S1: What’s the story of where your name came from?
S2: So like my mom and her sisters there, Maria, Clarissa Maria and Helga Maria, the loose. So my dad was like, We’re not doing that. And apparently they knew somebody with this name and they were like, Oh, she’s like independent and classy. And you know, this is a good name for our daughter. My name is Macarena Macarena Luce Bianche.
S1: It’s a great name.
S3: Thank you.
S1: Macarena was born in Chile, but her name comes from Spain. It’s a district in the city of Seville, which is home to the Basilica de la Macarena. That Catholic temple is a showcase for a local treasure. A statue of the Weeping Virgin Mary Lovett.
S2: The La Macarena is the patron saint of bullfighting in Seville
S1: as a little girl in Chile. Macarena Luce Bianche went by a nickname Maca when her family moved to Miami in 1982. She started hearing a bunch of other things
S2: Macarena or Macarena. That’s what people called me. Or they would really Betsy pronounce it Macarena was when I’m like, No, that’s that’s not it. So it defaulted to Mac, like for a long time in school. It was like, of course, macaroni and Big Mac.
S1: Despite those schoolyard taunts, Macarena never thought about changing her name.
S2: Not at all. I loved it. Nobody here had it, which I thought was fantastic. So I liked that it was rare.
S1: That rarity came under threat in the early 90s, thanks to a Spanish language soap opera called Macarena.
S2: I was like, No, this is a bad thing, you know, because then it’s going to like spread
S3: you love outside of the but you got no.
S1: To her relief, Macarena, the telenovela wasn’t a big hit.
S2: Sure. You know, we continue being original.
S1: In 1995, she was living her best life. She was in her early 20s and a major player on the nightlife scene in Miami Beach.
S2: I worked the door at like the cool places, the cool clubs. I would decide who got him does the really cool clubs. I had designers dress me. I remember I was the first person to wear pleather pants. It was so much fun. It was like such a great time of expression and community, and we all connected through music and house music was really the thing of that time. And we did not like, like cheesy pop music.
S1: She was about to like pop music even less.
S2: I remember this exactly. I called a friend of mine a DJ, and he was like, I can’t believe you just called me, said, You’re not going to believe this. There’s a song playing with your name. I’m like, Oh my God, and he’s like, Here, listen. And that’s when I heard it.
S3: A lot of people who would love to bring up your Macarena. I got it up. And I’m like, No. And I was like, No, oh no, God, no.
S1: When you’re feeling these things, is it like dead serious? Horrified? Or is some of it like a jokey kind of. Oh, now
S2: it was 100 percent like, no. And I think that’s when I started crying. Like, you’re ripping something from me, you’re taking something from me. That’s precious. Now it has the potential to be destroyed.
S1: The song she heard that day was only going to get bigger. The Macarena would become one of the most monumental hits in the history of popular music, a Spanish language smash that dominated the charts and got much shaking at weddings, bar mitzvahs and nursing homes. The story of its rise is a lot more complicated than the dance that made it famous. It’s a tale of pre-internet virality and how a song can mutate in ways its creators never imagined. And it’s a story about regret and anger, and not just from women named Macarena. In the mid-1990s, a bilingual pop song brought a huge amount of joy to a huge number of people, and then very quickly it became a cultural pariah.
S3: It’s the biggest dance craze since the twist.
S4: Yeah, it was annoying.
S5: Every part of that song is a hook.
S6: That song broke every conceivable barrier in pop music. You can’t deny that.
S1: In this week’s episode, a musical phenomenon that wormed its way into our brains and maybe never left. This is one year, 1995. Hey, Macarena. Antonio Romero and Raphael Ruiz met in 1962 and does airmen of Spain just outside Seville. They started playing music together when they were 14 years old. Performing as Los del Rio, those from the river.
S7: I don’t sing about it. I’m I’m. I’m happy now.
S6: There are two very genial men and they’re eternally in a good mood every time I’ve seen them.
S1: Leila Cobo is the author of Decoding Despacito An Oral History of Latin Music.
S6: They make very upbeat, very traditionally Spanish sounding music, what they call a rumba flamenco, which is based on the acoustic flamenco guitar. And it’s very celebratory music what they do.
S3: They don’t put an IED a reputation among Dominion
S1: in the first three decades of their career. Lost Del Rio released dozens of albums and made a decent living hell. Their biggest fans were, in the group’s own words, aging, nostalgic Spaniards, younger people and the country’s metropolitan centers found their music outdated.
S6: You know, they were in their forties. They look like businessmen is the best way I can describe it. And it was very regional music. They were from Sevilla, and they made this music that was very of severe.
