Part 5: Charly García – The Man With The Two-Tone ‘Tache
Charly García is arguably the most important songwriter to emerge from Argentinian rock. A piano prodigy from a priveliged background, his distinctive half white, half brown beard is apparently the result of a childhood trauma.
He first found success with Sui Generis, who combined strong singer-songwriter style material with rich arrangements in the early seventies. The group was a duo of García (vocals, keyboards) and Nito Mestre (vocals, flute). If they were Argentina’s answer to Simon and Garfunkel then García was Paul Simon – he wrote all the material. The group struck a chord with Argentinian youth, and their sensitive lyrics (a stark contrast to the machismo of many of their rivals) won them a large female following.
However, under their romantic surface García’s lyrics during the seventies frequently featured veiled criticisms of the government. Due to censorship during this period straight ahead protest songs were out of the question, forcing him into using metaphors and allegory. Arguably this has made his songs more interesting and durable.
The lyrics of the title track of their second album ‘Confesiones de Invierno’ (1973) are include below. Notice the massive cheer that this live version gets after the lyric ‘Las heridas son del oficial’.
They were hugely succesful, but the band edged towards prog-rock on their third album ‘Instituciones’ (1974). This combined with increasingly political lyrics lost them a lot of fans, and the group broke up after a lavish farewell concert in 1975.
Just before they split they were part of the short lived supergroup PorSuiGieco (Raul Porchetto, Sui Generis and Leon Gieco – the later often dubbed ‘the Argentinian Bob Dylan’).
García then formed La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros, a new group featuring drummer Oscar Moro (formely with Los Gatos). The group pursued the prog-rock direction of the last Sui Generis album, but were always in the shadow of that group. The political situation in Argentina was grim at this point and many musicians were fleeing the country (not least to Spain). After another ‘farewell’ concert in 1977 García left for Brazil.
In Brazil he formed Serú Girán, with drummer Moro, guitarist David Lebón (who had played with Sui Generis) and fretless bassist Pedro Aznar. They returned to Argentina but the slick prog of their debut was poorly received. A magazine article entitled ¿Ídolo O Qué? mocked the band, but they revealed their sense of humour by parodying the article on the cover of their second, far superior album. Things quickly turned around and by the time of ‘Bicicleta’ (1980) they were superstars – not just in Argentina but all over Latin America. In retrospect they acted as a kind of bridge between the prog rock of the seventies and the emerging new wave.
Serú Girán split in the early eighties, and Charly García started a solo career. Adapting easily to changing fashions and technology, his success continues to the present day.
CONFESIONES DE INVIERNO
Me echó de su cuarto
No tienes profesión
Tuve que enfrentarme a mi condición
En invierno no hay sol
Y aunque digan
que va a ser muy fácil
Es muy duro poder mejorar
Hace frío y me falta un abrigo
Y me pesa el hambre de esperar
¿Quién me dará algo para fumar
O casa en que vivir?
Sé que entre las calles debés estar
Pero no sé partir
Y la radio nos confunde a todos
Sin dinero la pasaré mal
Si se comen mi carne los lobos
No podré robarles la mitad
Dios es empleado en un mostrador
Da para recibir
¿Quién me dará un crédito, mi Señor?
Sólo sé sonreír
Y tal vez esperé demasiado
Quisiera que estuvieras aquí
Cerrarán las puertas de este infierno
Y es posible que me quiera ir
Conseguí licor y me emborraché
En el baño de un bar
Fui a dar a la calle de un puntapié
Y me sentí muy mal
Y si bien yo nunca había bebido
En la cárcel tuve que acabar
La fianza la pagó un amigo
Las heridas son del oficial
Hace cuatro años que estoy aquí
Y no quiero salir
Ya no paso frío y soy feliz
Mi cuarto da al jardín
Y aunque a veces me acuerdo de ella
Dibujé su cara en la pared
Solamente muero los domingos
Y los lunes ya me siento bien
You threw me out of your room
Shouting at me
You don't have a profession
I had to confront my situation
There's no sun in winter
Even though they say
It's going to be easy
It's so hard to improve yourself
It's cold and I don't have a coat
And the hunger of waiting weighs me down
Who will give me something to smoke
Or somewhere to live?
I know you should be in the street
But I don't know how to set off
And the radio confuses everyone
Without money I will have a bad time
If the wolves eat my flesh
I won't be able to steal half of it back
God is a worker
at the counter
Lord, who will give me credit?
I only know how to smile
And maybe I waited too long
I wish that you were here
They will close all the gates in this hell
And I might want to leave
I got hold of some liquor and I got drunk
In the toilet of a bar
I went to give the street a kick
And I felt really bad
And even though I had never drunk
I had to end up in prison
A friend paid my bail
My wounds are from the officer
I've been here for four years
And I don't want to leave
Now I don't feel cold and I'm happy
My room overlooks the garden
And although at times I think of her
I drew her face on the wall
I only die on Sundays
And by Monday I already feel better
CHORDS / ACORDES
Vida (1972). Strong songs in the singer-songwriter vein, with rich arrangements.
Confesiones de Invierno (1973). Continues in the same style as their debut. Their biggest hit.
Instituciones (1974). Introduces elements of prog-rock, but still highly melodic.
PorSuiGieco (1976): Laid back soft rock album from this short lived supergroup.
La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros:
La Máquina (1976). Continues on from the final Sui Generis album. Prog but with songs and melody.
Películas (1977). More jazz influenced and dated than their debut.
Serú Girán (1978). Symphonic prog with fretless bass and Bee Gees style vocals. Yikes!
La Grasa de las Capitales (1979). Still slick, but more accesible and with stronger songs than their debut.
Bicicleta (1980). Sophisticated pop with elements of jazz-fusion. This was their biggest hit.
Peperina (1981). Ballad heavy and rather directionless final album.
Yendo de la Cama al Living (1982). García buys a drum machine and goes solo. It suits him.