Almendra has come to be known as one of the most prolific Argentine rock bands of all time, a band that revolutionised the way people saw rock in the late-1960s, and a mode of cultural expression for music-hungry youth. Trading in the typical, mainstream English lyrics for Spanish lyrics, four teenage high school friends became not only a rock band, but a leader in Argentina’s national rock movement.
It was 1967 in Argentina and the music world was reeling. The summer of love and hippie movement had young listeners across the world hooked to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Meanwhile, The Beatles were testing out the psychedelic waters with their ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ album, continuing the Fab Four’s reputation for hooking fans via a blend of expression and music.
Likewise, 1967 saw the assassination of ‘Che’ Guevara in Bolivia, and there was a prominent surge in an outspoken youth sector in Argentina. During the cultural transformations sweeping through Argentina, Almendra stood out among other up-and-coming bands. National rock in Argentina was gaining steam, and though many listeners were raised on English lyrics, Almendra wrote and produced songs in Spanish. They proved to doubters that the same poetic expression and social commentary present in famous English rock songs of the day could be emitted via Spanish lyrics, too. Almendra changed the way local rock music was perceived by listeners and critics.
The band had its start with two high school music groups: Los Larkins and Los Sbirros. Drummer Rodolfo Garcia led Los Larkins, while future Almendra electric guitarist Edelmiro Molinari and bassist Emilio del Güercio, played in Los Sbirros. Luis Alberto Spinetta, who would become guitarist and lyricist for Almendra, began playing with Los Sbirros but eventually played for both bands. The Larkins had several name changes, becoming the Masters and then the Mods. It was then, as the Mods, that the two groups fused together to form what would be the base of Almendra.
The group faced a brief road bump when Garcia was called into military service. While the band hit the backburner, national rock was skyrocketing in popularity thanks to bands like Los Gatos, another notable leader in Argentina rock.
When Garcia returned in the spring of 1968, the guys, in their late-teens, began practicing at Spinetta’s home in the Belgrano neighborhood. After going through several names, the group eventually parted with the typical “Los” name, and settled on Almendra.
In 1968, they met producer Ricardo Kleiman, host of local radio show Modart en la Noche, which aired popular beat and rock music of the time. With Kleiman’s help, by the end of the year, Almendra had produced and released their first single, “Tema de Pototo,” a song about a friend who was rumored to have died.
The group’s first official live performance was in Mar de Plata, a resort city in the province of Buenos Aires, at the beginning of 1969. Afterwards, the group played several performances at a music festival in Peru. On 24th March, they finally made their debut in Buenos Aires at the Di Tella Institute, and performed again several weeks later at the Buenos Aires Globe Theater. Another significant performance followed at the Pinap Festival, the first major music event for Argentine rock.
In 1969, the band released their first self-titled album, followed by double-album “Almendra II” in 1970, which features songs like “Toma el tren hacia el sur” and “Camino dificil.”
Almendra quickly established a styling that many compared to the Beatles. With a light-hearted bop sound, the catchy tunes are both uniquely quirky yet strewn with meaningful poetics. Not only did the band’s sound resemble the Beatles, but the two bands shared a similar influence on music and culture. Like the Beatles, Almendra gave young people something to relate to, an escape from a tumultuous societal and political scene; an identity.
Though Almendra had a short-run, breaking up due to artistic and cultural differences, various members of the band went on to successful solo careers. Güercio and Garcia formed Aquelarre and Spinetta, called “El Flaco” due to his lanky body size, formed Pescado Rabioso, another key member of the national rock scene in Argentina.
As band member Molinari said, Almendra didn’t divide, it multiplied.
In their own words: “Today those songs are classics, but at that time were considered cutting edge. With time I realized that most of them are threaded by song writing tradition of our country. They are Argentine songs. The real vanguard revolutionizes what it inherits. Almendra was heir to the best of Argentine music and combined its elements without any prejudice.” -Emilio del Güercio
Most Well-Known Song: Tema de Pototo
Best lyric: “If your dreams are lights around you, you will realise that he never has died, never has died.”
Best to listen to: when at a party with a cuba libre in hand and your best dancing shoes (whether that would be bare feet or not) on.