Cover Story – A talkative Roberto Carlos

As predictable and as traditional as New Year’s
celebrations on Rio’s beaches, just-released Roberto Carlos’s year-end
album is doing brisk business. Even in the worst times, the singer
never sold less than one million copies, but last year, 1,8 million
were sold, the best result in the last ten years. Simply called Roberto Carlos,
the latest effort by the singer has everything to surpass that mark.
The romantic singer who started as a rocker in the 60s and the Jovem Guarda
movement he led are having a revival. Normally very reticent, the
crooner has been giving interviews, and even has gone on a tour that
has him booked almost every night. While the romantic crowd never
abandoned him, the younger generation is discovering and loving his

Bruce Gilman

The Jovem Guarda (Young Guard) movement, led by singer Roberto Carlos and
composer Erasmo Carlos, arrived in Brazil in 1965 when bossa nova had largely turned
social and political themes. At that time, a majority of urban youth
cared nothing about droughts in the Northeast or peasants without land.
They worried about cars, romance, and clothes. The rock `n’ roll of the

Jovem Guarda spoke to their concerns. It translated and adapted rock to Brazil’s language and culture.

Today a barrage of techno-type music has produced a
backlash and re-kindled a desire for music from the 60’s. A remarkable
technology has at the same time made possible the recording,
remastering, re-packaging, reissuing, and promotion of music ranging
from a posthumous Beatles reunion to the Tantras of Tibetan Monks.

30 Anos de Jovem Guarda is a remastered five disc collection of seventy hits by the kings of the Jovem Guarda. Its strength is that it preserves the original arrangements. Acting as a barometer for this rebound, the collection sold over 250,000 CDs in the first month after its release. These sales and a slew of spectacular live shows by Jovem Guarda artists have brought Brazil’s first wave of teenage rock music back from the tombs to reconquer today’s teenagers. Despite the fact that many performers have come out of retirement, are gray-haired and in their 50’s, they
are still enjoying an enthusiastic resurgence of interest similar in
intensity to that delivered 30 years prior by the parents of their new

A good example is the Blues Band Five. The group is made up of former members of the Jovem Guarda band Os Incríveis. Their
glory days behind them, the band attempted a Heavy Metal comeback in
1990 that met with little success. The group’s drummer, Chuchu,
believes that their current success is due to the disposition of many
young people today who are more inclined to the romanticism and
simplicity of the 60’s. The group was invited to perform in Săo Paulo
at the party which celebrated the release of the collection 30 Anos de Jovem Guarda. Blues
Band Five now charges $3,000 to perform at dance parties for the
upwardly mobile and are again basking in the rays of success.

Riding the same wave, the groups Os Vips, The Fevers, and The
Jet Blacks have come back to the active scene full force. Accomplishing
a calendar of shows that rival the shows of country darlings Leandro
& Leonardo, Os Vips over a two week period performed at Domingueiras (Sunday
parties) in Salvador (Bahia state), in Belém (state of Pará), and in
Săo Paulo’s elegant mountain resort city, Campos do Jordăo. Wherever
they perform, the audience is always comprised completely of dancing
teenagers who know all the music by heart, sing along, and ask for
autographs from idols who played Domingueiras for their parents 30 years ago..

More and more high school students, fans of Bon Jovi, are
going out to dance at clubs where bands like Chuchu’s are performing.
These teens are throbbing to the rhythms of the 60’s. Most have
personal preferences for their favorite 60’s artists and songs.
Seventeen year old purist Flávia Brant Martins who favors originals
over the numerous cover versions being recorded today says, “I prefer
listening to “O Calhambeque” (Old Heap) sung by Roberto Carlos rather than “É Proibido Fumar” (No Smoking) by the group Skank.”

As a matter of fact, there is nothing strange about a pop band like Skank drinking at the fountain of the Jovem Guarda.
That style was the predecessor of all Brazilian rock. However, in the
times of Roberto and his group, the music for young people lacked the
arrogance that later audiences encountered. The music of the Jovem Guarda

followed Chuck Berry’s formula of softening the message. The inventor
of rock `n’ roll wanted to cross over into the white-money-market and
triumphed by keeping away from risqué lyrics and singing about big
cars, romance, and school.

