Call them rock, alternative, art, post-punk, or new wave, no matter what the label, the power trio known as Soda Stereo were the first Latin rock-esque group to achieve success in Central and South America, and singlehandedly popularised the “Rock en Español” movement.
Summer of 1982 brought lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Gustavo Cerati together with bassist and backup vocalist Héctor “Zeta” Bosio. At the time, both had their own bands and their own ideas about music, but their friendship grew and Cerati joined Zeta’s band.
From there they moved from group to group, finding only disappointment, until Charly Alberti completed the threesome and their persistence finally paid off.
Head over heels for Cerati’s sister he would call the house day after day inviting her out, until one day Cerati answered the phone and the two embarked on a lengthy discussion about music.
Alberti, who was a drummer, did some name-dropping revealing in conversation that his father was the well-known drummer Tito Alberti. But having a famous father was not enough to get him in, Alberti first had to play for the guys, and then, once he proved himself there was only one more thing he had to do – cut his hair.
First calling themselves Aerosol, and then Side Car, the three settled on Los Estereotipos but, after almost a year, eventually decided to become Soda Stereo.
The first gig under the band’s new name was a fashion show. From there, the trio stuck to the underground scene, playing at offbeat clubs until during one of their 1983 shows, the group signed to a record label.
Trend setting became a norm for the group right from the off. When Soda Stereo released a video before their album, the now commonplace practice was unheard of.
The self titled album that followed debuted in December 1984. Emerging at the end of the dictatorship and the start of Argentina’s return to democracy, the group found themselves adopted by the youth as a connection to the newly liberated society.
A follow-up album, ‘Nada Personal’, sent the group to the double platinum status. Record sales were high and the boys were still putting on regular shows. Danceable rhythms, deeper lyrics and melodic maturity were what set the album different from the last and solidified Soda Stereo’s place in the Argentine music scene.
In 1986 Latin rock was not popular outside Argentina and Uruguay, so bands didn’t tend to tours but that all changed when Soda Stereo decided to take to the road and tour Latin America. With live shows regularly broadcast throughout the continent, “Sodamania” coincided with the release of the group’s third album, but it was the fourth that set another change in motion.
‘Doble Vida’ became the first Argentine record to be recorded entirely in a foreign studio, whilst a fifth album, ‘Canción Animal’, is considered one of the best albums in the history of Lain rock.
Featuring their best-known song ‘De Música Ligera’, the album received a lot of attention and as a result, the trio became the first non-English speaking band to have a show played on MTV.
Near the end of 1992 Soda Stereo released their sixth and most experimental disc, ‘Dynamo’. Exploring a sound known as “the sonic movement”, the band claimed they wanted to create something “more hypnotic” then their last album. Unfortunately their fans didn’t welcome the change and the album was achieved the lowest record sales for the group yet.
A long rest taken in the middle of the tour that followed fuelled rumours of a break up, and there was a three-year absence before the group came back with their seventh and final album, ‘Sueño Stereo’.
Singer Cerati commented on the album saying, “Sueño Stereo took two years to conceive. It would be illogical to say that this was Soda’s masterpiece, but it was the most real expression by the group at the time because we were stripped of the need to have a group in the future, or be best for another ten years.”
In October 1996 another first was achieved when Soda Stereo became the first Latin American band to transmit a live concert via Internet. Playing live from a music store in Buenos Aires, their show was transmitted by a local radio station, yet it seemed nothing could stop the inevitable.
In May 1997 the band released an official statement announcing their breakup, continuing on a farewell tour and releasing a farewell compilation album titled ‘Chau Soda’.
Despite the constant rumors of a reunion, which ironically started shortly after the breakup occurred, little was heard from Soda Stereo, except for a TV special produced by HBO called ‘El Ultimo Concierto’ and the appearance of an MTV documentary.
Finally, in 2002 the trio reunited at the MTV Latin Music Awards where they were awarded the Legend award in honor of their musical and visual trajectory.
In 2007, ten years after the breakup, the band decided to reunite for a final time and put on a grand continental tour. The ‘Me Veras Volver’ tour saw them play five shows in Argentina with more than 300,000 fans in attendance, making it one of the highest attended public events in the history of Argentina.
Genre: Latin rock
Dates Active: 1982-1997 with a brief reunion in 2007
In their own words: “No one can take Soda’s place”
Most famous song: ‘De música ligera’
Best lyric: “Of this love of light music, nothing frees us, nothing more remains.”
Famous for: Spurring the “Rock en español” movement
Best to listen to: Playing air guitar in your room