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Nov 14

THE VENGABOYS – “Boom Boom Boom Boom”

Popular46 comments • 3,234 views

#828, 26th June 1999

vengaboom The 90s in the British charts are topped and tailed by two mighty surges of Europop. The first was a club music – a polyglot of house, hip-hop and rave heralded by Snap! and epitomised by 2 Unlimited and Culture Beat. The second, led by Aqua, was also designed for dancing, but as much in school discos as tourist nightspots. It was a music built on gleeful gimmickry and seemed to sell mostly to the continent’s kids. And for a few months in the Summer of 1999 the Vengaboys were its hottest ticket.

The two waves of Europop have something in common: neither are remotely bothered about looking cool. There has been lots of impeccably high-fashion European music, of course, but when you’re pitching Esperanto pop at a market that’s a patchwork of cultures and languages, the nuances of style are sometimes the first casualty.

Not that the Vengaboys needed style. They had a bus.

Vengaworld, on first impression, is a world in which the Vengaboys get on the Vengabus and go party: it has a perfect cartoon simplicity that matches the cheerful inanity of “Boom Boom Boom Boom”. The most enjoyable touches on the single are its purely dumbest – the chorus, of course, but also the keyboard-preset “Woo! Woo Woo!” bits in the breakdown, and the robodude who pops up to announce “Ven-ga-boys-are-back-in-town” and “Let’s-have-some-fun”. In the video, he wears a sparkly red cowboy hat.

Ah, though, the video, one look at which causes me to hastily revise any generalisation I might have had about the Vengaboys and their audience. This is bubblegum music, no doubt, but hardly a kids’ cartoon. Instead it’s lap dances, topless burlesque, champagne foam spurting over bare thighs. What this Vengasmut makes me realise is that my perception of two Europops was an Anglocentric fiction. No matter who was buying them here, the Vengaboys are firmly in the same line as 2 Unlimited, Doop or “Mr Vain”. They’re trashy, trans-continental club pop, but with the sometimes wild invention of the early 90s switched for a need to keep things as simple and catchy as possible. The appeal to kids is a side-effect of this more ruthless approach. And it does its job, though the more you contemplate this feat of pop efficiency, the more it skirts the line between the childlike and the charmless.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    thefatgit on 5 Nov 2014 #

    Indeed, Swanstep. I guess there must have been rumblings of plagiarism behind the scenes, so Dennis van Den Driesschen and Wessel van Diepen had to concede half the credits to Andersson & Ulvaeus. The dadada-dada-dadada* bit shared by both songs are identical albeit in a slightly different key.

    *Any musicologists lurking might be able to explain this better than I.

  2. 27
    lockedintheattic on 5 Nov 2014 #

    #19 – Fantastic comment.

    I can quite see the appeal in those circumstances. I had a similar experience with a Black Eyed Peas bunny in rural Indonesia in 2010. That story will have to wait a while though.

  3. 28
    Ed on 5 Nov 2014 #

    No writing credit for John Lee Hooker, though?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSnQ0bdHW0s

  4. 29
    DanH on 5 Nov 2014 #

    As Mapman said before, “We Like to Party” was the only time the Vengabus made a stop to American shores. Reminds me of grade 9 dances more than anything else. I’ll hold off on another Euro song that gives me the same memories for now, because while the song itself isn’t bunnied, the group still is for another few months.

    This one is nowhere near is memorable…and I get it mixed up with “Boom Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room)” half the time ;-)

  5. 30
    daveworkman on 5 Nov 2014 #

    I spent some time in Romania in the mid 00’s where this sort of thing was still popular – and like Rory at #19, despite my better judgement I grew to love some tracks, because they soundtracked a really important part of my life…but I feel I should share this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0ehKEm8q0A) – the Romanian language version was a favourite of mine, then I heard the English language version…you have to wait until the end of the chorus for the payoff…

  6. 31
    weej on 6 Nov 2014 #

    How is it that I love Aqua, B*Witched, Daphne & Celeste (hell, even Lolly is acceptable) but the Vengaboys is a step too far? I guess from the former I get a sense of joy, little hidden countermelodies, fine-tuned production. In comparison the Vengaboys just always seemed hacked together, cheap sound effects, session singer, sexual innuendo, “that’ll do.” There’s a whiff of cynicism about the whole project that won’t shift, and no love in it, not that I can hear at least.

