Baccara was a female vocal duo formed in 1977 by Spanish artists Mayte Mateos (7 February 1951, Logroño) and María Mendiola (4 April 1952, Madrid). The pair rapidly achieved international success with their debut single "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie", which reached number one across much of Europe and is one of the best-selling singles of all time. A successful follow-up single ("Sorry, I'm a Lady") and European tour led to a number of album releases, numerous television appearances and the duo's selection to represent Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest 1978.
Despite a substantial following in Spain, Germany and Japan, by 1981 the duo's distinctive blend of disco, pop and Spanish folk music was no longer fashionable, and by 1983 Mayte Mateos and María Mendiola were both working on solo projects. Achieving little success as solo artists, the two formed duos of their own: separate incarnations of the original Baccara appeared during the middle of the decade, with Mendiola fronting New Baccara and Mateos keeping the duo's original name. During the 1990s New Baccara was renamed back to Baccara; as a consequence both Mateos and Mendiola now head different duos with the same name. Both principals have subsequently had prolonged but separate legacy careers based on nostalgia and their earlier fame.
Mendiola's Baccara has seen more international recognition, releasing a string of Hi-NRG club hits such as "Fantasy Boy" and "Touch Me" in the late 1980s and the later UK club hit "Wind Beneath My Wings". Mateos' Baccara has released few new recordings, but has remained in demand for television and live appearances in countries such as Spain and Germany where the original Baccara developed a loyal fan base, performing the duo's back-catalogue and modernised versions of traditional Spanish songs.
Mayte Mateos graduated as a teacher from the Royal Spanish Academy for Arts, Drama and Dance in Madrid and then joined Spanish Television's Ballet Company. While there she met fellow performer María Mendiola. In 1976 the two women formed a singing and dancing duo (using the title Venus) and left the Ballet Company. Initially the duo's act was simply that of variety show dancers. Their first television appearance was on the Palmarés light entertainment programme and they were engaged at a nightclub in the Aragon city of Zaragoza, but their contract was cancelled when the club manager decided that they were "too elegant" for the style of show. Mateos and Mendiola relocated to the Canary Islands in search of work. Here they found that there was an audience for the performance of traditional Spanish music and dance in a form that was adapted to suit international tastes.
The duo were spotted by Leon Deane, manager of the German subsidiary of record company RCA, whilst performing flamenco dance and traditional Spanish songs for tourists (mostly German) in the Tres Islas Hotel on the island of Fuerteventura. He invited them to Hamburg in order for them to meet the 30 year old Dutch producer/composer Rolf Soja. Soja was the prime mover behind what became Baccara. He developed their stage performance and recruited their instrumental support. Mateos and Mendiola were retitled Baccara, after the name of the black rose, in reference to the women's dark Spanish appearance.
Soja is generally credited with the Baccara formula--consisting of breathy lyrics, lush backing, a disco beat and the striking image of two women (one dressed in black, Mateos and the other in white, Mendiola) dancing. While drawing lightly on Spanish flamenco song and dance tradition, the formula was very much rooted in 1970s disco music. Soja's song arrangements generally used Mateos as the lead singer while Mendiola contributed with backing and refrains.
Together with fellow writer Frank Dostal, Soja penned their début single "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" and most of their other 1970s hits. Recorded in Holland and released in 1977, "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" was an enormous pan-European hit and was a prime example of the phenomenon that is known as the "summer hit". The song was heard everywhere over the summer of 1977 and it is still evocative of that moment in time. It is also one of the best known examples of the Eurodisco genre :
...this mind-bending Common Market melding of foreign accents, bad diction, bizarre arrangements and lightweight production, usually top-heavy with strings
"Yes Sir, ..." reached the top of the charts in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Israel, and Switzerland, and number three in France. Baccara sold more than 16 million copies of "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" and featured in the 1977 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as the highest-selling female musical duo to date. They were the first female duo to reach number one in the UK, and had the only number one by a Spanish artist in the UK until Julio Iglesias, four years later.
Later that year a self-titled album, written and produced by Soja and Dostal, was released. The album Baccara was the first platinum selling album - actually double platinum in 1978 - by a foreign group in Finland. In 2013, the album still remains the 6th biggest selling album of all time in Finland.
A follow-up single, "Sorry, I'm a Lady", was also an international hit, peaking at the top of the charts in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium and reaching the top ten in the UK, Sweden and Switzerland. Most of Baccara's recordings were sung in English although they did also record in Spanish, German and French. They recorded different language versions of some songs (see Discography below).
