Documentary telling the story of the foreign pop song from World War Two to the present day, taking in everything from Anton Karas's zither music to Greek balladeer Demis Roussos.
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Laurence, Angela likes Demis Roussos, Tony likes Demis Roussos,
I like Demis Roussos and Sue would like to hear Demis Roussos.
So, please, do you think we could have Demis Roussos on?
# Ever and ever
# For ever and ever... #
We British have a love-hate relationship with foreign pop,
but some of these songs have sold in their millions
and gone into our hearts.
The way he puts it over. The way he sings.
It's that little tone in his voice that no other singer's got.
Catchy tunes - once heard, never forgotten.
Instant memories of a holiday abroad.
# This year I'm off to sunny Spain... #
It's sort of a pop equivalent
of coming back with a sombrero
or a straw donkey or some duty free retsina.
This is a different history of pop since the war.
Never mind guitar, bass and drums,
think balalaikas, zithers and panpipes.
I think every now and again,
a funny instrument breaks into the mainstream!
It's a story that starts with Hawaiian bands...
..and leads to Shakira.
# Le-lo, lo-le, lo-le Le-lo, lo-le, lo-le
# Can't you see? I'm at your feet... #
And now that music's gone global,
has the appeal of the foreign pop song gone for ever?
Is there still anyone for Demis?
..imagine making love to this, do you know what I mean?
We start our story in the 1940s
and the aftermath of the Second World War.
Life for most British people was far from exotic,
but in dance halls and on the radio,
music played a huge role in cheering up the nation.
The popular music was big bands, Glenn Miller and Vera Lynn...
..but there were other sounds, as well.
Influenced by Hollywood films,
music from around the world was reaching these shores.
Hawaiian music had swept through the US in the 1930s.
During the war, it came to Britain.
Introducing Felix Mendelssohn And His Hawaiian Serenaders,
in Sophisticated Hula.
# Hands on your hips
# Do your hula dips
# Sophisticated hula is the talk of the town... #
Felix Mendelssohn, a distant descendant of the famous composer,
was a London-born band leader
who latched on to the fad for Hawaiian music.
His star guitarist was Harry Brooker,
whose son Gary later found fame himself,
with the group Procol Harum.
Felix Mendelssohn And His Hawaiian Serenaders -
they were huge.
They were one of the biggest live entertainment things on the circuit.
A lot of my father's friends,
who were obviously his colleagues and Felix Mendelssohn's,
were from the South Seas
and certainly were exotic. The women were absolutely wonderful.
I can remember nestling on,
I think it was Luisa Mao's lap whilst she wasn't dancing
and it was very comfortable in there!
My name is Doreena Tahni Sugondo...
..and I danced for Felix Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders.
I was one of his hula lovelies.
I sang with a local dance band, Hawaiian, of course,
and they took me to Sheffield to see Felix Mendelssohn's show...
..and I was absolutely fascinated.
Mesmerised, if you like.
I sat there and it transported me from Sheffield in Yorkshire
into Hawaii, and I really loved it.
I told my mum, "I'm going to go in showbusiness",
and I packed my suitcase and went to Hull,
to the Tivoli Theatre where Felix was appearing...
..and I asked him, "Can I join your band, please?"
And he said yes.
This is my grass skirt...
..and I made it in 1947.
We had a head girl - she would go out and buy materials.
We all had to make our own costumes, then.
If I had been in the audience and I was watching that show,
I would have been transported out of an ordinary, humdrum life
into paradise because that's what it was like.
Exotic performers like Felix Mendelssohn
were popular speciality acts in film,
on the radio and also on television.
The BBC television service had gone off air during the war,
but when it returned in 1946,
so did a roll call of international entertainers.
It seemed to me that the war
gave people an interest in continental artists,
particularly the French.
The producer I worked for -
he managed to persuade the gentleman who owned the Lido cabaret in Paris,
which was very famous and still is there today,
to close it for a night so that we could fly over the whole company
to Alexandra Palace to do a show.
And they came, all of them -
the acts and the Bluebell Girls
who, of course, were part of it.
And the mannequins - we had special costumes made for them
because we couldn't have any bare breasts, of course.
There was no template
for what television programmes were going to be
and so, you did variety programmes.
Variety but with a little bit more, not just music hall artists,
but artists who could blend in a bit of ballet, a bit of opera,
and so forth, so...
And a lot of the artists were continental.
But television only had a tiny audience.
The cinema was still king.
Played by Anton Karas on a hitherto unknown instrument
called the zither,
the most popular continental tune of the day
was the Harry Lime theme from the film The Third Man.
