Brazil Rock 2 – 1985-2000

Industrial era for the kids’ music

Silvio Essinger
If rock in Brazil still had a romantic and idealistic image, everything would change in January 1985, thanks to a crucial event: the mega festival Rock in Rio, which, in 10 days, gathered 1,5 million people to watch Queen, Iron Maiden, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Yes, B 52’s, Nina Hagen, and others, besides local rock acts like Blitz, Barão Vermelho, Lulu Santos, Paralamas do Sucesso and Kid Abelha. As a result, rock was turned into a big deal for the media and record companies and Brazil was definitely included in foreign bands’ touring routes. It was the end of an amateur period.

The type of rock that emerged within that year was edgy, controversial, diversified and well spread over the country, although the two most successful acts in 1985 came from São Paulo: Ultraje a Rigor, whose debut album (Nós Vamos Invadir Sua Praia) featured at least 5 number one hits; and RPM, with the LP Revoluções Por Minuto, led by Brazil Rock’s first sex symbol, bassist/vocalist Paulo Ricardo, and first band to put on a mainstream production for their shows.

Rise and fall
RPM’s special effects and top line equipment, together with Paulo Ricardo’s sex appeal, were very new in Brazil. They toured across the country, radically pushing up the band’s popularity, and ended up being forced by the record company to quickly make a live album. Released in 1986, Rádio Pirata Ao Vivo established a record: 2,2 million copies were sold. Soon, giving in to the pressures of being a national sensation, stressed out by internal disputes and drug abuse, RPM made a third LP (RPM, from 1987, with disappointing sales figures) and quietly broke up in 1989.

In the same month as Rock in Rio was happening, a band from Brasília (DC) was releasing its first album – which would eventually write their name in the history of Brazil Rock. Legião Urbana introduced former punk rocker Renato Russo’s clever and witty poetry to young audiences who found their universe expressed in songs like Será, Ainda É Cedo and Soldados. Legião was the first among punk-driven bands from Brasília to gain high media visibility; others, like Capital Inicial, Plebe Rude, Finis Africae and Detrito Federal would follow. Also boasting a punk background and also far from the Rio-São Paulo circuit, acid Bahia group Camisa de Vênus, led by vocalist Marcelo Nova, appeared in 1985 and quickly escalated the music charts.

In São Paulo, the punk echoes of 1985 would bring forward another relevant band: guitarist Edgard Scandurra’s Ira!. Meanwhile, the city’s underground was sprouting bands influenced by the British pop-rock: Muzak, Akira S & As Garotas Que Erraram, Chance and Ness (gathered in the compilation Não São Paulo), Mercenárias and Smack (Edgard Scandurra played on both), Fellini and Voluntários da Pátria.

Independent label Baratos Afins, run by Luiz Calanca, released all those bands’ records, anticipating in at least ten years the role that small labels would play in the alternative music business. On the other end of the rope, i.e., in Rio, Léo Jaime released his first solo record, Kid Abelha released their second and Cazuza left Barão Vermelho to start a solo career and put out his first album, Exagerado.

The gauchos are comin’
1986 was economically stimulating for more new bands. A compilation made in Porto Alegre (South) revealed bands like Engenheiros do Hawaii (who released their first album that same year) and the punk-hardcore of Os Replicantes. Biquíni Cavadão (from Rio), Plebe Rude and Capital Inicial (from Brasília) and Inocentes (from São Paulo and first Brazilian punk band to have a record - Pânico em SP - released by a major label) also debuted that year.

Three albums grabbed audiences and critics for their punch and newness, and defined the face of Brazil Rock in the eighties. With the LP Selvagem, Paralamas do Sucesso produced an ambitious journey through Brazil, Jamaica, England and Africa via black music. Legião Urbana’s second release, Dois, showed a more poetic and acoustic approach to their raw compositions. At last, with Cabeça Dinossauro, the Titãs took a definitive and risky punk turn that just granted them more credibility and radio hits.

BRock’s good phase would continue in 1987, with Lobão’s Vida Bandida and a handful of albums that would make it into the history of the style in Brazil: A Revolta dos Dândis (Engenheiros do Hawaii’s masterpiece), Jesus Não Tem Dentes no País dos Banguelas (Titãs), Que País É Este – 1978/1987 (Legião Urbana) and Sexo! (Ultraje a Rigor). That year would also deliver a surprising new act: Fausto Fawcett & Os Robôs Efêmeros, whose rap Kátia Flávia became a hit overnight, inevitably leading the group towards a record deal.

