Monday, November 18, 2019

Musical Monday - The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Tight Fit

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: March 6, 1982 through March 20, 1982.

This may be the laziest cover recording of a song in music history. Usually, a cover version of a song changes something. For example, when the Pet Shop Boys covered Always on My Mind, they did it in an entirely different musical style from previous versions and added a new chord progression to the chorus. Or the song is recorded by a singer who is a different gender from the original artist, recontextualizing the song, as in the case of Aretha Franklin's cover of Otis Redding's song R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Or the song being covered is recorded in a different musical genre than the original, as happened when Johnny Cash covered the metal song Hurt.

This cover version, in contrast, is basically identical to the Tokens' 1961 recording of the song (which was itself a cover version of the song which has been originally written and recorded in 1939 by Solomon Linda). There is nothing new or interesting about this version. There isn't even anything that makes it distinctive from the Tokens' version of the song. Essentially, this was more or less just a giant waste of vinyl.

The uselessness of this cover version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight is compounded by the fact that the people you see dancing around in this video aren't even the people who sang this amazingly tepid remake of the song. The singer on the recording was Roy Ward. When the song unexpectedly had commercial success, the recording company hired male model Steve Grant and female singers Denise Gyngell and Julie Harris, dubbed them 'Tight Fit" and made them the face of the song. This is pretty much the same thing that happened with Bonney M and Milli Vanilli. I think that Grant, Gyngell, and Harris got it into their head to try to sing themselves on later recordings, which seems to have had mixed success, so this isn't exactly the same as Milli Vanilli, but it is definitely the same sort of origin, and the same sort of situation as far as this song is concerned.

So, basically, the U.K. followed up on a biting punk song with this piece of tepid crap portrayed in public by a fake band. Great job.

Previous Musical Monday: Town Called Malice/Precious by the Jam
Subsequent Musical Monday: Open Arms by Journey

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Town Called Malice/Precious by the Jam
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Seven Tears by the Goombay Dance Band

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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