Esta es la edición en inglés de GROW BIGGER EARS. Para leer la edición en español, haga clic aquí:
The GROW BIGGER EARS Hits in Spanish 4-song Playlist here (each song is available separately lower in the article for your convenience):
The Captain & Tennille’s “God Only Knows” (“Lo Sabe Dios”), not available on Spotify, is included here in a YouTube video, at article’s end.
The Industry’s Vinyl Resting Place?
In the mid- and late-1970s, records were released in many versions and iterations. The punk and new wave surge during that time informed record labels to take the same kind of risky and adventurous merchandising ploy their artists seemed to be taking musically.
The disco boom of the late ‘70s was another PVC merch playground for record companies, and it seems they couldn’t get enough.
Thus was whelped a healthy (and costly, almost to the point of breaking the industry bank by 1979) dose of wacky wax, like colored vinyl releases (some standard, some promo-only or specially packaged apart from the regular street-issue), swirled, multi-colored records, and virtually unplayable picture discs (like the one below):
A&M Records, themselves, consumed with this new vinyl kaleidoscope (see The Stranglers and the label’s No Wave punk compilation, to name two), even came up with a new one: The single album made available in a 10-inch double album (looking at you, Look Sharp! by Joe Jackson, shown below amazingly factory-shrink-wrapped from 1979, with the original “Look Sharp!” button in the upper-left-hand corner)!
Coincidentally, the particular piece shown below has a Music Plus retail price sticker on it. With this being a ‘79 release, it was the next year I started working at the Music Plus (a popular SoCal retail record chain) in Glendale, shortly after moving from Houston to the L.A. area in January ‘80.
In yet another happy coincidence, Look Sharp! was produced by David Kershenbaum, whose name regular readers of this august publication will recognize as the producer of key FR&B contributor, Stephen Michael Schwartz’s 1974 self-titled debut album on RCA, about which more can be gleaned by clicking here!
And, You Thought Record Execs Had No Scents
And, if you thought some albums in the 1970s truly stunk, you weren’t wrong, at least olfactorily-speaking! The Raspberries’ 1972 debut album on Capitol had a raspberry-scented scratch’n’sniff sticker solidly affixed.
Also infusing the surrounding albums on your shelf at home with the aroma of candied fruit was The Brothers Johnson, for whom A&M Records felt compelled to issue their “Strawberry Letter 23” single with the 12-inch vinyl itself actually reeking of strawberry!
I’m wondering what stopped Private Stock Records from dunking the yellow vinyl of a 1976 Peter Lemongello single into a vat of Lemon Pledge!
I used to wonder how one of Peter’s cousins, a former Houston Astros pitcher named Mark, could involve the singer in a felony…but, he did, and that whole sordid affair (and its aftermath, which curiously, involves American Idol at one point) can be uncovered here:
Another serendipitous connection: The Lemongello single was “If You Walked Away,” written by Arista recording artist (at the time), and singer/songwriter, David Pomeranz, with whom Stephen Michael Schwartz wrote a song (“Right Foot, Left Foot”) a couple years later! That songwriting collab can be read about (in Stephen’s own words) and heard (in Stephen’s own voice), here:
Lots in Translation
Adding to the ‘70s record biz sideshow of colored and scented vinyl was the sudden propensity of taking songs that have already been hits, and re-releasing them with the original artists recording (over their original instrumental tracks) the songs in Spanish!
No need to bring in the session musicians or orchestra to re-record…the singer just came in to record a new Spanish-language track over the existing instrumental track.
In the 1970s, I remember getting a promo album from A&M Records: The Love Will Keep Us Together album by The Captain & Tennille. That’s not unusual, being in radio at the time. But, this album, looking exactly the same, was the Spanish-language version (Por Amor Viviremos por El Capitan Y Tennille, with every song now in Spanish), hitting the streets several weeks after the standard English-language issue that was released in spring 1975.
Then, came Kool & the Gang with their rousing “Celebremos,” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” with both coming on a 12” disco single. Doubtless, there were others, but to round out our GBE Playlist, we’ve included The Eagles’ “Hotel California” by the Gipsy Kings, done…you guessed it: In Spanish!
Front Row & Backstage is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.