Punk is a somewhat ambiguous term; I mean, what the hell is it anyway? Safety pins? Attitude? Rebellion? Bad acne? I don’t know… who the hell cares anyway? The ongoing argument of what is punk and what isn’t punk is about as antiquated and for nothing as Bill Cosby’s comedy career. Nonetheless, the evergreen debate continues and round and round and round we go.
Such is the argument pertaining to who “invented” punk. The Stooges and MC5? Gene Vincent? Elvis? These names and plenty more are forever vomited into the piss-soaked gutter of irrelevance every single time this question rears its ugly head at one of those terrible hipster parties. But there is one name that always seems to be left out of the merry-go-round of the I’m-way-cooler-because-I-know-more-band-names-than-you fart-sniffing contest. Los Saicos.
Way back in 1964 in a civil-wartorn and utterly broken Peru, a small and fledgeling underground music scene was beginning to blossom in the nation’s capital of Lima. Symbolising a hint of an uprising against the oppressive governmental regime of the time, a cluster of artists and musicians clandestinely banded together to put on a series of free shows for anyone who wished to attend. This is all pretty straightforward enough, other than the fact that if one were to be caught attending these shows -be it by law enforcement or a concerned and loose-lipped government sympathiser- then one would be immediately labelled a communist without trial and hauled off to jail to be exposed to any number of tortuous atrocities. But the people attended anyway because… well, the music was just so fucking good!
One such band that were there right at the very beginning was Los Saicos. Five-and-a-half decades later they are still essentially something of an unknown to the greater population, although in some circles, they are indeed considered to be the band that kicked off the whole punk movement. That’s right. Punk was born in Peru.
Cramps’ frontman Lux Interior seems to think so…
“If Peru’s Los Saicos aren’t the very first punk band, then they’re pretty close.”
But who cares what Lux says? It’s all subjective, right? So, other than a few token words about today’s Record of the Day, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Suffice to say, ‘Fugitivo de Alcatraz’ is pretty damn punk in my book. Obliquely angular, down-tuned guitars, a slinky proto-Stooges bass line, pounding Diddley-esque drums but with that added kick of a 60’s garage flair by ways of an accentuated hi-hat, and the raspiest, most primally desperate vocals you will ever hear. Throw in a dash of howling, grunting and a mid-section progression of agonising wailing that would make Lux himself blush, and well, the pundits in the Saicos’ corner may very well be spot on the money; punk is as Peruvian as Madre, Machu Picchu and pie de limon.
Don’t forget to check out ‘Was Punk Rock Born in Peru?‘ a Noisey produced documentary all about our heroes.