Twice 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.
On the last day of the holiday, we went to the big department store complex just outside Palma, Carrefour. There was a record section in one part, and we spent half an hour or so checking the CDs in the hope on lucking onto the track, but no joy. Though I did discover a CD with this gorgeous blonde on the front, long straight blonde hair, austere features, short skirt, bare midriff. I waved the CD at my wife, on the other side of the bay, said I had no idea what the music was like but could I but this for the cover? She grinned back at me.
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. There was a striking looking woman, a Paulina Rubio, singing in English. Songs like “Don’t Say Goodbye”, and “Fire (Sexi Dance)” and “I’ll Be Right Here (Sexual Lover)”
Now that was an intriguing title and the video was intriguing as well, though my appreciation of what I was seeing was rather remote, depression being the very opposite of an aphrodisiac, but the odd thing was that, whilst Ms Rubio was nice to look at, and the video for her ballad “The One You Love” features her wandering around the beach in a very abbreviated yellow bikini for the whole song, it wasn’t just the visuals. I was listening out for something, something that, not too much later, I would recognise in Amaral, but I was listening. Nor were the voices particularly comparable, Rubio’s being throaty, husky, and her music was primarily uptempo, Hi-NRG dance music of a kind that didn’t interest me, but they were coming with strong melodies, good, clear songs, not just rhythms, but genuine songs that I actually liked listening to.
Why her instead of another? I don’t know, but it wasn’t just the legs, or the decidedly wicked grin, or the slim but definitely noticeable figure. Against all reason, I actually liked Paulina Rubio’s music. My wife thought it was all about the short skirts, and she wasn’t wrong, but she was only fifty percent right.
It helped that Rubio’s most recent album, Border Girl, had been her attempt to break into the English-speaking market (she’d actually performed “Don’t Say Goodbye” on CD:UK, but I never watched that), on which the majority of songs were ones she had recorded on her previous CD, Paulina, now translated, and learned phonetically (and very skilfully sung too: you wouldn’t realise she doesn’t know what she’s actually singing because she gets the meaning into her voice).
It led me, eventually, to acquiring all her albums, though there’s a distinct difference in sound between the four recorded prior to Paulina and those recorded once she took control of her own career. Rubio, who is actually Mexican by birth, has only occasionally sung in English since.
So that’s double the reason why those songs from Border Girl are still my favourites and, if you’re in the mood for irony, once I bought it, I couldn’t help but laugh to find that that was, after all, the CD I’d picked up in Carrefour and asked it I could buy it unheard.
I could have chosen “I’ll Be Right Here” or “The One You Love” for the position in The Infinite Jukebox, and perhaps one time I will write about them, as songs and music. But ultimately, “Not That Kind Of Girl” is my favourite. It’s the closest to pure pop rock, without any element of dance, it has an insanely catchy chorus and whereas once the Kind of Girl Rubio is proudly proclaiming she’s not would have been the one who enjoyed carnal relations with men outwith the sanctity of marriage, now and in 2002 she’s making it plain she’s not going to be a doormat and give in to what he wants all the time and I love that.
But it’s the video that tips it for me, this one time. It’s a beautifully conceived, shot and modelled sequence of short trailers for non-existent Sixties B-movies, all glam spies, California chicks, girl racing drivers and beach girls, and Rubio’s every one of them and she’s different in every one of them, and they’re all perfect, and she’s having so much of a whale of a time that you wish all of them were real and you could watch them, and just like that ahead-of-its-time machine in The Flying Dutchman in Milnthorpe in 1964 or thereabouts, The Infinite Jukebox now has a video section, just for this one song.
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?
The video version is of the Spanish original, ‘Yo No Soy Esa Mujer’