    By the way, if you think “you wanna go boom boom” could be in any way innocent then I guess you haven’t travelled around Southeast Asia, as this is what prostitutes say to passing farang to drum up business. Perhaps they got it from the song, but I’d guess it was the other way round.

  7. 32
    Rory on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Dave @30, entertaining stuff, not least to think that a West Australian Aboriginal word for a boomerang ended up on the dance-floors of Romania, via its late-’60s popularity as an Australian girls’ name, and one internationally famous owner of the name.

    Which prompts me to tell a Kylie story I’ve never told here, at least on the Kylie Minogue threads. In 1998 my wife and I were visiting San Francisco, and caught up with an old American school friend of mine (from four months in 1980, when my Dad was a visiting prof in Hawaii). He and his wife were expecting their first child, and over dinner one evening told us they still hadn’t decided on a name. They went through a few ideas, and then asked us if we knew any distinctive Australian girls’ names. We both looked at each other, and in the same breath answered: “…Kylie?”

    I met little Kylie a couple of years later when I was back in San Francisco. Lovely kid.

  8. 33
    Billy Hicks on 6 Nov 2014 #

    32 – Being born in late 1988 at the peak of Scott/Charlene (and Kylie/Jason) mania, my parents tell me that half of the baby girls being born at the time were all being named Kylie. Wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot of Britneys for around the time this track came out.

    Well… I like this song. I really like this, it’s got an insistent, head-burying melody which for the last 15 years has randomly re-appeared at the most awkward of moments (shopping, job interviews, funerals etc) and I try and concentrate on the matter at hand while a dididi-di-di-di-di-di bleeps away in my brain in the background. And, as already mentioned, part of that golden summer of childhood which elevates almost everything to at least a 6, this gets a shocking 9 from me.

    Bloody brilliant post by Rory at 19. I have a Coldplay bunny for a summer 2008 holiday in a heatwave Milan, Kelly Clarkson & Flo Rida for early 2009 New York and an inescapable Avicii bunny for September 2013 Scandinavia. Having been around Eastern Europe over the last couple of months, a bunnied track by Lily Wood – which has similarities with the next #1 on Popular – seems to be the one of choice over there.

  9. 34
    Shiny Dave on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Played this again for the first time in years.

    This is actually funnier than many of this decade’s intended comedy records. The treble-heavy arrangement for a song with that title might be the funniest of the lot.

    Nostalgia filter kicks in hard for 1999’s more gleeful output – this was the last calendar year in my life so far without a suicidal panic attack. I don’t think I can earnestly give this more than a 4 – it’s unbelievably tacky – but, my gosh, playing it tonight has given me far more pleasure than a 4 has any right to.

  10. 35
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Nov 2014 #

    I keep mistaking the one on the left for Mädchen Amick, especially as Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse about the world. Or last year’s New Zealand Bunny in a dystopian future of “Hey, hey, you, you, I wanna be your girlfriend!”

    At the height of my indie-snob teens, I found BBBB unspeakable, but like a lot of more well-liked late nineties pop, there’s an incessant, effortless, tick-tick-tick-tick desire to annoy the listener into guiltily liking it, so.. 5/10.

    Though this is as complimentary as I’ll get about a group who had future hits about doing anything for love (yes, THAT) with computers. I don’t mean Goldie Lookin’ Chain*.

    * Met Mystikal and Maggot in Manchester five years ago, for my student newspaper. Great bunch o’ lads. Probably the most relaxed, friendly and liberal pop interview ever – what’s not to like about a band who sample the original Grange Hill** theme in Charm School? Or rap about making meat sculptures of metal icons’ daughters and…. oh never mind.

    ** Bizarrely, I’m sure I once read there was some connection between this and I Feel Love… can anyone help?

  11. 36
    Rory on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Patrick @35, from a page on Giorgio Moroder, seems the connection was the Hawk:

    “Robotic yet syncopated, disengaged yet soulful, ‘I Feel Love’ was unlike anything else at the time. Of course, it afforded dance music’s critics the opportunity to unfurl the case for the prosecution: monotonous and empty, repetitive and banal; and as soulful as a Sheerness power sub-station. In fact much of the sound was made not by machines but musicians, including British stalwart sessioneers like Alan Hawkshaw (he of Grange Hill theme fame).”

