Almendra – First Singles (1968-1969)
Today’s post will be a little extensive and will continue in future entries, through our ‘IM’ galaxy. Almendra deserves it. This is a first explanation essay, peace!
The holy triad of Argentine Rock, is composed by three groups, the first ones: Manal, a power-trio of blues psych-rock with great influence from Cream; Los Gatos, Castellano Rock founders, with a pop beat olla, and finally, Almendra, certainly the most inventive and poetic, of the three, they released only two albums by RCA Argentina, until their end in 1971. Among them, a skinny leader: Luis Alberto Spinetta (January 23, 1950 – February 8, 2012), known as ‘El Flaco’, was a singer, guitarist, poet, composer, considered one of the greatest artists from his country.
His instrumental affluence, lyrical and poetic works, got his recognition throughout Latin America and also worldwide. He’s considered one of the godfathers from Argentine Rock, leading Almendra, Pescado Rabioso, Invisible, and many other bands, apart from his wide solo career. In his lyrics, there’s the influence of writers, philosophers, psychologists, artists such as Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Lü Dongbin, Jung, Freud, Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze, Artaud y Castañeda, as also, native cultures.
Almendra was a quartet. Before its first historical record, released in late 1969, Los Chicos, in his early year, launched over 5 single records in Argentina. Today on the ‘IM’, we’ll have the first part of the series: two singles, a left out and a B-Side:
1) Tema de Pototo (Luis Alberto Spinetta, Edelmiro Molinari) //////////////////////////// El Mundo Entre Las Manos (Luis Alberto Spinetta, Rodolfo García) [RCA Vik 31Z-1368] *
2) Hoy Todo el Hielo En La Ciudad (Luis Alberto Spinetta) ////////////////////////// Campos Verdes (Luis Alberto Spinetta, E. Del Guercio) [RCA Vik 31Z-1413] **
3) Gabinetes Espaciales (Luis Alberto Spinetta) /////////////////////////////////////// Compilation LP ‘Mis Conjuntos Preferidos’ [RCA Vik 3836] ***
4) Final (Luis Alberto Spinetta, E. Del Guercio) ///////////////////////////////////////////////////// B-Side from [RCA Vik 31Z-1565] ****
Let’s go to their history:
Almendra had his first precedent in 1965, from the English rock bands Los Larkins and Los Sbirros, both from Bajo Belgrano a neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Los Larkins was led by Rodolfo García, future drummer of Almendra, muchacho four years older than ‘El Flaco’ Spinetta and neighbors from the same neighborhood.
Spinetta: ‘Everything started on the 15th birthday of my sister. One of the guests was a pianist and played in a group called Los Larkins, they rehearsed very close to home, where Rodolfo played drums. One day I went to one of the tests with the suspicious eyes from my parents, they knew it was a definite step for me; when I entered and saw all those electric instruments, guitars unlike the Spanish or creole, I completely freaked out! From there I got this sound that is an emblem for me: bass, drums, and guitar.’
The other band that would give birth to Almendra, was Los Sbirros, composed by students from the same school that Spinetta, and was led by Edelmiro Molinari, who excelled at the dominion of electric guitar and Emilio del Guercio, future bassist. Spinetta started in Los Larkins, but played at any given time in both groups. Little by little they were merged in late 1966 and formed a quintet composed by Spinetta (voice), Rodolfo García (drums), Emilio del Guercio (bass), Edelmiro Molinari (guitar) y Santiago “Chago” Novoa (keyboards), they were 16, 17 years old on average and the foundations of what would be Almendra was ready.
In early 1967, Roldolfo García was drafted into military service. This fact made the band entered a one-year hiatus, more precisely the year that La Balsa, music from Los Gatos, composed by Lito Nebbia and Tanguito, explodes in the charts, achieving tremendous national success. It was the first original rock sung in Spanish and marks the beginning of a new musical style known in Argentina as Rock Nacional.
1967, 1968 and 1969 were years of great cultural transformations in Argentina and the world, placing the youth as a distinct social, revolutionary group: The Summer of Love that marked the birth of Hippie movement, the assassination of Che Guevara in Bolivia, the French May, the Prague Spring and domestically El Cordobazzo.