S1: Los del Rio were not big stars, but they did tour internationally sharing their old fashioned songs with the Spanish speaking world. In 1992, they went on the road in South America,
S6: so they were in Venezuela playing a gig and there was a flamenco dancer there and they started improvising with the flamenco dancer and they came up with this little ditty, you know,
S1: inspired by the dancers performance. They started to make up lyrics about a woman moving her body.
S6: Madeline initially was the name of the girl, Dalia, to play for Alegria Madeline to get to quite a place for that. Alegria cause her winner gives happiness to your body because your body is to give it happiness and good things, which I guess can be interpreted in a million sexual ways. But I don’t think that was the intent of the song at all. I think they were just like, Let’s go, have a good time.
S1: The woman in the song is a free spirit and a dreamer. She fantasizes about shopping at Spain’s biggest department store and moving to New York.
S6: The only other thing that said in the song is that she has a boyfriend called Vitorino, and when Vitorino isn’t around. Someone saw her with two other boyfriends.
S1: Luz del Rio thought this improvised song was a keeper, but the name Magdalena that got tweaked right away.
S6: Now we’re going to change it to Macarena because Macarena is the name of the virgin that they celebrated and severe. And it’s also the name of one of the daughters of one of the guys. And the next day, during rehearsal, they kind of honed it with the musicians and they played through it. But I don’t think they had major expectations for the song.
S1: Los Del Rio recorded this new track back home in Seville in a famous flamenco studio. If you’re from the United States, you might never have heard this version. The first Macarena.
S6: And it starts with with the hand clapping and the percussion, the car horn. It’s a very percussive beat and it immediately, you know, it just catches, you know that that they have the flamenco guitar kind of strumming and then they start singing
S3: along the way.
S6: And of course, then they go away Macarena Howell. Like, huh? Now they do that like the last hump at the end. I did ask him. I said, OK, who came up with that? And he said, Oh no, we do that a lot and a bunch of songs like they did not think there was anything remarkable about that. When they wrote it, it was just they were just writing the song.
S1: Los del Rio debuted the Macarena at Seville’s Big Spring Fair in 1993,
S6: and everybody has tents where they go party and they go eat and they have different groups performing music the way they tell it at the end of the fair. Everybody was talking and playing Macarena. So I think that they realized that they had a big hit. Probably the biggest hit they’d ever had up until that moment.
S1: Although the Macarena had been inspired by a dancer at this point, there wasn’t any choreography. It was just a traditional flamenco song performed by a couple of Middle-Aged Spaniards who look like businessmen. But for a group that had always been behind the times, it was also kind of cool. The Macarena became Spain’s Song of the Summer, a suggestive infectious, up tempo anthem for Los Del Rio. This was a massive accomplishment and an unexpected one. And it was pretty much all they’re doing. What came next would transform the Macarena into a worldwide sensation. And it was something that those two flamenco musicians from Spain had never dreamed of, and
S7: to the front and to the front and on your head and on your head, hand on your hip, hand
S8: on your hip and wiggle wiggle, wiggle. Turn hand to the front hand to the front
S3: hand on your head. Hand on your head.
S1: At the tail end of 1993, Rogelio Miocene took a holiday trip to Mexico.
S9: I was 30 years old at the time and I remember visiting some clubs in Acapulco.
S1: Rogelio worked in the music industry. He was the sales and marketing manager for the U.S. Latin division of BMG in the early 90s. He lived in Miami, and he went out clubbing all the time. But in Acapulco, he heard a song he wasn’t familiar with, and he caught a glimpse of something he’d never seen before.
S9: There’s this crazy thing that it was like a line dancing, and it was called La Macarena.
S1: The dance looked a bit like the electric slide, but with more hip swiveling and butt grabbing, everyone in Acapulco seemed to know it.
S9: And you started mimicking what they were doing. The song was great and the dance was great, and I said, OK, I end.
S1: The Macarena that Rogelio danced to that day wasn’t by Los del Rio. It was a cover version by a group from Argentina. A song by a Spanish duo had caught on in North America with the help of some Argentinean musicians. Well, we may never know who invented the lion dance. It seemed to have originated in Mexico and it took off in beach towns filled with vacationers like Rogelio.
S9: So I saw that and it really, you know, kind of stayed in my mind and I went back to the U.S. cruise ship.
S1: Passengers were learning the Macarena too and bringing it back to their hometowns. And in 1994, it surged across the border to Texas.
S10: When that song hit the valley, the Rio Grande Valley, it was just like a phenomenon in the clubs.
S1: That’s Vilma Maldonado. She was an entertainment reporter in the border town of McAllen, Texas.
