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Notes on Camp: ‘Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!’

Picture the scene. You’re in your most splendid garb, nursing a double vodka orange between the murky hours of 12am and 4am in The Flying Handbag, an iconic gay club in the heart of Blackpool. Maybe you’re in the smoking area. Maybe you can hear the faint siren call of an S Club 7 Megamix pounding through the walls. Maybe it’s Kylie’s 2001 banger Love at First Sight. Either way the music starts to crossfade, the drag queen DJ instructs ‘Get on yer feet’ in an enchanting north-west accent and that all too familiar ‘Woaah woaah’ smacks you in the face like a big whiff of amyl nitrate. Naturally, euphoria ensues.

Forget Cher, Madonna, Britney and even Whitney, this is the Vengaboys; Dutch Eurodance legends of the 90s in all their campy, saccharine sweet pop glory.

The Vengaboys as seen on the cover of their greatest hits album (Image: Vengaboys, 2000)

My relationship with the Vengaboys, and with Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! in particular represents more than an overzealous pop song should. It’s been my on-again-off-again Instagram handle for close to 18 months (changed only when I’ve considered harbouring ‘a more serious’ social media presence), my Karaoke song of choice, and reason for the most joyful moments on nights out. Without sounding insincere, this song is important to me. In the depths of boundless ennui? Feeling uninspired, demotivated? Crack on the Vengaboys, a sure-fire way to staying grounded, giddy and in good-spirits. Recently, I’ve noticed my surge in appreciation for this slice of kitschy goodness has coincided with a more universal recognition of the ecstasy of the song, to the point where I’m considering opening a YouTube channel to discuss the Illum*nati-esque coincidence that is Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!’s cultural resurgence.

Some of you reading this will hopefully be familiar with this 2017 video of Cheltenham town centre, in which a Vauxhall Estate with speakers strapped to the roof blasts the tune, causing an impromptu street party. The video inspires delight in all who watch it. Fact.

Instigator of the spontaneous jamboree Kieran Chapman later said, ‘It was just to bring people together’ and that ‘They were jumping on my car, but I didn’t care, there was no damage.’ Can the Vengaboys do no wrong I hear you ask? It would appear not.

A video of three youths dancing in the street in Ballyfermot, Ireland to the tune evokes much the same response. Dragging down the road what appears to be a speaker the size of a suitcase, they suddenly halt, to thrust hips and wave arms when the pioneering chorus melody is launched into. When watching these snippets of prosaic life sound-tracked to the anthem, one does not mock those who revel in the bad taste of the Vengaboys, one can only join the protagonists in their heady elation. The Vengaboys are surely representative of lawful good as a result of this.

Recently, Guardian beauty columnist Sali Hughes tweeted a video of herself in gleeful hysterics inside a moving car, with the caption ‘Last night, [my] pals and I were picked up by a minicab playing Vengaboys at full blast. Just when I thought I’d recovered a few hours later, our lift turned up and it was the Vengabus AGAIN, volume still at eleven. This is us on the way home. I thought I’d die.’

This tale can be nothing other than kismet; the joyous destiny of Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! strikes again.

I recently had a similar experience to that of the hallowed Cheltenham episode on a night out to the aforementioned Flying Handbag. On my way home via King Kebab, a car drives past full of grown men cheering as I sang along, blasting what else but Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! This came just minutes after DJ Amber played the song in the club for me. There really is something in the song’s ability to provide unity, which I believe elevates it beyond its one-week stint at UK Number 1 in 1999.

A week prior to this occasion, from our very own Vernon Square library, the siren call could be heard. My favourite feature of The Courtauld’s move has to be the flat in the estate opposite that provides us all with the necessary respite of incredibly loud, disruptive music once a week or so. Hearing the Vengaboys in the midst of writing an assessed essay could not have been more welcome at that particularly trying time.

Perhaps it’s a long-shot for me to suggest that there’s a wider conspiracy regarding this pop anthem. I could exploit a theory that the Vengaboys are seeking world domination through cheeky pop songs 20 years after their initial release, or that the reoccurrence of cars playing their songs at high volumes implies that we all have the keys to our own respective Vengabus. But I won’t. The cultural significance of this song in 2019 is rooted in the party, in silliness and in joy itself. Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!, with its undemanding lyrics, melody and attitude permits a good time for all.

Now, Tony Blackburn may have announced Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! as being the fifth worst ever summer song, but for me, and for other likeminded Eurodance aficionados, it will forever be an anthem of exultation, of forgetting one’s woes and relishing the heights of camp and aural vulgarity. I think it’s time we all admitted it: the Vengaboys’ seminal 1999 hit Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! is probably the finest song ever written.

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