It sold half a million copies in its first month
and zither sales rocketed.
Although people in the services had travelled abroad during the war,
for most Britons, the idea of venturing outside the UK
was still a dream.
You might not even leave your home town or your home city
virtually at all in your life.
For a lot of people, music from Spain or from France or Italy,
I mean, this is a world they could never imagine
and it gives them a sort of, a taste of the almost unfathomably exotic.
It really is the ultimate escapism.
Britain's taste for exotic music
could be seen on television
and in the newly-invented pop charts which first started in 1952.
The top sellers of those days were a bizarre combination
of novelty records, comedy songs and foreign-themed instrumentals.
The pre-Beatle era in Britain, in British pop, is fascinating
because it is this unformed mish-mash.
Simply another facet of what you might call entertainment or variety.
So, music is part of the same culture that brings you
ventriloquism and end-of-the-pier comics
and, erm, you know, orchestral pop and things like that.
So, it isn't the preserve of kids
and it isn't speaking about their culture, it's simply...
It's just silliness, if you like.
# Life will be sweeter
# With senoritas
# Who can besame as mucho as they please... #
It's like the Good Old Days or something like that.
Here's a ventriloquist, here's a comic, here's an impressionist
and here's some music
but it's essentially trivial.
Two-Way Family Favourites on a Sunday afternoon -
the radio programme that we'd always associate
with the smell of boiling cabbage, you know,
is full of those kind of tunes -
Walk In The Black Forest and Happy Wanderer.
# Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann... #
The Happy Wanderer by the Obernkirchen Children's Choir
is one of the most indestructible of these international pop melodies.
The choir was set up to help children of the German town
orphaned by wartime bombing.
They became a propaganda tool
when the choir was sent on a goodwill tour to Britain in 1953.
And it was at a music festival in North Wales
that the choir revealed their secret weapon -
a new song called the Happy Wanderer.
Recorded by the BBC and rapidly released on record,
the Happy Wanderer was an instant hit.
It stayed in the British top ten for an astonishing 26 weeks.
The Obernkirchen Children's Choir is still going and still singing the Happy Wanderer.
However, in the 1950s, the world was changing fast,
not least in Britain's fading empire.
Music from the Commonwealth had rarely been heard in the UK,
but one style of Caribbean music made a big impact that lasted well into the 1960s.
That's perhaps the only living folk music in English in the Commonwealth.
A pungent thing, usually, rich in innuendo.
A vehicle for topical lampoon and political satire,
for the hard luck story and the veiled sexual allusion.
The kind of calypso which became very popular internationally
was specifically a calypso from Trinidad,
from Port of Spain, where there was group of extremely talented
songwriters and singers, who had a talent for a thing called extemporisation
which was basically singing the news.
# ..Because we want peace in the world
# What we need Peace in the world
# No more greed
# To unite universally Because we want peace... #
Calypso initially made an impression on British musical tastes
with the arrival of the first immigrants from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush in 1948.
NEWSREEL: Arrivals at Tilbury.
The Empire Windrush brings to Britain 500 Jamaicans. Many are ex-servicemen who know England.
They served this country well. In Jamaica, they couldn't find work.
Discouraged, but full of hope, they sailed for Britain.
One of the very first 400, 500 people,
who arrived on the Empire Windrush in Tilbury in 1948
was a guy called Lord Kitchener - his nom de plume, obviously -
who was a singer and who entertained people on the boat, apparently,
and his early records, which are wonderful records like London Is The Place for Me,
is a fantastic tune.
I am told you really are the king of calypso singers.
-Is that right?
-That is true.
-Can you sing for us?
# London is the place for me...
# London, this lovely city
# You can go to France or America India, Asia or Australia
# But you must come back to London city. #
The fondness here in Britain for calypso at that time
was picked up by the British media
and if they didn't use the authentic Trinidadian calypsonians themselves,
then other people appeared on popular television and radio programmes at the time,
doing a very similar thing.
So you would get people like Lance Percival...
At this stage, sometimes,
I even make up calypsos about things in the show. Madam!
David Frost's curl on the front of his hair?
# Here we have a young lady who's not completely lost
# She's worried about the curl on the front of her hair
# Or the hair of David Frost
# But I must admit, sir
# It is plain to see
# As I'm the older of the two
# He got the idea from me. #
There's a chap called Cy Grant, who did them, too, and hugely popular.
Always a topical and up to date, Cy Grant has written a calypso especially for this occasion.
We hope it won't prove too technical for you.
# In this age of miracles, it is plain to see
# Colour television is a reality
# In this age of miracles, it is plain to see
# Colour television is a reality Yes... #
My grandfather always used to play Harry Belafonte.
