Mar 09

TIGHT FIT – “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

FT + Popular66 comments • 7,991 views

#496, 6th March 1982

All you need to know about this record – and its relationship to the Tokens’ hit arrangement it’s based on – is on the sleeve. The Tokens’ single comes wrapped in a funny, almost suggestive picture of a girl and a stuffed lion, and its hints toward exotica are playful and gleeful. This lion sleeping tonight could be a sly metaphor, or just a bit of nonsense, the song a liberation tune or a nursery rhyme – and this nebula of possible meaning helps give the song an uncatchable, enchanting quality.

Tight Fit, on the other hand, allow no such subtlety: their sleeve has the group as a cross between Blitz kids and Play Away presenters, and their “Lion” is a panto season singalong. My suspicion is that Tim Friese-Greene saw the relative success of Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant, knew an opportunity when he saw one, and rushed an African-drums cash-in through the studio to be hung on the first borrowed band name he could find. Of course, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” flattens out its rhythms (compared to the addictive rumble of the Tokens’ rhythm track, at least). But not to worry – some African touches are present in the video with its warlike tribesmen ensnaring nubile white women in a great big net.

Luckily, what the Tokens and Tight Fit – and every other version of “Lion”, “Wimoweh” or “Mbube” I’ve heard – have in common is that it’s a great participatory song. Even in this farrago of a single there’s a glory in the reaching high notes and a deep satisfaction in the rolling “wim-o-weh-o-wim-o-weh” beneath.



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  1. 31
    Tom on 10 Mar 2009 #

    A quick scan of the last 20-30 years of Eurovision winners suggests that:

    – most winners have some kind of staging hook
    – said hook most certainly does NOT have to be hotness

  2. 32
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 10 Mar 2009 #

    i don’t know the detail history and politics of this, but essentially it began in the 50s as a song contest (and the performance was not considered relevant to the judgement; the judges based their decision on the sheet music) — but as sheet music became less and less the locus of the “real song”, this stipulation came more and more adrift

    by the time the TV viewers were phoning in their votes voting, it had become a “performance” competition — i would argue between c.1965 and 1985 it was caught somewhere in the middle, but a map of the actual make-up of the judges and how voting was counted would tell us more

  3. 33
    vinylscot on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Rosie #27 – it was (obviously) a tongue-in-cheek comment, not meant to be taken (too) seriously. I apologise if I offended anyone.

  4. 34
    Kat but logged out innit on 10 Mar 2009 #

    I cannot listen to this song without picturing Jim Carrey in a hawaiian shirt :(

  5. 35
    Erithian on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Hadn’t expected an analytical discussion on this subject! – but OK, thinking of the three UK Eurovision winners in the period Sukrat mentions, I’m not sure what effect Sandie Shaw had hotness- or performance-wise, but the gimmicky little BoM dance and the whipping off of the Fizz skirts must have helped swing it for them. Abba’s staging hook was “Napoleon” rather than hotness, but the song was an obvious winner anyway. Possibly the clearest example of hotness having a decisive effect was Ruslana?

  6. 36
    peter goodlaws on 10 Mar 2009 #

    # 30 – Samantha Janus remains horny. Astonishing to comtemplate that she did Eurovision all of eighteen years ago. Now to be seen in “Albert Square”, of course, where she has a storyline involving her being the mother of a young girl on one of the stalls. The daughter is lovely too but does herself no favours by wandering around with such a pained expression, she always looks as if she’s ready to jump off Beachy Head.

  7. 37
    Pete Baran on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Admittedly Ruslana had the Xena thing going for her, but it was also a terrific song, probably the best song / performance combo of the last ten years. Sadly she will not be troubling us here, as by then Eurovision numbers were unlikely to go to the top.

  8. 38
    rosie on 10 Mar 2009 #

    All right – I wasn’t being entirely serious myself either, but two things happened, coincidentally, during last week’s Michael Jackson hysteria. One was that Thriller and another track I won’t mention at the request of the bunny came up close together on my mp3 player and I realised how much I’d become engrossed by both tracks to the exclusion of what I was supposed to be paying attention to. The other was that somebody on Radio 4, possibly on Front Row, opined that it didn’t really matter whether MJ could sing on stage any more; what mattered was whether he could still dance. And I had a WTF moment because I don’t recall ever seeing MJ ‘moonwalking’ and I can’t visualise it. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t ever seen it, but it does suggest that my enjoyment of these tracks isn’t influenced much by it.

    I’d say it meant I’m much more of an aural kind of person than a visual one, although that wouldn’t help to explain my abiding passions of classic film, photography and the written word, would it!

