Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Te Estoy Amando Locamente

The term "Flamenco Rock" probably makes most people think of the Gypsy Kings. Nothing wrong with them of course, after all their version of Hotel California is much more fun than the original. However, when flamenco and rock first met head on back in the mid 70s, the result was very different indeed, and that's what I'd like to talk about here. So, ladies and gentlemen, take a seat - not that one, the cat likes to sit there - and pour yourself a glass of manzanilla, because I'm going to tell you the incredible but true story of one of the most remarkable bands that you've probably never heard of: Las Grecas.

Las Grecas - Amma Immi (Gipsy Rock, 1974)

Las Grecas were Carmela and Tina Munoz Barrull, two sisters of gypsy descent who grew up in the dirt poor outskirts of Madrid in the 60s and 70s. When their father left home, Carmela and her younger sister starting performing flamenco in some of the local tablaos, and soon folk were talking about these pretty gypsy girls who would sing flamenco in unision, something that was then practically unheard of. CBS signed them up, and then had a great idea: they teamed them up with some of their best rock session musicians to see what would happen.

The results probably surprised even them. Their first single, Te Estoy Amando Locamente ("I'm loving you Crazily" - sounds better in Spanish) stomped its way up the charts Wuthering Heights-style to the No. 1 position in 1974, where it stayed for 5 weeks. Grecamania gripped a dusty old Spain in the dog days of Franco's regime, and their first album, Gipsy Rock, was both hugely successful and influential - the flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia used the decending melody of the hit single as the basis for his best known piece, Entre Dos Aguas.
They were stars. They bought a beige cadillac and an apartment in one of the more chi chi areas of Madrid. The second album, Mucho Mas, was also pretty good, but then the hits started to dry up. They released two more albums and finally called it a day in 1979. Five years. not a bad innings for the 70s.

Las Grecas - Bella Kali (Gipsy Rock, 1974)

It would be nice to end the story here. In a parallel world much happier than our own, Las Grecas lived out their lives happily in comfortable obscurity. In our world however, their lives were tossed into a maelstrom. First of all was the old story, they were swindled out of money. After sacking their manager, they found themselves effectively blacklisted by the industry. They couldn't work and they were broke. Carmela was the first to snap, trying to commit suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills and then posing naked for a gossip magazine.Then Tina started suffering mental health problems. She was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and in 1983 tried to kill her sister, attacking her with a knife, plunging it into her shoulder. She spent the next 9 years in and out of prison and hospitals and was often seen wandering the streets of Madrid homeless. She died in 1992 at the age of 38.

There's no happy ending I'm afraid. In fact, it ends in farce. Carmela tried to return in the 90s without much success, with a new singer replacing her late sister. Then, the said singer then ended up somehow registering and obtaining the rights to the name Las Grecas. She currently performs under this name with another new singer, neither of whom had anything to do with the original group. There's no business like show business.

Gipsy Rock is available on iTunes and has also just been reissued on vinyl. You can also find a couple of compilations under the name Por Siempre Grecas on Amazon. As always with these compilations, Vol 1, which covers the early years, is the one to go for. You can see them performing the big hit on some godawful Spanish version of Top of the Pops below.


  1. Interesting output from Franco's Spain!
    Also interesting is the Spanish version of a mixed-Pan's People who are funking up the studio there.
    As an aside this era was also the time of the likes of Carry On Abroad...

  2. The video clip is awful, isn't it? I hesitated putting it in, but the point is, they were musically breaking new ground, but they were also pop stars, and in Spain in 1974, being a pop star meant appearing on what was probably the Spanish equivalent of Pebble Mill at One. In black and white. It's kind of like Kate Bush performing Babooshka on the Dr Hook show.

  3. I love Pan's People, by the way. Won't have a word said against them. Their performance to "Jeepster" by T. Rex (Tight polyester trousers. Two steps forward. Turn round. Shake yout arse. Repeat) is the sexiest thing ever on Top of the Pops. And I'm including Blondie in that.

  4. Pan's pPeople were always panned but I saw a documentary about them yes and sometimes they only had a few hours to get their dance together! And as long as there was the odd arse wiggle at least half the audience would be satisfied ;-) My favourite TOTP performance was Cyndo Lauper doing True Colors followed by Dead Cities by that Scottish punk band that I cant remember just now and cant be bothered looking it up on shmoogle...

  5. I am glad you included it, I am fascinated by the bizarre world of culture in Franco's could not have been easy!

    Nothing wrong with Pan's all

  6. DF,
    "Scottish Punk Band"? I hope that wasn't The Exploited was it? *shudders* My favourite TOTP appearance is, of course, Sparks doing "This Town Isn't Big Enough For Both of Us" Mum! Hitler's on Top of the Pops!

    Yes, Franco's Spain was a weird place, the sort of place where the newspapers would paint vests on photos of boxers and where visiting Hollywood actresses found themselves having to put on shawls when they made a TV appearance if they were showing a bare inch of flesh.

  7. What about Judas Priest on TOTP playing Living After Midnight?
    It seemed although Tim Brooke Taylor had replaced Rob Halford... favourite TOTP memory was Motorhead/Girlschool Please Don't Touch

  8. Thumper! YES! It was the Exploited and they blew me away, not enough to purchase anything by them but it was an unexpected moment of madness and mayhem! Yes Sparks was brilliant too.

    Lost-one! I never cared for living after midnight and neither did the rest of The Goodies!
    Another great thing that came out of Spain was the amazing director Jess Franco!!! I think he had to move to France to make his dodgy movies, but all the sordidness in his films was a protest against the regime in Spain! Yeah right Jess you dirty old perv!!!

  9. Jimmy,
    My favourite Judas Priest TV moment was their appearance on kids' TV show Razzamatazz, miming to, I think, "Freewheel Burning". Features an audience of 12 year olds headbanging. Hilarious. Damned if i can find it on Youtube.

    "not enough to purchase anything by them", eh? That was a lucky escape.

  10. Never heard of these lot at all - thanks for the tip off. It's sort of Eurovision, but then almost Aphrodities Child, with a splash of exploit-soundtrack about it...

  11. As for Pan's People have dig about for their flammable funk routine (called The Pillow Dance) to a Buddy Miles tune. Used to be all over the net, but seems to have been pulled, oo-er

  12. Hello Mondo,
    I like them a lot. Some of the songs have congas and 70s rock piano which date them somewhat, but I love the guitar shapes, and the girls had real Flamenco chops, which gave the songs a cut and thrust absent in most Mediterranean pop.

    Thanks for the Pan's People tip, I'll have to go and check it out. I'm trying to find a YouTube link to the Jeepster performance but without success. I saw it on the TOTP2 T. Rex special introduced by Steve Wright that was on some years back. However, I did discover that when they danced to Jeepster it was at no. 2 in the charts. No 1? That's right, Benny Hill. The Seventies, eh?