This is Olga Castreño speaking, manager of Andrés Calamaro during the last 22 years: “I did not like to see how it was destroyed. I suffered a lot. It was hideous. There were times when I was going to wake him up after five days when he hadn’t slept; I would walk into the room and think, ‘What if I don’t wake up one day, what?’ The dark years of the rocker: he locked himself up with narcotics and a recording team for three months. Composing, consuming, recording, consuming … There is talk of 700 registered songs, of which he finally selected 103 to edit that egomania called The salmon, a quintuple album with mediocrities and also with quality songs. About that period that begins with the edition of The salmon, year 2000, and a silence of almost five years followed, there has been much speculation. What happened in that narcotic nebula in which the musician moved is developed in the last part of the documentary Calamaro: Bios, lives that marked yours, produced by National Geographic and which can be seen on Disney + from Friday, November 26.
Dressed in an unglamorous greenish wool sweater, non-stop drinking mate and smoking, Calamaro (Buenos Aires, 60 years old) answers the questions of a Nathy Peluso (Buenos Aires, 26 years old) surpassed by the character. Everyone who interviews the rocker is, with the unstoppable verbiage that he wastes and with a collection of gestures that should leave the muscles of his face exhausted. It is not the definitive documentary of the musician (it has an air of Essential de La 2) but summarizes his career with a didactic spirit and the viewer enjoys a day (in which the interview was recorded) especially loquacious and procacious on the part of the artist. Professionals and friends appear who are adding color and reflection to the story: musicians such as Ariel Rot, Daniel Melingo, Vicentico or Cachorro López, and writers and journalists such as Marcelo Fernández Bitar or Fabián Casas. Critical voices or voices that at least put the protagonist in trouble are missing, as almost always in these hagiographies. The archive material on display is relevant, especially the old photographs and some videos, such as the first concert by Los Rodríguez in the tiny Madrid venue Siroco. A revealing film also for the clueless: Calamaro is a basic part of rock sung in Spanish, an immense figure since his time in Los Abuelos de la Nada, Los Rodríguez and alone. An artist often great, despite some departure from tone in his later years.
In 1999 Calamaro published Brutal honesty, where he bled for two hours and 21 minutes (37 songs) after his romantic break with Mónica García. “Brutal honesty was the Apocalipsis Now of rock recordings. I was two months like Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie”, affirms the singer in the documentary. Only the starters compared to the fatty dish that would come later: The salmon. “I just lived to make music all day. He left the basic needs, such as bathing or eating, ”says the manager in the documentary. “It is the personal diary of someone who is having a great creative moment, but is emotionally unhinged”, insists the writer Fabián Casas.
Calamaro speaks of a political job, when the Argentine crisis (we are in 2000) deprives the middle class of their well-being, especially. “It is a record of the revolutionary left. I felt that we were vindicating ourselves with bestiality, which is what we liked ”, says the creator of Skinny. But inevitably decompression comes. After the release of the five-fold album, the singer retires to detoxify. Choose the saw and ensure that it blends in with the environment. “I became one more peasant, the same rubber boots, the plaid shirt, I went to have breakfast at the bar with the butcher …”. But the cynical and hooligan Calamaro returns: “True rehabilitation takes time, you have to do it with a psychiatrist and with new drugs, you have to change some drugs for others.”
Almost five years he was absent from the live show. Had the world of Andrés Calamaro been forgotten? Together with his compatriots from the Bersuit, he overcomes his artistic blockage and stage fright and triumphs. Proves it with the live album The return (2005).
It is in the final part of the documentary when one of those insurmountable moments of the singer emerges. Caressing his chin, with raised eyebrows, expressing himself with pauses and staring into space, he reflects before a Nathy Peluso who cannot blink: “We can think about comebacks, but it is not easy. Muhammad Ali … he was suspended from boxing for three years and then he came back. And he managed to win. But he was no longer so agile and they hit him a lot. No astronaut returned to the Moon, Gardel never returned from Medellín, Atahualpa Yupanqui never returned from France… ”. But he does.
Surely Calamaro will not reach the creative levels he reached with Los Rodríguez and on his solo albums such as High dirt and Brutal honesty, but in each album that he publishes there are pearls and the general tone is above many of the selling groups of current pop and rock in Spanish. For the twilight of the documentary he leaves his Way of life: “We believe that the glory is after we die. Better to live in the shambles, demanding that the world take off its mask and be cynical, as it really is ”. And laughs.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.