Mambo No. 5

(A little bit of …)

is the most successful German pop production of all time. In more than 20 countries, the song was number one in the charts. Around 14 million records were sold worldwide.

For the 20th anniversary, Unicade Music, the company of the artistic producer Goar B, has prepared the story for the song.

Latin, Rap und Pop in a perfect Mix

The roots of the creation of Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of...) go back to 1996. Because the time for rap on German radio was not yet ripe, Goar B had the idea of a new, melodic rap style. Fascinated by Carlos Santana, the producer and guitarist had discovered South American music early on. Inspired by this, Goar B decided to realise his ideas of melodious rap within the framework of a Latin pop project.

Emergence of Goar's Latin Project

Goar B was already producing in the genre of hip hop in Germany in 1996, but had to realise: "At that time, it was not yet acceptable on German radio. I remember the casual argument of radio editors that rap was just spoken word and not music. "In order to have a chance at radio plays, Goar B consolidated the idea of a "melodious rap" and decided to tackle it with David Lubega. "At some point, David sang around a bit in the studio for fun, so I asked him if he wanted to write songs and sing. He laughed and said he wasn't a singer, he was a rapper and he didn't play an instrument like I did to write songs and humorously added that he could blow on a comb and play CD players. "Goar B brought together his two signed artists Lou Bega and Zippy to work with them on his new Latin project. "As a guitarist, I really liked Santana and that's how I got into Latin."

David Lubega becomes Lou Bega

For his new musical concept, Goar B engaged the still unknown rapper David Lubega as well as Christian "Zippy" Königseder (formerly Pletschacher), who was responsible for implementing the sound on the computer. Several songs were created in this style, including the track "Mambo No. 5" in the summer of 1998. As artistic producer, Goar B not only set the musical line; he also developed Lou Bega's image and style concept. To this day, the singer is known for appearances in a 50s suit and hat, escorted by Brazilian dancers. Goar B also invented the stage name "Lou Bega" in reference to David Lubega's surname.

Goar B and David Lubega

As part of his music project Balibu, he promoted the young DJ Olé Wierk (later known as one of the two masterminds behind Groove Coverage) from 1996 and engaged the then unknown rapper David Lubega (later Lou Bega) for a rap part on the song "Let's come together". The track was released in autumn 1997 on East West Records/Warner Music. Goar B then had the new idea of a Latin project made of old trumpet samples combined with modern beats. In particular, Goar B had the idea of a special new kind of melodic rap that could also have better chances for radio airplay. He asked if David would like to join the project. As a result, Goar B signed David.

Goar B and Zippy

Goar B worked in parallel in 1997 with a new hip hop formation called "Die 5 Freunde". In this formation Christian "Zippy" Königseder (formerly Pletschacher) worked mainly with music programmes on the computer. After the rap group "Die 5 Freunde" broke up, Zippy asked if Goar B would sign him. Goar B then signed Zippy and coached him for almost 2 years to better and better songwriting.

A tribute to the king of mambo

In the new title "Mambo No. 5 (A litte bit of...)" Goar B used a trumpet sample from the old instrumental title "Mambo No. 5" by Pérez Prado from the 1940s, which does not contain any sung melodies or lyrics. As a tribute to this legendary mambo musician, Goar B called the title "Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of...)" because he used "a little bit" of Prado in the new song. This occasionally led to the false assumption that it was a cover of the old instrumental. The correct addition "A little bit of..." (with which the title is also registered with GEMA) was usually omitted by the media.

On the genesis of the song

Péres Prado, the "king of mambo", composed "his" Mambo No. 5 in 1949. Legends abound about how Prado's instrumental piece was discovered more than 20 years ago for the "world hit made in Germany". The truth is less glamorous and is not set in Miami, but in Munich: Goar B, artistic producer and mastermind of the "new" Mambo No. 5, heard Prado's instrumental piece when a Latin track was sought for the film "Das merkwürdige Verhalten geschlechtsreifer Großstädter zur Paarungszeit" (The strange behaviour of sexually mature city dwellers at mating season).

