Brazilian monsters of music

Caetano-Veloso-and-Gilber-006

When Mário Soveral turned up in London his idea might have been to stay there. Breathing democracy and freedom is what most 17 year olds like to experience. His mother Laura kept a close eye on him. Life in those days was a daily adventure and everything was more or less possible. I had to earn my living and had a fixed job in the City. On our free time we would look for more adventures.

When in London Laura visited friends that she had known previously. Some of these were Brazilian. We were invited to a Guilherme Araújo in Chelsea that had an open house to other Brazilians. I remember being invited to a Beans lunch (Feijoada Brasileira) there, together with the Soveral mother and son.

Araújo was often on the phone on long distance calls. I really had no idea who these people were but it became clear to me that our host worked as an agent for two of the other tenants Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.They had spent some months in prison in 1968 after being arrested by the military led government for subversive activism.

Below is what anyone might read on Wikipedia. There’s nothing there about our Beans lunch!!

“Thereafter, Gil and Veloso were exiled to London, England after being offered to leave Brazil.[16] The two played a last Brazilian concert together in Salvador in July 1969, then left to Portugal, Paris, and finally London.[1] He and Veloso took a house in Chelsea, sharing it with their manager and wives.”

Gil and Caetano were political refugees in England. They had arrived there under the influence of The Beatles latest work. Tropicalismo developed and made Brazilian pop more international and social aware. Velos’s and Gil´s political ideas on the left made them enemies of the Brazilian military dictatorship. Their songs were often censored and some were banned.

Fashion and politics

King's Rd

Needless to say if you were young and lived in London you couldn’t miss King’s Road, Chelsea.

This was one of the London streets where the sophisticated liked to come and show off. There were plenty of boutiques, pubs and restaurants. I have some vivid memories from my time in London that I can associate with King’s Road. Mário Soveral and I certainly went there quite often in late summer- autumn of 1970.

How did I bump into Mário? Well quite naturally… My mother knew his mother the actress Laura Soveral. Laura could very well have taken lessons at the British institute, so when they came to London it was only natural that they should get in touch with me. As Mário was a little younger than myself-he sometimes called me “Papá Pinheiro” – I was seen as someone who could give him support and calm him down a little! Whether this is his picture I do not know as I have lost track of him, but am convinced and hopeful that he will get in touch with me, as I have initiated a search all over Portugal to get hold of him.

It was in King’s Rd that I was invited for lunch with Laura and her husband José Maria. We went to one of many small posh restaurants along the street. We got into talking about the situation in Portugal and I clearly remember criticizing the regime and the relatively new Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano. I noticed that José Maria tried to say that things were developing and a process of democratization had been launched. -Yeah, sure…Was my comment! When we left the restaurant Mário had the courtesy to inform me that José Maria was the son of Portugal’s dictator Marcelo Caetano.

Masters of logistics

concorde

As time went by the West End started to take over from the City. I cannot recall how we started to frequent the Concord Club at Oxford Street/Regent Street??? It’s dead and buried and there’s nothing to be found about it, on Google. Has it existed? I am now giving it new life, anyway.

This was a disco for a younger public. No big spenders, but a good place to listen to music, dance and take a cool drink! The disc jockey was the Portuguese Toni (Carolo), a Setubal born good looking boy, that was popular with the girls. His friend was another Setubal native Gilberto Matos and we eventually shared digs in West Cromwell Rd. It was this Portuguese connection that brought us to the Concord blessed, as it were, by the owner Mr Nat, who for some reason liked us and wanted us there.

My strongest memories from the Concord were together with Mário Soveral. We would go there quite often and worked on our female conquests to the sound of “Blame it on the Pony Express” by Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon and many Tamla Motown labeled music. It was my introduction to Black American music and I stayed with it.

When we started to increase our network of friends we had to meet and keep the contacts going. For this there was obviously the conventional telephone. (I cannot recall ever having one of those).How did we meet and keep in touch with each other? I do not know but we were certainly masters of logistics deciding to meet up at tube stations and the like, between certain hours, at certain days. Communication was not what it is today!

The Portuguese connection

Portugal

What would you say, occupies the minds of most boys and young men? Exactly, it didn’t take you long to work that one out! Girls!!!! During my first years in London I had a normal hunting spell and did one or another conquest. I probably could say that I was in love almost at all times. I do not recall when that state of mind started, only that the objects of my attention varied on who I was in love with. Is this normal? I really couldn’t tell but we will come back to that theme…Be so sure!

 After leaving Mrs. Meltzer I had to look for new digs. I remember I answered a few ads around the Hammersmith area but without great success. Eventually I found out about Mr. and Mrs. Whyte, a Scottish couple in Kitson Rd. Barnes. They rented a room with access to a kitchen pantry and there was a gas heater that worked if you put in some coins. The arrangement worked for me and there was a launderette nearby, which also was useful.

 In the course of 1970 new things started to happen and it meant the beginning of the Portuguese connection. I cannot right now recall what came first and how one encounter led to the next but at least following people need to be mentioned. Mário Soveral, Gilberto Matos and Rodolfo Fonseca. Later Joaquim Semião and  Mané Fernandes. I am quite sure that these were an important part for the development of the connection and the events that followed in coming years. I am now trying to trace down some of these London friends and hopefully they’ll turn up to help make this story more complete.