Wednesday, September 07, 2016

How Do You Do? The Story of Mouth and MacNeal


Seals and Crofts. Hall and Oates. Captain and Tennille. The seventies gave us lots of musical duos that scored many chart toppers during the decade. One lesser known act -- mostly due to the fact that they were from the Netherlands -- was Mouth & MacNeal, best known here in the States for their international early '70s hit "How Do You Do".

Now, my last blog post was about my least favorite seventies songs, and I know at least one Go Retro reader that absolutely loathes "How Do You Do". I understand why -- it's pretty repetitive and seems to go on way longer then it should. But something a little surprising that I recently discovered about Mouth & MacNeal is that they actually made a lot of good music. We just didn't know about it in the U.S. because these songs were only hits in Europe. So if "How Do You Do" has the irritation-level equivalent of Kelly Ripa's voice in your ears, you may want to check out some of their other songs I'm including in this post.

(By the way, I absolutely love "How Do You Do". Not only is it catchy to me, but I love that it's such an upbeat, positive song -- about a couple that is reconciling after some time of being broken up, "starting anew", forgetting the past and that they made each other cry. It's a nice aural antithesis to the multitude of sappy, depressing songs that the decade is known for.)


At first glance, the burly man and cute blonde woman known as Mouth & MacNeal looked like Jerry Garcia teamed up with Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA. Their real names were Willem Duyn, who went by the stage name Big Mouth, and Sjoukje van't Spijker, who adopted the moniker Maggie MacNeal. Big Mouth had some musical experience under his belt; he had sung for many bands in the '60s including one called Speedway. Spijker aka MacNeal had released just one solo single prior to meeting Mouth, a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

In 1971, Dutch record producer Hans van Hemert brought together Mouth and Spijker to form the pop duo Mouth & MacNeal. I couldn't find any background info as to what inspired Hemert to introduce them, but he must have had a hunch that they would harmonize and work well together.

"Hey You Love" was the act's first single. It did fairly well on the Dutch music charts, reaching number five. As you can see from the music video, Mouth loves to eat.



Along with a Dutch composer named Harry von Hoof, Hemert wrote the single "How Do You Do" and had Mouth & MacNeal record it. It was a huge worldwide hit, reaching the number one spot in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, and New Zealand, as well as the top ten in Germany, the UK and the U.S. A disc jockey named Jim Connors was responsible for giving the song airplay to American stations and helping it chart here. They sold over a million copies of the record in the U.S. alone.

Here's the duo performing their huge hit on what I believe is a European music TV show...they and the audience sure look like they having a great time, don't they? Stoned? Perhaps...or maybe they were just really enjoying themselves!



One thing I wondered about while watching Mouth & MacNeal's performances is if they were a couple off-stage. They're very affectionate and playful in just about every video I've seen. But the conclusion I've come to is that it was just an act; MacNeal had a husband at some point during Mouth & MacNeal's career, and Mouth got married after the couple broke up. More than likely they just became really good friends and worked well as a musical team.

As far as I know, there was no drama, ego, or fights that affected the couple -- something virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry.

"Hello-A" was another hit for them and rather ABBA-esque.




I also found this track called "Sing Along":



In 1974 Mouth & MacNeal entered the Eurovision Song Contest with the entry "I See A Star". Previous Dutch entries in the famed European contest had always been sung in Dutch; this was the first time the country's entry was sung entirely in English. If you know your European pop music history then you probably know that Mouth & MacNeal had tough competition that year: ABBA took the top prize with "Waterloo." "I See A Star" came in at a respectable third place.



After the success of "I See A Star", Mouth & MacNeal went separate ways. Mouth was pursuing a solo career and eventually recorded duets with his wife as Mouth and Little Eve. The songs are listenable -- and again, very reminiscent of ABBA -- but they didn't gain the same notoriety as Mouth & MacNeal. Mouth passed away of a heart attack at age 67 in 2004. MacNeal is still going strong, and has remained in the music industry as well as acting. She even participated in the 1980 Eurovision contest with the song "Amsterdam."



