I apologize for the non-participation as of the past couple of months. But love smacked my synapses like a Keith Primeau body check. I'm still in the midst of it (here's to hoping it lasts a long time), but I do have a bit of madness to contribute. Hombres y mujeres, the 10 greatest Mexican-bashing songs in the pop canon:
The Kingston Trio, "Coplas"
There’s really no rationale to this arriba-arriba recording, first performed by folkie pioneers the Kingston Trio in 1959. A Mexican peon asks an American in English and Spanish if he should pick green peppers, warns travelers to "not muddy the waters" since the town drinks from it, and ends with a sleepless groom bemoaning that he spent "the whole night chasing a cat that had come in over the balcony." Yeah, we think they’re referring to a different kind of pussy, también.
Loco lyric: "Ah, so! You are surprised I speak your language/You see, I was educated in your country/At UCRA."
Various artists, "Little LaTin Lupe Lu"
A groovy garage growl covered by groups ranging from Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels to the Kingsmen to even Bruce Springsteen. Locally, the Righteous Brothers went platinum with their 1963 version of it. While "Little Latin Lupe Lu" isn’t inherently offensive--a guy boasts that his Mexican girlfriend is the best dancer around--the Righteous Brothers’ rendition becomes suspect when you consider that the late Bobby Hatfield reputedly never visited his alma mater, Anaheim High School, in his later years because, by then, too many Mexicans--like myself--attended the school.
Loco lyric: "She’s the best for miles around/She’s my pretty little baby/Whoa--little Latin Lupe Lu."
Pat Boone, "Speedy González"
With this 1963 novelty recording, Boone proved that blacks weren’t the only minorities from which he could profit. Here, the King of Honky R&B assumes the identity of an American tourist who "walked alone past some old adobe haciendas" during "a moonlight night in old Mexico." Boone made no reference to the Warner Bros. cartoon star of the same name, but he did reference the mouse’s refried take on life in spinning a yarn about a philandering, lazy, drunken Mexican man and his long-suffering wife.
Loco lyric: "Hey, Rosita, come quick/Down at the cantina, they’re giving green stamps with tequila."
Jay & the Americans, "Come a Little Bit Closer"
Name the Mexican stereotype, this 1964 release lauds it--in the first stanza. Roy Orbison pretender Jay Black praises the American playground that is Tijuana ("In a little café just the other side of the border") and its hoochie-coochie mamas ("She was just sitting there, giving me looks that make my mouth water") while warning virile white bucks of macho men named José. When José challenges Jay to a duel, Jay runs away like George W. Bush from a two-part question. When the spicy señorita coos to Jose that she wants him to come a little bit closer, she confirms what we’ve always known about Mexican women: they’re non-discriminatory whores . . . but nice.
Loco lyric: You mean you want more? Call KRTH-FM 101.1--they spin the track about every pinche hour.
Frito-Lays, "The Frito Bandito Song"
Before there was the Taco Bell Chihuahua, there was the Frito Bandito, a crudely drawn Mexican that was little more than a sombrero, mustache, gold tooth and bandolier. While the image itself enraged many Chicanos during the character’s late-1960s introduction, what was probably more infuriating to them was the Bandito’s trademark song--sung by Mel Blanc in heavily accented English to the tune of the mariachi standard "Cielito Lindo." The Frito-Lay Corp. vowed to use the character forever, but the Bandito mysteriously disappeared after 1971. Perhaps it was because television stations like KNBC-TV Channel 4 refused to run the ads out of disgust?
Loco lyrics: "Ay-yi-yi-yi/I am the Frito Bandito/I love Fritos corn chips/I love them, I do/I love Fritos corn chips/I steel them from you!"
