496. ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, by Tight Fit

Another, yes another, well-trodden intro awaits us here. Note that I say ‘well-trodden’, rather than ‘memorable’, or ‘iconic’… or even ‘enjoyable’.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, by Tight Fit (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 28th February – 21st March 1982

I have several pre-conceptions about this song: that it is an old folk tune, that this is far from its first visit to the pop charts, that the band singing it – Tight Fit – were Australian (for surely only an Australian could come up with a song this aggressively annoying…) I’ll hold off for a moment on finding out if any of these pre-conceptions are true.

For first we have to listen to the thing. And at a very basic level, this is a catchy melody. Good for kids parties and animated movies, that sort of thing. It could have been a fairly decent pop song. Unfortunately, however, pretty much every artistic decision taken here has gone wrong. The lead singer’s voice is, at best, an acquired taste. The faux-tribal drums are jarring. The solo is horrible. The animal noise effects are cheap and nasty. The video is… well, see for yourself at the foot of the post.

It’s a novelty – the video makes that very clear – and I refuse to get too serious about #1s that were never actually meant to be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to come anywhere close to enjoying this irritating little record (even if I can’t help joining in on the wimowehs…) The fine head of steam that 1982 had worked up in its first four chart-toppers is dashed before March.

So what of my pre-conceptions? Well, yes this is an old, folk tune. Originally recorded in 1939 as ‘Mbube’ (Zulu for ‘lion’) it was a big hit in South Africa in 1939. (Since it was written by Africans, who must know much more about these things than me, I won’t point out that lions live in the savannah, not the jungle.) And yes, it had charted several times before, mostly in 1961, when Karl Denver took his version ‘Wimoweh’ to #4, and The Tokens made #11 (while topping the charts in the US).

And what of Tight Fit being Australian…? So. I apologise profusely to the good people of Oz, as they are from London. They were around for not much more than a year, but scored three Top 10s in that time, including this million-selling (!) hit. They reformed in 2008, and continue to play ‘eighties nights’ at clubs around the country. And I don’t know… In one sense it’s good that a song with such a long and varied history as ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ topped the charts eventually; it’s just a shame that it had to do so in such a tacky version…

11 thoughts on “496. ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, by Tight Fit

  1. Pure cheese. I was kinda peeved that Robert John’s 1972 version wasnt a uk hit at the time. It was big in america but he had to wait 7 years to get a uk hit with the fab Sad Eyes. I had heard the song in my childhood so am predisposed to look fondly on it. This version is ultra camp and can get annoying if heard too often, but im going to wave the flag for the great follow up Fantasy Island which avoids being annoying with girls on lead chorus duty and the fslsetto absent. Sadly the girls and the band had musical differences, as the cliche goes, and that was the end of everybodys career. Oops!

      • Yes dare dare! 🙂 loads of pop acts tried to sound like abba. The Dooleys hit Wanted was a goodie. Like brotherhood of man they were originslly mainly male-led vocal pop and switched to female duo…

  2. Pingback: 497. ‘Seven Tears’, by The Goombay Dance Band – The UK Number Ones Blog

  3. Pingback: Recap: #481 – #510 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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