Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rocking Mallorca: Still In The Sixties

Inca has been staging its Leather Fest Rock n Roll. Today's music, somewhat oddly, will be devoted to swing, but until 3am this morning the old Guardia Civil barracks of General Luque was the location for the barrage of sound that is rock music in its different guises. Johnny B. Bad, the Blues Beer Band and others who you are unlikely to have ever heard of were giving their all for Mallorca's rock and thus extending a legacy that is some fifty years old.

Back in the day, however, Mallorca didn't have a great deal of its own rock to boast about. Around that time, i.e. the sixties, rock was discarding its roll and plugging itself into decibel-blasting Marshall amps that were being hauled around Great Britain by R&B bands. For Mallorca, struggling under the yoke of cultural censoriousness and industrial backwardness, the white heat of sixties' technology extended little further than a dodgy transistor secretly picking up Radio Luxembourg. Its musical output was thus somewhat behind the times, albeit it was as dedicated a follower of fashion as it could be, to the point of creating what were essentially tribute acts long before anyone had dreamt up the term.

To the dismay of the regime, it was to discover that it couldn't line every inch of Mallorcan coastline and prevent the musical tide washing in. The defences were breached and Mallorca was to become Spain's Mecca for rock music: not its own but that of others. The invasion was led by The Animals and The Kinks. The latter weren't to prove to be much of a hit: their reception was lukewarm. The Animals, on the other hand, knew how to play the PR game. There was a legendary mega-party in Palma on 19 June, 1966 and they told the press that they loved Mallorca and had come for the sun, the swimming and the horse-riding (?). Everyone loved them as well, and Eric Burdon was to eventually join the hippies of Deya when he bought a house there in the 1980s.

The Mecca wasn't, to be entirely accurate, attracting genuine rock (R&B). Whatever Tom Jones or Sandie Shaw may have wished that they had been performing and later went on to, they were ushered into the nightclubs so that Tom could reminisce about the green, green grass of home and Sandie could reprise her barefoot Eurovision performance being held up by string. Nevertheless, such was the momentum that Jimi Hendrix arrived in 1968, musically announced that rock music was the new rock and roll and single-handedly almost succeeded in destroying Palma's Sgt. Pepper's.

Meanwhile, and with the very rare exception, Mallorca was still churning out its diet of Beatles and west coast American lookalikes and sound not particularly likes. The stirrings of the underground were there, however, even if they were ones more akin to the folk music protest movement. It wasn't truly until the regime had been laid to rest that rock plugged in its electric guitar, horrified the folk musicians in a manner that Dylan once had and invented noise pollution in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountains. The Mecca, very oddly enough, was uprooted and replanted in the small village of Selva.

In 1976, the first ever Selva Rock took place. Its lineup over the eight years that it was to take place included artists and bands from the UK. Kevin Ayers, one of the some time Deya hippies, turned up, as did Dr. Feelgood. The newspaper "El País", reporting the 1980 festival, said that more than 15,000 people had gone along one Saturday night into Sunday morning in early August and paid 800 pesetas (around five euros) to reserve their "hysteria" for the Irish group which had pioneered punk music. Well, Dr. Feelgood are regarded as having been influential on punk, but as for having pioneered it or having been Irish ... .

But what about Mallorca's rock acts? You may well ask. Selva Rock had been a breakthrough, certainly for heavier rock. There had been one or two groups from the 1960s, such as Iceberg, who attempted to sound like Steppenwolf, but rock was never that popular until it was properly Catalanised and led to Catalan Rock. Hence, for example, there was Furnish Time in the early 1980s, who were a Mallorcan pop-rock outfit. Later there was Tots Sants (all saints, and most certainly not to be confused with the girl group of the same name).

Any number of groups came along and continue to come along, but major success has generally proved to be elusive. It is notable that bigger rock occasions, other than any involving British, European or other overseas acts, tend to be reserved for groups from Catalonia, while the quasi-tribute habit of the 1960s is now the full-blown thing. Hence, the large auditoriums can be filled by the likes of Whole Lotta Band (Led Zeppelin). It's as though the sixties (and the seventies) have never gone away.

* The music on the video starts after around three and a half minutes. It's not bad, though fairly derivative.

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