I knew from his voice this was a different sort of singer,
but I didn't know where he was from or the music was that he made.
# Down the way where the nights are gay
# And the sun shines daily on the mountain top
# I took a trip on a sailing ship
# And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop... #
I always find it interesting that calypso had such a potent effect
on the mainstream in the 1950s.
I think that does play a part in breaking down those prejudices
and making the society accept people from different cultures.
# What's the matter with me donkey? Man, I don't know... #
But by the end of the 1950s,
calypso was becoming a pale imitation of its satirical Trinidadian roots.
Nothing could be much paler than Nina & Frederik,
Danish aristocrats who forged an unlikely career as cosmopolitan folk singers on the BBC.
THEY SING A CALYPSO SONG
-# Does me donkey want money?
-No, no, no
-# Maybe he wants honey
-# But me donkey won't eat.
-No, no, no
-# And me donkey won't sleep
-No, no, no... #
Their show was a parade of international stereotypes,
cod foreign accents and all. But the British public lapped it up.
The next tune is a Spanish-Cuban number
and it's about what a man it sees when he rides through the countryside on horseback.
They also had a taste for exotic pop music.
But, I think our relationship with it has been problematic, as British,
because we've quite often seen it as vaguely inferior.
THEY SING IN SPANISH
Which sometimes, I think, reflects a slightly paternalistic attitude towards the cultures.
We're listening to people singing quite childlike songs about nature
and about happiness and about the simple life.
These catchy songs from around the world were just as popular
as the rock 'n' roll hits we now associate with the '50s.
# The day that the rains came down... #
For many in the record industry,
rock 'n' roll was just another exotic fad
that would fade away just as Hawaiian music had a decade earlier.
It's a myth that in the '50s and '60s the only record-buyers were young people.
There were lots of older listeners, as well.
They don't want to listen to long-haired scruffy kids strumming guitars.
They want to listen to a singing nun or a children's choir or whatever it might be.
Because they're looking for something maybe a bit more conservative, a bit more reassuring.
An escapism that appeals to somebody in their 40s rather than in their teens.
# When I feel that something... #
In 1963, the teenagers seemed to have finally taken over with the arrival
of four young musicians from Liverpool.
But not quite.
Just as The Beatles became global superstars,
they were challenged in the charts by a song sung in French by a nun.
MUSIC: "Dominique" by The Singing Nun
Sister Luc Gabriel was a young nun from a convent in Waterloo, Belgium,
a stone's throw from the famous battlefield.
She composed her own songs, including one called Dominique.
SHE SINGS DOMINIQUE
This catchy ditty was taped and sent to Phillips,
who released it as a single.
It went on to outsell Elvis.
Very quickly, millions of the record were sold all over the world,
from Japan to the United States and in '63,
the hit was even number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
She left even The Beatles behind. For the press, it was sensational news.
A singing nun.
And, for the church, she was an interesting instrument
in their promotion campaign to attract Catholic youngsters.
The Singing Nun's success came just after the Kennedy assassination,
when her song's simple charm was much in demand.
But the Singing Nun's story had its own dark conclusion.
Leaving the convent and coming out as a lesbian,
she was ostracised by record company and church alike.
She obviously pulled away from the church and released an anthem to the birth control pill,
which is probably the last thing you would think of a nun or a former nun doing.
Slightly against the grain.
The press, they love to write about her, because it's a juicy story,
articles with titles like Lesbian Ex-Nun, that sells,
and for the church she has become a threat.
In the 1980s, this former singing nun was hounded by the Belgian tax authorities
for royalties on the hit single.
Ironically, she'd never received any money, which all went to the church.
But the battle drove her to despair.
Her and her partner both killed themselves in a suicide pact,
which is not the thing you think would happen when you hear
this really beautiful, gentle, very religious record, really,
so almost listening to that with the story in mind makes it even more affecting.
By the early 1960s, the British public was hearing a lot more foreign pop.
The Eurovision Song Contest had been launched in 1956,
and the UK first took part a year later.
Then, as now, it was a key date in the viewing calendar.
Eurovision, to lots of people, was the one night
where the whole family would be committed to the TV for possibly four hours,
maybe even longer, depending if Katie Boyle was on it or not.
Come in, Paris. Hello. Hello, France. Come in, Paris.
Hello, Paris, May I have your votes, please?
My mother used to like it. and Miss World as well,
another similar programme of sort of exotic things going on.
Here now is Eric Robinson and the orchestra to sound the fanfare
which opens the Eurovision Song Contest of 1960.
It was the only time you could sit and listen to European music of the moment,
sort of, and most of the time it was absolutely diabolical.
