With “Yes Sir, I can Boogie”, “Baccara” landed a world hit at the end of the 1970s – shortly afterwards the singers fell out. Now one of the two, María Mendiola, has died in Madrid. An obituary
Enmity is the right word. A few years ago both performed in Moscow, both under the name “Baccara”, on two different stages in two different bars. Before or after they ran into each other by chance in the city. They didn’t say a word to each other. “She wanted to approach me, but I pretended not to see her,” said one and the other afterwards. “40 years of success, 35 years of enmity” was the title of the online newspaper El Español four years ago for its story about the Spanish pop duo “Baccara”. There has been no reconciliation since then either. Success is a voracious monster.
María Mendiola and Mayte Mateos wanted to be like the Kessler twins. They were tall, sang English with a Spanish accent, and were trained dancers, which is hard to believe when you look at their old videos. Most of all, they were determined to be successful one day – that was perhaps the most important thing.
Discovered in the hotel bar
Mendiola from Madrid and Mateos from Logroño in the wine-growing region of La Rioja were working for the Spanish television ballet when they decided to perform together under the name “Venus”, singing and dancing if you will. They sang the hits of the time, by Abba and Boney M, and when they were signed for two weeks at the Hotel Tres Islas on Fuerteventura (which still exists today), the hotel manager asked them to do something flamenco-like too German tourists would love to take a program.
One evening the music producer who was supposed to change her life was sitting in the audience, it sounds like made up, but these stories happen every now and then. The man’s name was Leon Deane, an Englishman who worked for the German department of the RCA label, so goes the legend. If you look for his name on the net, he always appears as the discoverer of Baccarat on Fuerteventura, as if he had done nothing else.
Maybe there is no Leon Deane at all, but one thing is certain: Mendiola and Mateos flew to Hamburg to record a record there in a studio. “María said to me: Are we going to do this? I can’t sing and you can’t speak English, ”Mateos said later. One of those vicious anecdotes.
A little later, the two world stars were. “Yes Sir, I can boogie”, written and produced by the Germans Rolf Soja and Frank Dostal, came out in April 1977 and became a number 1 hit in 18 countries. Only the USA eluded the charm of the German disco sound with a Spanish accent.
In Spain itself it took half a year for the radio to discover the song. Franco had only been dead two years and there wasn’t much English music to be heard. The single sold as good as hardly any other in pop history, between 15 and 18 million times, making it 7th according to Spanish Wikipedia and 9th according to English Wikipedia of the world’s best-selling singles.
The Spaniards stayed together for five years, and in 1979 they performed for Luxembourg at the Eurovision Song Contest, where they came in seventh with “Parlez-vous français?”. Later they also recorded a German song with children: “Eins plus eins is one”. But then they fell out because Mendiola thought that Mateos was too much in the foreground. What remained was the lifelong hostility and the pride to have sung one of the greatest hits in the world.
María Mendiola died this Saturday at the age of 69. There is no comment from Mayte Mateos.