S10: Leila Macarena was just like an added spice. It just fit in well with our culture.
S1: South Texas is culture included, a long standing line dance tradition. Just a few years earlier, McAllen had gone nuts for Billy Ray Cyrus Achy Breaky Heart.
S3: Don’t tell my mom my big break.
S10: I just don’t think he’d understand. But La Macarena was just more energetic. Oh, my God. Everybody would run to the stage. It was great because we as Latinos, we had an option, you know, we had we didn’t have to do the country western line dance. You know, we had our own dance now. You know that that people just absolutely loved and went crazy for it.
S1: Like by the spring of 1994, the Macarena had migrated into Texas in all different forms, the core of the song that sing along refrain and those guttural hoods, those never changed. But the genre did band Super Bandido put out a festive brass heavy version.
S3: But there were also
S1: a bunch of Tejano covers Macarena, including one by Grupo Más and one by Kali Carranza
S3: Adriana. Good enough that getting
S1: these sorts of musical variations had been a part of the Macarena from the very beginning. In 1993, Más del Rio Spanish label had released a handful of remixes. One of them was the river, famous by the DJ Big Toxic and synth pop duo Fangoria. They replaced the song’s traditional flamenco sound with a pulsing electronic beat. But I didn’t have. I got enough.
S3: I got, I got it.
S1: And you know, it was kind of a weird idea to remix a flamenco song. But the hope was that these new versions might appeal to a younger audience than low, stereotypical typical crowd of aging Spaniards. And maybe if everything broke right, the Macarena might get played where flamenco records had never been heard before a place like Kube Ninety Three FM in Seattle.
S5: It was a Top 40 station, you know, kind of TLC and Boyz, Two Men and L.L. Cool J.
S1: Mike Tierney was the program director at Tube 93. He learned about the Macarena in 1995 from a co-worker who just come back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
S5: And his story was just, Yeah, there was this song, and everywhere we went, they were playing it. They were playing it in restaurants, they were playing in nightclubs, they were playing it by the pool. There’s a dance that goes with it. It was all anybody wanted to hear
S1: if that vacation anecdote was to be believed. The Macarena could transform any dance floor into an all night party. Cube 93 hosted events all over Seattle. There was one coming up at a barbecue restaurant. It seemed worth a shot to play the Macarena and see what happened. There was only one problem no one at the radio station had a copy of the song. And in June of 1995 in the Pacific Northwest, it wasn’t easy to find.
S5: I literally don’t remember how we knew that this place would have the 45 right. It wasn’t even a store. It’s still there. It’s called La Serena Rosa, and it’s a stall in Pike Place Market. They sold like Day of the dead masks and pinatas, and like, they had 10 records and one of them was this.
S1: That record included the river famous of Louis Del Rio song. The Macarena experiment
S3: was on
S1: the next morning. A colleague told me how the event went,
S5: Oh my God, you’re not going to believe what happened last night. The dance hall was packed. Everybody already knew the dance. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I had to play the record basically until last call.
S1: Cube, 93, started airing the Macarena immediately.
S5: You know, the request lines exploded. It’s a total cliché, but it was just like that was a one lesson record. Like, it was special. Like, I don’t even speak that much Spanish. I still don’t really know what’s happening in the lyrics of that song. Like, You don’t care. It was just undeniable.
S1: The Macarena was undeniable in the great white north.
S9: To the truth of the matter is this was pretty much a runaway train
S3: by the time it got into my hands.
S1: Vince DiGiorgio was in charge of dance music for the Canadian arm of BMG, the parent company of Low Dario’s label. By the time he heard their song, it was already gaining steam in Quebec. Now it was his job to push the record into English language markets.
S8: It had so many hooks in it.
S9: I knew that we had to get this out fast.
S1: It was a Russ release to get the Macarena onto radio stations and into record stores throughout Canada. But just as that national campaign was gaining traction, something mystifying happened. Another version of the song emerged from nowhere and started rocketing up the charts.
S9: It basically turned into a
S3: war of the original versus the cover before. While I got it, I got it.
S1: If those two clips sounded nearly identical to you, that was no accident.
S3: It was
S9: pretty close. You know, it was pretty much Xeroxed
S1: that sound alike. Macarena was credited to a band that no one had ever heard of, with a name that seemed suspiciously familiar.
S9: You know, ours was the lowest Del Rio. Theirs was the lowest del Mar. That was no accident lost.