SHE SINGS IN DANISH
I think that Eurovision made people much more aware, suddenly,
of this wealth of music talent that there was around Europe.
I remember in the one I did in '63, the Danes eventually won,
because the Norwegians bundled the voting a bit. There is always somebody who gets the voting wrong,
which was a bit confusing for poor Katie Boyle.
They are on the line, I can hear them on the line.
There's the telephone again. Hello?
So that is the final result?
Singing was Francoise Hardy, who sang for
Monaco, I think, and Nana Mouskouri who was singing for Luxembourg.
# A force de prier... #
I was in France singing and all of a sudden they spoke to me
about the Eurovision...
There was no television in those days in Greece,
so they used me for Luxembourg
and I came for the first time, just to sing this, the Eurovision.
Nana Mouskouri didn't win Eurovision that year,
but her appearance was a hit with UK audiences.
In a bold move, the BBC gave this young Greek singer her own television series.
It ran until the early 1980s.
This is the way it started, and singing also a few Greek songs
but translate a little bit what the song was about
and we never thought,
I mean I never thought that it would be interesting,
then we have been for many, many years.
The series, it was opening a very beautiful area from Greece,
or the monument or treasures that we have,
so people wanted to learn about the music
and the music also make them know about your country.
When it started in 1968, Nana Mouskouri's series was a big draw
on the new highbrow channel, BBC Two.
It was a pioneering world music show, with European folk, pop, even jazz.
Millions of people were watching the television
and there were only three channels - it was hugely powerful
so if you got on one of the music-based shows,
people would buy your records.
I think the success of someone like Nana Mouskouri was possibly her televisual presence.
Obviously she is beautiful in that kind of harmless,
you wouldn't be offended if your wife liked her
your wife wouldn't be offended if her husband liked her,
she's not this sort of, you know, sexual dynamo,
or doesn't look like one, anyway.
I think you must have had this whole generation who must have looked at pop
and thought, "My God it is awful - look at his haircut!
"He's wearing a dirty jacket!" then all of a sudden you get Nana Mouskouri
in her lovely little dress, with her combed hair and her clean glasses and her lovely way,
singing a very sweet song, so it is, it's an escape, isn't it?
It's a slightly Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Walt Disney version
of the cultures of the world reduced to a series of national dresses
and funny instruments.
But in some ways it's quite liberating.
The first time I heard international pop was sitting with my nan on a Saturday watching Nana Mouskouri.
Another international act that made a big impact on UK audiences was the Red Army Choir.
It might have been the height of the Cold War, but they wowed the crowds
with their combination of physical and musical gymnastics.
THEY SING KALINKA
Now, you see I could sing that for you now...
I'm not singing Kalinka for you
although I think anyone of my age, it's in there and it ain't going to come out.
It's the Red Army Choir. We're in the Cold War.
Why on earth are people listening to this music, the enemy's music?
But of course one of the key things about the Cold War is that most people actually
weren't very interested in it at all, because it was only a cold war.
When they came over, a lot of people would still
associate the Red Army with the victory over fascism
and with Stalingrad and with beating Hitler
and I think that is what explains a lot of their appeal in the '60s.
And welcome to the Royal Albert Hall, to witness what has been called
the bloodless victory of the Red Army over the British public.
By the mid-1960s, the British public was buying foreign music LPs in their millions
and with stereograms and hi-fi systems becoming a fixture in many homes,
people could travel the world through their record collections.
I was just wondering why you'd buy these exotic records.
buy another couple the next week and build a little collection
to fill under the little stereo thing that had the little gap underneath
to put the records in, and fill it up with easy listening.
Maybe there is some escapism in a sound, "Oh, tonight we can listen to Greece,
"tonight we can go to the South Seas."
But there was one nation whose music we always had a love-hate relationship with - the French.
Let's take a swing at our mates across the channel,
where even the kids talk funny.
SINGS IN FRENCH
People like to believe that French music was terrible
and they were delighted when The Beatles came along
and conquered the world because it allowed them to say...
"Well, yeah OK, we don't have the biggest army and the biggest empire or whatever
"but culturally, we are still the absolute cutting edge."
SINGS IN FRENCH
Johnny Hallyday has always suffered because we thought
it was a ludicrous... he suffers from what we think of
as slightly stupid, not getting it quite right version
of an indigenous British or American rock 'n' roll, so you get Elvis,
and get our Elvis, who's Cliff Richard
who's kind of not quite right but clings with his fingernails to the precipice of cool,
and then Johnny is kind of like the French Cliff Richard.
Everything about it looks wrong to us.