    (Thanks for the kind words, Billy and lockedintheattic. Really must go back to all those words I wrote on Mad and do something more with them. They did have some wider exposure at the time; Madagascar’s only English-speaking newspaper asked if they could reprint some of my blog posts as columns, which I was very happy for them to do. )

  12. 37
    katstevens on 7 Nov 2014 #

    #35 can confirm that GLC are absolutely lovely chaps. I got chatting to Eggsy in the old TCR Virgin Megastore once and it turns out he lived round the corner from my uncle.

  13. 38
    Billy Hicks on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Kat: The old Virgin Megastore in Tottenham Court Road!! Thanks for the (recent) nostalgia, still impossible to believe that it’s gone, rebranded ‘Zavvi’ at the end of 2007 only to close for good to my horror in February 2009 and is now a Primark.

    Almost my entire teenage years can be summed up by that store, whether it be playing on the vintage 80s arcade games still in situ in 2002, or buying the latest Alphabeat/Sam Sparro/Scooter etc singles and albums in 2008. Would often bump into people I know there too…as recently as six years ago Central London was full of huge music shops, almost all of which are now gone. Sigh.

  14. 39
    Lazarus on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Yes, Tower Records in Piccadilly, which for many supplanted the Megastore I imagine, is also long gone. The Our Price chain is a distant memory. There are still HMVs to be found here and there though.

    In my first job in London I worked in the Strand, and taking a slightly extended lunch hour I was able to get to the Megastore by walking up Drury Lane. For one used to Our Price and Woolworths it was like Aladdin’s cave.

  15. 40
    punctum on 8 Nov 2014 #

    The Megastore actually supplanted Tower Piccadilly. It was a sad and progressively sadder sight. What stands there now? “Hey, it’s Saturday, how about we hop on the bus and go to The Sting Network Of Brands?” You’ll not hear that said.

  16. 41
    Billy Hicks on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Back in the mid noughties you had HMVs in Bond Street, Oxford Street and the Trocadero, a Virgin Megastore in Tottenham Court Road and the one that replaced Tower Records in Piccadilly. If I had hours to spare, I’d check out a CD in one and then check the price in *every other store* (all a short walk or bus/tube ride away) until I found the cheapest, sometimes saving a tenner or more in the process.

    Both Virgin Megastores, as mentioned, got renamed and went early 2009. HMV Bond Street closed in 2011, Trocadero in early 2013 and the massive Oxford Street one in January this year, which in its last few months before closure suddenly started randomly selling loads of early 90s live rave recordings presumably found in some old cupboard, meaning my last purchase there ended up being Fantazia Takes You Into 1992 feat. DJ Sy.

    Met Annie Lennox, the Pet Shop Boys and Reeves & Mortimer in there, bless them. Bob Mortimer was the nicest one out the lot.

  17. 42
    Mark G on 9 Nov 2014 #

    The ‘old’ record shops round the back of the Megastore are still there (well, two out of three).. Shane Magowan used to ‘work’ in one of them

  18. 43
    wichitalineman on 9 Nov 2014 #

    Are you sure Mark? On The Beat went earlier this year, Vinyl Experience went in the late nineties. But I think the Shane Magowan one might still be hanging on. On a happier note, Intoxica (late of Portobello Road) is about to re-open on Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross Road.

  19. 44
    Mark G on 9 Nov 2014 #

    I’m not certain which is which by name, but the one on the corner junction, furthest left on that street (the Shane one) was going last time I looked (a while ago, granted). The middle one was/is the one that had stretched elastics over the racks of 45s, used to have a resident shaggy dog, Muttley, and I think it was put up as a going concern not that long ago. It was exactly the same as ever (including the stock, it seemed). The third one was exactly next door but looked long gone, I think was selling expensive hifi/DJ rigs.

    Good news about Intoxica, last time I was there someone was installing very anonymous panneling for the next intended occupants.

  20. 45
    Erithian on 11 Nov 2014 #

    Appropriate (??) to note on this date that “Boom Boom Boom Boom” was the first line of Baldrick’s war poem. Which would have made a better number one than this.

  21. 46
    ciaran on 8 Dec 2014 #

    The decades Thompson Twins just by inappropriate name alone.

    The Vengaboys were just woeful lowest common denominator stuff. Any of the first 3 to 4 songs sound identical to the other and is like some below par Super Nintendo gametrack from 1993.At least 2 Unlimited you could enjoy at their best. A far cry from the likes of Ferry Corsten. 3

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