S1: Del Mar means those from the sea as opposed to those from the river. A Canadian producer put together the group. It was a shrewd business move, one that took advantage of Canadian media rules. There’s a law in Canada that says a certain percentage of songs played on the radio have to be Canadian made. While Los del Rio came from Spain, Los del Mar counted as Canadian. That meant the cover had a big leg up and getting airplay.
S9: Oh, we were livid. We had the original article that was actually composed. That is someone’s heart and soul, and for someone to come and copy it like it’s, you know, it was a bit of a windfall for them. I didn’t like it. I’m not going to. I mean, it drove me crazy.
S1: If you’re from Canada, the Los del Mar Macarena is probably the one you know. It hit number one on the Canadian singles chart in July 1995 and stayed there for nine weeks. So this was the state of the Macarena and the early summer of 95, it was sprouting up independently all over the world in all different forms. The original the remixes cover versions. There was a straight up music industry war in Canada because everyone knew the Macarena was golden and wanted a piece of the action. All this was happening. Yet Lo Del Rio hadn’t even made a music video, and despite some pockets of interest in the U.S., the Macarena hadn’t cracked the Billboard Hot 100, and the national media hadn’t noticed the song at all. But that was about to change because something was happening in Florida,
S9: in Miami at that time. It was crazy and it was the happening place.
S1: The record executive Rogelio Machine, knew firsthand how grabby the Macarena could be when he got back from his vacation in Acapulco. He learned two important facts. The song had been written by a couple of guys from Spain, and those guys Luz del Rio, were signed to the record company Rogelio Workfor. It was now his job to make the Macarena a mass culture phenomenon
S9: because I knew that the dance was the key element for the song to be successful. We gather at the offices of BMG in Miami probably 12 girls and there were cheerleaders in one of the girls happened to be from Spain. And I and I said, Listen, I have this this dance that I saw a couple of times in Mexico. So I basically taught her how to dance this Macarena song.
S1: Rogelio says she figured out the dance in about half an hour. He then gave her some money to buy a bunch of mini skirts. Now, with the proper attire, the 12 cheerleaders were ready to go out into the world as Macarena ambassadors.
S9: We came up with the idea of promoting a happy hour Fridays and Saturdays. And the girls would have to dance the Macarena every 15 minutes for two hours, so all the best clubs in Miami from five to seven started to play the song, with the girls inviting the customers to dance with them.
S1: Rogelio cheerleader Happy Hour strategy worked in no time. The Macarena was spreading all over the city.
S4: People were just enjoying themselves so much. You heard it everywhere. You had to stop and get up and dance, said
S1: Mia Navarro was the Miami bureau chief for the New York Times. She heard the Macarena for the first time at a restaurant on Ocean Drive.
S3: You could be
S4: eating and chatting with your friends at a table, and all of a sudden the song would come on and everybody would get up. They would put their forks down and start dancing, and then you would go back to your dish after that.
S1: The Macarena felt perfect for Miami, a Spanish speaking city with a strong Latin music heritage. But for the song to get really huge, it needed airplay on the city’s most important FM radio station.
S3: Miami’s party power non-essential tomorrow is Thousand-dollar Thursday, but today you had $100 this hour when you hear skill and I wish. It’s coming up this hour.
S8: I’m a power. Power 96 was one of the few stations in the United States that could break music that could break a record.
S1: That’s Carlos de Garza. His family had immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba when he was a child. In 1995, he was working as a record producer in Miami, and he knew a lot of the deejays at Power Ninety six FM.
S8: They took chances that nobody else did. They prided themselves in finding that new. Next thing.
S1: Finding that new next thing was Carlos’s mission to he specialized in adding bells and whistles to pop songs and Power 96 was always hungry for exclusive tracks music that would distinguish them from the competition.
S8: Basically, any pop star of the early 90s that they wanted to play, they would send it to us for a little bit of just a dash of originality or something different. You know, I would call my friends that were Jamaican rappers and say, Hey, I have a new ace of base record, but it sounds like reggae. So come in here and drop a few bars in the middle of like all that she wants. And now it’s a new song. It had an edgier, more urban, more Miami sound,
S1: although Power 96 encouraged Carlos’s creativity. The station had a very limited view of the Miami sound power.
S8: I don’t know why would not play songs in Spanish. Their entire playlist was songs in English.