Some of his records are actually quite good. A bit like franglais.
Instead of making their own stuff and celebrating their own culture,
be it sexiness or the impressionistic cool of Debussy or Ravel, it is simply aping ours.
But some French music WAS cool.
Francoise Hardy never had a big hit in the UK,
but as a French icon, she was up there with Brigitte Bardot
and attracted admirers like Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
# Oui mais moi je vais seule
# Par les rues, l'ame en peine
# Oui mais moi je vais seule
# Car personne ne m'aime. #
Could you move that bass absorber...?
Parisian vocal group
the Swingle Singers were also considered chic and sophisticated.
This mic on the right is a little bit low.
Swingle Singers, Badinerie, take one.
Rather cleverly, they didn't use any of those annoying French lyrics.
MUSIC: "Badinerie" by The Swingle Singers
I think something like the Swingle Singers is quite educated,
quite unusual, but it's beautifully clever and beautifully smooth
and beautifully easy and creates a lovely mood.
It's just wonderful to listen too, so you don't have to be
particularly clever to listen to it, I don't think,
which would explain why it sold in bucket loads.
But there was one French song that did cross the channel to top the British charts.
Although it was sung in French, it didn't have many words,
and everybody knew that they meant.
MUSIC: Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus
Serge Gainsbourg, he does have a hit here
although with one of his maybe worst records, Je T'aime, which - I don't know if it is just by association,
but now whenever you hear the tune,
I don't think of kind of sophisticated French erotic pop, I think of Benny Hill.
# Je vais et je viens
# Entre tes reins... #
A lot of that French music is quite erotically charged.
It was a hit because it was a good record, it is
just an English person and a French person singing about love
but erotically, it's just a brilliant hook as well, it's just a very clever record.
It seems that the French music only travels when it's about something slightly ruder.
By 1969, when Je T'Aime was top of the charts,
for many ordinary Britons, the fantasy of travelling abroad had become a reality.
With higher wages in the UK, the creation of the Costa del Sol in Spain
and the availability of cheap flights,
the package holiday had arrived.
I remember people coming back from the their very first Spanish holidays in the '70s
with those bullfighting posters that had your name inserted that kids used to have on their walls.
There is a certain element of that in the pop at the time, as exemplified by Y Viva Espana.
# Oh, this year I'm off to sunny Spain
# Y viva Espana
# I'm taking the Costa Brava plane
# Y viva Espana... #
Sylvia Vrethammar was a successful Swedish jazz singer,
who first had a hit with Y Viva Espana in her home country.
But with the package holiday boom, the song had the potential to travel.
# Espana por favor. #
We decided after a while to record it in English,
and the English lyrics are fantastic, they are really good,
about Rudolph Valentino, about how the English girls,
they come to Spain and at first they are very pale
and then they get brown and everybody loves them.
# When they first arrive the girls are pink and pasty
# But oh so tasty as soon as they go brown
# I guess they know every fellow will be queuing
# To do the wooing his girlfriend won't allow... #
I came with my hat and my Spanish act
and it was mostly pop groups and then Sylvia from Sweden.
It was very big. Everybody was impressed - Top Of The Pops, you know.
# Espana por favor
# La, la, la, la, la, la... #
Y Viva Espana is a brilliantly crafted bit of pop for that market, the lyrics in particular.
# There was one who whispered "Hasta la vista"
# Each time I kissed him behind the castanet
# He rattled his maracas close to me
# In no time I was trembling at the knee
# Oh, this year I'm off to sunny Spain... #
Songs like Y Viva Espana are a chance to kind of recapture
some of the spirit of that holiday
so you don't have to wait 52 weeks before you can
think about sun, sex, sand, sangria and serious sunburn.
It's a sort of mythical Spain as seen by not just us, the English who are buying it,
but by the Swedes and the Germans who are making it.
A Spain of senoritas and... this is a time when red wine was an exotic drink.
It was Britons almost literally putting their toes in the waters of foreign culture.
It wasn't even reflective of the Spain of the time, either, because the Spain of the time
was Franco's Spain, ultra-conservative, you know, horribly repressive.
In Sylvia's home country of Sweden, then strongly left-wing,
Y Viva Espana was seen by some as a pro-Franco anthem.
I was standing in a flower shop and suddenly somebody behind me said...
"Murderer." I said "What?"
They connected me with Franco and his way of treating people,
so, "How can you sing this?
"You must be a murderer too, you must be a dictator or a fascist."
I was standing, I took the telephone and I heard, "Fascist..." Click.
But in reaction to this, on the opening night of her British tour,
Sylvia decided to make her hit into an unlikely protest song.
