Aphrodite's Child was one of the leading bands of European rock. For two and a half years (from mid '68 until about the late 70s) Vangelis Papathanassiou, Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras starred with their songs throughout Europe, achieving huge commercial and artistic success. A few words about what they accomplished on the occasion of the recent vinyl reissue of their albums by the Music on Vinyl / Missing Vinyl Records label...
The first time we got word about the yet unborn child of Venus was in January 1967 on the Modern Rhythms magazine / issue 73 Nikos Mastorakis wrote : "The first exportable Greek band began to form within M plus M (ed. the Mastorakis label). The beginning was not at all noisy, but created a lot of trouble. First and foremost because Demis left the band "We Five", just to join this new project. Obviously the move looked like guaranteed success. To start with it was Vangelis Papathanassiou ... any musician would abandon everything, in order to play with Vangelis. Since quite a while Papathanassiou moulded a sound that could easily be presented abroad, even performing for the most difficult audience. So this bombastic 1967 band progressed at a very fast pace. Vangelis is the leader, and the other known members are Demis on bass and vocals and... trumpet and Lukas Sideras".
The first appearance of this "Vangelis Papathanassiou Orchestra" was on a Zoe Kouroukli single called "Ciao amore, ciao / Non pensare a me" [Pan-Vox PAN 6077], which was released in the spring of '67. In issue 87 of Modern Rhythms (August '67 ) it's Mastorakis again, who writes about a trio of Vangelis Papathanassiou by the name "Last Five", while just below in the same issue it is being mentioned, that Vangelis is playing with his trio every night in the bar Galaxy, supporting black singer Violet May and Wilma (ed Ladopoulou ) with great success. " Two months later (October '67 ) in issue 90 of Modern Rhythms Papathanasiou, rather disappointed by the course of the group, said: "I do not intend to form another band. I will continue my career by myself - I may soon leave to England. " However the trio (Papathanassiou, Roussos, Sideras), which has turned to a quartet in the meanwhile with the addition of guitarist Argyris Koulouris, still played in the Galaxy of the Hilton hotel, as I read in issue 92 of Modern Rhythms. (November '67).
In December a jazz scheme appears at the Hellenic American Union. It consists of Vangelis on piano, Harry Halkiti bass and George Lavranou on drums. In early '68, none of the above bands seems to have exiisted. Roussos plays with the orchestra of Gerasimos Lavranos while Papathanasiou is in London seeking some perspective. In issue 99 of Modern Rhythms ( Feb. '68 ) we read : " Vangelis Papathanassiou returned from London and is preparing a new band, that will soon be performing in famous night clubs." End of February 1968 the band is ready and is a foursome (Papathanassiou, Roussos, Sideras, Koulouris ) as I understand from the two large ( without captions ) psychedelic photos published in issue 100 of Modern Rhythms. The sequel is more or less known.
The Vangelis Papathanassiou band takes part in the recording of the George Romanos album "In Concert & In the Studio" [Zodiac XZP 88006]- which most probably got released in May '68, or a little later. While Argyris Koulouris remained in Greece to fulfill his military obligations the other three left to London (where Papathanassiou had paved the way). However due to some bureaucratic reasons the group couldn't enter England and they got stuck in France due to strikes during the May '68 events. This is when and where they unexpectedly started a career.
I am not sure, when a demo was recorded in Athens, inluding Argyris Koulouris (probably early '68) - it included the songs PLASTIC NEVERMORE and THE OTHER PEOPLE, which was issued only in the USA (PHILIPS 40536) and provided the first international entry to their CV. However RAIN AND TEARS/DON'T CRY TO CATCH A RIVER [FR. Mercury 132.501 MCF] was the actual start of it all. This was the first record under the Aphrodite's Child name. It's probably the Mercury producer (Philips belonged to the same group of companies) Lou Reizner, or some other partner that baptised the group after a song by Dick Campbell, in the album "Sings Where It's At "[USA. Mercury SR 61060, 1966].
(NB Campbell was turning folk music to electric a la Bob Dylan and Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Mark Naftalin, Sam Lay, Pete Cetera and several others participated in this LP ! )
So the band, when reaching Paris in May '68 (probably not even being aware of their own name yet) is being unearthed by production. Some executives got wind of them, having taken the lead from their mother companies. Being professionals they start working on them and deliver results immediately. Philips producer Pierre Sberro, suggests that they record a song based on a popular canon of a 17th century baroque organist, the German Johann Pachelbel. Indeed, the "Rain and tears" as composition is nothing more than a cover of Pachelbels Canon in D major, with the lyrics of course from Boris Bergman. The piece was impressive. Papathanassiou was in his element on keyboards, Roussos sang with his usual comfort, Sideras kept the rhythm beautifully, and then production added strings, vocals and I do not know how much more. The song, that was released in May '68 was sung during the summer and autumn of that year all over the world (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece, West Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Australia, Brazil, great Britain, Peru, South Africa, Rhodesia, Canada, USA, Japan, Cambodia, Portugal, Israel, Iran... ), occupying very high positions in most of the tops charts. So, from there on it was an open road...