On this context, germinate the trends that Spinetta and other young Argentines both crave: take the vanguards of tango and folklore in order to give a sort of rock with local climate, sung in Castellano. The feat was a cultural rupture of enormous proportions, the esthetic standards of the time did not accept this unattended manifestation, especially in Spanish. On March 1968, García was discharged from military service and the group began rehearsing daily. Novoa, keyboardist, simply stopped going to rehearsals and the quintet turns into a quartet:
Luis Alberto Spinetta (leading voice and guitar)
Rodolfo García (drums and vocals)
Emilio del Guercio (bass and vocals)
Edelmiro Molinari (leading guitar and vocals)
In mid-1968, Ricardo Kleiman, the producer on the radio program ‘La Noche en Modart’, which had enormous popularity with the youth from those years, went to see a band rehearsal, they played an own song with English titles, Where are You Going Mary Sue?. Kleiman was impressed and offer them a single record on RCA with Rodolfo Alchurrón as artistic director. The single was recorded somewhere in August, released on September 20, 1968, and set out for sale at the beginning of 1969.
Tracks include: Tema de Pototo, side A /// El Mundo Entre Las Manos, side B *
Tema de Pototo (Para Saber Cómo es la Soledad):
The first theme edited by the band was composed by Luis Alberto Spinetta to a college fellow who believed to have died on a trip to Bariloche (!). When he received the telegram denying the good news, the verses suggested: ‘La soledad es un amigo que no está / Es su palabra que no ha de llegar igual’. Years later the young prick called Mario D’Alessandro became the band’s official dentist! The theme has an orchestral accompaniment directed by Alchurrón composed of strings and woodwinds.
Hoy Todo el Hielo en La Ciudad:
The group releases another single record Hoy Todo el Hielo en La Ciudad, side a /// Campos Verdes, side b **, yet in 1968, and it’s from this one that the band begins to be noticed and established commercially.
Spinetta: ‘The Almendra singles are a work in itself, at the margin of the albums. The first two had consequences outside the band. On December 68′ came the second, which included Hoy Todo el Hielo en La Ciudad. There is here a poetic dimension that puts us at a distance of every beat wave, so common to the epoch; we passed by a minor key chorus and followed an epic escalation, with a baroque-pop feel!’
The myth of a dystopian frozen Buenos Aires comes in tune with ‘El Eternauta’ the great sci-fi story by Oesterheld. There is no hell or deluge, in the end, only the eternal ice that covers the sky across the days. Even at noon, there’s no sun.
These years also held two video clips, one of the first ones made in Argentina.
The band’s debut on live stages, occurs at the disco Matoko’s in Mar del Plata, at Constitución avenue, a downtown nightlife balneary, where they played throughout the summer. For another magazine/publication of the time, Spinetta declared:
‘Ended the time of repeating what others do, translations, all of these vain things. We have to sing what is ours, what is authentic, from within.’
On January 2, 1969, they fix Gabinetes Espaciales *** at TNT studios. The band wanted the track as A-side, future single, but RCA Argentina, eyeing the huge commercial success of a romantic rewriting made by Leonardo Favio, re-launched as Para Saber Como es La Soledad, released the band’s third single record with a repeated song: Tema de Pototo, side A /// Final, side B ****
Final, the pretended ending for Almendra (first) Lp, was cut from the final tracklist due to time limitations. It enters here as a tuneful simple ballad B side!
Let’s go to our highlights:
Our choices may not be always based on greatest hits, however, it is undeniable the quality and importance for Tema de Pototo, a #1 hit, tremendously arranged, with a hippy aura. It should always be a choice in someone’s lists, a delightful 100% psychedelic! But today, the ‘IM’‘ highlights are for:
Campos Verdes and Gabinetes Espaciales.
Lastly, there isn’t a lot of photos from the band, especially with high quality available on the internet, however, there’s an incredibly rare book, with drawings, text and rare photos, released in 1970/71, that you can luckily check it.