Mar 16

BOB THE BUILDER – “Mambo No. 5”

Popular35 comments • 2,927 views

#908, 15th September 2001

Mambo Bob The last time we met Bob, I made a tantalising suggestion that his “Mambo No.5” was the superior version. This theory does not survive contact with reality. Whatever the merits of this hymn to the tools of Bob’s trade, ultimately it’s still Neil Morrissey trying to swing over a Woolworths backing, and nobody really needs to hear that.

Still, as a children’s record, “Mambo No.5” does have its clunky charms. A follow-up to “Can We Fix It?” was always a ticklish proposition, since a five minute cartoon doesn’t really need more than one theme. The solution – redecorate a song the kids know anyway with goofy builder-centric lyrics (“A little bit of tiling on the roof / A little bit of making waterproof”) and this time, give the rest of the cast something to do. Wendy, Scoop, et al show up here, babbling along in the background, and if you’re fond of Bob’s gentle world in general – which I am – they’re a warm presence, giving the song a jolly, communal vibe. For the track at its best, check the video, where everyone has a great deal of fun and you get to see a cement mixer rock a feather boa.

A Number One purely on momentum and the absence of a better alternative, “Mambo No.5” is the tide beginning to go out a phase in chart history where the buying power (or pester power) of kids was a major pop factor. The occasional children’s record hit Number One before the late 90s – we can go back as far as “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” – but with the Teletubbies and Bob, songs for the very young showed real commercial muscle. After this, they fade into the background again, and nowadays changes in distribution look set to keep them there. Just as the transition from Five to Blue suggested, the idea of pop as a playground for tweens and below – such a big part of the millennial charts – is beginning to wane.



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  1. 26
    Rory on 9 Mar 2016 #

    Whatever the backing track’s merits, Neil Morrissey is never going to be my favourite vocalist, so this only rates a 3 from me. As Bob tracks go, I much prefer the lead single from his 2008 album (which coincided with my small son’s initial infatuation with the show), “Big Fish Little Fish“. That one only reached number 81 – probably because showing it to the kids on YouTube was easier than buying the single, and its many repeat YT views didn’t count towards the charts.

  2. 27
    Erithian on 15 Mar 2016 #

    “Fred’s squawk of WTF-ery” sounds almost like Trumpery these days – I can certainly hear those words in the voice of He Who Must Not Be Named.

  3. 28
    Erithian on 5 Apr 2016 #

    Like Tom, I’ve watched plenty of Bob with the kids and always enjoy a visit to his world. And as I’ve mentioned before, I’m tickled to think that Jimmy Hibbert, whom I saw a couple of times as a member of Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, has been linked with two number one hits as a voiceover artist/writer for BTB. So I’m fond of this one, and the video is made with a lot of love and panache (I love the “B the B” music stands for Bob’s big band.)

  4. 29
    Valentin on 19 May 2016 #

    This song is a great song and I love it, I would love to see him performing in a concert, as I love concerts and gigs. Working for an events promotion company in London, I am used to seeing many concerts and events, but I really like what I see here on your blog.

    Valentin – http://jorlio.com

  5. 30
    Val Valentin on 19 May 2016 #

    This song is a great song and I love it, I would love to see him performing in a concert, as I love builders singing songs. Working for an events promotion company in London, I am used to seeing many concerts and events, but I really like what I see here on your blog.

  6. 31
    Mostro on 19 May 2016 #

    Valentin @29 ; Val Valentin @30 ;
    FWIW, I’d assumed this was just badly-placed nonsense from a blatant spammer, but apparently there *is* a Bob the Builder live stage show…! Can’t imagine it would be very fast paced, it must be murder on the stop-motion animators. (#)

    Glad to see that in addition to children’s TV characters “Valentin” is really into Afroman as well, judging by his comment on the “Because I Got High” page. (^_^)

    (#) As if to spoil this poor joke, they’ve apparently remade the new series in cheap and sterile CGI. Not that the old Bob was particularly cute, but this new incarnation comes live from the uncanny valley. Eeurrgh.

  7. 32
    Phil on 19 May 2016 #

    You’ve got to admit, that would be quite a double bill.

  8. 33
    weej on 30 Jul 2017 #

    TFW your generic spam comment lands on exactly the wrong post. But apparently there has been a Bob The Builder live show, so maybe you’ll have a chance after all, Mr Emulator

  9. 34
    weej on 30 Jul 2017 #

    Wow, just read last few comments, mind blown, the dance of the universe continues, we are but tools of the machines, etc, etc.

  10. 35
    Lee Saunders on 7 Aug 2017 #

    The first single I ever owned, to my knowledge. A present on my 4th birthday on the 19th, that I got alongside an Easy Listening Centre Kidz-Bop-style CD called ‘Cool Grooves’ (all hits from 1999), a new Bush CD player and a Tweenies cassette I later broke. Shortly enough after this, Hey Baby became my favourite song and that song, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, among others, were on the first proper TV-advertised compilation I owned, Pepsi Chart 2002. This whole era is steeped in very young nostalgia for me.

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