Once upon a time…
The first year we holidayed on Mallorca, my wife did all the driving. She was familiar with left-hand drive cars and I had never driven on the right hand side of the road. We had a great holiday.
There was no reason to expect anything different the following year, but when we touched down at Palma airport, she was very headachey and not in a fit state to drive. With her mother and stepfather keeping comfortably ahead to guide me all the way from Palma to Llucmajor, I found myself behind the wheel. The next morning, she was better, but I got given the key for the journey on to Cala Llombards, and the rest of our holidays over there.
The other big difference was that, after a safe daylight journey, I was confident enough with driving to have the radio on. The local station blasted out a nearly fifty/fifty mix of English and Spanish pop, with, despite their heavy presence in certain areas, no German pop (is there any such thing?). The English music was familiar, the Spanish merged into Latin rhythms and horns and incomprehensible lyrics. Some songs, for no discernible reason, were on heavy rotation, The Eagles’ “One of these Nights” (1975), Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” (1973) were on every day, and I can’t now divorce America’s dry, dusty winter 1971 hit “A Horse with No Name” from hearing whilst whilst driving into Palma, the sparkling blue of the Med and the white sails to our left, the sun-soaked hotels to our right.
Not all the Spanish songs were indistinguishable. One began with clear, bell-like guitar, picking out a slow, yearning phrase, with a female voice singing “oh, oh-oh, oh,” and words in Spanish that rode lightly over the guitar in a long intro that suddenly hit a beat, as bass, drums and organ came in and the song went for it. No horns, nothing latin but the words, a piece of pure pop-rock and a hook that tugged instantly at the soul. It was absolutely brilliant, and it was on as much rotation as Chicago or the Eagles, and every time it hit the air, I was listening intently.
What the hell was it? My wife understood Spanish, but she could never hear an announcement of title or act. We listened for what repeated in the chorus, came up with the guess that it was called “Beneficito”. Once home, she looked up the radio station on line, e-mailed them – in Spanish – with a request for information, but we never got a reply.
Leap forward a couple of years, maybe three. I hadn’t forgotten my song. I’d searched YouTube for “Beneficito” but nothing came up. We’d not been back to Mallorca the last couple of years. I was off work for a fortnight with stress, in the midst of a bout of deep, slumping depression. Whilst she was out at university, I was alone at home, spending hours in front of the computer. Remembering “Beneficito”, I tried to track it down again. Maybe we’d misheard it, and my wife had wracked her brains over possible alternate Spanish titles. One of these was “Te Necessito” (I Need You). There were “Te Necessito”s on YouTube, and one of them might have been what I was looking for. I’d not heard the song in over two years, and only a handful of times then.
There were other songs I tried. Female singer, female Spanish singers. A couple of tracks that, unusually, I liked listening to.
And then I saw “Te Necessito” by Amaral. It was an actual video, just like we had in Angle pop (fancy that!) I’d like to say that something clicked, that I went for the track with a heightened sense of anticipation, and maybe I did, or maybe that’s just after-the-fact romanticising, but the first note, the first second cut through all my mental fog and I knew in an instant that I’d got it. This was the “Te Necessito” of that Mallorcan summer, all clear, bell-like notes, that crisp, neat beat, that achingly gorgeous chorus, and the Spanish lady singing it wasn’t bad either.#
The video alternated between Eva Amaral, she of the vocals, wandering a mysterious Spanish hillside, turning her back on a mysterious stranger, Juan Aguirre, he of the ringing guitar and woolly hats as a string quartet with strange eyeless white masks augment the rhythm, and a five piece band in an all-white indoor environment cracking out the song. All as incomprehensible as any video gets, especially for a love song (I have run the lyrics through Babelfish.com and that’s what it is, as the plain English title indicates.
The studio part of the video is misleading, as Amaral is only Eva (who doubles on percussion) and Juan, and for the last two decades they’ve been one of Spain’s biggest acts, with “Te Necessito” having been the second in a run of ten consecutive singles of which NINE went to number 1.
It did nothing to shift my gloom at the time, but since then, I’ve gone on to collect their complete run of albums, including special editions in the two most recent cases. Between them, and Shakira, and someone else who I shall be writing about shortly, The Infinite Jukebox now has a Spanish section, and I have a self-burned DVD collecting all the videos associated with that run of hit singles. That I really ought to play more often than I do.
And if my wife hadn’t developed that headache flying, and she’d have been doing the driving, odds are we’d never have had the radio on that week. Funny, isn’t it?
Once upon a time…