I am going to sing No Viva Espana.
# This year I'm ba-da ba-da... No viva Espana
# I'm not taking the Costa Brava plane
# No viva Espana... #
And there were my record company sitting in the audience, like, "Oh, what is she doing?"
By the mid-1970s, with Spanish beaches getting overcrowded,
British holidaymakers followed the sun to Cyprus and Greece
and seemingly from nowhere, a new Greek pop star appeared on the horizon.
Demis Roussos had originally been in the 1960s Greek prog-rock group Aphrodite's Child,
along with future film composer Vangelis.
But he emerged as a fully-formed star in the mid-1970s,
as one of the decade's least likely sex symbols.
Demis Roussos is such a fascinating, fascinating character
because the Demis Roussos I first knew,
as indeed that most people probably first knew was this enormous man
in a kaftan, Abigail's Party and these luscious...
he is kind of like Barry White in a way, it that he is sort of ultra-masculine,
just his sheer bulk is ultra- masculine and that made him a kind of weird kind of heart throb
but the voice that comes out of that frame is this tremulous kind of vibrato.
# For ever and ever, for ever, never you'll be the one... #
Shock reaction with this huge man in this kaftan
and this very high voice.
But it was, I mean, once you'd heard it you didn't forget it.
# You'll be my dream... #
'He'd be wearing almost traditional Greek dress - like a dress -
but his voice is like this soprano.
It's this amazing operatic, emotional...thing.
And I think women probably went for it.
And I think there's an awful lot of sex appeal with Demis Roussos
and I think that sells records.
'And please don't push!'
'Everything he does - his voice, his build even,'
it's something quite incredible.
For music like that to come out of a man like that. Oh, it's fantastic.
The way he puts it over, the way he sings it,
it's that little tone in his voice that no other singer's got.
He's romantic, he's big and he's gorgeous, he's sexy and he's beautiful!
Forever And Ever, the classic Demis Roussos second album
with "Ahh-ahh-ahh-ah" on it
is just a classic record. Everyone should have that record.
And there's the Abigail's Party reference which is
for some people just completely unforgettable.
Would anybody mind if I turn this next track up?
Cos it's my favourite, it's Forever And Ever.
And I'd like us all to hear it.
Mike Leigh's 1977 play, Abigail's Party,
is one of the most iconic television dramas.
It sealed for ever Demis Roussos' place as a suburban heart-throb.
-Oh, isn't he great!
'To Beverly, the Alison Steadman character,
'she thinks that Demis Roussos is sophisticated,
'it is upmarket, it's the perfect music for somebody who is ambitious
'and aspirational, as she is.'
Do you think he's sexy, Ange?
Yes. It's a pity he's so fat.
Yeah, but he doesn't sound it though, does he, when you hear him?
No, it's funny.
He's still fantastic though, isn't he?
'You live in Surbiton, you listen to Demis Roussos.'
It shows that Surbiton is not your horizon.
You can look beyond it and that you're interested in European things.
Ange, imagine making love to this, do you know what I mean?
'You all right, Laurence?'
Along with Demis Roussos, another exotic record that might
have been on Beverly's hi-fi
featured a plaintive whistling sound from high in the Andes.
But our first exposure to the panpipes came not from South America
but from a country thousands of miles away.
This famous tune is actually a Romanian funeral song and was played
by Gheorghe Zamfir who made his debut on the Nana Mouskouri show in 1971.
Everybody was talking about it, they were saying,
"Did you see that panpipe player?" because he was so brilliant.
Bringing Zamfir and his band over from Ceausescu's Romania wasn't straightforward.
I think we had a bit of trouble finally getting
the authorities to give them visas and there was a member
of the group who was, erm, assigned, shall I say,
the job of making sure that nobody defected while they were here!
It was a bit like the secret police.
I always thought he came from the Andes you see, I always thought
George Zamfir was part of, you know...
It was, I think, one of his albums has the word Andes in the title.
There was a mini-industry that sprung up over this magical sound that no-one had heard before.
You could mirror it with the zither.
I think every now and again a funny instrument breaks into the mainstream.
Unfortunately the thing about panpipes is
you can grow tired of them very quickly. You can hear it and go, "Wow!"
And then you don't want to hear it again for about a decade.
This week we're going to kick off, amigos, with Incantation and Cacharpaya.
And sure enough, ten years after Gheorghe
another panpipe record made its way into the charts.
Incantation was formed by a group of young British classical musicians in 1981.
They were hired to play the music for a Ballet Rambert production, Ghost Dances,
about repression in Pinochet's Chile.
They'd never seen panpipes before and had to learn to play them from scratch.
