For this “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something pertaining to the topic of “Music“. There are so many songs that I can remember from years ago, and since music is a huge part of our family, the memories come streaming back when you hear a certain song.
Do you ever have that tune that comes on the radio, and you can just automatically remember where you were, who you were with and what you were doing? It amazes me, how as I get older, I can’t remember things from last week – but have that certain song come on the radio on a “Flashback” day, and “BOOM”, I am back in the place I was when I heard it. Don’t know if it’s the side effects of my brain surgery, which they said might affect certain memory, but I’m so glad that I can remember some things of the “good old days.”
So to get on with this “Things That Brings Back Memories” blog post for this week, I’m going to pick Puttin’ On The Ritz by Taco, which was released in 1982. If you don’t know about the song that I’m talking about, here it is:
I never knew that this was a cover song that had an original version out years before – really? I remember that in the 80’s, I loved this song so much, that I wanted to dress up like Taco for Halloween at Cabrillo Elementary School in about 2nd grade. I used a baton that had black & white electrical tape over it to look like his dancing baton. I was called to the office, and got in trouble for having a dangerous item at school. Whatever! I was a dancer, dang it! ha/ha Did you ever listen to this song? What did you think of it?
More Info on the Song:
“Puttin’ On the Ritz” is a song orignally written by Irving Berlin. He wrote it in May 1927 and first published it in December 2, 1929. It was registered as an unpublished song August 24, 1927 and again on July 27, 1928. It was introduced by Harry Richman and chorus in the musical film Puttin’ On the Ritz (1930). According to The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, this was the first song in film to be sung by an interracial ensemble. The title derives from the slang expression “putting on the Ritz,” meaning to dress very fashionably. The expression was inspired by the opulent Ritz Hotel.
Hit phonograph records of the tune in its original period of popularity of 1929–1930 were recorded by Harry Richman and by Fred Astaire, with whom the song is particularly associated. Every other record label had their own version of this popular song (Columbia, Brunswick, Victor, and all of the dime store labels). Richman’s Brunswick version of the song became the number-one selling record in America.
In 1982 singer Taco released a synth-pop cover version of “Puttin’ On the Ritz” as a single from his album After Eight, released on Polydor of Germany. The single was aided by its hugely popular music video (of which there are two versions) which includes a tap dance solo in honor of the late Fred Astaire. The original version contains characters in blackface and has since been banned from many networks. The alternate version eliminates many shots of the blackface characters; notably two who appear during the song’s “super duper” line are replaced with a photograph of Gary Cooper, however the blackface characters can still be seen in a few shots.
The single was a global hit, reaching No. 1 in Cashbox as well as No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,making Irving Berlin, then 95, the oldest ever living songwriter to have one of his compositions enter the top ten. It was certified Gold by the RIAA for selling over one million US copies. It was Taco’s only hit in the States. This version of the song was ranked No. 53 in VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80’s special. The song topped the charts in Sweden and New Zealand, and it entered the Top 5 in numerous countries including Norway, Austria and Canada.
The Taco cover of the song was used in Baby Geniuses (1999) and The Call (2013). Alvin and the Chipmunks covered Taco’s version of the song for “Don’t Be a Videot”, a 1984 episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
More Info on Taco:
Taco Ockerse, born in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 21, 1955, had spent many of his childhood years moving around the world residing in the Netherlands, the United States, Singapore, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. He attended the International School of Brussels, Belgium, and graduated in 1973. Afterward, he studied interior decoration and finished acting school in Hamburg. He held lead roles in numerous school productions, including You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Carousel; The Fantasticks; and Fiddler on the Roof.
In 1975, he began his first professional theatrical engagements in Hamburg. This included roles in Children’s Theater, and roles as an ensemble member of the Thalia Theater in a number of plays, including Sweet Charity, Chicago, and Three Musketeers. He also directed and choreographed for the musical Nightchild. In 1979, he played “Chino” in John Neumeier’s West Side Story at Hamburg Opera House. He founded his first band, Taco’s Bizz, in 1979.
In 1981, Taco signed his first record contract with Polydor (Germany) for two record releases, whereon he released his first single, “Puttin’ On the Ritz”, which in 1982 was picked up by RCA Records for US release. His version of the song also had pieces of other Irving Berlin songs, such as “White Christmas”. The single was widely played throughout the U.S. by late summer of 1983 eventually peaking at number 4 in September 1983 on the Hot 100 as well as number 1 on Cashbox. Although the single eventually earned him a Gold-certification in USA for selling over one million copies, it was Taco’s only top-40 hit in the U.S. In 1983 and 1984, he toured extensively throughout Europe. While the single “Puttin’ on the Ritz” topped the charts in Sweden and New Zealand, it entered the Top 5 in numerous countries including Norway, Austria and Canada. His subsequent album, After Eight, was released in over 40 countries and managed to reach No. 4 in Norway, No. 5 in Canada, No. 11 in Austria, No. 17 in New Zealand, No. 23 in the United States, and No. 59 in Germany. The album earned Taco a number of Gold certifications including one in Finland for selling over 25,000 copies.
Some Other Interesting Facts:
- In addition to the Taco cover, this tune has enjoyed a number of revivals. A hit swing music version was recorded by Benny Goodman in 1939. Ella Fitzgerald also performed a swing music version.
- The song is also used in the title music for the Game Boy game Super Hunchback.
- Swing revivalists the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies recorded a version of the song for their 2016 covers album The Boop-A-Doo.
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