I’ll admit it-I’ve always been scared by Taco. The guy was a weirdo. Plus, he was named Taco. This true one-hit wonder danced his way into the Billboard Top 10 in summer 1983 with his bizarre, synth-driven cover of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. The creepy factor was very high.
How could one look at this freak and not be weirded out? I sure was. And yet anything was possible in 1983 on MTV, so this video was played to death by the network.
Taco (his real name by the way), seemed to be loving life as he danced around in tux and spats with top hat and cane like some sort of demented New Waver stuck in the 1930’s.
He also had a glow-in-the dark cane that looked like a $2.99 version of a light saber. Taco was dressed to the nines and was ready for a good ‘ol time. I mean, he was putting on the ritz after all.
I think what is important to remember here is that Taco was a genuine creep. At least he was his own creep. Would you trust a face like this? More to the point-how many groupies are currently living in shame decades later that Taco was who they were bedded by? Not exactly Jagger or Elvis here. And, is this what he looked like as his burrito reached climax?
“You tasted divine my dear. Best I’ve ever had!”.
The scenes where Taco lunged with his cape always bothered me-it was as if he was lunging at me and my time was up. I didn’t want to go out with a Taco-vampire man. Not a noble way to leave this world.
And, since it was apparently OK to be racially insensitive in 1983, Taco oddly passes various bums and vagrants outside and we get some people in blackface!
“We made sure MTV got some black people on in 1983-it wasn’t just Michael Jackson and Prince! We did good, didn’t we?”-Taco, 1983
Taco did carry a certain authority with that cane. I mean, the vagrants were sure scared and respectful of him.
“Stand back, you bums! I am the great Taco. Fear me, respect me and oh-buy my new single please!”.
And hey, where there’s blackface, you know there’s gotta be singin’ and dancin’ and lovin’ life!
I do question this: Why would the well-to-do be dressed fancy to panhandle? The only Ritz it would seem they’d be puttin’ on is on a cracker. But maybe Taco is trying to teach us to dress nice no matter our troubles.
Another scene that always gave me the creeps was these two weird old guys who looked like tossed-aside muppets from years gone by in the snow. WTF?
Taco didn’t really have a “band”, but did have an asshole with bad hair that looked like John Hurt playing piano, thus making him Taco’s pianist. Heh-heh.
While this video still conjures up a slew of nightmares, it was proof positive that anything could become a hit back then-especially if MTV deemed it so. To this day, I myself still put on the ritz (I won’t tell you what that means), so I do salute Taco-and he must feel the same because he’s saluting me right back!
Taco remained a one-hit wonder as his follow-up single “Singin’ In The Rain” flopped at #101 on the charts.
Today, Taco is puttin’ on the pounds, but not too badly-doesn’t seem like he ate too many tacos over the years, and we wish him well, don’t we?
“Puttin’ On The Ritz” lives on. Taco’s version was used in the thriller The Call in 2013. Of course, Fred Astaire had the most famous version around 1930. The song had somewhat racist lyrics and those were changed in 1946 for the film Blue Skies starring Astaire.
Let’s not forget the hilarious moment in 1974’s Young Frankenstein as Peter Boyle screams it as Frankenstein. Family Guy has also spoofed this and even The Chipmunks covered Taco’s version in 1984.
Let’s face it-Taco was a musical visionary and a genius.
Enjoy the video, and this is the original uncensored version from 1983 (until it’s pulled for some reason, then just find it on You Tube if you must):
Taco “Puttin’ On The Ritz” stats:
peaked at US #4 (1983)
creepy guys named Taco in video: 1
racist characters in blackface: too many
laser canes used: 1
ritzes put on: 1,000