Embed from Getty Images
One of my more unusual quirks is that I devolve into heaps of laughter when watching horror stories. My best friend made the mistake of inviting me to see 2018’s Hereditary at the theater, and I ended up howling the whole time. We have not seen a horror film together in public since. Does this fall under the category of defense mechanisms? I’m not really embarrassed by it, but as a courtesy to other fright-seekers I make efforts to reserve my horror viewing for at home (where I only bother my dog). Which is good, because as if my finding hilarity in horror weren’t enough on its own, master of the genre Stephen King has just given me a new reason to chuckle inappropriately. He’s out promoting his latest novel, Holly, and revealed that he used to listen to “Mambo No. 5” — as background music while writing — so much that his wife threatened divorce. “Mambo No. 5” is now ALL I will be thinking about when reading or watching a Stephen King work. More from Stephen:
Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” a 1999 smash that topped the pop charts in most global territories, is one of the most love-it-or-hate-it songs of all time — Stephen King’s wife definitely falls in the latter camp. The author recently spoke to Rolling Stone to promote his latest novel, “Holly,” and revealed his wife once threatened to divorce him due to his love of the infamous track.
“Oh, yeah. Big time,” King said when asked if the rumors about his love for “Mambo No. 5” are true. “My wife threatened to divorce me. I played that a lot.”
“I had the dance mix,” the author continued. “I loved those extended play things and I played both sides of it. And one of them was just total instrumental. And I played that thing until my wife just said, ‘One more time, and I’m going to f—ing leave you.’”
King must’ve stopped, as he’s been happily married to Tabitha King since 1971. The couple has three children together, including the writers Joe Hill and Owen King. The author said his wife’s ultimatum arrived while he was writing “11/22/63,” his 2011 novel about a time traveller who tries to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“Mambo No. 5,” recorded by Bega, a German singer, was rooted in a 1949 instrumental single by Dámaso Pérez Prado that Bega sampled for his rewritten vocal rendition, which called out women’s names (“A little bit of Monica…”). It was the performer’s only significant hit, peaking at No. 3 in the U.S. while going all the way to No. 1 in the U.K., Canada, Italy, France and more than 20 other countries.
King detailed more of his daily listening in the interview. “When I write, there are things that I can listen to a lot,” he said. “And a lot of it is techno stuff or disco stuff, but techno in particular. There’s this group called LCD Soundsystem, and I love that. Fatboy Slim is somebody else. I can just listen to that stuff. If you tried to write and listen to Leonard Cohen, how the f— would you do that? Because you’d have to listen to the words and you’d have to listen to what he’s saying. But with some of the techno stuff, or KC and the Sunshine Band, Gloria Gaynor, it’s all good.”
Someone who’s read 11/22/63, please enlighten me: does “Mambo No. 5” make any kind of appearance in the book? If not, that’s a missed opportunity, Stephen! I don’t even care that his comments are probably dissing disco (it came off a little like he was suggesting the music is dumb enough not to throw off his concentration). I’m just giddy as I mentally assemble a playlist for the next thriller I watch. There’ll be a slash and in my head I’ll hear Gloria croon “I never can say goodbye, oh no, I never can say goodbye!” Someone’s head gets chopped off, and I’ll be like “That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh uh-huh!”
But I do have one serious question for Stephen King: do you not have a pair of headphones? Your marriage may depend on it one day.
My wife and I were married 50 years ago today. It's been a hell of a good run.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 2, 2021