Tie A Jello Ribbo

Our Ned made a wonderful discovery in his loft the other day and I have ordered him to preserve the evidence until I can get it down in digital format and publish around these parts.

Its the original Benidorm Live tape of Pepe Hernandez.

If you are now scratching your heads and mumbling “Who?” then you have just declared yourself as having never been to Benidorm.

I’ve been to Benidorm, several times, but I usually use my father as a mitigating circumstance, you see he lived there for the last seven years of his life and before that he’d holidayed there for another ten years with my mother, most years staying there for several weeks.

When my mother died it left him with a golden opportunity, being in his late 60s he now had to decide what he was going to use his twilight years for, he had his state pension and a grand a month from me in repayment for his business (I never did pay him the full asking price) and just himself to spend it all on so he wrote down everything that interested him, singing, entertaining, being entertained, telling jokes, drinking beer, having a good time with other people of a similar age and similar tastes and at the end of the list he just wrote “=Benidorm”

So he rented an apartment at the back of the town and relocated.

And every night he’d drive his car into the town, double park it anywhere, and spend the rest of the evening and most of the next morning drinking beer, singing songs, telling jokes and generally having himself a bloody good time with people of the same ilk, and then he’d drive himself back home and sleep it all off through the next day – it was a bit like a teenager being on an 18-30 holiday without the sex, sort of a 60-80 holiday on a permanent basis – his liver lasted for another seven years but he had a bloody good time wearing it out and he spent every last penny I sent out to him and I for one don’t begrudge him any of it.

Anyway, Pepe Hernandez.

Every bar in Benidorm worth its salt would employ a keyboard player, the sort of keyboard player who would play anything on demand so that any client in the bar could get up, grab a microphone and regale the clientele with a song, it was kareoke before kareoke machines were invented and most of the keyboard players doing the rounds in Benidorm were English, catering for the English holidaymakers.

Except for Pepe Hernandez, for as the name suggests he was Spanish, could barely speak one word of English.

In the 1980s Pepe Hernandez was a jobbing keyboard player touting the bars to play jaunty little sing-a-long-a songs to English holiday makers, English songs to English holidaymakers, English songs when he couldn’t speak a word of English, and so he did what I would do if they ever asked me to sing songs in Spanish – he just made what sounded like the right noises.

Phonetic singing, he excelled at it, or rather he didn’t really excel at it at all, but the old women like my mother loved him for it and he became very popular, “Ooooh we saw this lovely little Spanish singer, Pepe Hernandez” she told us excitedly when they returned from Benidorm in 1982, “he sings this song called Tie a Jello Ribbo Rown Ze Ool-oo-dree”, its lovely, your dad bought a tape”.

And indeed he did, its the very same one that our Ned found in his loft last week, and our dad put it on the music centre and a very poorly recorded, echo-ey performance filled our living room with the sound of a Benidorm bar in full drinking frenzy of a Saturday night with Pepe Hernandez doing his stuff on the Bontempi Organ and getting all the old ladies all of a-dither.

“Tie a jello-ribbo rown ze ool-ool-dree” Pepe sang in a barely recognisable rendition of the old 1970s best selling song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Dawn, and when I say barely recognisable I mean that my mother didn’t even realise it was supposed to be the same song, “He writes all his own songs you know love” she informed our Ned and me, “Are you sure about that mother ?” we asked.

She’d sing the hits of Pepe Hernandez every morning as she dusted and vacumn’ed the bungalow, Tie a Jello Ribbo, Ees Long Whey To Teep’rary, Wize Men Za-ay, and very bizarrely a rendition of Vive Espana which should have sounded exactly as the songwriter had intended what with it being a Spanish song sung by a Spaniard, but Pepe Hernandez was a Spaniard trying to sing in English and when he sang a Spanish song he managed to make it sound neither English or Spanish.

Thats was over thirty years ago and the tape still plays and I must get it down on digital media for posterity for Pepe Hernandez has ruined his act now, he’s available on Youtube by simply typing “Pepe Hernandez Benidorm” but his English is far too good for his own good these days and he just sounds like your run of the mill shit organist rather than the act that sings songs that you should know but don’t recognise and it takes you all night to work out what they are, usually awakening in the middle of the night to yell out “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree”.


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