Sunday, 13 February 2011

Those wonderful 80´s.

Today I´m going to take a detour and write about something not directly connected with percussion. If you have a look at the subtitle in my blog, you´ll see that, apart from writing about percussive issues, my intention was to deal with "music, art and life". So, it´s about music and life what you are about to read in this post.

Obviously, in 1983, Spain was an innocent country, having left a dictatorship few years ago. I was innocent too, which is normal taking into account I was 7-8 years old at the moment. That innocence was perceptible in every aspect: society, politics, economy..., and obviously, music.

The other day I heard a song that triggered a ton of memories. As I said in the article "Radio memories", we have sounds, smells and feelings deeply kept in our "hard drive": so deeply kept, we cannot remember them until a sparkle  fires a tornado of memories. It is then when all those smells, sounds... come out to the surface. Remembering is living again, and thanks to the memories this song brought back, I could re-live an extremely happy (my childhood) period in my life (in fact, apart from my father passing away, I can say my life has been always blessed with happiness).

This is the song, and it represented Spain in the 1983 OTI Song Festival:

What´s up with the OTI Festival? As far as I remember, it was a very tacky and uncool contest (even more than Eurovision!), in which Spain used to look Iberoamerican countries over its shoulder. It was a very dated event.

I want you to pay attention to the "studio version", as we´ll compare it to the "live" one. If you have already heard it, here´s how the song sounded live on that 1983 OTI Song Contest:

It is now that we can write about the innocence that reigned in Spain at that time.

First thing: Iberoamerican countries had hundreds of channels, and we only had UHF and VHF, two channels in which we had everything, and we didn´t seem to need the plethora we "enjoy" nowadays.

Other thing: have you realized the telephonic sound by the Spanish presenter? I don´t thing that standard would be acceptable today.

Now, something very funny that I´ll translate for you: during the introduction, the presenter says that "the song won´t sound as on the album, as there are some electronic instruments that were not allowed in the orchestra". He speaks about electronic instruments not knowing very well what "those things" are, they seem to be something so new that he doesn´t know very well what to say... Do you know any band sounding the same live as on a CD? I don´t, as nowadays acts don´t sing, nor play: they shake their booty. 

80´s were the reverb era (reverb by the ton, I would say), and Lexicon units were the favorite toys at studios (I know a Spanish engineer which tells a story about a very famous flamenco singer which used to say "add me some more 50$ worth or reverb").

It was also the time of those now classical Simmoms electronics drums, with their hexagonal pads and characteristic "piuuuuuuuuuu" sound (without them, Italo-disco and Modern Talking wouldn´t have been the same).

© Simmons

It was the time for drum machines, and he had classics as the Linndrum and the Roland 808:

© LinnDrum
© Roland

80´s saw the growth of synthesizers, and the Yamaha DX7 is now a classic:


What if our contestant is not allowed to use electronic instruments? An orchestra has to be used and... It has to play live! Yes, ladies and gentlemen..., there was a time when live music was the norm, with real musicians, and conductors as Augusto Algueró and Leiva leading good professionals. At that time, lipsync was considered a fraud. Today, the worst deception for the audience (no singing, no playing) is considered normal by our conformist society.

Other thing: this singer´s artistic name is Gonzalo. Is there anything more innocent than that? He is not named Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas or any other stupidity like that; he is Gonzalo (nothing less and nothing more).

In 1983 there was no need to use a head-worn mic and dance untill exhaustion while singing  (with all the implications for intonation). Gonzalo doesn´t move at all (he is quite statuesque), but he had success! His hair-style was uncool, but he had success! He dressed in a normal way (no latex, no meat dresses), but he had success!

There are no half-naked women dancing around and simulating sexual acts, there´s no raper halfway down the song "singing" stupid lyrics, there´s no "Auto-Tune"... How could we live whitout all that in 1983?

When he sings (specially at the beginning), all plosive consonants saturate his mic (see that, even singing off-axis, that cheap dynamic sounds quite good), trumpets are cracking their highs, he sings out of tune, he rushes... He even sings his own delay! Logic thing would have been to use some backing vocals to create the effect, but he sings his own delay... Innocence at its most pure state!

© Hispa Vox

Verses are not top notch (melody is quite repetitive and lyrics don´t fit very well), but the chorus is, to my opinion, very good (it is repeated several times at the end).

With all its defects, with all its innocence, this song and this performance kick ass compared with all the rubbish we are fed with nowadays: pretty non-singing faces, tit-showing acts, homogeneous all-the-same-looking rhythms, lyrics made by idiots for idiots, copycats thinking they are authentic, cocky attitudes, posers...

Don´t get me wrong... There´s no nostalgia in this post (well, maybe a little bit). It is said every past time was better, but I don´t think so: a past time is just a past time, worse or better depends on you.

What I think is undeniable is that, despite all technological developments, well prepared musicians, and the evolution of the show bussiness, I don´t think it´s better the popular mass-consuming music we hear today than that we heared in 1983. We were really innocent and, at the same time, much more valid and authentic.

Now, be honest and have a look at this video (a very recent one, coming from the Super Bowl half time). Almost 30 years later on, don´t you think this simply sucks?

Because of its simplicity, authenticity, innocence..., I prefer Gonzalo thousand times over many of the present pop stars. Black Eyed Peas and the rest of the musical rubbish can get lost in a black hole.

…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés

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