Part 1: The Early Sixties
This month is a summer special about the 1960s, and I’ll look into that decade in a bit more depth.
Spain was still ruled by Franco during the 1960s, and although rock and roll wasn’t banned outright, the dictatorship was clearly suspicious of it. Getting hold of early rock records wasn’t easy, and they often had to make their way illicitly across the French border or from the UK. The rock records and films that were officially released often appeared late, giving the impression that Spain was lagging several years behind the rest of Europe.
If getting hold of the original records was difficult, finding electric guitars was almost impossible. Despite this some young Spaniards managed to start groups, playing covers of rock ‘n’ roll songs. Straight away they faced a question that sixty years later new bands are still asking themselves: Should we sing in English or in Spanish?
On one hand rock sounds more authentic in English and most group started by covering American songs. On the other hand it seems natural to sing in your own language. Also relatively few Spaniards spoke English well in the sixties. Finding a singer who sounded convincing in English was almost impossible (Los Bravos cheated by importing a German!). Perhaps for this reason the most common tactic was to sing in Spanish, especially translated versions of hits from the US and the UK.
For other groups, including Los Pekenikes (one of the most succesful band of this period) the answer was to play instrumentals (initially inspired by UK outfit The Shadows). Here they are playing ‘Los Cuatro Muleros’ in 1964 – the first instrumental on Spanish Pop Lyrics!
The charts were full of squeaky clean pop and it was hard for anything more exciting to make much headway. For example, although Cliff Richards’ film ‘Summer Holiday’ was allowed to be shown, it was given an 18 certificate.
For Los Estudiantes, one of the pioneering Spanish rock bands of the early sixties, success was elusive. They were together for five years yet they only managed to release three EPs in that time. Thankfully, things were about to change.