Their instruments arrived in a big crate.
We opened it, got them out,
tried to figure out which way up they went and we had
two or three weeks before the first performance
to learn how to play this brand-new music and off we went.
The music in the show was so popular it was released on record.
It didn't take off straightaway and then it was taken up
by Sir Terence Wogan on his Radio Two show
and he played it relentlessly and that was that.
It was then played on Radio One
and all of a sudden we were on Top Of The Pops.
So what's the answer? Do panpipes come from Romania or the Andes?
My theory is that panpipes went east a very long time ago.
So in China, they played panpipes
and at some point peoples migrated
across the frozen Bering Strait
and into the Americas
and they took panpipes with them.
And so they ended up in the Andes.
Ethnic, boys, ethnic. That's a Bolivian fisherman's wedding song by Incantation,
or "in-can-ta-thion", as the gauchos call them back home on the pampas.
In the 1980s, music from around the world began to break out
of its easy-listening ghetto.
Along with the trends for new foods and wider travel,
there was a desire for more authentic ethnic sounds.
Music from Africa was hardly known in the UK,
but was being enthusiastically promoted by a few tiny record labels
and festivals like WOMAD.
Its profile was raised further by Radio One DJ Andy Kershaw who,
bored with rock music, started playing
bands like the Bhundu Boys on his Sunday evening show.
# And let's sing with me... #
I thought, this is good, this is great, this is better than
that spotty little band from Leicester who just sent me their new EP.
so before Radio One knew what was happening, and really before I knew
what was happening, Radio One had a world music programme by stealth.
And bands like the Bhundu Boys quickly started to attract some unexpected fans.
I suppose the most emphatic proof I got
that the Bhundus had that quality to take them beyond
not just the confines of a beer garden in Highfield Township,
Zimbabwe but into the much wider world was when my mother,
to my astonishment, declared her love for the Bhundus' music.
# It was a dry wind
# And it swept across the desert... #
But the big breakthrough for African music came with
Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland.
Controversially breaking the South African cultural boycott,
Simon mixed his own songs with music from groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Initially the group received demos of the songs.
So he was singing by himself, "Homeless, homeless,"
and then playing the piano
and then he was doing some
-Mambazo exclamation, like...
and so we laugh about that.
At the beginning, we added the Zulu lyrics which mean "we are homeless."
THEY SING IN ZULU
# Sing, homeless
# Homeless... #
But the song came at the right time for South Africans
because, at that time, there was so much violence,
people were sleeping on the mountains, so this song - it was very good timing for it.
Paul Simon's Graceland was hugely important
and it came along in '86 just after I had started this business
on Radio One and suddenly you had, in the most
conservative of record collections,
alongside their Phil Collins and their Elton Johns,
had also got South African township jive and South African vocal music
from Ladysmith Black Mambazo sitting alongside the Lionel Ritchie releases.
Fantastic! That made the job for everyone much easier.
We feel very honoured that people accept and embrace our music.
So we said, it's a blessing, especially in a country
or the continent like the UK.
When we grew up, we were told about this continent, and the people here are very traditional.
So when they accept us, we're very grateful.
MUSIC: "Volare" by The Gipsy Kings
With the success of groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo,
a new generation of international artists came to the fore
and also got a new name - world music.
Among the most popular were The Gipsy Kings.
Originally street musicians from the South of France,
over the last 20 years, they've sold 80 million records.
But did this newfound respectability for world music mean that
the foreign pop one hit wonder was history?
Of course not!
# 99 red balloons
# Floating in the summer sky
# Panic bells, it's red alert
# There's something here from somewhere else
# The war machine springs to life... #
Catchy foreign pop songs were still regular visitors
to the British charts in the '80s and '90s.
Nena's 99 Red Balloons was originally a number one in Germany.
Translated into English, it didn't make any more sense,
but it still topped the UK charts in 1984.
Four years later, Vanessa Paradis
had a huge hit with Joe Le Taxi.
# Joe le taxi y va pas partout... #
For young record buyers of the 1980s, the appeal of foreign pop songs
was just the same as it had been for their parents.
I remember really loving Joe Le Taxi by Vanessa Paradis.
She was 14 or 15 years old, she was incredibly glamorous even though
she was wearing a jumper and a pair of jeans and she was singing
about this amazing place called Paris, which sounded so exciting.
# Et la Seine
# Et ses ponts qui brillent... #
Joe Le Taxi was just this record from another world.
Not another country just on a ferry across from Dover,
it was just so completely different from anything I knew.
But there was one form of international pop
that everybody got to know in the 1980s.
