As ear worms go, “Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop Cumma Cumma Wang Dang” by Monte Video went a very long way indeed – all the way to the offices of American music industry heavyweights David Geffen and Tommy Mottola.
The infuriatingly catchy novelty number took Australia and New Zealand by storm in 1982. Monte was, in fact, respected musician and composer Murray Grindlay with a ridiculous moustache. Thirty-five years later, his alter ego is still never far from his side.
Acknowledging that he will always be remembered for this bit of nonsense, Grindlay admits he wasn’t always sanguine about it. “There was a stage of my life when I thought ‘Oh, my god, why did I do that?’, but now I’m really fine with it. It’s actually a funky track. And I’m seeing it more and more – people put it on Facebook and like it. I always smile when I see it there.”
It all started with some musical noodling and the words shoop shoop… “I was singing it in a New Orleans-Professor Longhair style. I’d always been fond of those nonsense songs, like ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, so I was trying to write my own, but in an old-time rhythm and blues style,” says Grindlay. “My friend Mark Ackerman, who I ended up writing it with, came around and said, ‘That’s pretty catchy, but you’re doing it all wrong.’ I said, ‘How do you mean, you bastard?’ He said, ‘You should be doing it English style, like “Je Suis un Rock Star” – that thing by Bill Wyman. What’s more, I’ve even got a name for you: we’ll call you Monte Video.’ It was all his fault.”
“Monte” got signed to Mushroom records by Australian impresario Michael Gudinski, at which point things got even stranger.
“He got us signed to David Geffen, which was bizarre. And for quite a while I’d get Christmas cards from [Sony Music head and colourful character] Tommy Mottola. He wanted to manage Monte. It was hilarious. One day, a friend of mine rang me from LA and said, ‘You won’t believe this, but I’ve just been around to Geffen Records and everywhere there are big posters of Monte and they’ve got fake moustaches they’re giving away to everyone.’”
All to no avail. “It was released stateside and, as I suspected, it was far too weird for them. I thought it was a narrow escape. I’d have had to be Monte Video forever.”
The song was also released in Australia, where it did well, and England, where it did nothing, despite Grindlay and team’s best efforts.
Outside New Zealand, it was much easier to convince people Monte was real. “We sucked in the Australians hook, line and sinker. For a month or so, Monte did four or five radio interviews a day with Australia. Mark Ackerman used to lead me with a sheet of stock lies that I could tell the Aussies – how Ringo played drums on the record and Elton played piano. He put the word out that I was in New Zealand because I was travelling the world due to tax problems.”
It was fun while it lasted. And for anyone interested, it’s not hard to find “Shoop Shoop” and its outrageous video – cigarette smoking! Obscene acts with a champagne bottle! – on the internet. But be warned: one listen and it’ll still be spinning round in your head for days afterwards.
This was published in the July 2017 issue of North & South.