Thursday, 20 September 2012

1973 in Brazil

As I have already said I came back to São Paulo in late March 1973. It felt good to see my family again but soon after I realized I had done the wrong thing. I should have stayed back in the States.

I was culturally shocked especially with Brazilian radio. It was so lacklustre and unispiring compared with its counterpart in the USA. I didn't know what to do. I wished I could turn on the radio and listen to American radio but I was back in South America and in the 1970s there was no such a thing as Internet. I was trapped in a back water. 

FM stations were non-existent in Sao Paulo in 1973, but that was not the problem. The problem was content! 

There were two top-40 AM stations that played US hits: Radio Excelsior and Radio Difusora. DJs at these stations hardly knew what they talked about mispelling and mispronouncing most of the song titles. It was an exercise in futility and alienation. I knew I could not listen to those stations. Even their turntables were inferior compared to those state-of-the-art in the USA.

I was in a daze. I met my friend Nino one afternoon and we went to Ibirapuera Park to listen to  cassette tapes I had recorded from New York radio stations while I was there. We had a lot of fun reminiscing our time in the US. It was a 'sad' fun though because we both knew we could not go back. Traveling in the 1970s was very expensive and fraught with problems.

After a while I must have settled and started listening to Brazilian pop music which was really appalling. Brazil had been living under a military dictatorship now for almost 10 years and it showed in country lack of dynamism. Pop music was stagnant. Pop culture was going nowhere. I was in the strange position of someone who had tasted the best and now was a virtual prisoner in a no man's land.

I found work teaching English-as-a-foreign-language at Fisk Schools at night courses. During the day I worked as a typist for a newspaper help-wanted section. I worked in an office-stall inside a huge supermarket with another fellow; I usually typed the ads because I was faster at the keys and my co-worker Bernardino did the social part.  As we didn't have much to do, except on Friday afternoons, I listened to the radio most of the time. I listened to both Brazilian pop and US top 40.

Since circa 1968 there had been a surge of US hits in Brazilian radio stations with the establishment of at least two AM stations - Radio Difusora and Radio Excelsior - that played only 45 rpms from the lists published by such magazines as Billboard, Cash Box and Record World.

Those stations playing American hits had an specific audience which was not large. As Brazilians do not understand the meaning of English lyrics the songs that ended up being hits were the more melodic ones which one doesn't have to understand the meaning to enjoy.

TV soap operas rule the waves and become hit-makers

Television soap operas, called 'tele-novelas', had been really popular ever since 1964 with 'A moça que veio de longe' (The girl who came from far-away). These daily dramas stretching from 6 to 12 months would run every night from Monday through Saturday grabbing people's attention for that period.

TV Tupi's 'Beto Rockfeller' (4 November 1968 to 30 November 1969) was an innovative tele-novela which started a new trend, that of inserting American pop hits in their sound-track. It was usually a romantic ballad that played in the background while the main character would go through the motions of love and hate. Each song was identified with a particular character. 'F... come femme' by Belgian singer-song-writer Adamo was the first such hit and it was soon renamed 'Renata's theme' meaning every time Renata appeared on the screen that song would play. 'I started a joke' by the Bee Gees went skyrocketing to #1 being played on the screen every time Maitê sighed or looked troubled. 'Here, there and everywhere' by the Beatles was Neide's theme-song. Beto Rockfeller's theme was Erasmo Carlos's 'Sentado à beira do caminho'. Even Gigliola Cinquetti's 1965's 'Dio come ti amo' was revived as 'Cida and Vitorio's theme'. 

In 1969, TV Tupi's top soapy was 'Super pla' and it had 'We're gonna get married', a Lou Christie song recorded here in Brazil, in English, by Sunday, a Brazilian rock group who passed themselves as American. Every time lovely Titina apperead on the screen they played 'I'm gonna get married' and it became a huge hit overnight. The trend was set for the next 40 years.

Brazilian band Sunday sang 'I'm gonna get married' in English and went to #1 due to being in 'Super pla', the most popular soap opera in 1969. 

So from around 1970, DJs and the record-buying public didn't have to worry about pronouncing song titles correctly anymore because most of them suddenly became 'Theme from This' or 'Theme from That'. Soap opera's main heroes and heroines became song titles. Record companies knew they had to insert their songs in a tele-novela in order for them to become hits. And that's the way Brazilian Hit Parade have worked since 1970. 

By the mid 1970s it was a matter-of-fact for a successful tele-novela to have two albums released in the market. One with 12 Brazilian songs and a second one with 12 foreign-language hits. Foreign-language meant mostly English but not only. Sometimes there were an Italian or French hit thrown in for good measure. 

Hybrid English Song Hits

The dictionary says 'hybrid' is something of mixed origin or composition, such as a word whose elements are derived from different languages. I call 'hybrid English' the kind of music written by people of non-native English background.

A lot of Brazilians wrote and produced records done in English. Most of them were clueless as to the meaning and general grammar rules. Here's a list of hybrid English hits.

from 1969 to 1973

São Paulo's Pholhas at Cathedral Sé's portal.

1.  Tell me once again  -  Light Reflection  (Uma rosa com amor)
2.  My mistake  -  Pholhas
3.  Don't say good bye  -  Chrystian 
4.  I will be fine - Pete Dunaway ('Rosa dos ventos') 17 July 1973 to 17 November 1973

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