Amoeba Records sponsored the Concerts On The Pier in Santa Monica that happened every Thursday during the months of July & August. Included in the series were Patti Smith, Plena Libre, Arrested Development and Junior Murvin, just to name a few. The series ended last Thursday with East L.A. heroes Los Lobos. Many of us that work at Amoeba volunteered to work at the Amoeba Booth that was to the left of the stage. We sold CD’s and T-Shirts and gave away discount coupons and various Amoeba swag. It was a great way to get away from the heat of Hollywood and work outdoors in the cool ocean breeze. Plus, there was the music! Los Lobos is one of my favorite bands, dating back to 1983 when I first heard "…And a Time to Dance." That night Los Lobos played many of my favorites, including "La Pistola y la Corazon," "Saint Behind The Glass," "Mas Y Mas," "Cumbia de la Raza," "Don’t Worry, Baby" and a volley of cover tunes such as "Cinnamon Girl," "Let’s Go," "Volver, Volver" and of course, "La Bamba."
The influence Los Lobos had on me when I was a kid was phenomenal. Back then to hear a band play Mexican music and rock on the same album was foreign to me. The Latin Rock artists at the time sounded more like bands from England then from their own country and it was understandable. When Rock music was still rebellious in America, it was even more so everywhere else. Most bands that sounded like their Anglo counter parts did it because they were tired of their parent’s culture being forced on them. Why would they want to play Mariachi, Corridos or Baladas? That was their parents' music. In the eighties, to sound like The Police was rebellious and for the young Latin Rock bands it was their own culture. With Los Lobos, both rock music and Mexican music was their culture. It was the first time I realized you could like both and not feel embarrassed by the other.
Side note: Los Lobos went to #1 on the Billboard charts with their version of “La Bamba.” Can you name two other Chicano artists to score #1 hit singles?
Los Lobos have released many great records over the years. Kiko is the Chicano Pet Sounds for sure. La Pistola y la Corazon was an introduction to Son Jarocho music for many of us. Will The Wolf Survive?, Colossalhead & This Time were all solid albums. But it was The Latin Playboys side project that really did it for me. Both Latin Playboys albums consisted of home recordings made by Los Lobos members Louie Perez and David Hidalgo, who further manipulated it with musician/producers Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom in a real studio. It is a mixture of Captain Beefheart Blues, Traditional Mexican music, and field recordings that created a soundtrack to East L.A. life. The Latin Playboys records are by far the most experimental releases by the Los Lobos crew and a classic in their own right. Just like “…And a Time to Dance” was influential to me as a kid, so were The Latin Playboys albums. They showed me that you could be experimental and still hold on to your culture. With Kiko & The Latin Playboys releases, The Lobos camp took career risks, especially after scoring a #1 hit single, creating art over commercial success. After the show as Los Lobos signed autographs at the Amoeba booth, I remembered I had that Latin Playboys CD in my car. I ran to my car and to get the cover. I had David & Louie sign the booklet. I think I may have to frame it now.
Overall it was a great night for me, and to top it off, the Amoeba crew got to ride on the roller coaster that’s on the pier for free. I have to say it’s the least scary rollercoaster I’ve ever been on, but it was much appreciated after working at the booth all night.
Ok, Here is the answer to the trivia: Freddy Fender (Baldemar Huerta) in 1975 with “Until The Next Teardrop Falls” and Linda Ronstadt with “You’re No Good,” also in 1975. Just bubbling under were Ritchie Valens’ “Donna,” which went to #2, Selena's “I Could Fall In Love” and Tierra’s “Together,” which both went to #12.