a story foretold

The finely weaved and almost invisible strings that bond a story together can sometimes take a long while before they all meet at a single point in time.
This blog will unravel how this tale came to be, for although the craze band years may now be behind us, the story of El President and what it stands for remains as relevant today as ever.

The tale starts way back in the 80s, when I was a budding teenager back in Brazil and met a super nice chilean musician. He'd moved to São Paulo and we had a brief summer romance.
He was struggling to find his feet, so my family took pity and used to let him wash and occasionally sleep in the back quarters. Years later he went on to marry one of Brazil's biggest pop stars and made a good life for himself as a musician.
It was through him that I had 1st hand accounts of what had happened in Chile: how as a child he had witnessed terrible things, the story of Allende, the tale of Victor Jara and so many others who had perished at the implacable imperial forces that crushed Chile down.

missing by costa-gavras

When I moved to London in the 90s I came across a battered VHS copy of 'Missing'.
The film had been banned, so I held onto my video-tape copy like a sacred relic.
The Costa-Gavras masterpiece tells the heartbreaking true story of a father's search for his missing son on the aftermath of Chile's military coup, the journalist Charles Horman.
A poignant tale, masterly performed by Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, that leaves a shattering imprint of the true horrors of the world we comfortably live in.
You can watch the full movie here (uploaded for educational purposes only) >

isabel's palace

In the late-90s I stumbled upon a TV documentary with the writer Isabel Allende, niece of Salvador Allende. She was talking fondly about him, describing her pride, love and the sense of complete devastation at what had happened in Chile.
She was crying - and in the background they were showing the footage of the bombardment of the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, the day the coup took place.
I cried too - it was the 1st time I'd seen the footage, and it's hard to put into words the overwhelming feeling of absolute sadness.
I wrote El President that same evening.

wrote song - but band said NO.

Wrote song in a flash and couldn't wait to play the demo to the band    - - - - - >   but they hated it.
'It's too 'spanishy', too dramatico, not indie enough,  let's just use your rough demo as a b-side...'
I was gutted.
We spent 3 months recording the White Magic for Lovers album at El Cortijo (now a holiday villa), did dozens of tracks - and still no President.
Back in London, album finished, we had just 4 days at Great Linford Manor for last dubs - when devious Monteiro called T Yorke to get some feedback. If he liked the song, would he perhaps consider doing some vocals?  but if the song was no good, then of course, no problemo.
Can you imagine my thrill when he calls back saying he's totally into it? 
Had to break the news: 'Erm.. remember that 'spanishy b-side? well, you better learn it in a hurry, Mr Yorke is on his way to the studio - he's gonna sing it with me. Si!'
Needless to say, band, studio, record co, the whole world got excited about it.
It can be a blessing in disguise when you don't have a lot of time to mess around, 'cause given half a chance any band would've hired a massive string session, horn players, the dancing elephants - but we didn't - band did a real great job and kept it simple, and although the track sounds quite orchestral, it's actually only a few dubs: acoustic guitar, cello, piano, a bit of bass and drums - and that's it.
It's great when things fall together in the right place and create a little bit of magic, and awesome that we got El Gran Yorko to sing on it, but above all: 
Isn't it lovely that our 'commercial hit' is a tribute to the great socialist leader Salvador Allende?
Now that is beyond cool and something I feel a little proud of.

band video - director's cut

When the single was released, we were instructed by the record company not to include any 'controversial' footage in the promo-video, as they feared MTV would not show it.
Their concern was not misfounded: even with the lovely, but rather safe video we ended-up with, the label struggled to promote it in the US, as many radio and tv stations had a problem with the 'kill the president' line, said it was too anti-american, and they'd sometimes just play the verses, but miss out the chorus - (que patifes!).
It is a privilege to be able to re-edit the video as I always envisaged it in my head.
This is my personal edit, featuring footage from Chile 1973 >

ken loach - 9/11 letter

Ken Loach's powerful contribution to the 11’09”01 film, by French producer Alain Brigand.
Features Pablo, a Chilean exile in London recalling the events of 73.
11 mins segment, beautifully made - in english >

the real Joyce Horman

and here's a recent audio interview (2011) with Joyce Horman, the real wife of Charles Horman >

allende - the last speech

"Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society." - 2 mins doc, in english >