Brazil’s rock of the `80’s started out this way, but
as time went by, bands like Tităs and Legiăo Urbana became increasingly
more sophisticated, employed lyrics full of images, and played with
(according to some) an edge of arrogance. The CD Rei (King ),
which brings several national rock groups together on one CD to
reinterpret the music of Roberto Carlos, gives a very precise idea of
that sophistication.

Brazilian rockers have, from time to time, successfully recorded cover versions of 60’s music. Léo Jaime, for instance, covered “Gatinha Manhosa” (Foxy Lady) in the ’80s. The group Patife Band (Rascal Band) covered “Tijolinho” (Little Brick) but employed a punk rhythmic feel. The group Năo Religiăo (Not Religion) also converted “Coraçăo de Papel” (Paper Heart) into a punk tune.

Even the group Sr. Banana, from the new harvest of rock bands, chose the successful “Ritmo da Chuva” (
Rhythm of the Rain) for their premier effort. By doing cover versions
of former hits, newer bands have attempted not only to reach a larger
teenage audience but also to snare a hit of their own with a proven

30 Anos de Jovem Guarda, Polygram’s recently released five disc compilation of Jovem Guarda
artists, commemorates the compositions of Roberto and Erasmo Carlos.
The collection celebrates the influence their music has had over the
last 30 years and contains hits like: “Festa de Arromba” (Wild Party), “Eu Sou Terrível” (I’m Impossible), “O Calhambeque,” “É Papo Firme” (The Best There Is), and “Splish Splash.”

The project was generated by a meeting between the
leader of Os Vips, Márcio Antonucci, and Max Pierre, director at
Polygram. Antonucci has 210 Jovem Guarda hits cataloged on his
computer, and Max Pierre’s personal record library exceeds 7800 LPs.
After generating the five discs, they say that there is still enough
material left for two similar compilations. Consultants from the
program Globo Repórter have guaranteed the success of the project.

The repertoire also includes many heart throbbers like “Nossa Cançăo” (Our Song), “Eu Daria a Minha Vida” (I Would Give My Life), “Eu Sou Terrível,” “Parei na Contramăo” (I’ve Stopped in the Wrong Way), and “Vem Quente Que Eu Estou Fervendo” (Come Hot Because I’m Boiling).

Some of the sessions on the collection came out better than the originals. Such was the case with “Filme Triste” (Sad Movie) performed by Trio Esperança whose singing is much more in tune than the singing on the original.

Also coming out better than the original and
involving all of the project’s artists is the Jovem Guarda’s anthem
“Quero Que Vá Tudo pro Inferno” (I Want All the Rest to Go to
Hell). The tune had been a reply to the more nationalistic critics and
musicians who didn’t accept any pop mixture that defiled the “purity”
of Brazilian music.

Although the repertoire is huge and will appeal to
almost everyone, some singers were necessarily left out. Roberto Carlos
had been invited to participate, but due to contractual restrictions
with Sony could not be included. Ed Carnes, who in 1966 had a hit with
“Estou Feliz” (I am Happy) which sold 160,000 records, said that he was sorry he hadn’t been included.

Now, a restaurant operator in Săo Paulo, he longs to
leave the restaurant, return to the artistic life, and take advantage
of the current resurgence of interest in music of the Jovem Guarda.

The discovery of the Jovem Guarda by the new
generation has lead record companies to develop specific marketing
strategies. A large shopping center in Săo Paulo promoted a
retrospective exhibit of the Jovem Guarda that displayed newspaper
clippings, rare records, a Gordini automobile (a car of the
time), and ornaments of clothing from the outfits of Jovem Guarda
artists. Record stores in the area were amazed with the tremendous
sales the exhibit generated, mostly to young people from 16 to 22 years
old who yearn to bring back the Jovem Guarda.

These young people are curious to know why Roberto Carlos is a phenomenon that has endured for so many years. The way o Rei (the
King i.e., Roberto Carlos) has continued pleasing so many people from
diversified walks of life at different times is still inexplicable.
Maybe why he is still a hit has to do with his charm or his charisma.