    That much-cited essay on ‘rockism’ by Kelefa Sanneh makes a point about lip-synching (presumably as a device to maintain the consistency of the ‘brand’) I’m sorry – dismiss me as a rockist if you must, but what’s important to me about a singer is that she (or, of course, he) can sing. And if that means that each performance is slightly different from any other, then so much the better!#

  9. 39
    SteveM on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Re #34 “I cannot listen to this song without picturing Jim Carrey in a hawaiian shirt :(”

    Whereas I keep getting that scene in Friends with the main cast rendition and Joey launching into falsetto…

  10. 40
    Erithian on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Peter #36 – during a phone-in last week on the travails of ITV, an über-ITV fan said that the daughter, Danielle, had been moping around the Square for eight months without getting around to telling Ronnie she was her mother. If it was Corrie she’d have marched into the Rovers and told her on day one!

    Sorry, way off topic I know…

  11. 41
    peter goodlaws on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Erithian # 40 – The Danielle character is supposed to come from Telford, which might explain her reticence. It is dangerously close to Wales, you know!

  12. 42
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Wales is protected from Telford by the whole of Shropshire!

    love yr pal Lord Sukrat of the Western Marches, Count Clungunford, Marquis of Little Ness, Wem, Wigwig and Homer

  13. 43
    wichita lineman on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Going ever-so-slightly off topic… AE Housman wrote A Shropshire Lad about three doors down from where I live in Highgate. Maybe “The land of lost content” was an influence on Bucks Fizz’s ambiguous Thatcher’s Britain commentary a few entries back, just with the odd word change here and there…

    Trying to work out a pun involving Wem by the Kalin Twins, but I’ll stop right there.

  14. 44
    rosie on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Tears of a Clun, by Smokey Robinson?

  15. 45
    crag on 11 Mar 2009 #

    “March 1982 was the very short-lived peak of Haircut mania, with “Pelican West” and “Love Plus One” in the Top 3 and an NME front cover (and very entertaining interview with Paul Morley).”

    Suprised no ones mentioned the biggest indicator of “Haircut mania” round this time-their short-lived and v v bizarre Look-In weekly cartoon strip chronicling Nick and the boys wacky adventures! At this time Look In was essential reading for me with its strips featuring The Fall Guy, Magnum “PI” and the “Story of the Beatles” but it would be v shortly replaced in my UK weekly comic affections by the relaunched Eagle featuring the brilliant (in my memory at least) DOOMLORD!! Aah, great days…

  16. 47
    vinylscot on 11 Mar 2009 #

    45 Crag – love the way the typesetting has spaced out your post. For a second or two I was getting rather excited about Look-In’s comic strip following the adventures of The Fall. I would have subscribed to that!

  17. 48
    the wolfmen on 11 Mar 2009 #

    Did you know Brian Eno covered ‘Lion’ – you can grab his version here

  18. 49
    Pete Baran on 11 Mar 2009 #

    Eno’s version sounds a bit like a version from a Pickwick kids album from the early eighties – with the exception of the multidubbed vocals. I like the way he is very keen on enunciating WIMOWEH. The backing is a bit casio preset!

  19. 50
    wichita lineman on 11 Mar 2009 #

    Re 45: And there was talk of a Monkees-style TV series. Such a shame all the promise dissipated so quickly. The Flexipop version of Nobody’s Fool was a powerpop gem, much tougher than the (also pretty good) hit version.

    Re 47: Early ’82 was also (until Brix joined) The Fall’s commercial high water mark! Hex Enduction Hour snuck them into the Guinness book for the first time and received unanimously good reviews. In 2009, though, much of it gives me a headache (And This Day, Deer Park) compared to the more playful, less Kraut-thudding Grotesque, or Slates.

    Sad to say Pelican West sounds pretty weak these days, too. Too much sax. And yet, “Green escalator, yeah!” remains one of THE all-time top pop lines.

  20. 51
    peter goodlaws on 11 Mar 2009 #

    # 42 – “Wales is protected from Telford by the whole of Shropshire!”

    Not quite the WHOLE of Shropshire, Mark, but near as damn it, certainly. And I would never argue with a Shrewsbury man. Is that “Shrows-bury” or “Shrews-bury” btw?

  21. 52
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Mar 2009 #

    aha well now — genuine locals call it shoozebree, and long-time locals (sadly mostly passed on now) call it soozebree

  22. 53
    peter goodlaws on 11 Mar 2009 #

    I am grateful for that. Someone should tell James Alexander Gordon.

  23. 54
    crag on 15 Mar 2009 #

    Cheers for the Doomlord pic! Ok i’ll ask- can anyone recall what other bands had ongoing strips in Look-in and other similar mags of the time? Madness surely? A friend remembers a Bucks Fizz one(gosh that must have been thrilling!)and Martin Kemp played w/ Roy of the Rovers for a while(!) but there must be others?

