#52: Pérez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”

30 July 1955

#1 for 3 weeks

written by Louiguy
arranged by Pérez Prado

In the past few months, we have come across a lot of international co-productions in our #1s. We’ve had an Italian singing a Brazilian song in Spanish; we’ve had a German choir who shot to fame in Wales. And now, we have a French song, written by a man of Italian ancestry and translated into English, being played by an American orchestra with a Cuban man conducting. The United Nations would have been proud.

What is certain, however, is that “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” is a surefire hit wherever you go. Homegrown versions and covers have been found as far as Croatia, the UK and the Philippines; the Finns liked it so much that they’ve done at least five covers of it. But Pérez Prado’s mambo rearrangement has been the one with staying power: it’s the song we most associate with the conductor himself, and an oft-quoted example of 50s music before Elvis finally appeared.

The rearrangement must have done something about it: in its original form, “Cerisier rose et pommier blanc”, as sung by Andre Claveau is a bit of a slog — a self-indulgent exercise in nostalgia about childhood love, the overall impression is that of a middle-aged man swaying about in his own little world while everyone looks on in confusion. (So, no different from his Eurovision offering, then.) Prado’s version, on the other hand, is designed to get you on your feet: you can’t just sit by while everybody dances the mambo, you have to get up and dance it. The music, too, summons you: the trumpet at the beginning is a siren call, its sliding sound teasing you with its flair and fading into that cowbell-driven beat. You actually do feel a little left out if you don’t join everybody else on the dance floor.

The downside to all this intuitional dancing, however, is that it comes across as a little mindless. By the third go-around, you can already sense where the melody is going, and that’s not great. Repeat your chorus once or twice, and it sounds fresh and original; do more than that, though, and it begins to feel like you’re being beat about the head with it. Your brain begins to tune it out, the sleazy bugling of the trumpet fading into the background as white noise, just another part of the soundscape in the dance hall. Of course, it was never designed to be brainy pop music — it was designed to get bottoms swaying on the dance floor, let everybody escape from the dreariness of modern life. You could argue that its 10-week stay on top of the Billboard charts (and 3 weeks as the biggest-selling single in Australia) could precisely be down to its mind-numbing qualities — just get down to the music, and let this play in the background. But that just means that “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” remains likable, not lovable. It soothes, but does not shock your brain into wanting more — something our next song, at long last, will be all too good at doing.




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