'80s - Mai Tai (2010)
'The History of Mai Tai'
Mai Tai is a Dutch group (named after a tropical cocktail) that was formed in 1983, by the Dutch record producers Eric van Tijn and Jochem Fluitsma. With three former backing vocalists Jetty Wheels, Mildred Douglas and Caroline de Windt, they created a Dutch soul, disco and pop act.
Their debut single, "Keep On Dancin'" (1983) was only a hit in the Dutch nightclubs. In the summer of 1984 they released a second single, "What Goes On". It became their first hit in the Dutch Top 40, peaking at #30. Following tracks like "Body And Soul" and "Am I Losing You Forever" also hit the charts, but never managed to reach the Top 20 in the Netherlands.
In early 1985 they released their debut album, called Mai Tai, which won a Dutch Edison Award and a Silver Harp. Their international breakthrough came with "History" from the debut album. This song was successful all over Europe, and became a #8 hit in the UK Singles Chart and reached the Top 20 in Germany. It was also a hit in New Zealand and Australia and entered the U.S. Billboard dance chart. In 1986 their song "Female Intuition" became a Top 40 hit across Europe, and made Top 10 in Denmark.
"Body and Soul" was re-released in the UK and became their second UK Top 10 hit, peaking at #9. After their international breakthrough, Mai Tai also became more popular in the Netherlands. The follow-up single, "Turn Your Love Around" from the second album, 1 Touch 2 Much, went straight into the Top 10 of the Dutch Top 40.
But Mai Tai could not manage to maintain the success. Their third album, Cool Is The Rule was less successful in the charts, and after 1987 they did not release any new work. In 1991 a 'Best Of' album was released, with one new track called "Dance In The Light". But when the new single was not successful, they decided to split up.
In 2003 Mai Tai was reunited, and today, under the guidance of original member Harriette 'Jetty' Weels, the group still play live - and are hoping to bring out a new album of original songs soon too.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Harriette 'Jetty' Wheels about the old fame days, about why the band broke up, about album artwork, and, of course ... penguins!
Taking it from the top, and although I am interviewing Harriette Weels here today, I assume you were once known within the band circles as Jetty Weels, yes? "Born as Harriette Weels, yes. The Dutch like nicknames so they, and my family call me 'Jetty'."
Indeed, why the change then from Harriette to 'Jetty' ... and now back to Harriette? "Growing up, finding your own ID. I now prefer Harriette."
Mai Tai, the band was named after Mai Tai, the tropical cocktail drink in 1983, by Dutch record producers Eric van Tijn and Jochem Fluitsma. You were one of the three former backing vocalists brought in to front the band. So, who had you done backing for before this group and how were you invited to join Mai Tai in the first place? "Well, I met one of the producers during a gig and he invited me to the studio. Before this I sang in local bands and did backing for Dutch artists. After a while I formed the group, because I'd known Caroline and Mildred for a long time. We were friends in the Amsterdam music scene. I then started the group in 1983. And in 1998 I took over the rights of the name MAI TAI."
Mai Tai back then was yourself, Mildred Douglas and Caroline de Windt. Do you still see these ladies all these years later? "Of course. Up till 2003 I gigged with Mildred and then she said goodbye forever!! Caroline and I went on till 2008 and then she said goodbye!! And now I'm Mai Tai with two others! And we still are good friends ... sisters in Soul."
And who makes up Tai Mai today, lady wise? "Me and two others - Aisha and Glenda."
Your debut single, 'Keep On Dancin' (1983) was a hit in the Dutch nightclubs, with your second single, 'What Goes On' entering the Dutch Top 40 too. Was the world a daze around that time for you, the group's fame growing and growing, the TV show appearances happening more frequently? "Yes, we were totally knocked down by success!"
You then followed up those singles with both 'Body and Soul' and 'Am I Losing You Forever,' and with the fame bandwagon still rolling in 1985 released your self-titled debut album. But, your international breakthrough came with 'History,' and it was a hit all over Europe, hitting the UK Singles Chart at #8. What was that like, now that the band had become international, and you were obviously flying all across the world to do press and TV? "Well, no more time for socializing, rare times with family and friends. More flying hours than walking hours!"
Further singles, 'Female Intuition,' a re-released 'Body and Soul,' and 'Turn Your Love Around,' all made the charts, but the second album, 1 Touch 2 Much didn't seem to have as much punch as its predecessor. At the time, did you think the same thing yourself? "Well, we should have changed a bit to other co-producers and songwriters. To freshen up the air. That was the mistake the producers made!"
Come your third album, Cool Is The Rule, and things were not as successful for the band. Indeed, come 1987 and the band never released any new work. That said, and knowing that Mai Tai broke up in 1991, some 4 years later, what happened to the band for those 4 years in-between - years that you didn't break up, but didn't record either? "Right, Mildred did a solo album. Caroline and Mildred did a culture theater show.
I signed with ARS (Belgium record company known for the hit 'Pump Up The Jam') and my song 'Reconsider' (remixed by Tony Humphries) reached the Billboard dance charts."
"I also went to the dance seminar in Fort Lauderdale and a showcase in Miami. I had a great time. I didn't get to the States with Mai Tai, but solo I did! Haha!"
In 2003, Mai Tai reunited and released some new tracks. As no new Mai Tai album has been forthcoming since, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, can you tell us if 2010 will see a new Mai Tai CD released - and if so, what is it's working title?! "Well, as it seems now in two mounths I'm gonna start an album; as I own the rights. I'm going to use the name Mai Tai as well as Harriette Weels."
OK, here's a fun one, looking at the cover artwork for some of your albums - 'Mai Tai,' '1 Touch 2 Much' and 'Cool Is The Rule' - just what was going though your heads at the time? "Top photographers made those covers. By that time it was glamorous nr 1. We're proud of what ever we did most of the time."
Indeed, after all that '80s/'90s pop fame whirlwind wound down, it seems to me (from press now that relates to it back then) that you were kinda relieved - was that the case at the time? "To be honest, I was more in 2008. Like back then I'm picking up again now."
Your website states, 'Tai Mai is alive and kicking and getting ready for the future.' So, please tell us more about what to expect from Tai Mai in the future! "Soon, 'Body And Soul' is gonna be remixed by 7th Heaven. Looking forward to that and the album I'm gonna do."
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Harriette Weels (Tai Mai) to perhaps think again!
a) Can you remember your very first TOTP (British pop chart show) appearance? What song/year was it and at what level of nervousness were you at that whole day? "Yes, we just came back from tour of Surinam (South America) where we were born - all raised in Holland - and the surprise was we were #16 in UK charts. And straight from Schiphol Airport direct (no going home) we went to London for promo and TOTP!"
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why?! "No way. I think that would be a lack of trust in the music we did."
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "I see myself several times dead. My mam says it means long stay (live)!"
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "Fruit!"
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? "Mmmm, difficult!! I have great respect for Mr. Martin Luther King and I would have asked to march with him. I also admire John F. Kennedy."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why? "'Don't Give Up' by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. My life slogan!"
And will the USA ever get to see Mai Tai tour over here? There's the Here & Now and Regeneration tours, but we never get to see you named on the bill for the American side of things. Is there anything we can do to change this? "Why not! That would be great to do now. Waiting for the invitation?!! And I'm sure Caroline would join!!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the hockey team or the chocolate bar!) ... do you? "Aren't they as well as the baby seals and the ice bears ... we need to be more careful!!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED copy of the upcoming Mai Tai / Harriette Weels CD, and you think you know all there is to know about the band, just answer this easy question: Which Mai Tai song is featured on 'Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City' (2009)?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful SIGNED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before September 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: MAI TAI SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com