On the other hand, the longevity of the Jovem Guarda
is easier to understand. It was the first movement in Brazilian music
that was directed toward youth, and it is still that way after thirty
years. The Jovem Guarda apparently has not aged with time. It was just
on ice, frozen in time. The music hasn’t aged, just its original
audience. For those who remember that time the resurrection of the
Jovem Guarda is like a high school reunion. For those who are arriving
now, it is like watching a classic film.

While there is a rebirth of Brazil’s interest in the
music of the Jovem Guarda, the King is planning to take on the world.
Roberto Carlos has launched a project to become an international star.
The cover of the thirty-eighth recording by Roberto Carlos shows a
picture of the singer bathed in blue light, with small details in

The back of the cover shows Roberto in blue jeans and wearing a Jean jacket. At a press
conference held to launch the new album he also wore blue jeans and a
blue Jean jacket. His blue imprint has on this occasion been extended
not only to the new disc’s cover graphics but also to the disc itself.

The thousands of fans who expect Roberto to be faithful and without change will not be disappointed. Only for Roberto (o Rei) is
the absence anything new, and are the same repetitious arrangements not
a sin. This is exactly what stirs his enormous following.

It is from this simplicity that the King makes his
biggest conquests. He knows romantic ballads strike a chord with his
fans and that the Brazilian Christian feeling always comes to the fore
with sacred pop songs, such as “Jesus Salvador.” In his latest album,
the religious tune is “Quando eu Quero Falar com Deus” (When I Want to
Talk to God).

Roberto also never forgets the common people, the working classes who are the base of his
success. He paid respect to truck drivers with “Caminhoneiro” on a 1984 release, and more recently, with “O Taxista,” paid homage to taxi drivers.

With his constant partner Erasmo Carlos, he has found
beauty and contributed to boost the self-esteem of fat and then little
women. Now, in “O Charme de Seus Óculos” (The Charm of Your Glasses), he sings a rock tribute to women wearing eyeglasses.

Roberto has also inaugurated his own record label,
Amigo Records. His contract renewal with Sony Music is a five
record/disc deal plus two additional discs in Spanish and the
opportunity to sing in Japanese. This contract ended the 20 million
dollar tug-of-war between Sony and Polygram.

A top executive at Polygram frustrated with his
defeat in the negotiations commented, “At least we inflated the offer
Sony had to make.” Roberto Carlos, as usual very diplomatic and not
very talkative with questions of numbers, gave a conventional
explanation, “We decided on a different contract with a joint venture.”

The King’s choice was apparently well worth the time
spent in discussions over the recent agreement. Sony Music wants to
transform him into a star of world stature (Sony currently distributes
Roberto’s discs only in Brazil). For this endeavor, the most ambitious
of his career, Roberto will be teamed with Argentine producer Beba
Silvetti, the man responsible for the mammoth success of Mexican singer
Luis Miguel. Together they will record in Spanish with the objective of
tapping the immense Spanish language market. Roberto’s thirty-three
year old manager, Dody Sirena, estimates that the record will sell
three million copies, five times more than he currently sells in
Spanish language countries. “We are going to be aggressive,” says
Sirena. “If we need to have Elton John on the recording to promote it,
we will. It is not going to be a record of songs by Roberto like
previous ones. It will include tangos and boleros.”

Roberto’s vision for growth includes tours in Europe
and the Orient. To attract potential buyers on the other side of the
world, Roberto will be prepared to sing in Japanese. “It will be the
great turning point for Roberto. He will be concentrating more than
ever on markets outside Brazil,” affirms Sirena. At 53 years old,
Roberto appears to have the vitality to meet this challenge. By July
his tour, which started in March of 1995, will have made 200
performances in Brazil and abroad. Roberto’s wavering over the
contract, according to his manager, was due to his indecision over the
two possible courses for the direction of his career that were being
offered by each company. One option paid well but would have
transformed him into the Latin Frank Sinatra, stagnant and performing
sporadically. The other would lead to the challenge of new markets
outside Brazil. Roberto Carlos preferred the road, but at 300 miles an

Brazilian rockers recognize the obvious, that Roberto
Carlos from the Jovem Guarda was the singer that brought Brazil into
the panorama of young peoples’ music internationally.