S1: There was one deejay at power 96 who wanted to change that. His name was Jasmine Johnny Curry Day in the spring of 1995. Jasmine Johnny brought Los del Rio’s Macarena to the head of the radio station and asked to put the song on the air. The station had told him he could play it on one condition. He needed to go out and get a Remax that met the standards of power. 96. Jam and Johnny knew the perfect guys for the job. His friends make try and Carlos de AASA,
S8: so I was in a studio with Mike probably working on six other things, and Johnny came by and say, Hey, I have something for you guys. He goes, Listen, the guys at power want to play this record? And I said, What record is they? Oh, Mike, I don’t know that thing, OK? And I said, What’s the problem? They said, Well, it’s all in Spanish, so it needs to have some elements of English in it. That was the ask. The ask was they want you to do what you do to these things and put something in English on it? Put a rap on it. And then, you know, Johnny dropped off the maxi single CD and left and I put the thing down and I continued to do whatever it was that I was doing that day because it wasn’t at all a priority. I know it would get to it. But it wasn’t like I didn’t jump on it. Let’s just put it that way. So first is almost like research, right, just listen to all the different versions
S3: of Macarena and
S8: just to see what I have to play with, what what is there?
S7: I don’t know what to say and say you like it, but you know, we don’t even know how
S8: I listen to the record a bunch of times and then figure it out, OK, it’s two old men and they’re talking about this girl, and she’s having a good time. And OK, what am I going to do with this? You know, what can I do with this? From a creative point of view, their song is about Macarena who like to dance, and when her boyfriend does his mandatory army service, she goes out and has fun with with the friends.
S3: And I know you can say you and say, yeah, they’ll be able to say nothing which. So kind of, you know, you can say, I’m guessing
S8: it’s not derogatory or anything, but it paints a picture only from that point of view, and you don’t get to hear her point of view. I said, You know, we don’t need another male voice on this. We need we need her story. We need to know her point of view. So I looped a certain section of the song instrumental section, and I started thinking and putting myself in her place and thinking about that character, right? Who is this girl they’re talking about? What is she like? Where does she go? How does she dress? How does she talk? What’s her attitude? Which was the attitude was there. They provided the attitude in their description, right? So I knew a girl like this, right? We all at that point know a girl like this or many girls like this in Miami. You know, it’s full of Macarena, as you know, with different names. So I just started writing lyrics, writing her voice.
S1: How long did it take you to write the lyrics?
S8: I mean, have you heard those little remakes? They’re not very hard when they dance, they call me Macarena and they say it gets, though. When they all want me, they can have me. So they all come and dance beside me. It’s I mean, it’s it’s a nursery rhyme. Put it in the digital audio workstation, cut it hit record running the booth, do a guide track. And I called a friend of mine named Patti Alfaro, and I said, Hey, I have this record that I’m doing four point ninety six and I say, Patti, can you come here and just be this girl? So Patti said, sure. So she drove over. She laughed a lot at what I had done. And I said, Just be her. Just be that girl. And then you hear about
S3: my boyfriend band, the boy who everybody, you know, I don’t want him kissing him, you know? So I said, Now, come on. What was I supposed to do?
S7: He was happy. Your friends were so fine.
S8: So she went in there and she copied the guy track and she left.
S1: Carlos didn’t really do any remixing in the typical sense of the word. He didn’t change any of the instrumentation, for one thing. He just took the existing river famous move things around a bit and dropped in those English verses. He also added a few samples.
S8: Mike Chiye, my partner. He had crates upon crates upon crates of old school records. And of course, in the studio we had a technique’s turntable. Don’t mess around. You bring me yes, was extremely, extremely formative for me, and I had that situation 12 inch. And I knew that on the B side, there was a cut where her laugh was isolated. And I said, that’s Macarena, that’s what she sounds like. So I was like, OK, I know where that is. I went to grab the record, put it down. Listen, put it in the digital audio workstation. There it is, right?
S3: Thank you all. I am not trying to do.
S8: All the graduate samples really didn’t come from the graduate, but came from a remix of a George Michael song called Too Funky, which started like that. I am not trying to do. It’s just that cut with no music around it.
S3: You like me to produce you?
S8: And I said, Oh, love it. That that captures the mood of this record. So I took it not knowing then that it was the graduate,
S3: Benjamin, I am not trying to seduce you. I know that. But please
S9: Mrs. Robinson,
S8: it was quick. It was like, OK, let’s go. Let’s go, let’s go fast, fast, fast. If I were to add all the time that I worked on this project, I would say maybe 90 minutes from research to edit to writing to recording vocals, to mix it, to send it out. If it was 90 minutes, it was too much. Through it all together, put it on a date and sent it back to Power 96 and forgot about it altogether.
S1: The guy in charge at power, 96 FM liked what he heard. The stations started playing Carlos’s version of the Macarena right away. It was the end of June 1995.
