My life and times with Soda Stereo
Excerpts from my upcoming book
“Dancing with the Big Boys”
written by Carlos Alomar and Robin Clark
In the late 1980’s I used to frequent a place called “Rudy’s Music Stop”, a music store in the legendary 48thstreet music district in New York City. One of the few places where real men could window shop and envision themselves playing any one of the most amazing vintage guitars that would be found there. Slowly and inevitably you would peer closer until you finally stumbled upon the price tag, there your daydreams would come face to face with the true reality of “American Commerce”. Damn, you’d have to work all your life or start one of those Internet start-up companies that produced millionaires in the coming years to afford one of those beauties. But I wasn’t there looking for another axe, I was there looking for Rudy.
I figured as long as I was in the neighborhood, I might as well ask his opinion on my thoughts about Latin Music. You see, Rudy was very knowledgeable about the whole Latin scene and I would constantly go to him to set me straight about all things Latin. Rudy was a middle-aged Argentinian man who looked much younger than his age, probably from all the places he had to visit in order to get his hands on all the pearls that he had to offer (surely, a much better scenario than being stuck in the shop all day long). Rock and Roll had been very good to him and to actually find him behind the counter was rare. I was there to talk to Rudy about an idea I had. I wanted to start “The National Rock Movement of Puerto Rico.”
Rock Music with Spanish lyric was taking off via MTV and I was very aware of the consequences and demand for such music. I wanted Puerto Rico, with their close relationship to the United States, to be the portal for bands wishing to enter the U.S. market. My desire at this time, to give something back to my musical community, was at an all time high.
I finally found Rudy in the back room, polishing one of his new acquisitions. Rudy listened as I excitedly talked for about 20 minutes non-stop about “this and that” and “them and those” and basically all things wrong with the record companies. And of course, how they wouldn’t know a great band even if they bit them in the ass!
Yet, Rudy was very intuitive and clever so he let me go on and on with my chatter until he finally stopped me with one simple word.
“Carlito…” was all he said. This simple word stopped me in mid sentence. You see, the Spanish ending “ito or ita(for females)” added to anyone’s name, is like Americans calling Charles, Charley or Michael, Mikey. This Hispanic term of endearment was always used by anyone older than you, not only to show you his or her rank. But mostly, to make you feel like a child again…no matter your age.
“Have you ever heard of a band from Argentina called Soda Stereo?” he continued.
When I told him I had not, he then went on to inform me that Gustavo Cerrati the Lead singer from that band had come in recently. Gustavo, like me, had come to ask his advice about possible producers for their upcoming album. Rudy commented how fortuitous it was for us to be having this conversation and recommended that I think about producing this band. I told Rudy that I was very interested and asked if he had Cerrati’s telephone number. Rudy reached into his back pocket and produced what I considered to be his “Little Black Book”. Now I use the word “little” very loosely here, because the weathered, frayed and tattered book, held together by rubber bands that he produced could hardly be considered “little”. In fact, it would have easily bore a hole in a lesser man’s buttock. But I guess that after years of feeding it numbers from many places, It probably balanced the wallet found on the other side perfectly. Giving him an added height of accomplishment that would forever have him seated high, above any man.
When I got home I did a little research on the band to see where they were coming from. I was pleasantly surprise to find that they were pretty good musicians. But, yet again let me explain another production fact. That really was not a concern…as a producer I admit that your past is important. But what is more important is what you do now. As genre’s morph and change and the beats per minute drive music to be faster and faster, every song has to be a hit and a producer must prepare every song to be viable.
So my plan was simple. First, invite them to N.Y.C. to rehearse their songs in a proper rehearsal studio. I hate it when monies are wasted rehearsing in a recording studio. Granted, some spontaneous things happen in the recording studio, but there are bigger benefits that can be reaped from a proper rehearsal studio. In this case, they would not be distracted by familiar people, places or phone calls. (A thing I learned from Bowie, when he once informed me that we would be rehearsing on a tropical island). Secondly, we would have them available to re-write or re-arrange any song, at any time of day or night (the latter would proved invaluable, as that is just what happened). And third, this would allow me to formulate an idea about their “Sound ”. This is important because it allowed me to consider who would be the recording engineer, mixing engineer and where I would record, as well as who would master the final product. These things being done, we finally arranged to meet at the rehearsal studio.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Jeff Beck Group and countless power trio bands from days gone by, ran through my head as I listened to Soda Stereo warm up and introduce me to some of the intended songs for their new LP.
The first thing that caught my attention was the amazing vocals of Soda Stereo’s front man, Gustavo Cerrati. Gustavo was a virtuoso rhythm and lead guitarist with an uncanny and convincing ability to sing and write a hit song. I found him very intelligent, calculating and serious about the band. With Gustavo, all things were negotiable but he understood the strengths and weaknesses of his band, and fought to maintain their image and direction.
Hector Bosio on Bass, who quickly told me to call him “Zeta”, as no one, no one, …no one called him “Hector”. Zeta’s demeanor was collaborative and supportive. He was born to be a bass player, strong and loud and by loud I mean “forward”, he said what he meant and meant what he said”. Zeta was always holding things “down” and by “down” I mean “together”.
And last but not least, the young pup and relentless drum machine behind it all, Charly Alberti, a curly haired smile atop two shoulders. Charly was a real sweetie and charmer who I knew had all the makings of a true “Lady Killer”. Charly like many young men needed a lot of sleep, and he was not apologetic about getting it …anywhere he could. I would sometimes see him laying on the carpet, catching a nod on a chair or resting in a fetal position comfortably on the coach. He reminded me of a cat. His reply to everything was always positive and delivered with a beaming smile. He was quiet and shy and I found him to be,
End of Pt.I