Javier Menéndez Flores, ‘el Flowers’, as Joaquín Sabina calls him, is an off-road journalist of those who move with the same ease among the rubble of the city as among the glasses of a cocktail bar. The city is always the same, and the glasses vary.
He usually takes the first drink to face the situation, and the second drinks it to forget about the same situation; I do not know if I explain myself, but, in this way, between desire and indifference, Flowers is giving to the press one book after another, pages that go from the official biography of Sabina, to a detective novel a la Vázquez Montalbán, titled ‘All of us’, and where it recreates Madrid at the end of the Transition with its cops from then, authentic characters from the museum of horrors.
Now he comes back with an original book, unclassifiable because it seems like a dictionary that goes beyond the borders of the reference work to become an enjoyable read about the peasantry that populated the so-called Madrid Movida. You can read it as an extensive chronicle, because, far from the wikipedic academicism to which we are accustomed, Flowers’ work goes well with the narrative essay.
The book appears with a cover that is a nod to the Sex Pistols album, the legendary ‘Never mind the bollocks’. It is titled ‘Madrid yes it was a party’, and collects a lot of tickets, from A to Z, without leaving anyone out. Thus, Flowers dedicates entries to Joaquín Leguina or Antonio Vega, but does not forget groups that had a short-lived success. An example is the group called Goma de chewing, a Catalan quintet that recorded two albums, one produced by Miguel Ángel Arenas, ‘el Capi’, and the next – and last – produced by Tino Casal.
Those were the days of La joven baila, the disco section of the Aplauso program, hosted by José Luis Fradejas. In this space, the leader of Chewing Gum, a handsome man named Reyes Poveda, who would become famous for his self-confidence, appeared in the quinqui movies of the time as Perros Callejeros II.
They were also times when record companies created sub-labels. It gave them there, because they thought that by opening an alternative line they could compete with all those independent companies that were beginning to emerge. In this way, Zafiro created Chapa Discos, Hispavox created Flush! Records and EMI created Reflejo, where Chewing Gum appeared.
In this sublabel, Goma de Chewing recorded a catchy song whose title and chorus corresponded to the name of the group. Originality did not seem to be the strength of the aforementioned sub-label. With the tricks of the multinational record companies, EMI executives managed to place the group in the top 40, and the song ‘Goma de chewing’ would soon become one of the most hummed songs of Christmas 1979. Then they recorded another disc and goodbye very good.
Chewing gum’s career is just one example of what happens when the marketing mechanism is set in motion from rigid office structures, and attempts are made to sell mortadella like jabugo ham. In this case, in order for the production to be closer, they decided to release the group in a sub-label with a name that was so inaccurate as a brothel, ‘Reflejo’. Now, that the record companies have breathed their last, and the new capitalist model has been imposed via streamingIt is worth going back to those times to realize the catetism of the executive cadres that handled the music of our country.
These and other things are what come to mind as I read this volume; an entertaining book, written with agile prose and with a lot of irony by a guy who knows that Madrid, more than a city, is a literary genre. Let’s say I’m talking about Flowers.