S8: Then I started getting phone calls. Oh my god. Are you hearing the song part of six? The what song is it? The Macarena thing you guys did. Oh yeah. Yeah, that thing. Yeah, what about it? Because everybody’s going crazy. So what do you mean? They’re going crazy? Are they’re calling on? They’re asking for it? I say, Yeah, yeah, whatever they’ll get, they get tired of it.
S1: They did not get tired of it.
S8: So they start calling the station. Play it, play it, play it. Please, player play it again. Played a million times. My studio was called Bayside Music, so when the record starts playing, oh, here’s a new one. And the Bayside boys did this, and so that’s where that name comes from.
S1: Not everyone was excited by what the Bayside boys had done
S2: these remixers, these tacky Miami guys are
S1: Macarena loose. Bianca’s hometown had to her great dismay. Gone Macarena crazy. Her whole life revolved around the music scene in Miami. And now the music scene in Miami revolved around her least favorite song.
S2: I did a really good job of trying to stay clear of it just being like la la la la la la la not wanting to hear it. People to be like, it’s your song. And I’m just like, Oh, mortified.
S1: Actually, you know what? I think we should do. I think I should play the song.
S2: Oh my god. Here we go.
S3: I’m not trying to do. Oh, disgusting enough. And they went, Oh Lord. So they all come in that gross with me. Me, I take you home.
S2: And it’s about a freaking floozy. Really? Are you kidding me? Like, not only have they hijacked my name, it’s about a bimbo. I got it. Oh my god, it’s so upsetting.
S3: Oh my God. Oh.
S1: Despite her objections, the Bayside boys mix would spread from Power 96 in Miami to stations all over America. Not long after, Carlos Diaz’s work went national. The phone rang in his recording studio.
S8: Good morning, this is Craze I music and I help you. Is this going to be yours? Yes. This is built up a lawyer in house from RCA Records. Who is your lawyer? And I’m thinking, Oh my god.
S1: Los del Rio wrote the Macarena in 1992. And over the next two years, it spread throughout the Spanish speaking world. It wasn’t until 1995 that this song from Spain, inspired by a Venezuelan dancer with choreography from Mexico, began to sweep through the entire United States thanks to a Cuban American producer. The only issue was Carlos Diaz hadn’t gotten permission to remix the Macarena.
S8: So the next phone call comes from our lawyer, and he sounds something like,
S3: Did you guys really do
S8: this? And I’m like, Yeah. He goes, You’re going to send cease and desist orders to all of the radio stations to stop playing this immediately. You’re breaking copyright. You’re breaking this. You’re Breaking Bad. You got to stop. And I said, OK, fine. What do you want us to do? It’s done. The deed is done.
S1: The label did not shut down the Bayside boys. Given how popular the remix was. It would have been crazy to pull it off the air, so they struck a deal. The record company would keep the rights, release the remix on CD and give the Bayside boys a small cut of the proceeds. This was the climax of the song’s unpredictable organic evolution across oceans and over borders, Más del Rio’s creation always found a way. Now, the Bayside boys had created the perfect mutation, the most infectious and most ridiculous version of them all. An unauthorized remix of a different remix was the ultimate Macarena.
S8: It was surreal that all of this was happening. Surreal.
S1: On September 2nd, 1995, the Bayside Boys Mix debuted at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 by the beginning of October. The record that Carlos had worked on for 90 minutes had sold 150000 copies. People were dancing the Macarena at gay bars and Girl Scout meetings and inside operating rooms.
S4: I mean, everybody did Leila Macarena
S1: Mireya, Navarro wrote about the trend for The New York Times in December 1995.
S4: It was almost like a realization in the middle of the night, like, Wait, this is a story, and I suddenly talked to Losail Real, who couldn’t explain the phenomenon. I mean, they come up with this very simple song and that song takes off, and it’s a mystery to them.
S1: In an interview, most Oreos Rafael Ruiz said that the song’s success might just be a gift from its namesake, the virgin of Macarena, the patron saint of bullfighting in Seville. In some ways, Los del Rio had lost control of their creation. The Macarena had become known for a dance. They hadn’t come up with a backing track. They didn’t play on and versus they didn’t write. But the Spanish duo didn’t seem to mind the song they’d improvised and Venezuela had lifted them from obscurity. Now it was carrying them around the world, including to the United States.
S9: OK, I have to fly in disguise from Spain and I actually greet them at the airport.
S1: Rogelio Massyn had promoted the Macarena with a small army of cheerleaders. Now he was tasked with introducing Rafael Ruiz and Antonio Romero to America.
S9: And going from the airport to the hotel, they saw an 18 wheeler parked in the street somewhere in Miami. And they asked me to stop the car because they wanted to take a picture by the 18 wheeler because they have never seen an 18 wheeler.