Their first LP "End of the World / Rain & Tears" [FR. Mercury 138 350] was launched in November '68 and the.45 "End of the world / You always stand in my way" [FR. Mercury 132.502 MCF] followed a bit later ( late '68 -early '69). This was a great success as well. The album resulted in another single, which went unnoticed, the "Valley of Sadness / Mister Thomas" [FR. Mercury 132.503 MCF]. Let's just point out, that this LP has just been reissued for the first time ever in audiophile vinyl on MISSING VINYL RECORDS. I am referring to a 1000 pieces issue on 180g vinyl, made from the original master tapes. Although I have a near mint British copy of END OF THE WORLD I was overwhelmed by the performance of this vinyl - especially the pieces that originally have some kind of acoustic layers in recording, recording such as "End of the world" (yells, walls of keyboards, effects), the psychedelic diamonds "The grass is no green" and "Day of the fool " the manic " You always stand in my way " even "griekish" " The shepherd and the moon " have been revitalized the most unexpected way.
The Moody Blues, the Nice, the Procol Harum, the Bee Gees, even by the Kinks, may have influenced the Aphrodite's Child, but this is not the point (or itis maybe?). I am remaining to today's fact.... Listening to the pioneering proprietary sound of Papathanasiou, 44 years later, and the way it deserves to be heard.
In order to reinforce their presence in Italy ( the country where they experienced great success) the Aphrodite's Child intended to take part in the Sanremo 69, in January of that year, singing "Lontano dagli occhi" or "Quando l'amore diventa poesia". The first was a composition of Sergio Endrigo lyrics Sergio Bardotti and the second belonged to the duo Piero Soffici / Mogol.
But what did a top band with worldwide success seek taking part in a music competition... even if this was San Remo's. Finally they didn't take part and the songs were presented by Mary Hopkin (2nd position) and Orietta Berti/Massimo Ranieri (10th position). However, in order not to spoil it for the Italians, they went on to record these 2 titles as well for the single "Lontano dagli occhi/ Quando l'amore diventa poesia" [IT. Mercury 133.250 MCF] - and it is actually interesting to listen to Demis Roussos singing in Italian.
In April '69 the band was in France and released another successful.45: the "I want to live / Magic mirror" [FR. Mercury 132.505 MCF]. The recipe of "Rain and tears" and repeated here with equally good results. The "Plaisir d'amour" is a classic French love song of Jean Paul Egide Martini written in 1780. Papathanassiou rearranges it as "I want to live" ( Lyrics by Boris Bergman) and Roussos gets it up to the sky. The "Magic mirror" on the b side is however better ( ie rockier ). Synthesis of Papathanasiou, lyrics by John Fiddy, a british librettist. Lukas Sideras singing (also Demis Roussos ), with Papathanasiou delivering a tremendous job on keyboards.
Their next single was "Let me love, let me live / Marie Jolie" [FR. Mercury 132.506], issued in October 1969. Essentially it is the single, that prepares the second LP of Aphrodite's Child which was titled "It's Five o 'Clock" [FR. Mercury 138.531], and was going to be released a few days later sometime in November. The first song is a composition by Lukas Sideras, who also sings, lyrics by Richard Francis and if something strikes me it is the sound of guitar derived from the keyboards of Papathanasiou! Today this may sound trivial, but it was not at all so back in '69. The "Marie Jolie" is perhaps the most beautiful ballad of Aphrodite's Child. Composition by Papathanasiou lyrics by Francis, enables Roussos for one impressive interpretation, practically announcing the style of the songs of his solo career. This second LP of Aphrodite's Child, now also reissued by Music on Vinyl / Missing Vinyl [MV033] in 500 copies straight from the analog master tapes, is some kind of "best of". It contains terrible pop songs like "It's five o'clock", "Wake up", "Annabella", "Let me love, let me live", "Funky Mary", "Good time so fine", "Marie Jolie", "Such a funny night"... Among these are some with special reproducing requirements, such as "Funky Mary" for example, which are being completely taken care of by this recent audiophile edition. With a very unique sound, with Papathanasiou doing incredible things on the keys, Roussos filling venues with his voice, and Sideras in a varied and substantial role (drummer, composer and singer), the Aphrodite's Child was nothing less than a phenomenon of their time.
Towards the end of 1969 or early '70 the next single gets released, namely "It's five o clock / Funky Mary" [FR. Mercury 132 508 MCF]. The songs were of course coming from the LP and were, once again, exquisite. The "It's five o'clock", another composition of Papathanassiou / Francis, is one of the trademarks of the band, and one of the highlights of interpretation of Demis Roussos. This is a classic!. The "Funky Mary" was an unexpected track, written by Papathanassiou / Sideras. Based on a repeating deep funk repeating theme, it offers the chance to Sideras to display his drumming skills and to Papathanasiou to be "jazzing" with space vibes over a strong rhythmic base
The band is sought after throughout Southern Europe (France, Italy, Spain). A tour follows, but without Papathanasiou, who remains in Paris to deal with his own projects (eg OST "Sex Power"). The Aphrodite's Child have of course a different line-up for the needs of the lives performances. At some point Dimitris TAMPOSIS, Lakis Vlavianos and Harris Chalkitis are added to the team and with the constant presence of Roussos-Sideras they deliver a "live" format, which was maintained for about a year.