John Wayne, "Mis Raíces Están Aquí"
You remember John Wayne: American icon, expensive airport, hideous bronze statue. Now remember John Wayne, recording star. In 1973, Wayne released America, Why I Love Her, 10 spoken-word paeans to Old Glory and its inhabitants that finds a wheezing Wayne railing against multiculturalism, Vietnam War opponents and feminists. Worst of the selections is "Mis Raíces Están Aquí ("My Roots are Here"), on which Wayne recounts visiting a destitute "viejo caballero" in the Southwest. "For hundreds of years, people with the blood of the Aztecs in their veins have lived and died on that harsh yet beautiful land," Wayne wrote in the accompanying book, "and names like El Paso, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Santa Fe, Del Rio and Nogales are perpetual monuments to their being there." Wayne strangely doesn’t mention how Mexican-mowing flicks like The Alamo, The Searchers and The Undefeated were his personal monuments to their being there.
Loco lyric: "‘I have nothing for you, señores,’ he said. ‘My hacienda’s empty now/There was a time . . .’ He shook his head and gave a gentle bow."
Cheech and Chong, "Mexican-American"
Before Cheech Marín became a darling of the LULAC crowd, the San Francisco native was a high-out-of-his-gourd comedian reviled by Chicano yak-tivists for cholo depictions of Chicano life in film and sound alongside the equally stoned Tommy Chong. The duo’s blazing achievement remains "Mexican-American," an improvised Cheech tune that Chong rejoins in 1978’s Up in Smoke with the equally self-explanatory "Beaners"—a two-note guitar strangle consisting of the screamed proclamation "Beeeeeaners!"
Loco lyric: "Mexican-Americans don’t like to get up early in the morning, but they have to, so they do it real slow/Mexican-Americans love education, so they go to night school and take Spanish and get a B."
Genesis, "Illegal Alien"
Chirpier than the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, the video for "Illegal Alien"--with members of the prog-rock monsters wearing sombreros and moustaches that makes pasty Phil Collins look like Mexican Revolutionary martyr Emiliano Zapata--was the impetus for white bands to dress like Mexicans for MTV fun à la Weezer. The 1983 song’s repetitive chorus—"It’s a-no fun being an illegal alien"--is the most obviously stupid music observation since Toby Keith’s "I’m a Big Redneck Piece of Shit."
Loco lyric: "Got out of bed, wasn’t feeling too good/With my wallet and my passport, a new pair of shoes/The sun is shining, so I head for the park/With a bottle of tequila and a new pack of cigarettes."
The Doug Anthony All Stars, "Mexican Hitler"
Further proof that Australians should stick to wiping out aborigines. In this case, the misinterpreting musicians were the Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS), an Australian comedy troupe notorious during the early ’90s for crafting neo-Nazi parodies. While employing hatred as a pedagogical device is exemplary, mixing metaphors isn’t, and the Nazi mass exodus to South America after World War II that "Mexican Hitler" ostensibly attacks soon devolves into the Fourth Reich "eating nachos in the sun" and meeting "a knee-slapping señorita who worked for a peso on Salon Kitty/Big girls love dick-tators, but the ones that do aren’t pretty." Wallabies, take advice from X: when fighting skinheads, don’t become one.
Loco lyric: "When you’re low, where can you go?/Where to?/Mexico!"
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, "Zoot Suit Riot"
Take the worst race riot in Mexican-American history and gut it of meaning. Out comes "Zoot Suit Riot," blurted by the neo-swing Cherry Poppin’ Daddies during the mid-’90s big-band revival. It starts off promisingly enough, with excerpts of police sirens backing lead singer Steve Perry and an ominous, accurate description of the 1942 mini-war between pachucos and Navy nitwits: "Who’s that whisperin’ in the trees?/It’s two sailors, and they’re on leave/Pipes and chains and swingin’ hands." The Daddies soon leave the social commentary for faux-Gene Krupa cool--that their fan base didn’t give a damn speaks more about the failure of the American education system than any high school exit exam.
Loco lyric: "You got me in a sway/And I want to swing you done/Now you sailors know/Where your women come for love."