    Also register another big “non” for Lion from me and an equally big “YES!” for Fantasy Island!

    PS yes a Fall strip would have been great! “This weeks adventure- Death to the Southern Liberal Prole Fuckfaces-ah!!”

  24. 55
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2009 #

    Re 54: Madness had an idea for a video which featured the “Nutty” boys on a motionless testcard for the entire length of an album (this would have been when Seven came out). Nothing changed at all until the end of the album, at which point Suggs tipped his hat. That was it. All rather Dada. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I finally saw Take It Or Leave It.

    Also re 54: Shaky was in Billy The Fish wasn’t he? Or am I losing my mind?

    The mighty jungle; the mighty Fall. Some kind of weird logic to this thread.

  25. 56
    Billy Smart on 16 Mar 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Tight Fit performed ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ on Top Of The Pops on three occasions;

    18th February 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Madness, George Benson, UB40, ABC, The Jets, Robert Palmer, Toni Basil and The Jam. Mike Read was the host.

    4th March 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Toni Basil, Gary Numan, The Goombay Dance Band, Imagination, The Jets and ABC, plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Deutsher Girls’. David Jensen was the host.

    18th March 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Classix Nouveaux, Leo Sayer, The Goombay Dance Band, Japan and Gary Numan, plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Layla’. Steve Wright and Richard Skinner were the hosts.

  26. 57
    Billy Smart on 16 Mar 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just two TV apperances to report;

    ROD AND EMU’S SATURDAY SPECIAL: with Tight Fit, The Drifters, Larry Grayson (1983)

    SUMMERTIME SPECIAL: with Lena Zavaroni, Bartschelly, The Belle Stars, The Krankies, Tight Fit, Lenny Windsor (1982)

  27. 58
    crag on 16 Mar 2009 #

    Shaky was indeed in Billy the Fish’s Melchester Rovers as was Mick Hucknall, playing a blinder on his first appearance but failing to live up to expectations during further games “in a tragic echo of his musical career”!

  28. 59
    Conrad on 16 Mar 2009 #

    Re 54, I like Take It Or Leave It! – a curio, but inspired in places.

    And delighted to see so much praise for “Fantasy Island”. I’m beginning to think that it is, or rather was, one of the Great Lost Classics of 1982.

  29. 60
    DV on 16 Mar 2009 #

    I have a certain fondness for this record and its comedically high pitched vocals.

  30. 61
    Caledonianne on 5 Apr 2009 #

    Another thumbs up for the Haircuts.

    I’d pretty much given up on chart music by this time, but came to know Love Plus One because just around this time (university Easter vacation, and coming to the end of my post-grad year) we journeyed by bus from Glasgow to Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg to visit EC (as it then was) institutions, on a taxpayer-funded jolly. The undergrads played Nick Heyward and the boys all the time. I thought it was a cracking little record then, and I still do. Never fails to raise a smile.

  31. 62
    Erithian on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Channel 4 Top 100 Watch: astonishingly the 89th best-selling single of all time in the UK.

  32. 63
    Tight Fit on 25 Sep 2009 #

    Hey all you Tight Fit fans, as you may already know we’ve reformed and are now touring the country, here’s a few of our upcoming tour dates….

    Back to the 80’s Night ft. Tight Fit Live in Skipton, Yorkshire 23rd October. Box office: 01756 791411 or buy online: http://www.digyorkshire.com

    Back to the 80’s Night ft. Tight Fit Live in East Kilbride, Scotland 30th October. Box office: 01355 248 669 or Arts Centre: 01355 261 000

    Listen to us being interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey – Interview starts 40mins into the show….


    For more information, music, videos, news and updates….

    Follow us on Twitter – ‘tightfitlive’
    Myspace – http://www.myspace.com/tightfitlionsleeps
    Website – http://www.tightfitlive.co.uk

  33. 64
    thefatgit on 7 Oct 2009 #

    Denise’s dad used to be landlord at The Wellington Arms, Sandhurst. Denise used to put in an appearance from time to time. I must admit, I did lust after her for a hell of a long time, but never managed to summon the courage to chat her up. I did buy her a drink once, but never followed it through. Dammit!

  34. 65
    Lazarus on 15 Aug 2018 #

    Denise may have been Mrs Pete Waterman at the time, as she was from 1991 to 2003, though she’s no relation to Aussie TV executive Bruce Gyngell as far as I can tell.

    Before that she was a Hill’s Angel.

  35. 66
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    Another rum UK #1 from 1982 and yet another 2/10 from me, sorry folks…

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