You know Oscar Wilde*, Marty Wilde** and Kim Wilde***. Now meet Carlos Wilde.
It’s not often you associate any decent rock, blues or even credible pop music with the Iberian Peninsula, that part of western Europe encompassing Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar and some of southern France. In all of my time listening to music I can think of only four Iberian pop music acts to make it internationally.
Madrid’s Los Bravos in 1966. The first Spanish group to hit Western pop charts
The first was the ‘beat’ band Los Bravos, a Spanish outfit from Madrid, who stormed the world’s charts in 1966 with ‘Black Is Black’, reaching number one in Canada, number two in Britain and number three in the USA singles chart, selling two million records alone in Spain. From memory they had a German singer who sounded like Gene Pitney. If you’re too young to remember Los Bravos, check the link to see if you agree and hear some historic pop.
The second Iberian to strike gold was Albert Hammond, a singer song-writer from Gibraltar, the tiny UK territory on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Part cliff-face town, part British garrison (much to Spain’s disgust), Gibraltar looks down upon and ‘guards’ the entrance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, looking across to North Africa a few miles away. Hammond led a band there called the Diamond Boys.
In 1966, Albert Hammond and the leader of the Spanish band, Los Flaps, teamed up in the UK to form a group called The Family Dog. The ex-Los Flaps leader, incidentally, was an American called Steve Roland, whose great uncle was the Hollywood film mogul, Louis B. Mayer, no less. Steve went on to produce 13 UK top ten hits, produce the legendary Pretty Things and discover The Clash amongst other things.
Albert Hammond and Roland formed the Family Dogg, a folk-rock group which had a number six hit in the UK in 1969 with their single, ‘Way of Life’, from the album of the same name. Session musicians on the record, recorded in April and May 1969, were Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Elton John. Page, Jones and Bonham had released their first album, ‘Led Zeppelin’, three months earlier while Elton John would release his debut album, ‘Empty Sky’ that July.
Albert Hammond then hit the big time in the USA in 1972 with his song, ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’, which reached number five in America’s pop singles chart. As it happens, I helped promote the track when working at CBS Records. We couldn’t have done a good job, though, because it only reached number 51 in Britain. Albert took off to Southern California, himself, soon afterwards; but not because of our woeful performance in the CBS press office, I hope.(I think we might have thought it a bit too MOR, at the time, to put our hearts into it.)
Southern California was the making of him, though, and Albert Hammond has since written a string of international hits including the classic, ‘The Air That I Breath’, for the Hollies in 1974. And as a sign of his success, Albert is now a proud holder of an OBE (Order of the British Empire). John Lennon, remember, sent his OBE back to Buckingham Palace as a protest about the Vietnam War. But why? The UK wasn’t even officially involved! #
Other songs co-written by Albert Hammond include the US number one ‘When I Need You’, a worldwide hit for Leo Sayer; and ‘To all the Girls I’ve Loved Before’, a monster international smash for Willie Nelson with Julio Iglesias in 1984. That old romantic Julio, my third Iberian success story, is the biggest success of them all. But, having sold over 300 million records, the Spaniard from Madrid hardly needs any promotion from me. Julio’s son, Enrique Iglesias, of course, is the fourth monster success from the Spanish neck of the woods. Billed as the Latin King of Pop, he’s sold 159 million records globally.
Albert Hammond’s son, Albert Hammond Jnr, incidentally, plays guitar and keyboards for the New York indie band, The Strokes. But, rather than Iberian, Junior seems as American as baseball and apple pie.
Carlos Wilde. Well worth a listen on the links below
All of which brings me to the subject of today’s post, about another rare talent from the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese singer-songwriter, performer and pretty useful all-round rock guitarist who is Carlos Wilde.
We all know how trying to make it in the music business, for most people, is like bashing your head against a brick wall. I’ve lost count of the really talented musicians I’ve known who eventually gave a music career away. Well, Carlos Wilde is doing it on his own terms. He’s gone the band route, in Ireland. He’s paid his dues touring solo across Europe, performing live in Spain, France, Portugal, Ireland and Holland. Now he’s living in northern Spain, training English teachers and also working as a teacher, while composing and recording in his studio and gigging occasionally. And it’s not going too badly. His songs have been played by 122,600 people on ReverbNation, where Carlos Wilde has some 26,000 fans at the time of writing. Take a listen, on the links below, to some rocking power pop that’s already been picked up on college radio stations across the UK, USA and Europe.
While you’re there, take a look at his video ‘On This Side of Paradise’, a collaboration with Marcos Legazpi, that shows off a more gentle side of Carlos Wilde’s work, including some tasteful blues-oriented guitar. It’s labelled Butterfly & Sun (the people who did the artwork). There are five songs you can listen to instantly but click, too, on All Songs, where Carlos has another 16 great tracks to enjoy. They range from the hardcore rock & roll of ‘Rok Ma Wurld’ (quite a few songs are rockers) to the melodic ‘The Sound of Flowers’ … and this one:
So how does a European musician who started off performing Fado (a mournful Portuguese equivalent of America’s blues) at the age of six get such a rocking almost Aussie-rock feel to his music? His education helped, he says. “I grew up with American-Canadian tutorship back home and then lived in Dublin, Ireland, for many years.” It was in Dublin that he started writing his own stuff.
“That’s when bands came into the picture. We used to play regular spots in pubs, clubs, open air gigs: in quite reputable places like JJ Smyths, one of the most popular pub music venues in Ireland.” Irish readers will know JJ Smyths, with its origins stretching back to the 1730s, as ‘Dublin’s premier live jazz and blues venue’.
Today Carlos Wilde is more interested in music placement (licensing and publishing deals) than carving out a career as a rock performer.
Referring to his career as an English teacher, he says, “Today I don’t have the pressure of living off music
like I did in the past.”
I know of many singer-songwriters who do make a living off music who don’t rock like Carlos Wilde, sing like Carlos Wilde and write like Carlos Wilde. With a bit of luck and more recognition, Carlos Wilde could be the biggest thing to come out of Portugal since José Mourinho. Sorry, make that Ronaldo.
* Oscar Wilde – the nineteenth century Irish wit, writer and poet who wrote the novel, ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’, and stage play, ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, amongst other works.
** Marty Wild – one of the first English pop singers to perform American-style rock & roll in the 1950s and who later wrote a string of hits for artists like Status Quo and Lulu. He married Joyce Baker of the English female vocal group the Vernon Girls, who like Marty, enjoyed British chart success. They had four children including …
*** Kim Wild – Marty and Joyce’s daughter, who became the most successful British female singer of the 1980s, hitting the American charts with ‘Kids In America’ (written by her dad and brother, Ricky) in 1981. Kim also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with her cover of ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ in 1987.
# UK in Vietnam.This is only hearsay, but many years ago I met an Australian army officer who had just done a stint in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. When I mentioned how the British weren’t involved, he told me ‘not officially’. The British SAS used to fly into Vietnam, he said, put on Australian army uniforms, and fight the Viet Cong in the guise of Aussies. This was to get some practice in. I’ve never heard or seen that mentioned since, and don’t whether it’s true or not. But that’s what the Australian told me.
“Brilliant. My best friend and Director where I work read it and we both agree on one thing: it is very well written. As she puts it, ‘This, my friend, runs rings around all the other reviews you’ve had.’ She’s a teacher like me, avid reader and writer as well, so it is a good opinion from a reliable source.”