Recently with all of these movie-and-TV reboots that have been happening in Hollywood ("Star Trek", "Ironside" etc), the theme songs have also been getting facelifts....which reminded me of some of the go-to songs that Japanese variety shows have used to introduce certain segments. For example, whenever there is a segment (or corner, as the Japanese put it) that involves New York City, a Big Band jazz song frames it. If there is some sort of mind-stumping quiz question and the situation needs "thinking time" music, they often use the aforementioned "Ironside" theme (just wonder if Quincy Jones gets any copyright money considering how much the Japanese networks use it).
And then, whenever a magician comes out to dazzle the crowds, what is the music the networks use? It's this one. So, going back to those facelifts, back in 1989, Akemi Ishii（石井明美）, who likes a bit of Latin in her music, decided to cover the famed "Olive no Kubikazari" (An Olive Necklace) as her 7th single in November 1989. With Japanese lyrics by Rei Nakanishi（なかにし礼）, the "Japanese Magicians' Theme" gets that level up through the spicy arrangements to the extent that one almost forgets that little bunnies and birds often popped out of thin air to the song. In fact, when I first heard it on Ishii's 4th album from 1990, "Nettaiya -- Brazilian Night"（熱帯夜...Sultry Night）, images of Princess Tenko suddenly appeared in my head.
The above video is for that magical theme itself. With the somewhat giggleworthy title of "El Bimbo", Paul Mauriat and his orchestra first released their version back in January 1975, after which it was used in a wine commercial featuring Mauriat (who was very popular in Japan) himself and then as a frequent go-to tune on the late-night variety show, "11 PM" on NTV, before it became the well-worn tune for magicians. Although I hadn't known about Mauriat's involvement in "El Bimbo", I did know him for one other song long ago in my toddlerhood, his 1967 "Love Is Blue".
But the history of this song goes even further back. "El Bimbo" was actually created by the 70s French disco group, Bimbo Jet, via Claude Morgan and Laurent Rossi. It became a big international hit in 1974 and 1975, selling 3 million records worldwide. And for those fans of the "Police Academy" movie series, the song was used as part of a running gag in The Blue Oyster Bar scenes. Always brought a smile to my face.