Latin music had made occasional forays into the charts,
but over the last 25 years, it's swept all before it.
I think to us, in Britain, we always have a slight self image
of being quite grey and buttoned-up and repressed
and miserable - a people characterised by the hot-water bottle.
I think to us, Latin music is a chance to get out of ourselves.
# She will wear you out Livin' la vida loca... #
And Latin music can now be found in every British city, town and village.
Inspired by the hits of Ricky Martin and holidays to the Caribbean,
salsa dancing has become a phenomenon in its own right.
Salsa and Zumba and all those kinds of things,
it's the sound of freedom, of sexiness, of liberation.
People are more open-eared to the music of the world
and are rather distrustful of things that can fall into stereotypes.
Because salsa is from a foreign country, it's a bit more exotic,
I think it has a bit more flavour to it and it's a little bit unusual for people.
I went on a holiday to Cuba, fell in love with the music,
the dancing, came back and, in the January, looked for a class
because it was dark, wet. I wanted something exotic to do.
Because it's so different to music here, day in, day out,
as soon as you hear the beat of the Latin music, you start dancing.
The fashion for salsa shows how firmly foreign music
has buried itself into the British psyche.
So firmly that when Latin American superstar Shakira combines
musical styles from around the world,
it doesn't sound particularly foreign to us.
I don't think people even worry about it now.
Pop become kind of global in a way that people used to think it was once upon a time
but I think it really has become global now.
I think lots of different forms of art and forms of dance
have just been completely incorporated into British culture,
we don't even think of them as being foreign any more,
from another place. It is just part of the great big British multi-cultural soup.
In 70 years, we've gone from being buttoned-up Brits
who only bought the occasional foreign one hit wonder to now being
comfortable with music from all around the world.
It's not that the funny foreign pop song has gone away,
it just doesn't sound so unusual any more.
# Vrei sa pleci dar nu ma, nu ma iei... #
There isn't any room any more for the hit out of nowhere,
the whacky world music novelty record that gets to number one
in the charts because there isn't the space for it,
those records only worked because they were so different...
And sadly, that means there'll never be another star with
the exotic appeal of Demis Roussos, but he's kind of irreplaceable anyway.
# Take me far beyond
# You're my dream come true
# My consolation
# Ever and ever For ever and ever
# You'll be the one
# That shines in me
# Like the morning sun
# Ever and ever, for ever and ever
# My destiny
# Will follow you eternally. #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The British have a love-hate relationship with the foreign pop song. For years they were frequent visitors to the charts and were bought in their millions. Once heard never forgotten, these international hits conjure instant memories of a holiday abroad, musical portraits of countries far away.
This documentary tells the story of these musical imports from the Second World War to the present day. It reveals surprising stories behind some of the songs and asks what made them so popular.
The programme starts with the fad for Hawaiian music in wartime Britain. Dodging the bombs was Felix Mendelssohn and his Hawaiian Serenaders. Hula dancer Doreena Sugundo, who joined the band aged seventeen, remembers their exotic stage act and the intricacies of the homemade grass skirt.
In the 1950s the foreign pop song was a fixture in the newly-formed charts. From Anton Karas's zither music to the Obernkirchen Children's Choir, continental pop sold in its millions. On BBC television, calypsos from Harry Belafonte and Cy Grant were family favourites, while Danish aristocrats Nina and Frederik brought a certain cosmopolitan cool with their versions of international folk music.
One would think that the worldwide success of the Beatles would see off these foreign pretenders. Not so, as in their breakthrough year of 1963 they were challenged in the charts by the Singing Nun's song Dominique. But the Singing Nun's subsequent fall from grace rivals any rock and roll tragedy.
People travelled the world through their record collections and on the new BBC2 Nana Mouskouri brought an early version of world music to our homes. In the late 1960s the package holiday boom meant that ordinary Britons could visit the places they'd only dreamt of seeing. Holiday songs like Sylvia's Y Viva Espana were souvenirs of a week in the sun and Greek balladeer Demis Roussos became the 1970s' most unlikely sex symbol.
Since then there has been the fad for pan pipes, initially coming not from the Andes but Romania, and in the 1980s the success of Paul Simon's Graceland and the emergence of world music. As our holidays became more exotic and our tastes for food more international, so music from around the world has become more dominant, with the craze for Latin and salsa music.
So now when music is truly global, and international stars like Shakira bestride the music world, has the foreign pop song had its day? Will there ever been another foreign pop sensation like the Singing Nun or the pan pipes, and is there anyone for Demis?
Featuring interviews with Nana Mouskouri, Sylvia, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Gipsy Kings. Narrated by Liza Tarbuck.