However, for three decades they twisted their noses
at the idol of Romantic music. They would say that they were promoting
the modernization of Brazilian music.

The CD Rei brings these same rockers together
to perform the music of Roberto Carlos. The CD is a deserved homage to
Brazilian rock, to the one who is in truth its patriarch and innovator.
Comparing the old and the new it is not hard to guess who is going
last. It’s doubtful that 30 years from now anyone will be recording
cover versions of most of these groups’ work.

Despite his humble beginnings Roberto was the first
Brazilian artist to have his career promoted and represented by an
agent. He wrote “Broto do Jacaré” (Young Girl from Jacaré) in
1964. Following Chuck Berry’s lead, cars and women were seldom
forgotten in his music. The woman was occasionally the girlfriend of a
friend, and everyone knew the situation had to remain platonic. An
artist today with the same product and unpretentious image would be
laughed at by record companies. This is one reason that the groups who
perform on Rei are not above paying tribute to The King.

The tracks on the disc Rei which are the best
are the ones that preserve Roberto’s original style. The performers who
tried to rephrase and restate Roberto’s music, those whose music is
generally more sophisticated, missed the target. These tracks are
foreign to Roberto’s image, his working blueprint. Thus the best tracks
are the ones performed by Paulo Miklos, Barăo Vermelho, and Blitz.
Paulo Miklos from Tităs gave a new vitality to “Sua Estupidez” (Your
Stupidity). The same tune also has a memorable interpretation by Gal
Costa. Barăo Vermelho (the R&B group that Cazuza played with before going solo) handled “Quando” (When) in their typical first-rate manner.

Blitz (the group created by underground theater actor
Evandro Mesquita and the first rock group to play at Rio’s most
important concert hall Canecăo) decided on music that had been
successfully sung by Erasmo, “Sentado ŕ Beira do Caminho” (Sitting at the Edge of the Road).

The version contains some embellishments that were
not on the original; nevertheless, the tune works nicely. The band
Vexame (Shame) decided they would better the King and tried to make a
mockery of him with “Cavalgada” (Rodeo), but the effort failed.

Carlinhos Brown and Chico Science created interesting
versions that border on experimentalism, but reflect more their own
styles rather than the easily assimilated pop characterized by Roberto.

Marina, taken by the style of Sade, recorded a too
cool version of “Por Isso Corro Demais” (Because of That I Run Too
Much) that interweaves a Sade-type treatment but lacks the emotional
feeling that the lyrics convey. The CD Rei required an
investment of $70,000 and another $100,000 in promotion. “We intend to
sell 250,000 copies in one year,” says José Eboli, director of

It has been one year since the directors of Sony
Music in Brazil got together to evaluate the popularity of Roberto
Carlos. It was realized at that time that of Roberto’s one million
faithful buyers, 70% are over thirty-five years old.

From these findings Sony decided to launch the new
program to rejuvenate the work of Roberto. The intention was to rescue
his music from the 60’s and bring it to the ears of the 90’s. Before
promoting the CD Rei, Sony sent early clips of Roberto remixed with a funk groove to MTV.

These clips caused the entire Roberto catalog to jump
in monthly sales from 7,000 to 70,000. Barring the antics and politics
of promoting the Roberto of the Jovem Guarda on CD, the
decision should be applauded for the way that it has replaced to his
rightful throne the creator and best composer of Brazil’s first wave of

Bruce Gilman plays cuíca for samba school Mocidade
Independente Los Angeles, has a masters degree from California
Institute of the Arts, and teaches English and ESL in Long Beach,

Festa de arromba

Roberto and Erasmo Carlos

(This classic Jovem Guarda tune names 23 participants of the ię-ię-ię movement)