RCA decided to start a new local label named Plug, hiring the newest artists available: Picassos Falsos and Hojerizah (from Rio), De Falla and TNT (from Porto Alegre) and Violeta de Outono (from São Paulo), among others. In spite of their innovative and technical qualities, few of these bands made it to the third album. As an exception, Nenhum de Nós, from Porto Alegre, whose version of David Bowie’s Starman (dubbed O Astronauta de Mármore) and their own Camila, Camila were the year’s most successful songs.

Hard times
In 1988, the difficulties concerning recording and sales figures faced by Brazil Rock bands became troubling. Classic albums were still being made, though, like Cazuza’s Ideologia, where he discussed his HIV + condition. Also in 1988, 16 year-old Ed Motta comes out with the band Conexão Japeri to inject funk and soul into the BRock scene. Legião Urbana, who were on top of the charts, experimented the other side of the story during an outdoor show in Brasília: chaos, police brutality, concert interrupted, 385 injured, 60 arrested and 64 buses trashed.

The incident disturbed the band’s peace. Bassist Negrete left, but they went on the make their fourth and most successful album, As Quatro Estações, where Renato Russo started to come out of the closet, sexually and spiritually. That record was the last top selling Brazil Rock album for a long time. In July 1989, Cazuza passed away. A few months later, it was Raul Seixas’ turn – poor, sick and underrated. Another era was gone.

In the early 90s, while economic crises dragged Paralamas’ and Titãs’ sales figures down the drain, an underground band from Minas Gerais (SE) was becoming heavy metal’s biggest name, and Brazil’s strongest name abroad: Sepultura, who would sign to Dutch company Roadrunner and release Beneath The Remains (1989) and Arise (1991). Shortly before the release of Arise, Sepultura played the second Rock in Rio festival, sharing the stage with Prince, Guns’n’Roses, George Michael, Faith No More and Judas Priest, besides local acts: Titãs, Engenheiros, Lobão, Paulo Ricardo, Hanoi Hanoi, old time rocker Sergei, Vid & Sangue Azul, Nenhum de Nós, Capital Inicial, Ed Motta and BPM stars. That same year a new band appeared in Rio: Cidade Negra, whose reggae roots had been anticipated by Gilberto Gil and Paralamas, and would dictate the pop paths for the following decade.

International intentions
In the early 90s, a cover fever sweeps the BRock scene. Expecting to make it abroad (as Sepultura had done), a number of bands adopted English as their language for lyrics, crystallizing styles like heavy metal (Viper, Dorsal Atlântica, Korzus), brit pop, melodic rock (Beach Lizards, Second Come, Dash, Killing Chainsaw) and punk (Anarchy Solid Sound). The exception was Ratos de Porão, growing more and more popular within the underground market and singing in Portuguese. But even they wouldn’t resist the temptation, giving in to English with the 1994 album Another Crime in Massacreland.

Started in 1991 in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais, SE), reggae band Skank made a surprisingly professional independent album in 1992. As they soon signed to Sony Music, the company re-released the album exactly as it had been made. In 1993, Skank’s first radio hits helped pave the way for newer acts. Meanwhile, in Recife (Pernambuco, NE), the manguebeat was blossoming, with bands like Chico Science & Nação Zumbi and mundo livre s/a mixing traditional and folk styles with pop/vanguard music. Still in ’93, rapper Gabriel, o Pensador would turn rap into pop, commercial music with Tô Feliz, Matei o Presidente (I’m Glad, I’ve Killed the President, addressed to former and impeached President Fernando Collor de Mello).

At the same time, Titãs started a label, Banguela, releasing mundo livre S/A’s and Raimundos’ debut albums. The latter managed to break into the radio waves thanks to non-stop tours and their Ramones-like, fast, melodic songs, selling over 100,000 copies and taking the first steps that would make them the dearest rock band in the 90s. Another heavyweight to arise in the 90s was Planet Hemp (from Rio), led by rapper Marcelo D2. Usuário was their first and polemic album, whose exclusive theme was weed. Along with Raimundos, Planet hemp forced commercial radio stations to air heavier rock and explicit lyrics.

Record Figures
Within the pop scene, Skank obliterated any possible competitors in 1995 by selling 1,2 million copies of Calango, their second album. Better yet they did with O Samba Poconé, which sold 1,8 million copies in 1996.

