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Los Pepes Los Pepes
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Hardly known despite the band’s historical importance, Los Pepes from Valencia released an LP in 1966 with totally new material (there wasn’t a single cover version on it; they wrote all their own songs), which back in the Spanish rock scene in the 60s was an extraordinary feat. Everything about Los Pepes is surprising. The five-piece band fell into the hands of the tiny Madrid-based label Hit, then headed off from Valencia to Barcelona in order to record an album under the name of Los Singals (the name the group started off with, combining the words singer and cymbal) and returned with an LP recorded under the new name of Los Pepes. In the studio, the producers (Ernesto Duarte, the great Cuban musician, who was based in Madrid and owned the small independent label, and Pepe Palau, the radio DJ who would go on to present the memorable Ritmo 70 show on TVE with José María Iñigo) had decided the band members would all be called Pepe from then on.

Green, inexperienced and dazzled by the adventure before them, I'd like to think that, buoyed up by the confidence of their backers and lacking the safety net that cover versions gave garage-beat groups, the new Pepes ended up triumphing in the recording studio laying down a dozen new tracks (which was truly exceptional at the time, Los Brincos being the only other group to record just their own material) and illuminating us with an excellent album full of songs delivering scope, meaningful lyrics and carefully crafted arrangements, some of which would go down rightfully in the annals of garage music in Spain.

Los Pepes produced one excellent song after another: the ferocious “Ríndete”, a textbook nugget, wins people over every time it plays; “Por favour” is definitely one of the highlights of the LP, each time you listen to it you discover unexpected nuances thanks to the tremendous energy compressed into two very intense minutes and the triumphant guitar solo, which is raw, lyrical and unlike anything else heard in Spain before. Other tracks such as “Quiero amar”, “Rojo” (which was later released as a single) or “Tú tienes que volver” offer a contrasting folk rock vein with psychedelic touches; gentle medium tempo songs with swaying crystalline guitars.

After completing the hard part (recording an LP), the record failed to get half decent distribution and languished in the shadows. In the mid-90s the mysterious bankruptcy and disappearance of the inappropriately named Hit label became clearer when stock started to appear, rescued from an old warehouse, the barely one hundred copies of the LP that had been saved began flooding record fairs and the memory of the band from Valencia slowly started to be restored.

It is surprising to come across such an extraordinary record with such an unfortunate trajectory, evoking an austere musical venture, created far from the centres of the Spanish record industry. Nonetheless, it’s a bold proposition, which after suffering all manner of setbacks, has had to wait half a century to be reissued. At last, the high standards Los Pepes set can now exceed the expectations of even the most knowledgeable fans.

Vicente Fabuel

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