The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 41)

Full to bursting with all the biggest chart hits of two decades ago, every Thursday at 9am, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: the last great post-holiday Eurohit smashes onto the UK charts – and how…

  • Artist: Las Ketchup
  • Song: The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)
  • Released: 07/10/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Manuel Ruiz
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 27

Now, it’s usually by this point of the series – if we’re going on the precedent of 1999 and 2000 – that we’ve discussed a record or records that at one time, were as sure an indicator as any that the autumn had arrived amongst the nation’s record buyers. In fact, September and October were usually feared times to release a single for most pop acts hoping to have a shoo-in for number one as the run up to Q4 began.

And the answer? Buyer demand driven records that were the product of summer holidays abroad – usually two weeks in the Costa Del Sol or Costa Del Brava – that nobody openly admitted to liking, but which were snapped up in the hundreds of thousands by formerly lobster tanned Brits wanting a reminder of the sun, sea and sangria that had been for that carefree fortnight in August. See “Mambo No. 5”, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, “Macarena”, “Saturday Night”, “Hey Baby (Uhh, Aah)” and without a shadow of a doubt, the record in question this week.

Hailing from Córodoba in Andalusia, Spain, Las Ketchup consisted of three sisters; Lucia, Lola and Pilar Muñoz, all of whom were the daughters of flamenco guitarist Juan Manuel Muñoz Expósito, best known by his stage name, El Tomate (Spanish for The Tomato). It was a small independent label called Shaketown Records in Andalusia who had been responsible for getting the demo of “Aserejé”, their debut single, under the eyes of record companies.

Retitled as “The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)” for international audiences, the song was actually not about ketchup or tomatoes at all. Instead, it was lyrically typical holiday poolside song material, recounting the bombastic tale of the lascivious and mysterious ladies’ man Diego, king of the dancefloor leading the way in a nonsensical Spanish version of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight”, accompanied by a hand jive and leg wiggling dance routine that immediately crossed it over into pop legendary.

Columbia Records in Spain were immediately impressed and sensed a hit, and thus a major record deal was on the table. First released there in June in its original Spanish language version as the first single from their debut album Hijas del Tomate, by the time the UK release had been licenced, “The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)” had been number one in 17 countries (leading to the single charting as high as #49 on import sales alone).

The UK became the eighteenth country to award it as a chart topper, with the single racing to the summit on its first full week of release two decades ago this week, with opening sales of 105,000 copies. But it’s success wasn’t to end there.

By the end of the year, it was still a weekly UK top 10 fixture and was the eighth biggest selling single of 2002, after selling more copies than all but six of the year’s chart toppers. And all this despite the fact radio and TV (music channels aside) were largely not touching it with a bargepole.

We’d argue that part of its success was that it flew in the face of the cooler, grittier style of pop music that was coming through at that time. Sometimes, as over half a million copies sold of this single proved, people just wanted to have a laugh and a dance. As it turns out, Las Ketchup would prove to be one final hurrah for this kind of holiday powered record to be this successful in the UK charts, as with the rise of the digital download and the growth of global release dates, the trend largely died out in the 00s.

So too with it, did their long term career, as like every novelty one hit wonder before it, there was a follow up. But Sony Music here in the UK, perhaps sensing that nothing would ever top that first single, quietly cancelled the release of their second single “Kusha La Payas”. The only time they were seen or heard of again on British shores was in 2006, when they represented Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Un Blodymary” (it finished 21st out of 24).

But “The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)” still stands proudly as a guaranteed floorfiller to whack on when any birthday party or school / wedding disco gets a bit flat; like the greats of the genre before it, with a chorus as catchy as a cold and a dance routine that was virtually drunkproof, it’s place in pop history was always assured.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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