More than blood—The emotional gushing of a generation

The current of Rock in Catalan of the 1990s was the prelude to the current array of the country’s pop music, all now absolutely normal: Manel, Txarango, Catarres, Mazoni, Mishima, La Iaia and so many others today sing to everyday life rather than to your own or to my blood, or to guess at what lies beyond the sun; a question, the latter, which continues to matter very little to us.
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uring pre-teen and teenage there is among western youth an emotional gush. In Catalonia between the mid-1970s and mid-80s, this juvenile manifestation occurred in the midst of an exceptional context. Perhaps deliberately exceptional. An age that has possibly played a more determining role than we might think in the process the country is experiencing. At the very beginning of the 90s, the youth formed a close bond with three media phenomena: the birth of Catalan TVs juvenile Club Súper 3—with the daily screening of Dragon Ball, titled Bola de Drac here; the social surge surrounding the Olympics; and last but not least of the three: the arising of pop rock bands that composed in Catalan.

In a normal country, all this would have been just that: normal. But people then really began to leave behind the conditioning of the Franco regime and, for the first time in modern times, a generation of Catalans joined together to build their collective image in their own language. Without realizing, they were contributing content to the natural universe of a nation, forging their sentiment without obstacle, because the feelings of ones own and that of a group are neither natural nor favourable to self-esteem while they cannot be developed in the context of their own language and their own culture. In those years, closing the door of your room on a Saturday after lunch to unravel Sopa de Cabra’s Roda album—the one with the red case and a negative image of singer Gerard Quintana with his eyes wide open—putting the disc in the player and listening to the first chords of El carrer dels torratsThe Loonies’ Street, followed up with the legendary Oooo-Yeah! is still today a sentiment that I feel very respectful about given its capacity to transport you to your origins.

 

And it’s not the only case. Other songs on the same album like Tot queda igualEverything Remains the Same, Dies de carretera—Days on the Road, No tinguis pressa—Don’t Rush, and songs by other bands like Els Pets’ S’ha acabatIt’s Over, Quina nit—What a Night or Corre’t, Corre, Corre’tCome, Come On, Come by Sau were the gateway out of the twighlight  into normalcy and an invitation to delve into its furthest corners. It is also necessary to take into account that this movement of normalization took place at a time when the Internet and the social networks  were taking their first steps, which makes it even more singular. And yet one more extravagance: it all came about in the back country, far from the metropolitan area of Barcelona. According to the newspaper La Vanguardia, in just over fifteen years, pop rock in Catalan led to the debut of over 250 bands, the pressing of more than half a million discs and admirable sales. To that success, we must add the release of the first video clips in Catalan, some of them shot abroad like És inútil continuar—Going On is Pointless, by the band from the agricultural county of Osona, Sau,  which was directed by Ricard Reguant on location in London, New York and Santo Domingo. These video clips would share airtime on TV with emerging groups from the global scene in new musical shows like Sputnik.

On the origin of Sangtraït, the most audacious band on the music scene of the time, is a version that contradicts the official story. The unofficial story speculates that the lyrics and music were also the work of Empordà musicians Josep Tero and Lluís Llach.

It was the stars of the movement who wanted to get rid of the Catalan sobriquet. However, most of them now accept the opportunity and the value of being so labelled. At that time it was logical that they should reject it since the most outstanding groups of the time were making the dream of any band come true. They had dozens of concerts on schedule, and got recognition from the masses. And they didn’t get it going in through the service entrance. Perhaps the best definition the Catalan Rock moniker came from singer-songwriter Lluís Llach in an interview on Catalan Televisió de Catalunya: it came about with the mass media in Catalan commandeering the music scene. And he delineated its success by being a movement born in the back-country, breaking with a long protracted tradition. Whatever the opinion, the national impact in Catalonia was obvious.

The words that opened the mythical concert at the Palau Sant Jordi (1991) made clear reference to it. It was Sau’s lead singer Carles Sabater who, before an audience of close on 22,000—the concert drew the then biggest indoor crowd to date in Europe—said: you are writing a page in Catalonia’s history books. Following that intro would come songs like No he nascut per militar—I was not born to be a soldier, Perestroika, and one that has since become a hymn: Boig per tuCrazy for you; the rural, festive rock band from the town of Constantí Els Pets , with massive guitar play by Marc Grau; and Sopa de Cabra, the band born between Blanes and Cadaqués—villages on the Costa Brava referred to in their song L’Empordà. Those in charge of closing the concert were Sangtraït, from the Empordà village of La Jonquera. On the origin of Sangtraït, the most audacious band on the music scene of the time, is a version that contradicts the official story. Some lay the creation of the group at the feet of record label Picap, who saw the lack of a quality heavy rock group as an opportunity. The unofficial story speculates that the lyrics and music were also the work of Empordà musicians Josep Tero and Lluís Llach. The latter actually appears in the song Freddie Memorium, a tribute to the leader of Queen. Sangtraït’s Quim Mandado, along with members Lupe Villar—who could not contain her tears as she came off the stage of the Sant Jordi—Josep M. Corominas, Papa Juls and Martín Rodríguez, offered their unmistakable sound, with a legacy of legendary ballads like El vol de l’home ocellThe Flight of the Bird Man, and Somnis entre boiresDreams in the Mists, closed a musical rainbow recorded by composers like Montse Llaràs o the band Bars, Cris Juanico—Ja T’ho Diré, or the extraordinary Adrià Puntí—Umpah Pah.

 

Leaving aside the ridiculous budget Catalan culture continues to suffer, the current of Rock in Catalan was the prelude to the current array of the country’s pop music, all now absolutely normal: Manel, Txarango, Catarres, Mazoni, Mishima, La Iaia and so many others today sing to refer to everyday life rather than your own or to my blood, or to guess at what lies beyond the sun; a question, the latter, which continues to matter very little to us.