The journalist Oriol Rodríguez (Barcelona, 1976) was just 15 when he was one of over 21,000 who filled Palau Sant Jordi to see Sau, Sopa de Cabra, Els Pets and Sangtraït. "The two groups that I liked the most are Els Pets and Sopa de Cabra, in particular Sopa de Cabra", precise Rodríguez at the book's prologue Alaric toads Oral history of Catalan rock (Against, 2018). Following the model of Small circus Independent oral history in Spain (Contro, 2015), by the journalist Nando Cruz, Rodriguez asks sixty musicians, journalists, managers, record promoters and cultural managers, and with the answers a story that has as its central axis that concert on June 24, 1991 in Sant Jordi, but it is spreading like a web of coral from precedents like Duble Buble until the death of the singer of Sau, Carles Sabater, in 1999.
"I was interviewing Nando Cruz that it was clear to me that an oral history of Catalan rock could be made," says Rodriguez. As explained Cruz four years ago, "in an oral history of Catalan rock it would take a lot, because more money has been moved compared to the" indieand where more money is transferred there are more stories; There are also martyrs, conflicting enemies and this cultural break so powerful as to represent Catalan rock to end the centralism of Barcelona. "All this appears on the 360 pages of Wing toads ; by the way, with a cover that pays tribute to the first record of The Velvet Underground, but with a butifarra instead of a banana.
The history, necessarily multi-faceted, is a sort of self-portrait of a musical and social phenomenon that history has labeled as Catalan Rock, but in which the groups had only a couple of characteristics in common: the letters in Catalan and the origin outside of Barcelona. "I discovered that there was something that was called Catalan Rock and that we were part of it when I started reading it in the press, "explains Pope Juls, harmonica and Saxo de Sangtraït.I do not know who invented it, but as a label it was not representative because most bands, more than rock , did pop. "In fact, there was everything. Precedents like Duble Buble wanted to be Depeche Mode. N & # 39; Gai N & Gai have been framed in the new romantics. The darkness of Kitsch drinks from The Jesus & Mary Chain. the heavy It was the Sangtraït style. Sau did pop-rock. Cabra Soup roamed the rock of the 70s and Los Pets ended up reinterpreting the heritage of British pop. Stylistically, it was not a reality so far from Spanish and Catalan in Spanish, where in 1989 the names that led to the successful charts were Los Rebeldes, Loquillo, Mecano, Héroes del Silencio, Objetivo Burma, Invisible Dance, La Unión and La Guardia .
An important phenomenon
The self-portrait is balanced because the book mixes nostalgia, indulgence, reflection and self-criticism. It does not send as much group therapy as the desire to bring out a story that, as recognized by Rodriguez, has had previous publications, such as the monographs of Pep Blay on Els Pets and Sopa de Cabra. The difference is that now everything is recalled from distance. "I was thinking about Kitsch, who they were outsider, they would be more critical, but over time they showed them that they were part of something important, "says Rodriguez, others, like Lluís Gavaldà, of Els Pets, reexamine their path without condescension, some complain that the precariousness of the record will damage them. when it comes to getting on the train of success, and one of the best is to give voice to other groups, apart from the five or six most popular.
We hear voices that claim the musical value and others that relativize it. Do not run away from controversial debates such as institutional and political support, or the attempt to return partisan; On the other hand, the sign of a time, in the 90s, in which the cultural wars were a ferocious scapegoat presented as a dispute between CiU and the PSC.
Catalan rock, or rock in Catalan, "was a phenomenon of the people, of the people who played, and in particular of the people who followed us", says Lluís Costabella del Kitsch. The success of some groups that, as Joan Reig of Els Pets remembers, had already "incorporated the group" and therefore had public, was very sweet. That's why pujolism wanted to soften bread sometimes indecently. This is what happened with the Palau Sant Jordi concert. "It had to be a story between the groups and it ended up being a story of the Generalitat, that we should go and give us some photos to sell your moved We found it very shameless, "explains Cuco Lisicic, from Sopa de Cabra, which is why there is no joint photo of the four groups.
Touched for subsidies?
The debate on subsidies and institutional help occupies one of the most interesting chapters of Wing toads, with conflicting and opposing opinions and the discovery that public cultural policies are naturalized and well considered when applied by states such as France and Spain, but not when they are made in Catalonia. "La Movida Madrileña has been much more subsidized and institutional support has been provided, starting from Tierno Galván and passing through the entire circuit of the socialist city councils that have hired them, or the support of Radio 3", says Gerard Quintana, a musician who, by the way, was defeated in Catalonia when Sopa de Cabra decided to make a record in Spanish. "If The Last of the Row wanted to play in New York, there would have been an organization like the Ministry of Culture, the SGAE or the Cervantes Institute, had it not been for us to bring us all three," he says Quimi Portet recalls a common practice in many European countries. Artists like Loquillo and Miqui Puig were very critical of the Catalan rock from an industrial and political point of view, but neither wanted to participate in the book. "It's a pity that Loquillo, who has always talked so much, would not want to take part," says Rodríguez.
I reported "Blade runner"
Marginal debates, Wing toads He collects a juicy anecdote, like the endless laziness that the groups felt when, even in Catalunya Ràdio, they were asked why they sang in Catalan. "If they interviewed Bruce Springsteen, they would have asked why he sings in English?" It was incredible, "says Pep Sala. There are other anecdotes from the foundation period, since Calixto Bieito was one of the viewers of the first concert of Sau, and that the lyrics Crazy for you is inspired by the scene of Roy Batty's replica death in the film Blade runner. It is also recalled that Lax & # 39; n & # 39; Busto was called Laxen Bust, but they had to change its name because the heirs of Dr. Busto threatened them with a lawsuit. And that Kitsch played in Moscow in 1992 "when capitalism already showed teeth and breathed its arrogant breath", as Lluís Costabella explains. Or that Joan Reig discovered the record Life in the Folsom prison by Johnny Cash thanks to "a priest who had been a young revolutionary missionary".
However, twenty years later, there are two moments whose explanation is even more evasive than explicit: the death of Carles Sabater and the interior of the next tribute concert. Oriol Rodríguez dedicates an entire chapter, but the explanations of those involved are rather "evasive". "It's a very controversial issue, it's one of the Catalan rock wounds that still hypothesize," he says.