S1: Back at the hotel, Rogelio asked the Spaniards to open their suitcases.
S9: They unfolded four suits with ties and white shirts and everything, and I said, OK, well, this is not going to work.
S1: Rogelio bought them gold silk shirts at the Versace store to brighten up their faces on television.
S9: And I told him, I explained them. The TV shows are set for you to dance Leila Macarena. And they said, You know, we’ve seen the dance, but we don’t know how to dance. We play flamenco. And I said, Well, you’re not going to do that. So I called the cheerleaders that I had in Miami and I had them rehearse with them.
S1: Did they actually try to dance? Yes. Can you describe what that look like?
S9: They were clueless.
S1: You can watch them get down at least a little bit, and the official music video for the Bayside boys makes. That video came out in the spring of 1996, and it’s an uncanny melding of the old and new. Ten women in tight, colorful outfits dance the Macarena and lip sync to Carlos de Garza’s English language lyrics, Los del Rio, sway back and forth, clap their hands and sing the Spanish chorus and to an old timey microphone that’s dangling from the ceiling. Despite Rosario’s advice, the two men are wearing suits and white shirts. Even before the video, the Macarena dance had already spread worldwide in all different variations without the benefit of airplay on MTV, much less YouTube or TikTok. The music video was choreographed by an American living in France named Mia Fry. It’s simplified and standardised, the moves making them easy for anyone to learn.
S3: OK, so front, front, head, head yes.
S1: In August 1996, the Bayside Boys Mix hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. That month, Carlos Diaz, a taut Oprah, America’s favorite dance
S3: hip, hip and wiggle wiggle turned to the left.
S8: That’s right. We got it.
S1: Carlos thought of himself as a producer, not a performer. But in 1995 and 96, the Bayside boys were in demand. And so they got together with a troupe of dancers and hit the road.
S7: The base of. And I got Bayside Ball.
S1: They played bars and teen clubs and rodeos, sometimes doing three shows in a single night.
S8: And there were great gigs. We were coming from a time where darker rock stuff was dominating. I said, We are going to be the Antichrist. We’re going to be as glam and glitter and ridiculously fun as we possibly can be. We’re going to wear very hard leather and and throw glitter around, and that was the idea. This is a way for us to just kill it and come back to Miami with buckets of money.
S1: The Macarena Craze was the defining mass culture experience of 1996. It was also a full employment program for anyone connected to the song. The singer from Canadian Macarena wannabees, Lo Stallmer, had his own instructional videotape.
S3: We’re going to go ahead and show you our version of the Macarena. It’s a little spicy, OK? You bring your right arm out.
S1: The lowest Omar guy had a lot of competition in the how to video space.
S3: Welcome to the Macarena workout. Hi, I’m Gloria Quillin. Hi, everyone, and welcome to Macarena madness. Hi, I am shadow in for the next 35 minutes, I’m going to show you how they Macarena have the whole world Dancin.
S1: It wasn’t just videos. There were all kinds of products that tried to capitalize on the frenzy.
S3: Look what we got. It’s Macarena Craze. Let’s dance. Get your singing
S1: Macarena teddy at Eckerd Targeted Winn-Dixie The Perfect Holiday Gift By the end of 1996, the Bayside Boys Max had sold more than four million copies that summer. A crowd of more than 50000 did the dance at Yankee Stadium.
S3: Think we broke the record here?
S1: Macarena nine America’s gymnastics heroes The Magnificent Seven celebrated their Olympic gold medals by performing the Macarena in red, white and blue leotards, and the Bayside Boys Mix inspired some awkward gyrations at the Democratic National Convention. By this point, the Macarena was several years old. What was new was its white bread appeal that baseball fans and Hillary Clinton had discovered its existence and started going through the motions.
S4: It’s become something else. It’s not the same thing at all.
S1: Mia Navarro says the Macarena is universal charm was its undoing.
S4: You know, once it appeals to all ages and you see little kids, you know, all the way to all people Dancin, I think it loses its coolness right then and there.
S1: There had been some hostility to the Macarena from the very beginning before most of America had even heard of it. A guy in the Rio Grande Valley was printing up no Macarena T-shirts. One of the nightclubs where Macarena Louis Bianche hung out in Miami banned the song entirely. The club’s marketing director said You’re either over there listening to the Macarena or you’re over here with us. In 1996, the Macarena backlash went just as viral as the song had its boring.
S3: It’s everywhere, and it’s just it’s time to do something else. Go on to a new song. That’s what’s driving me crazy. I got it. Every time we turn on the TV, the radio is a Macarena. It’s just fun. I mean, come on.