A short time later, the producer decided to base the new title on a short brass sequence - A little bit of Mambo No. 5: The exact title line of the later worldwide success Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of ...), a homage to the king of mambo, was born. Everyone can see for themselves in the video of the classic song on YouTube that only a small sequence at the beginning of Pérez Prado's instrumental can be found in the world hit Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of ...), and that otherwise the verse and chorus melody, including the lyrics, are new.

Mambo No. 5 becomes No. 1

We probably wouldn't know Mambo No. 5 today if Goar B was less persistent: Only after three quarters of a year with more than 40 appointments with record companies did he receive an acceptance from the new BMG sub-label "Lautstark". After the release of the single on 19 April 1999, success was unstoppable: Just two weeks later, Mambo No. 5 was No. 1! The song stayed at the top of the German charts for 17 weeks and sold 1.7 million singles in this country.

Goar B at the record companies

Goar B originally produced the song for a film: "Read more here"

Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of) was not taken for the film. Goar B then offered the song with other songs for 8 months in over 40 appointments with record companies and labels.It is only thanks to his persistence and unshakable belief in his title that he finally got a release commitment. After more than 40 A&R appointments in 8 months, Goar B's meeting with Peter Meisel at the label "Lautstark" finally brought an approval. Lautstark was a sub-label of BMG Berlin and Peter Meisel worked there as an A&R consultant. Peter presented the song to the managing director Andy Selleneit, who recognised the hit potential and signed the title with Goar B as music producer. The artist Lou Bega was and remained under contract with Goar B.

Andy believed in the title and in Goar B's vision for it. He supported my ideas in an extraordinary way, also financially, with courage and decisiveness."The first music video for "Mambo No. 5" was shot by a BMG marketing manager contrary to my idea. I will never forget the call from Andy after the first music video for "Mambo No. 5", in which he gave me a second high budget for the realisation of my video idea. Only this second video is known. In addition, Andy paid for all my business class flights abroad so that I could lobby the managers of the BMG companies there for optimal marketing in the respective country. "After that, Goar B looked for a studio that would continue to complete the pre-production according to his specifications and ideas in exchange for a share. As Goar B's finances had become tight due to the set-up phase, he could no longer pay studio rents and sound engineer fees. He found the music studio Syndicate, who immediately recognised the unique musical style and the hit potential, but unfortunately made excessive demands for shares and credits in the course of the collaboration. In his time and financial need, Goar B agreed.

First release in Germany

The acceptance of "Mambo No. 5" in the German media was initially reserved until the title was played on a radio station.

"After that, everything happened very quickly. People called the radio station and asked for it. It was like a maelstrom, like wildfire. At that time I got a surprising offer from the music industry to exchange my artist for another one, because they didn't know him visually yet. They wanted to make me a very good offer to do that, but I didn't hesitate to stand fully behind my artist."

Mambo No. 5 had already been No.1 in Germany for 4 weeks when the very successful Backstreet Boys released their new single with a huge marketing campaign. But we were not to be knocked off the throne. The Backstreet Boys had to settle for Top 2 in the charts, which was unusual. Mambo No. 5 remained at the top of the charts in Germany for 17 weeks and sold 1.7 million singles.

"Mambo No. 5" is the only title in the history of "Wetten, dass ...?" that was played 2 times due to the never-ending audience applause in the old bullring of Mallorca. "I was backstage behind the stage. The applause from the audience wouldn't die down. People were stamping their feet. The stadium was shaking. Pure goose bumps. There are actually no encores in "Wetten, dass ..." What to do? The then ZDF head of entertainment Viktor Worms finally gave the order backstage to play the title again. It was gigantic and remains unforgettable for me."

International breakthrough in fast forward

Shortly after its German launch, Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of...) was number one in several other European countries. In the UK, however, BMG released the song late because they underestimated the demand. But in early September, Mambo No. 5 went to the top of the charts in the UK as well.

In the USA, Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of...) became the fastest climb to No. 1 in the airplay charts to date. Goar B succeeded in making Lou Bega the special guest on Cher's US tour. The producer was responsible for the entire show including rehearsals with a ten-man band and six dancers. The effort paid off: at the end of Cher's 24-city tour, Mambo No. 5 was number three in the Billboard charts with three and a half million albums sold and Lou Bega had earned a Grammy nomination. A South American tour followed, as well as performances in Japan and India (where Mambo No. 5 also reached gold status).

