Like Marcel Proust biting into his madeleine, the intro of this next #1 brings the memories flooding back. Hints of Boney M, wafts of ABBA at their cheesiest, ‘Mull of Kintyre’, even a base note of ‘Auld Lang Syne’…
Seven Tears, by The Goombay Dance Band (their 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, 21st March – 11th April 1982
I have never heard ‘Seven Tears’ before, I am pretty much positive of that. But it sounds so familiar, so damn sentimental, that it comes through like a folk standard. Seven tears have run into the river, Seven tears have run into the sea… The singer stands at home, pining and crying for his love, his tears mingling with the river, then the sea… (To me, it sounds like a bit of a subtle dig: just the seven tears…?)
It’s a nice enough tune, I’ll admit. There’s something relaxing in its calypso-plod. Yes there are myriad key changes, and a spoken-word section, but somehow ‘Seven Tears’ stays just the right side of annoying, unlike Tight Fit before them. Cheesy, yes. Cloying, yep. Complete and utter Eurotrash. But something about it appeals to me.
I was convinced that this, like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, must have been an old song, remixed and repackaged for the early-eighties. But nope. It was written by two Germans, in 1981. In fact, the similarities between The Goombay Dance Band and Boney M are pretty blatant: they were created in 1979 by Oliver Bendt – who takes lead vocals on this record – a German who had lived in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. ‘Goombay’ is a beach on the island.
They weren’t as successful as Boney M, though. This was their only sizeable hit in the UK (though their breakthrough, ‘Sun of Jamaica’ topped the German charts for nine weeks). And for a few weeks in the spring of 1982, it seems the UK charts were looking farther afield. Not just to Germany (though this does make them already the second German chart-toppers of the year) but to the jungles of Africa, and then to the beaches of the Caribbean.
The charts were also, you have to admit, sounding a lot tackier than even just a year earlier. I don’t want to sound like a guitar-snob, because I’m really not – and there have been some very high-quality electronic #1s recently – but it is much easier to use computers to make music. I’d wouldn’t bet against ‘Seven Tears’ having been thrown together in an afternoon… I’d also bet that it’s been completely forgotten by the general public (I meant it when I said I’d never ever heard it before). Today, though it’s back, at least for the time it takes you to read this post. A toast, please, for The Goombays, and their ‘Seven Tears’… May we not leave it another forty years before listening to this again. Thirty-nine will be plenty.