Touring in Europe during the late 1970s helped the band establish a firm fan base in Germany (where their records continued to be produced) and the Scandinavian countries, and their Spanish-flavoured interpretation of the disco sound also brought them recognition in Japan and Russia. Baccara represented West Germany at the eighth World Popular Song Festival held in November 1977 - until it ended in 1989 the largest such contest in the world. Their song, "Mad in Madrid", came 14th out of 37 participating countries.
In 1978 the second Baccara album, Light My Fire, was released across Europe, and whilst not matching the international success of the first, it spawned the single "Parlez-vous français?" which was selected as Luxembourg's entry in that year's Eurovision Song Contest. Despite full marks from Italy, Portugal and Spain the duo finished in 7th place. However high sales, particularly in Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, meant that the single was a commercial success.
"Think what you like about Baccara, seen today their 1978 Eurovision performance has a certain style while their competition from that event looks dated and amateurish″ - New Musical Express, May 2002
Further recognition came in 1978 when Baccara was granted Germany's most prestigious media award, Burda Publishing Group's Bambi prize. This is offered annually to "celebrities whose abilities have impressed, moved and enthused the people in Germany". The duo made regular television appearances, becoming weekly guests on Sacha Distel's show in the UK, and on Musikladen in Germany. 1978 was the high point of Baccara's artistic and commercial success. Late that year the duo released the single "The Devil Sent You to Laredo" with "Somewhere in Paradise" as its B side. Both of these Baccara recordings have become iconic. "Somewhere in Paradise" (with its allusions to life after death) is regularly played by Christian radio stations while "The Devil..." (with its background pistol shots) is sometimes identified with the gay community. A Spanish-language version of the "The Devil..." ("El diablo te mandó a Laredo") was released at the same time as the English one, and both the original English version and "Somewhere in Paradise" subsequently featured on the duo's first greatest hits compilation, The Hits of Baccara, released under the name Los Éxitos de Baccara in Spain and South America.
1979 saw the album Colours and the separately-recorded single "Eins plus eins ist eins", released to mark the United Nations' International Year of the Child and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Although still successful, sales of these and other releases in 1979 were disappointing.
Baccara's fourth and final album (in the band's original incarnation) was Bad Boys, released in 1981. By this time the disco sound had been overshadowed by newer music movements (such as punk, New Wave and synthpop) in much of Europe and interest was largely confined to those countries where the duo had an established fan base, notably Germany. The album was not released in the UK or US. Baccara have been (possibly unfairly) described as a "one hit wonder" in the UK, while they never achieved any recognition in the US despite some of their songs being given significant airplay. One music critic suggested that the Baccara formula lacked artistic depth but had been "mined for all it was worth" over two years until public interest moved on to other things. The same critic also drew attention to an element of "anti-feminist subservience" in the lyrics of some Baccara songs.
The 1980 single release of "Sleepy-Time-Toy" led to a disagreement within Baccara over the vocal mix used. Mendiola complained that her voice was not given sufficient prominence in the song's arrangement and sued RCA for breach of contract. Mendiola's case was that the song should not have been released as a Baccara recording when it amounted to a Mateos solo. A court hearing in Munich resulted in 250,000 records being recalled from dealers and a revised recording with a new vocal mix being issued in place of the original. A twenty eight second instrumental bridge was removed from the start of the recording (thereby reducing the play time from 6:12 to 5:44) and the vocals were remixed so as to give Mendiola and Mateos equal prominence. The artwork for the single's cover appears to have remained unchanged. The single failed to chart successfully.
As a result of the dispute, relationships between all parties involved were fatally damaged. One consequence of this was that Soja and Dostal were not involved with Baccara's final album. The duo recorded Bad Boys with Bruce Baxter and Graham Sacher in the UK. Neither the album nor its spin-off single "Colorado" were successful. In 1981, after RCA declined to renew their contract, Mateos and Mendiola ended their professional partnership and both launched solo careers.
By 1988 both artists had released a series of singles and one studio album each of their own - Mendiola with Born Again and Mateos with Spanish Dreams under the name Mayte Mathée -- which saw moderate success amongst Baccara's original fan base. Mateos' Spanish Dreams was re-released on CD in Germany in the 2000s under the title Noche Latina but Mendiola's Born Again still remains unreleased in digital format. However there remained a demand for Baccara's music, particularly on the European television circuit, and by the end of the decade both Mateos and Mendiola had formed their own versions of Baccara with new singing partners. Despite a series of name and line-up changes, both Baccara duos continue to perform around Europe and have released new albums. Both have also made re-recordings of their hits for various minor record labels, which are regularly re-packaged and re-issued under the original Baccara name, occasionally with photos of the original duo, Mateos and Mendiola, on the album covers. However, the original song versions - those recorded between 1977 and 1981 - remain the property of Sony Music Entertainment, which holds the rights to the RCA back catalogue.
