Sunday, July 12, 2009

Estereo Azul

This is a continuation of a series. Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 are linked.

I've always loved music and listening to the radio was always a big pastime growing up. My Guatemalan host family loved to listen to music on the radio as well. Their favorite radio station was something called Estereo Azul, "lo mejor del mundo." That translates into "Stereo Blue, the best in the world." I begged to differ.

Since it was the summer 1979, we were at the peak of the disco era, although the backlash was imminent, about which more in a moment. Let's put it this way -- Estereo Azul was riding the disco train big time. No matter when you turned in, it was wall to wall dance tunes, with the occasional commercial for "Frenos de Guatemala" (Guatemala Brakes, an auto supply concern) on "Calle Cinco, Zona Nueve."

For a kid from Wisconsin who owned a "Disco Sucks" t-shirt (which I wisely left behind), it was a minor bummer. We'd climb into one of the family vehicles and on a typical trip into the city we'd probably hear "Give Me Love," "Get Off" by Foxy, "Bad Girls" by the ubiquitous Donna Summer, or if the d.j.'s were feeling a little more mellow, perhaps "Que un Tonto Cree, por los Hermanos Doobies."

The longer road trips, to Atitlan or Chichicastenango, made for especially strange listening. Since the quality of car stereos is so much better today, it's hard to remember how odd music could sound on a radio. And since the Guatemalan terrain is mountainous, the radio signal would dart in and out at odd times. You'd settle back in your seat and look at the countryside when suddenly a blast of bongo drums would jolt you awake. The host father didn't like to change the radio station and we'd listen to static, then nothing, then Alicia Bridges calling for some "ack-shown."

The eldest son of the host family had an enormous stereo system in his room, with tower speakers and a state-of-the-art turntable. He loved to blast his records at night, which he did until his father would get tired of it. I would wander down to his room to hear what he was playing, but he wasn't especially interested in my views on music. He had the best record that had ever been recorded, he told me. Yep, he had Gino Vannelli. That would clear me out of his room pretty quick.

As I would listen to all this music that I despised, I kept thinking about my return to the United States. I was wondering what music I'd missed that summer as I was trapped in the disco inferno. I knew that my friends were starting to get their driver's licenses and were starting to cruise around with the radio on. I couldn't wait to get back and join them. At the time I left for Guatemala, the big song on the local radio in Appleton was "The Logical Song" from Supertramp's Breakfast in America album, which I saw displayed in the Vista Hermosa shopping mall for the first time a few days before I was to leave the country. That was on July 12, 30 years ago today. What I didn't learn until I returned was that something else happened in Chicago on July 12. And I wouldn't have to worry about listening to disco music much longer.


Gino said...

unfortunately, what replaced disco on the charts was just as bad.

'breakfast in america' was huge,and though a break from disco, still sucked.

and the chameleons were still a couple yrs away from being totally ignored by the masses who didnt know any better.

thank God that somewhere, out there, the clash,blondie and many others,were already stirring, waiting for their day to hit big.

Mark Heuring said...

I agree about Supertramp, Gino. It wasn't a great record, but it was decidedly not disco.

Once we got back to the States, the two songs that I remember from the back half of that summer were "Let's Go," by the Cars and the ubiquitous "My Sharona." There might be a post in those later on, but not as part of the Guatemala series.

Gino said...

you were a lil slow in MN, then.

the cars hit the airwaves in fall of 78, maybe a little later.
i saw them in nov 78, opening for styx. their album had only been out a short while, and the radio was just catching on.

a few months later, they were big news. i remember some chick at school declaring how she so wanted to see the cars in concert. i interrupted her to say that i already have, and she missed it. :)

Mark Heuring said...

Naah, we weren't slow. "Let's Go" is from the second Cars album, Candy-O (the one with the Varga girl on the cover). I bought the first Cars album in '78.

Anonymous said...

something you and I can whole-heartedly agree upon...Supertramp sucked. The only nice thing I can say about Disco, and the Kanck, and Supertramp, and Styx, is that their insipidness created the atmosphere that spawned the Ramones, the Clash, the Talking Heads, the Pistols and so much more great music.

Mark, I know where you are going with this story. In fact, I was interviewed on Channel 2 outside of the event. But I will let you tell that story.


Bike Bubba said...

I am so jealous that you had (have?) a "disco sucks" t-shirt. :^) I also remember the disco demolition....and I'm not so proud to reveal that I bought a copy of "Pet Fishsticks" by the author of the Demolition.