The next single is the last recording of the band as a trio and one of the best. This is the "Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall / Air" [FR. Mercury 6033 003] which was released in June 1970. The first piece, a composition Papathanassiou / Francis, is absolutely great. All musicians give their best, with Rousso submitting another exquisite interpretation. The "Air", which is a composition of Sideras is very close to his own style, one that will become more clear in the album "One Day", which got released two years later.
It was obvious at this point that the band had reached the borderline. Whether they will continue in this rich pop style or it will cease to exist. Papathanassiou is the first to gain distance, having in mind one last album, which will be, as we know, their swansong. The dual concept "666" is recorded at Studio Europa-Sonor in Paris in late 1970 - early '71. The band had drifted apart, but got together as evolved musicians to perform once more with Vangelis Papathanassiou for the sake of this recording.
And while the " 666 " was to stay in the drawer almost a half year or more until the Fall ( ??) of '72, when it will be released on the British Vertigo [6333 500/501], Mercury will release a single of the group, mined from the second LP, to somehow preserve the interest of the world in the Fall of '71, . The "Such a funny night" (Papathanassiou / R. Adams) was released in Germany with "Annabella" on the back side [Mercury 6033 007], in the Netherlands it was coupled with "Don't try to catch a river" [Mercury 6033 006 ], in Portugal with "Wake up" [Mercury 6033 002] etc. It was obvious now that the producers did whatever crossed their minds. Nevertheless "Such a funny night" ( written in London in the summer of '69 ) for the purposes of the second LP of the band ( I repeat ) was a good Greek style song that was commercial success, reaching the top ten in the Dutch chart.
Forerunner of the "666" seems to have been another disc, the last one under their name, with the tracks "Break / Babylon" [UK. Vertigo 6032 900], both of them being Papathanasiou compositions with Costas Ferris lyrics. These are actually the last and the first tracks of "666". Lukas Sideras sings on "Break" and Demis Roussos sings in "Babylon".
I bought "666" in the early 80s on, the second Greek pressing. The label is the well known Vertigo spaceship (designed by Roger Dean) and it has only one series of English lettering ( all around the label). I mention this because the original Greek edition of 1974 ( in our country, " 666 " was released two years later ) had two rows of letters on the label ( in Greek and English - or so I believe). I am stressing this fact for a good reason. In a site dedicated to Vangelis it is reported that on the first Greek edition some tracks are longer than on the original British and possibly all other editions!
For instance the top guitar pice "The battle of the locusts" is 45 ( ! ) seconds longer, the "Altamont" 56, "The wedding of the lamb" 37 and "Hic et nunc" 102 (!) seconds more. So, I took two copies, therefore, the second Greek version of " 666 ", and the recent Music on Vinyl / Missing Vinyl [MV032] and attempted to compare. I observed then, what I much suspected. Also the second Greek version in these tracks ( and some more ) lasts, indeed, longer ! So what? So do not part from the old Greek versions you have (whichever you have - if you have one ), but if you want to listen to the " 666 " ten times more vivid and crystal clear or if you have never heard it (there will always be younger generations, discovering things) then trust " this 1000 edition run of Music on Vinyl / Missing Vinyl, on 180g vinyl and shiny sound from the original analogue masters. The battle of the locusts...
What can one say about " 666 " ? Everything has been written about it. Let me then re-say that this is a grand concept album, " the soundtrack of an enormous theatrical performance - concert that never went on stage, about which a full unpublished book was written as well as the lyrics," as the lyricist of "666" director Costas Ferris himself noted in his comments on the aforementioned site. The verses then, that sometimes have a loose and sometimes a stricter relationship to the Revelation of St John, the playing of music ( Vangelis Papathanassiou keys, flute, percussion, vibraphone, vocals, Demis Roussos bass, vocals, Lukas Sideras Drums, Vocals, Argyris Koulouris guitars, percussion, Harris Chalkitis bass, tenor saxophone, conga, vocals, Michel Ripoche trombone, tenor sax, John Frost narration Yannis Tsarouhis, Irene Papas voice - "I was, I am, I am to come" - the notorious " infinity ") and certainly compositions ( all Papathanassiou ) with highlights such as the "Aegean Sea", "The four horsemen" and even with a fourth space / prog side ("All the seats were occupied") one of the strongest ' fourth sides " ever pressed on vinyl (despite Russian critics disagreeing ), the " 666 " is and will remain one of the greatest progressive rock albums that the world has ever heard. "Top marks for the project!
Diskoryxeion / Vinylmine, 21/11/2012