During the 1980s, several bands flourished in Brazil following the footsteps
of the demise of disco and the rise of ska-influenced bands such as The Police.
Once again guitar bands were suddenly back, and the musical world seemed to
be up for grabs againat least for some.
Twenty years later, few
musical phenomena from that era remain. Back home, Cyndi Lauper struggles
and gets an album of standards out. Duran Duran is back, but only die-hard
fans seem to care.
The same goes with most
international of the acts of that era, except maybe those musicians who changed
alongside the times, such as U2 and others.
One of the few survivors
of those days is Brazil's supergroup Paralamas do Sucesso (from the capital
city of Brasília), who will be appearing at Manhattan's China Club
on April 8th, in Miami on April 10th and in Boston on April 11th.
The Paralamas, composed
by guitarist Herbert Vianna, bassist Bi Ribeiro and João Barone, exploded
in Brazil in 1983 with their single "Vital e Sua Moto" (Vital
and His Motorbike), a song about a former band member whose "metal dream"
came true when he could finally afford to buy a high-powered motorcycle.
During the famed Rock
in Rio festival in 1985, Paralamas opened to Queen, Simply Red and Iron Maiden,
and virtually stole the show with their sharp, reggae-like sound. At that
time, their radio hit was "Óculos" (Glasses), a self-mocking
song about the fact that wearing glasses made its lead singer look unattractive:
meninas do Leblon não olham mais para mim
Eu uso óculos
E volta e meia eu me vejo com meu carro pela contramão
Eu tô sem óculos
Se eu te disser periga você não acreditar em mim
Eu não nasci de óculos
Eu não era assim não...
The girls in Leblon (Rio)
don't care about me
I have my glasses on
And then I end up driving up the wrong way
I don't have my glasses on
If I told you, I think you wouldn't believe me
I wasn't born with glasses
I didn't use to be like this..."
A few years later, the
guitarist had corrective eye surgery and no longer needs glasses. As years
went by, the band, helmed by Vianna, ventured more and more into experimenting
with different sounds.
When one listens to late
80s, early 90s songs as "Lanterna dos Afogados" (Drowned Men's Lantern)
and "Cailedoscópio" (Kaleidoscope) can barely recognize
the band, except for the almost-out-of-tune vocals performed by its guitarist.
The young boys from Brasília
were grown-ups now.
As the band's sound evolved,
they added a horn section and keyboards, and the sidemen, João Fera
(keys), Eduardo Lyra (percussion), Bidu Cordeiro (trombone) and Monteiro Jr.
(sax) have been with the band ever since, although they were never made "official"
members of the group.
By the mid-90s, Paralamas
had pretty much alienated radio and record buyers. Their most ambitious album
to date, the Phil Manzanera-produced Severino, which featured Queen
guitarist Brian May on one of the tracks, was praised by critics, but the
public wasn't interested in itand then the band ventured to find a new
The strategy seemed to
work. The Spanish-language versions of Paralamas' songs collected in the 1992
album Paralamas was well received in Argentina, Paraguay and other
Latin American countries, and they scored a major hit with "Dos Margaritas,"
the Spanish-language version of "Severino" in Argentina.
But it was time to reconnect
to the audiences back home, who were not buying their albums but still filled
the stadiums wherever they played. The
group then released a live album, Vamos Bater Lata (Let's Beat the
Can), which included an EP with original music.
Instead of the elaborate,
hard-to-follow songs of previous albums, they were back to hummable pop songs,
and the album, helped by the massive airplay of their single, "Uma Brasileira"
(A Brazilian Woman), co-written with Carlinhos Brown and which featured Brazilian
singer Djavan on vocals, quickly went platinum.
The turn of the century
saw the release of the live MTV Unplugged album in Brazil, such releases
have caused radical changes on one's career), which featured "Que
País É Esse" (What Country Is This?), a very
critical protest-rock song originally recorded by fellow Brasília-bred
band Legião Urbana, whose lead vocalist, Renato Russo, had recently
succumbed to AIDS.
The CD went on to win
the Latin Grammy for best rock album.
During the Unplugged
tour, which sold out at every single venue, the band was further augmented
by former Legião Urbana guitarist Dado Villa-Lobos, and that generated
a buzz over that specific tour, which Villa-Lobos thought was humorous at
the time, since he was simply playing rhythm guitar, switching to lead only
when they played "Que País É Esse?"
I remember that tour well,
when I joined thousands of revelers in the northeastern town of Fortaleza
for the concert there for a rain-soaked but thoroughly enjoyable evening.
It was the last show I attended in Brazil before I relocated to New York.
On February, 2001, tragedy
struck the band when the light aircraft Vianna was flying spun out of control
and plunged into the waters of Angra dos Reis, in Rio de Janeiro. Vianna's
wife, English-born Lucy Needham Vianna perished on the crash, while the guitarist
was left paralyzed below the waist after a longtime battle for his life.
A few months after the
accident, the band resumed rehearsals and late in 2002 they released a new
album, Longo Caminho (A Long Way) ,which features songs originally
written months prior to Vianna's injury.
The album, which Vianna
described as "the album of my rebirth" has sold over 300,000 copies
in Brazil, which is a considerable figure for that country.
The band has recently
released a new live album, "Uns Dias ao Vivo" (Some DaysLive),
which is a celebration of the life and music of the band, which features guests
such as Dado Villa-Lobos, guitarist Roberto Frejat, Djavan and others.
The show that we will
see in New York will be a mix of songs from the new album (performed solely
by the original band members) blended with the band's classic hits with full
support of the sidemen.
Paralamas do Sucesso -
Appearing on April 08 at The China Club in New York - For more information:
Official band site: http://www.osparalamas.com.br
This article appeared originally in The Staten Island Advance.
is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance
writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette
since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil,
The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The
SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications.
He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org