Nonetheless, the commercial record of that phase was the debut album of Mamonas Assassinas, a malicious group of humorous rockers from Guarulhos, in the outskirts of São Paulo. Their satirical songs grew stronger on the stage and on the TV on account of histrionic and very charismatic vocalist/composer Dinho. Released in May 1995, Mamonas Assassinas quickly conquered the younger crowds, selling 2,6 million copies. Tragically, fate abbreviated their career much too soon: on March 2, 1996, the five members of the band died when their plane crashed shortly before landing in São Paulo.

Those wouldn’t be the only losses suffered within BRock in the 90s: in 1994, rock station Fluminense FM, vehicle for most of the bands in the 80s, terminated its activities. In October 1996, Renato Russo died of Aids-related causes, only a few days after the release of the (sad) album A Tempestade. In November, Circo Voador was closed down after an altercation between Ratos do Porão vocalist João Gordo and the new elected mayor, who chose to celebrate his victory right in the underground temple.

In December, vocalist Max Cavalera left Sepultura while at the peak, after releasing the acclaimed Roots (1995), where they blended thrash metal with percussion and native Brazilian music. The band continued without Max, who started a new band, Soulfly, but neither bands enjoyed the old times prestige ever again. At last, during Carnival, 1997, Chico Science would die in a car crash in Recife. Chico Science & Nação Zumbi had released Afrociberdelia, their masterpiece, only a few months earlier, and had just finished a European tour with Paralamas do Sucesso.

The veterans also had their shots along the 90s. Lulu Santos enjoyed enormous success with the albums Assim Caminha a Humanidade (94) and Eu e Memê, Memê e Eu (1995, with producer Marcelo ‘Memê’ Mansur). Former Blitz most successful member, Fernanda Abreu re-invented herself as a funk-disco queen with the albums SLA Radical Dance Disco Club (1990), SLA – Be Sample (1992) and Da Lata (1995). Arnaldo Antunes, former Titãs member, also started a prestigious solo career with the album Nomes (1994).

After the experimental Severino (1994), Paralamas do Sucesso made peace with success with the live album Vamo Batê Lata (1995). Sales grew with another live CD, Acústico (1999). The unplugged trend was followed by most of the 80s bands, like Titãs, Kid Abelha and Barão Vermelho, who freshened up their repertoires with a softer approach.

One step from BPM
The bridge between rock and Brazilian music built by Chico Science and Raimundos allowed a number of artists that were on the border of pop-rock and BPM to come to surface: from Rio, Pedro Luís (with his percussion-only band A Parede) and Paulinho Moska; from Pernambuco, Lenine; from Paraíba, Chico César and from Maranhão, Zeca Baleiro. Minas Gerais reinforced the pop edge, producing bands like Jota Quest and Pato Fu, who would release four albums before enjoying some respect and success. Back in Rio, the band O Rappa (reggae/rock/funk/samba) grew slowly along three albums filled with radio-friendly songs. The greatest surprise, though, came from São Paulo: rap group Racionais MCs achieved national success, selling over one million copies of their 1998 album Sobrevivendo no Inferno.

The 90s finished with the re-birth of rock in the press, partly due to the smashing hits of bands like Charlie Brown Jr. (from Santos, São Paulo) and Raimundos in 1999. Other bands followed, like the brand new Los Hermanos (whose hit Anna Júlia was aired non-stop in ’99), Penélope and Autoramas, besides veterans Ultraje a Rigor, Capital Inicial and Plebe Rude, all unexpectedly returning to enjoy some space in the press. Meanwhile, Lobão pursued new strategies, creating his own label – Universo Paralelo – to release the acclaimed album A Vida É Doce, only available at newsstands and on the internet.



Inútil – Ultraje a Rigor
Olhar 43 – RPM
Será – Legião Urbana
Eu Não Matei Joana D’Arc – Camisa de Vênus
Alagados – Paralamas do Sucesso
Comida – Titãs
Infinita Highway – Engenheiros do Hawaii
Kátia Flávia – Fausto Fawcett & Os Robôs Efêmeros
Brasil – Cazuza
Tô Feliz, Matei o Presidente – Gabriel o Pensador
Polícia – Sepultura
Puteiro em João Pessoa – Raimundos
Pelados em Santos – Mamonas Assassinas
Garota Nacional – Skank
Anna Júlia – Los Hermanos