MacNeal tried to revive Mouth & MacNeal in 2008 with another male singer replacing Mouth but of course, it didn't work. Only the seventies decade could have created a duo like Mouth & MacNeal. But fortunately, we don't have to be living in the '70s to appreciate their complimentary vocals and music.

8 comments:

  1. I did like the follow ups Pam, catchy pop songs, much better than "How Do You Do". I was in junior high when that was a hit; it was one of those records you could not get away from. You'd flip though the dial and it would be on 4 stations all at the same time. I'd hear it 3 or 4 times a day...it also seemed to hang on forever like a toothache that won't quit. But Sjoukje is a cutie, I gotta admit that...

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    1. Ha ha, Jeff...you know what's funny; I only heard the song for the first time probably a year or so ago. I don't believe I ever heard it on the radio up until then so I wonder why it never gets air play these days, especially as it was that big a hit...but I'm not surprised how it would get old real fast and grate on your nerves. Their sound reminds me very much of ABBA and oddly enough, they were formed a year before ABBA was.

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  2. Good Lord! I have heard this before and forgotten it. Now something I should be remembering, like my phone number, has probably been pushed out of my brain. Thanks, Pam.
    That video doesn't put the Dutch in the best light. As students of history will know, my father's ancient race, the Dutch, arose as a wandering tribe of barbarians from the wreackage of Atlantis after the great Cataclysm.
    After killing off or mating with the Neanderthals and occasional cave-bears, they carved out a small kingdom for themselves in north-western Europe, perfecting the arts of dam-building, painting, cigar-making, and international commerce.
    And then this happened.
    M.P.

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    1. M.P., you should consider launching your own blog if you haven't already...you definitely have a colorful way with words!

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  3. I remember the song but not the group. Thanks for the great memories!!

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  4. There is apparently a subgenre in European music called 'nedpop'.

    So, the general vibe in Holland about ol' M & M is this: Mouth was/is and beloved, and called 'Papa' by fans. He was a bit of a beloved institution. Maggie has the reputation as a huge bitch. I'm not saying it's true- this is what's said.

    Mouth didn't want to fly- this is why they never toured the US.

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  5. I also hate to tell anyone this, but apparently Mouth & MacNeal were not that fond of each other- which makes their tangible chemistry, as you noted, all the more impressive. It's said that Willum (Mouth) was very friendly and approachable and worked extra hard to get Maggie out of her shell- but she was very stand-offish, didn't like autographs and fans, and so forth, and that they clashed on this.
    Maggie, I think, is one of the great voices and I adore her. But I've read a lot of Dutch press on M&M, such was my curiosity about why they weren't a bigger thing. Also, her husband was in their touring band and you can see him in some live videos.
    Maggie was part of a tour called "Dutch Divas", replicating the US version of the Divas Las Vegas Shows. After the rebooted Mouth & MacNeal failed in 2009 or so, she revealed in a tell-all that Mouth tried to seduce her. The issue was, the date and time she gave was proven to be impossible, besides the fact that the female backing singers they had were very outspoken in saying that Mouth was never alone with MacNeal as there was no reason to be- it was strictly professional- and that he was always as he appeared with them, genial, laid back, and with apparently no interest in chasing girls as his wife, whom he doted on, was always around. So people were skeptical of her claim but I'm not saying it isn't so- just telling you what you can read, if you look up Dutch information. ;)

    Still- I love M&M and think a lot of their songs like "You, You", "ABC", and "Battering Ram" are f**king great. So thanks for writing this!

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    1. Thanks for all of the behind-the-scenes info! I did as much research as I could, but obviously didn't find any of that info especially with American sites as sources. I do get the impression that Mouth was a big, lovable teddy bear-type and regular, approachable guy.

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