Thursday, May 5, 2022

"Iko Iko" by The Belle Stars

Song#:  3823
Date:  03/04/1989
Debut:  86
Peak:  14
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This all-female British band hit their peak in 1983 with their song "Sign of the Times." It would hit #3 in the UK while making a minor indent in the US Pop chart at #75. The band's self-titled debut album would also do well at home getting to #15 (#191 US). But just as their career was taking off, things began to unravel. They recorded a few one-off singles that didn't do well at home and didn't chart in the US. Tracks for second album produced by Anne Dudley (of Art of Noise fame) were shelved. Then their label, Stiff, was having financial issues and got bought by Island Records. By that point, The Belle Stars had been reduced to a trio. They recorded one more song in '86, "World Domination," which did get to #2 on the US Dance chart, but it seems that wasn't enough for the label or the band and the Belle Stars came to an end. Flash forward a couple years later when a movie titled Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise was released. The future Best Picture Oscar winner happened to include a song that was a particular favorite of Hoffman's, "Iko Iko." The version picked for the film was one recorded by The Belle Stars in 1982. The single of that song became the band's first to make the UK chart getting to #35 (it did not make the US Pop chart, but did get to #41 AC). As Rain Man grew into a major hit, folks were getting interested in "Iko Iko." Just a few weeks prior to the film winning four Oscars and while it was still doing well in theaters, the song was issued out as a single. It would become a surprise hit making the Pop Top 20 while also getting to #7 Dance. Of course, the band was no longer and it seems the sudden resurgence in the song's popularity didn't entice them to get back together.

ReduxReview:  This song had been around for decades, but I believe the first time I heard it was when Cyndi Lapuer covered it on her 1986 True Colors album. I wasn't a big fan of the song and this Belle Stars version didn't change my mind. Lauper's take on the tune stayed in a similar vein as The Dixie Cups' hit. The Belle Stars added more rhythms, percussion, effects, and voices. I think it is a better version, but it didn't make me like the song any more. It is kind of a fun party tune and a New Orleans standard and if I were visiting there I'd probably enjoy the tune after a hurricane cocktail or two. Yet it is not a song I'd call up at any point elsewhere to hear.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded as "Jock-A-Mo" in 1953 by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford and his Cane Cutters. Written by Crawford, the single failed to chart. More than a decade later in '65, the girl group The Dixie Cups were in a studio and just happened to break into tune singing "Iko Iko." Apparently, the two sisters in the group had learned it from their grandmother, but had no idea where the song actually came from. As they sang, they used drumsticks on various things to accompany themselves. Their little improv session had gotten recorded and after producers fiddled with it and added some other instruments, the tune was issued out as a single. It would turn into a hit reaching #20. Because no one knew where the song came from, the three Dixie Cup members were given songwriting credit. Once it became a hit, Crawford heard it and filed a lawsuit claiming it was his tune. In the end, he wouldn't get ownership of the song, but would reach a royalty agreement and is often credited as composer on the track with the Dixie Cups. In the 90s, the Dixie Cups' former manager Joe Jones would file a copyright on the song claiming authorship with his family. He was somehow granted the copyright and started to license the song. The Dixie Cups found out and filed a lawsuit, While it seems Jones lost the suit and the Dixie Cups were compensated, he and his family members can sometimes be seen credited as composers on the song. Beside The Belle Stars, the only other artist to-date who has made the US Pop chart with a version is one by Dr. John. His 1972 single got to #71.


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