Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - Biography
BY J Poet
One of the most popular rock bands in Latin America, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs are hard to pigeonhole. With a sound that’s part punk, part ska, part pop, part world fusion, and part hip-hop, to name just a few of the genres they merrily plunder for their unique sound, the band has gone its own unclassifiable way for more than 20 years winning a Latin Grammy and collecting several gold and platinum records. They went on hiatus in 2001, but reunited in 2008. Just before rehearsals started original percussionist “Toto” Rotblat died, so the band carries on in tribute to his memory.
The original members of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs started playing together in Buenos Aires, Argentina when the musicians were still in their teens. Many still lived with their parents when they had their first gigs. They were inspired by the political beats of Britain’s Two Tone groups - The Specials, Selector and The Beat. They formed the band as a collective, sharing equally in songwriting and performance royalties and revenues and had a progressive political outlook, dangerous during the years of repression they grew up in. They started as a ska band, but soon incorporated rock, jazz, Latin American folk, reggae, salsa, funk, samba, and swing into their ever expanding sound. They dressed in the 60s suit and ties and pork pie hats of the British ska bands, which made them stand out from other groups in Buenos Aires. They landed a record deal within a year of their first gig. Their debut, Bares y Fondas (1986 Sony Latino) included the hit “Silencio, Hospital” and they were off and running. They began touring Argentina and became one of the leaders of the Rock in Español movement, a style they helped create.
Yo Te Avisé (1987 Sony Latino) spawed three hits “El Genio del Dub,” “Mi Novio,” and “Yo No Me Sentaria en Yu Mesa.” It went double platinum and led to their first Latin American tour. El Ritmo Mundial (1988 Sony Latino) saw them adding slasa to their recipe and featured a hit duet with Celia Cruz on “Vasos Vacios.” El Satanico Dr. Cadillac (1989 Sony Latino) included their first foray into hip-hop and Volumen 5 (1990 Sony Latino) featured a cover of the Stones “Miss You” as well as the tropical hit “Demasiada Presion.” In 1990, Los Cadillacs moved to LA to try and crack the American market.
Sopa de Caracol (1991 Sony Latino) Included “Megamix LFC,” an international club hit. They cut El Leon (1992 Sony Latino) in LA with producer KC Porter (Selena, Santana); its combination of salsa, modern rock, reggae, and ska featured the Norteño accordion of Flaco Jiminez and a cover of Ruben Blades’ “Desapariciones,” a slap at the military dictatorship in Argentina. It was a worldwide hit. The band cemented its international reputation with the gold Vasos Vacíos (1994 Sony Latino) a 17 track album that included their early hits and two new tracks, “V Centenario” and “Matador,” which became a smash across the Latin world. They took home the Latin Video of the Year Award from MTV Latino for “Matador.” Later that year, En Vivo en Buenos Aires (1994 Sony Latino) showed the band tearing it up at several hometown concert halls.
The band took a vacation in the Bahamas to record Rey Azúcar (1995 Sony Latino) with the Tom Tom Club (Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz) as producers. Guests included Big Youth, Debbie Harry who sang on a cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Mick Jones who added his slashing guitar to “Mal Bishop,” the album’s lead single and another smash hit. In 1996 they launched their first world tour and recorded “What’s New Pussycat?” with Fishbone for the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Latin Silencio = Muerte (1996 HOLA, 2008 National.) Fabulosos Calavera (1997 BMG US Latin) their first record for a new label, won a Grammy for Best Album by an Alternative Latin Rock Group. Another K. C. Porter production, the album combined hard-core punk, lounge instrumentals, surf guitar, country and western, mariachi, son, and blue beat and was hailed as a high water mark for both the Cadillacs and Rock in Español. Critics called it the Latin Sgt Pepper. Sony celebrated their Grammy with 20 Grandes Exitos (1998 Sony Latino) a two CD compilation that included “Matador,” rare B-sides and demo versions of early songs.
La Marcha del Golazo Solitario (1999 RCA International) was a radical change of pace to a more laid back, samba heavy sound with a cosmopolitan feel. Feeling a bit burned out, the band released two live albums Hola (2001 RCA International) and Chau (2001 RCA International) before going on a six-year hiatus. La Luz del Ritmo (2008 Nacional), cut after the death of original percussionist “Toto” Rotblat, features eight reinventions of older hits alongside five new tunes including Spanish language covers of “Should I Stay or Should I Go? and Ian Dury’s “Wake Up and Make Love with Me.” The band will spend most of 2009 touring the globe to celebrate their reunion with their new stripped down sound.