On the occasion of Baccara's 30th Anniversary, Sony-BMG Germany released a very complete 3 CD box set on August 31 2007. This collection includes 50 RCA original recordings. Several songs such as "Mad in Madrid", "Amoureux", "Baila tú", "En el año 2000", "Eins plus eins ist eins" and "Candido" made their debut on CD. The only tracks missing from this otherwise comprehensive career retrospective are the US 12" versions of "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" and "Sorry, I'm a Lady" from debut album Baccara, the full 12 minute album version of "Baby, Why Don't You Reach Out?"/"Light My Fire" and the extended album version of "Darling" from 1978's Light My Fire and the extended 12" versions of "Body-Talk" and "By 1999" from 1979's Colours.
After the split, Mateos and Mendiola never performed together again. However, the two women remained on friendly terms. When Mateos married in Stockholm in 1982, Mendiola attended the wedding as a guest. There Mendiola met a fellow guest who she subsequently married and with whom she had two sons. Mateos's marriage failed and in 2010 she was living in Hamburg, where she worked as a dance instructor when not touring with her own revived version of Baccara. In 2010 Mendiola was living in Madrid and still performing as a singer.
Mayte Mateos' Baccara (1983-present)
Following the original Baccara's dissolvement in 1981 Mayte Mateos released three solo singles through the RCA-Victor label, "Souvenirs from Paradise", "Recuerdos del ayer" and "Malaguena", the first two produced by Rolf Soja. Re-forming as Baccara in 1983 with Marisa Pérez, a contemporary of Mateos and Mendiola at the Spanish TV ballet company, Mateos re-established the band on the European entertainment circuit. Pérez was followed by a succession of partners including Ángela Muro, Sole García, Jane Comerford, Carmen, Cristina Sevilla, Paloma Blanco, Isabel Patton, Romy Abradelo, Rose, Francesca Rodrigues and María Marín. Mateos' current singing partner is once again fellow Spaniard Paloma Blanco. Although having no new hits to their name, Mateos' Baccara have remained in demand for television and live performances, performing the band's extensive back catalogue -- versions of which have been released as compilations -- as well as up-tempo interpretations of traditional Spanish songs.
In 1999 Mateos' Baccara released a new studio album through RCA-Victor/Sony-BMG, Baccara 2000, as well as an updated dance version of breakthrough hit "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" as a single.
In 2004, Mayte Mateos was once again involved with Eurovision, when her incarnation of Baccara took part in the Swedish Melodifestivalen preselection contest to represent Sweden with the song "Soy tu Venus". However, Baccara lost out to local star Lena Philipsson, who eventually placed 5th in the competition. A full-length studio album recorded in Sweden, Soy tu Venus, followed.
A new Baccara album with Mayte Mateos and Paloma Blanco, entitled Satin ...In Black & White and produced by the original Baccara team Rolf Soja and Frank Dostal, was released on May 30th, 2008. This album contained remakes of original Baccara recordings from the late 1970s and some new songs. Although appreciated by Baccara fans, sales of the album were disappointing.
In 2013 Mayte appears on vocals in the cover version of Yes Sir I Can Boogie by the indie rock band, based in London, Sala & The Strange Sound.
Maria Mendiola's Baccara (1985-present)
Initially called New Baccara to distinguish it from Mayte Mateos' re-formed Baccara, Mendiola teamed up with vocalist Marisa Pérez and in 1987 reached the top five in Spain and top 40 in Germany with the single "Call Me Up", written by Ian Cussick. 1988 saw the duo release a series of euro-influenced Hi-NRG dance tracks on the Bellaphon recording label. "Call Me Up", "Fantasy Boy" and "Touch Me" were produced by Luis Rodríguez, and were big club hits across Europe. A version of Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings", released on the Loading Bay label in the late 1990s, was also a hit in UK clubs. Towards the end of the decade New Baccara was renamed back to Baccara, and releases continued, although the group did not chart as their output was directed towards the club scene with singles pressed in strictly limited quantities.
Mendiola and Pérez were stars of the UK 2000 tour and appeared at Wembley, London with various other music groups. In 2004, they appeared on British reality show Hit Me Baby One More Time.
In August 2005, Mendiola and Pérez were honoured with a memorial on Vienna's "Musical Mile", along its Hollywood-style "Walk of the Stars".
In late 2008 Marisa Pèrez was diagnosed with acute polyarthritis. It was agreed that until Perez recovered, her place at Baccara live performances would be taken by Mendiola's niece Laura Mendiola. This measure (stated to be temporary) allowed Mendiola's Baccara to honour its outstanding commitments over the period Perez needed to recover.
Discography (Original Baccara):