Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cheetah's Room Mate

The dance track ‘Tarzan Boy’ originally swung into European stores during 1984 for Italian disco-dance outfit Baltimora. Baltimora was essentially a music project for Italian Maurizio Bassi. Bassi was the man who actually produced/arranged, co-wrote and sang lead vocals on the catchy pop single ‘Tarzan Boy’. A remix was made and re-released as the ‘Tarzan Boy (Summer Version)’ in the European Summer of 1985. Second time around it was a huge hit, reaching the top five in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, and hit #1 in the Netherlands and Sweden.

One of the backing singers on the track was Jimmy McShane, who originally hailed from Londonderry, Northern Ireland. McShane became the front-man for the Baltimora project when ‘Tarzan Boy’ was released in English speaking countries. Bassi was happy to take a back seat as ‘Tarzan Boy’ swung into the British charts in August 1985. It set up a nice little tree house at #3 on the British charts, and followed suit in both the U.S. (#13) and Australia (#16) over late ‘85, early ‘86. McShane performed as the songs lead vocalist on the U.S. music show ‘Solid Gold’, adding to ‘Tarzan Boys’ longevity on the Billboard Hot 100.

Baltimora released a full length album ‘Living In The Background’ (US#49/It#26) , well six tracks anyway, in Europe near the end of 1985 and the U.S. soon after. The follow up single was ‘Woody Boogie’ which hit #3 in Sweden, #13 in Italy and #20 in Germany, but the success wasn’t translated beyond continental Europe. The title track ‘Living In The Background’ (US#87) was the only other Baltimora single to reach the U.S. Hot 100.

A second album ‘Survivor In Love’ was issued in 1987, but received commercial release in selected European markets only. Two more singles, ‘Juke Box Boy’ (#9) and ‘Key Key Karimba’ (#40) hit local Italian charts, but for Baltimora, whether it be Bassi or McShane, further success beyond ‘Tarzan Boy’ would remain elusive. ‘Tarzan Boy’ was remixed and reissued as a single in 1993, via its inclusion in the film ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III’ (there was a III?!?). Second time around ‘Tarzan Boy’ climbed to #51 on the U.S. Hot 100.

For anyone who watched any amount of commercial television during the 90s, you’ll probably recall the song ‘Tarzan Boy’ - or at least the distinctive vocal chant - from the global TV campaign for Listerine mouthwash - which also coincided with the song’s re-entry into U.S. charts in 1993.

Sadly the face of Baltimora, Jimmy McShane died as a result of AIDS in March 1995. The creative force behind Baltimora Maurizio Bassi has an active MySpace page and appears to have maintained an active career as an arranger/producer and songwriter in his native Italy.

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