Pop Music in Murcia and Spain during the 1960’s
By the late 1960’s, Spanish pop music had acquired an excellent reputation with much of the British musical press. This, in itself, was rather surprising, because Murcia and Spain had no real pop music history at the time. There was no tradition of swing, or rhythm and blues (R&B) in Murcia or Spain at large and jazz was seen as being decadent during the Franco era – unofficially, it was banned from Spanish radio until well into the 1950’s. In order to listen to jazz and other ‘decadent’ forms of popular music, enthusiasts in Murcia and elsewhere had to have high powered radio sets which could pick up signals from over the Pyrenees. All this changed, however, in the two years between 1966 and 1968, when (at least according to British and other western European journalists) Murcia and Spain experienced its own youth and pop music revolution. In the international era of the miniskirt, female dress hemlines rose not only in Madrid, but also in many of the more urban areas of Murcia. Teenage Spanish musical tastes also underwent something of a transformation: What kind of pop music did the younger generation in Murcia listen to at this time? Well, to begin with, they listened largely to solo artistes and bands who imitated British and American musical styles. However, this changed in the 1966-1968 period, when Murcian youth began listening to, and watching, Spanish pop music which had many original touches and which was definitely the ‘best on the continent of Europe’ according to many pop aficionados of the time.
Probably the most popular Spanish band at this time (with all generations) were The Pekenikes, who mixed together the genres of jazz and pop. This was a mostly instrumental band who were largely unheard of outside Spain, though in July 1965 they played as a support act to The Beatles during the Liverpool band’s first ever live Spanish concert. In July 1968, The Pekenikes played at the Palma Pop Music Festival and in 1970-71 they secured their biggest international hit with the single ‘Tren Transoceanico a Bucaramanga’ (Bucaramanga was a town in Columbia).
Although band members changed over time, The Pekenikes have stayed in existence for decades and played at the Plaza de Santa Domingo in Murcia City during August 2010. In 2019, the much changed band celebrated the 60th anniversary of its formation with a concert at the Rialto Theatre in Madrid.
Another popular band of the 1960’s, in Murcia and the rest of Spain (but largely unknown outside the Iberian Peninsula) were Los Canarios, formed by Eduardo Bautista, in the Canary Islands, during 1964. The band sang in English, and began by performing soul and R&B standards, but later moved on to delivering progressive rock and psychedelia-influenced numbers. In 1968, the band enjoyed one of its biggest hits with the song ‘Get on Your Knees’, but Los Canarios struggled to maintain its popularity when Bautista was called up for national military service in 1970 and the band eventually disbanded in 1974.
The quintet Los Bravos were definitely the biggest pop band in Spain during the mid and late 1960’s. Indeed, for a short time they were one of the most popular bands in the entire world, followed and supported by legions of young fans from Cartagena to California. The demo version of their huge international hit ‘Black is Black’ was produced in Rochester, Kent and went on to become No.2 in the UK hit parade during 1966, No.4 in the USA and No.1 in Canada. Huge quantities of the single record were sold in Murcia, and over two million copies were sold throughout Spain in 1966. The Los Bravos lead singer was a German named Mike Kogel, whose voice and delivery style was likened to that of Gene Pitney. The band followed up their ‘Black is Black’ success by releasing another single called ‘I Don’t Care’ in October 1966, which reached No.22 in Canada, and also did well in Britain, Murcia and Spain as a whole.
In addition, during 1968, Los Bravos released a song entitled ‘Bring a Little Love’ which was used much later on (in 2019) as the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s movie ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. During the late 1960’s, Los Bravos really succeeded in conquering the English-speaking music market and Spanish pop music was changed forever as a result.