Vejam só em que festa de arromba

Noutro dia eu fui parar

Presentes no local

O rádio e a televisăo

Cinema, mil jornais

Muita gente, confusăo

Quase năo consigo na entrada chegar

Pois a multidăo estava de amargar

Ę, ę

Que onda que festa de arromba

Logo que eu cheguei notei

Ronnie Cord com um copo na măo

Enquanto o Prini Lorez bancava o anfitriăo

Apresentando a todo mundo Meire Pavăo

Wanderléa ria e Cleide desistia

De agarrar um doce

Que do prato năo saía

Ę, ę

Que onda que festa de arromba

Renato e seus Blue Caps

Tocavam na piscina

The Clevers no terraço

Jet Blacks no salăo

Os Bels de cabeleira

Năo podiam tocar

Enquanto a Rosemery

Năo parasse de dançar

Vejam quem chegou de repente

Roberto Carlos com seu novo carrăo

Enquanto Tony e Demetrius

Fumavam no jardim

Sérgio e Zé Ricardo

Esbarravam em mim

Lá fora um corre-corre

Dos brotos do lugar

Era o Ed Wilson

Que acabava de chegar

Ę, ę

Que onda que festa de arromba

De madrugada, quando eu já ia embora, ainda estava
chegando gente: The Jordans, Golden Boys, Trio Esperança, Rossini
Pinto, ah!, caramba!, até o Simonal, o Jorge Ben e o meu amigo Jair

Wild party

Look at what wild party

I ended up another day

Present in the local

There were radio and television

Movie, all papers

Many people, a mess

I almost couldn’t get in

Because the crowd was too big

Eh, eh

What a gas, what a wild party

As soon as I arrived I noticed

Ronnie Cord holding a glass

While Prini Lorez played the host

Presenting Meire Pavăo to everyone

Wanderléa laughed and Cleide gave up

Getting a cookie

Which didn’t get off the plate

Eh, eh

What a gas, what a wild party

Renato and his Blue Caps

Played in the swimming pool

The Clevers in the porch

Jet Blacks in the dance floor

The Bels with their long hair

Couldn’t play

Before Rosemery

Would stop dancing

See who suddenly arrived

Roberto Carlos with his new gas guzzler

While Tony and Demetrius

Smoked in the garden

Sérgio and Zé Ricardo

Did trip over me

Outside there was a rush

From the place’s little girls

It was Ed Wilson

Who had just arrived

Eh, eh

What a gas, what a wild party

In the morning, when I was already leaving, there
were people still arriving: The Jordans, Golden Boys, Trio Esperança,
Rossini Pinto, ah! whew, even Simonal, Jorge Ben and my friend Jair

Querem acabar comigo

Roberto and Erasmo Carlos

Querem acabar comigo

Nem eu mesmo sei porque

Enquanto eu tiver vocę aqui

Ninguém poderá me destruir.

Querem acabar comigo

Isso eu năo vou deixar

Me abrace assim, me olhe assim

Năo vá ficar longe de mim.

Pois enquanto eu tiver

vocę comigo…ô….ô…..

Sou mais forte

E para mim năo há perigo…ô….ô…..

Vocę está aqui

E eu estou também

Com vocę eu năo temo ninguém.

Vocę sabe bem de onde eu venho

E no coraçăo o que eu tenho

Tenho muito amor

E é só o que interessa…ô….ô…..

Sempre aqui pois a verdade

é essa…ô….ô…..

They want to finish me

They want to finish me

I don’t know why

While I have you here

Nobody will be able to destroy me.

They want to finish me

This I am not going to allow

Embrace me in this way

Look at me in this way

Don’t stay far from me.

Because while I have you with me

I am stronger

And for me there will be no danger

You are here,

And I am here too

With you I am not afraid of anybody.

You know very well

Where I’m coming from

In my heart what I have

I have a lot of love

And this is what counts

I am always here because that is truth.

Jovem Guarda talk

Aviăo – (literally: plane) big American car

Barra limpa – (clean edge) cool person

Bandidăo – (big bandit) nice guy

Barra pesada – (heavy edge) troublemaker

Bicăo – (big beak) gate-crasher

Bidu – bigwig

Bolha – (bubble) moron

Brasa – (ember) great.

Chatô – (castle) house

Estar por fora – (to be in the outside) to not know

Fogueira – (bonfire) something very good

Gata – (pussy cat) pretty girl

Mil gentes – (thousand peoples) a crowd

Mora – (lives) dig it

Papo firme – (firm gizzard) worthwhile

Papo furado – (punctured gizzard) idle talk, lie

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