From the beginning, Goar B was present at all Lou Bega's concerts, on the road but also at interviews and TV appearances, pulling the strings as mastermind and doer in the background. The close cooperation between the artistic producer and his star was to prove a recipe for success: In total, the single sold around seven million copies worldwide and the album more than 6.5 million.

International release

Goar B now fought for a release in all countries. He was prepared to make extraordinary efforts and investments himself and hired more than 10 employees in his company to make the Lou Bega project internationally successful.

The then managing director of BMG in Berlin, Andy Selleneit, recognised Goar B's irrepressible will to succeed from the very beginning and supported him by flying Goar B to all the important countries to the BMG sister companies there.
After release commitments, Goar B continued to travel in the countries with his artist."

I don't remember how many air miles we travelled, only that at some point we got a Lufthansa senator card for more than 150,000 miles per year. I accompanied Lou Bega to all the important gigs, interviews, award ceremonies, etc. His meteoric rise meant mastering a great deal in a very short time and becoming adept at many things."

release in England

Although "Mambo No. 5" was now No. 1 in the charts in several European countries, the UK and the USA refused to release the track. In England, however, there was such a maelstrom over imports via returning English holidaymakers abroad that BMG in London dropped their English take on "We are different" and then finally released it. It was overwhelmed with pre-orders of over 400,000 copies from the trade. Yet sister company BMG/RCA in the US still wouldn't release it.

"It was in the USA, however, that I had seen my production and concept the most. I articulated this in the music trade magazine MusikWoche and got calls from the industry telling me to keep my feet on the ground. Others had tried that in the USA and failed miserably.

release in the US

In the contract with BMG, Goar B had a 3-month rights fallback for countries that did not release. He met with Jim Welch, an A&R manager from Sony Music in New York who was in Germany, shortly before the expiration and was able to convince him to release the title in the USA after the 3 months and informed BMG. On the day of the expiry, Goar B surprisingly received a call from BMG's business affairs manager, Rolf Gilbert, asking him to extend the deadline by one day."

I complied with the request and the next day shortly before midnight I received a fax with the release confirmation from the USA. All the decisions went through my desk. Every day my office staff received faxes by the metre with requests. My mobile costs at that time were in the range of the rent for a detached house. I constantly coached Lou Bega for interviews, performances and supported him. His father had died shortly before his breakthrough and so I stood by him in a special way like a friend-father. We had many intense conversations about God and the world on our flights."

Submanagement in the US

Goar B left nothing to chance. He immediately hired a sub-management in Los Angeles.

"We had to promise RCA that the artist would be available for at least 9 months mainly for promotion in the USA and we got flat rooms in a hotel in L.A. as permanent accommodation. It was the most exciting time and my biggest challenge.
However, leaving Germany was not without its problems. The booker I hired at the time contacted my artist directly: My decision to go to the USA would be the biggest mistake, because he would lose considerable concert income in Europe and we would have no real chance of success in the USA anyway. But David and I agreed that we wanted to give it a try.
I still remember the first moment when we landed in New York and were picked up by a stretch limousine. It was like being in a dream."

A video conquers first the music stations and then YouTube

That Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of ...) is timeless is shown by the official video and its success story on YouTube: Ten years after its first release, it was uploaded to YouTube, where it has recorded more than
234 million views (as of July 2019).

What hardly anyone knows: The first video for Mambo No. 5 was never released. BMG managing director Andy Selleneit had the film produced by the label itself for the song withdrawn shortly before it was presented on VIVA. Selleneit once again provided a substantial budget and thus enabled Goar B to realise his original concept - but within only three days. As is well known, the result is something to be proud of:

Why Mambo No. 5 is still "a smash hit" today

But what makes Mambo No. 5 (A little bit of ...) a long-running hit? The renowned US magazine Vanity Fair gave an answer to this question on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Mambo No. 5 and attested the song a quality and appeal that are still alive today:

"Even after two decades, 'Mambo No. 5 is still a smash," wrote Vanity Fair writer Steven Perlberg. Quote: "Mambo No. 5 is still a banger. The song is a well-earned karaoke staple, a wedding dance floor energizer, arguably the most notable innovation on how to count to five since the Abacus."
Research and Interview: Elisa Hoth