Multiculture, Music

Los Saicos: pioneers of punk from Peru

It is written like this:  Saicos, a Spanish rendering of ‘Psychos’, we believe. Here is a term transferred from the Anglo-Saxon to the Latin, which doesn’t stop at the band’s name, as their music is pure North American psychedelic garage, taken to the South American market.


Noel Hernández

Before going any further it is worth orientating ourselves: this is Peru in the Sixties and specifically 1965 to 1966 when the group formed by Edwin Flores, César ‘Papi’ Castrillón, Rolando Carpio and Pancho Guevara, from the district of Lince, in Lima, started producing a bunch of totally ground-breaking singles, in line with the continent’s musical heritage.

They were inspired by English rockers The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Animals and seemingly unaware of American garage rock of the Trashmen, MC5 or the Sonics, groups with which they are actually more inherently similar. This is actually completely credible given that American ‘garage’ was, in turn, the amateur, ghastly, low key response to the ‘British invasion’, and something that Los Saicos were doing, but also singing in Spanish.

Establishing ‘underground’ music at the forefront of international music in a Latin-speaking country during the 60’s is now something that seems quite extraordinary. Yet Los Saicos did not limit themselves to the norm of their era, and in fact released some tracks that were well ahead of their time.

‘Demolition’ is clearly the response to ‘Surfin’ Bird’ by the Trashmen but more similar to the version The Cramps or Ramones did at the end of the Seventies, than to the original by Los Basureros.

The throaty howls and sounds of ‘The Fugitive of Alcatraz’, or ‘The Burial of the Cats’, are reminiscent of the Iggy Pop and the Stooges, who, up until then, had still not recorded anything, while if their instrumentation is very much in line with their era, then their attitude and lyrics are definitely a step ahead. A nihilism and anarchy exist in many avenues of Punk music, a movement in itself which would still take another decade to fully emerge.

Los Saicos never recorded a big album or an LP, just six small 45rpm records in their brief period of existence. The record company Munster Records has compiled them all on the CD ‘Demolition – The Complete Recordings’ (2010).

A documentary called ‘Saicomania 1964-1966’ on the Peruvian band is also set to come out at the end of this year, thanks to Production Company ‘Kitchen Porter Productions.’

(Translated by Matthew Dunford – matt_dunford@hotmail.com)

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