Punk Rock

Punk Rock


Punk rock was born at a cinema matinee in Peru in the 1960s.


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It's a question that has long been the subject of intense and often bitter debate: where exactly did punk rock begin? Was it conceived in the smoke-filled back rooms of London pubs or did it leap fully formed from the dive bars of New York?

Few would imagine the genre that revolutionized music was actually born at a cinema matinee in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

Almost a decade before the Ramones, the New York Dolls or the Sex Pistols struck a chord in anger, the Peruvian band Los Saicos (The Psychos) were screaming, speeding, and drinking their way to local notoriety. Now, thanks to an upsurge of interest and a recent documentary, the band – all in their sixties – have reformed and found their biggest following in half a century.

Their signature tune, Demolición (Demolition) has been revived as an anthem for political protesters and, reportedly, - for drug barons. In the Lima district of Lince, a marble plaque has been erected with the provocative claim etched in marble: "The global punk movement was born here. Demolish!!!"

Los Saicos burned brightly and briefly in the mid-60s, performing together for a few years and recording no more than a dozen songs. They were inspired by Elvis and the Beatles to play rock'n'roll but thanks to a frenetic effort to make up for a lack of training and equipment (Roland Carpio made his own guitar), with energy and attitude they ended up with a sound that was 10 years ahead of its time.

Demolición starts slowly with a typical 60s guitar and drum intro, then jolts a decade into the future as the lead man, Erwin Flores, screeches "tatatatayayayaya", followed by an anarchic exhortation to "Smash down the train station!"

Their claim to a place in history was bolstered in December when they were listed as the world's first punk band in the Spanish Dictionary of Punk and Hardcore published by Zona de Obras.

It is a controversial claim. There were no safety pins, no Mohicans, and, according to the band, no drugs beyond cigarettes and alcohol. But they were undoubtedly breaking the mold.

Los Saicos were raised on a musical diet of Harry Belafonte, Peruvian Criolla, and classical waltzes in the conservative and hierarchical society characterized in the early novels of Mario Vargas Llosa. Elvis and the Beatles changed their lives.

Their early shows were at cinema matinees, where bands were hired as an extra draw for the screenings. Most groups performed covers of syrupy pop songs, but Los Saicos revved up the energy by mixing original love ballads with hoarse, souped-up tracks about prison breaks, funerals, and destruction.


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