S1: Seattle’s Cuban eighty three FM had been early to jump on the Macarena bandwagon in 1996. Program director Mike Tierney hopped right off.
S5: Eventually we did Macarena free weekends like we had Call-Out research, and one of the questions was like, Are you sick of this song yet? We knew, we knew when it was time to get off. That was like clinical and we were professionals and we knew what we were doing.
S1: The Bayside boys mix would get knocked off the top of the charts in November of 96 after 14 weeks. Still one of the longest runs in Billboard history. It was replaced at number one by Black Street’s No Diggity, No Big Bang Theory.
S1: Later that month, Lost Del Rio released a Christmas remix, cementing the Macarena place as the most overexposed cultural product of the late 20th century. Now, 25 years later, it’s easier to find critical and emotional distance from the Macarena.
S2: Well, you know, at some point you got to like, let it go. You know, you got to go.
S1: Macarena Luce Bianche is now in her late 40s and works as a personal development coach. She says she’s made peace with Macarena, the song
S2: You can’t walk around with this existential dread or hatred or wound. I think in my evolution as a human being and growing up, you know, I got to get over this. Whatever, it’s OK. Let me celebrate with the people who enjoy it instead of like focus on like the horror, the horror of it.
S8: Even before Macarena, I understood that I was built more to be behind the scenes.
S1: Carlos de AASA had a short post Macarena career as a performer, but he never got all that comfortable on stage. He’s now in charge of marketing and communications for Miami’s St. Thomas University,
S8: so Macarena was, I believe, maybe it was necessary at that time, not just her music. It was just a time that needed a little bit of a lift, a little bit of just pure fun without anything attached. It was nothing but good feelings. It was nothing but embracing. It was nothing but acceptance, and it never had a bad time anywhere all over the United States.
S1: The Bayside boys and Los del Rio will share a musical connection forever. But Carlos says the two groups have never spoken.
S8: Not once. Not for a second. Not for nanoseconds. We’re making all these guys all this money, and they haven’t even sent us a cerrito from Spain, so I’ll be happy with a gift basket. Let’s go, guys. Put it together a little red wine or lottery thing. Come on, bring it.
S1: We weren’t able to connect with Los del Rio either, but they did speak to the author, Leila Cobo. I asked her how they think about their contribution to the world.
S6: They think it’s amazing that they’ve been able to bring happiness to children that are five years old and people that are 80 years old, and it still happens. It’s it’s a song that makes people happy.
S1: Today, you can find the Macarena on a whole bunch of lists of the worst songs ever. It should be recognized as a landmark, a Latin anthem that helped pave the way for crossover hits like Despacito. And after all these years, it’s still a vessel for reinvention. In 2019, the rapper Tyga created his own rendition and brought an older, punchier list Del Rio along for the ride.
S3: A Macarena Macarena Macarena
S7: put the chap on and not just on my boat to give me warm and a
S3: Macarena, and I ain’t good enough.
S1: Looking back, it’s remarkable that the Macarena ever became a thing. That an old fashioned flamenco group wrote a tune that took over the world. At the same time, when you listen to that original recording, the Macarena feels inevitable even without the dance or the electronic beat or the English verses or the music video. It’s just really, really catchy.
S3: I love you. I love the way the putting me on Macarena. I got it right.
S6: And Macarena was so simple that it allowed everybody to be part of it.
S3: I love to
S6: do. I think the song is a masterpiece. I know, but you can’t prevent people from feeling what they feel when when they hear music.
S1: Next time on the final episode of one year, 1995, just as the Internet was taking hold, an article about online pornography threatened its future.
S4: When this thing came out, it became clear that this could be really dangerous if people started to think, Oh, it’s just awash in pornography. People could use this kind of information to say, Oh, we need to lock this thing down before it gets out of hand.
S1: This episode was produced by Evan Chung, Madeline Ducharme and Me Josh Levin. Additional production help came from Shayna Roth. This episode was edited by Laura Bennett, editorial direction by Lowe and Lou and Gabriel Roth. You can send us feedback and ideas and memories from 1995 and one year at Slate.com. You can call us on the one year hotline at 203 three four three zero seven seven seven. We’d love to hear from our mix. Engineer is Merritt Jacob. The Artwork for One Year by Jim Cook Leila cobas book is decoding Despacito an oral history of Latin music. Special thanks to Alfred Soto, Holly Allen, Katie Rayford, Asha Saluja, Ember Smith, Seth Brown, Rachel Strahm, June Thomas and Chao too. Thanks for listening! We’ll be back next week with the season finale of One Year 1995.