A Defining Meeting
Sunny with Occasional Rain
Spiteri Part One
I remember the night I met the two Spiteri brothers, Jorge and Charlie as though it were yesterday. It was just another regular
London evening. I was heading back to my Notting Hill apartment, tired, probably a bit the worse for wear from long hours in the studio and hungry. I wandered into Pizza Express, sat down and ordered. A live band was about to play. They looked exotic, intriguing. Two guys, two girls, one accoustic guitar. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for live music, just wanted to eat and get home, but I was interested to hear what this group of eye catching individuals might do. As a producer, you are always on the lookout for something unexpected, different, raw. I had a tingling premonition that this might be special. I waited. As the first chord exploded, the music instantly caught you, lassoed you in its energy and joy. Latino rhythms with a joyous interweaving of backing vocal chants and English/ Spanish rock lead vocals. The group was exhilarating, and my pizza lay uneaten as a rising sense of excitement started to take hold.
That evening’s unexpected encounter became a turning point for me in many ways .
I had come face to face with a world that would not only have a major influence in my own journey, but also would mark the beginning of a lifelong chain of friendships and experiences. This was Spiteri, in its original busking format. Jorge, Charlie, Corina and Joan, two Venezuelan brothers, one Argentinian girl and one Chilean. The band that I would eventually produce would have a different complement that somehow managed to remain cohesive long enough to enable the production and release of ‘Spiteri’, an album which became an icon in their native South American countries.
I knew that they were supremely different. This was 70s London, no one knew the word ‘salsa’ -unlike today. The only then contemporary exposure to Latin rock had been Santana but it was still in their early days. Spiteri’s music was different, deeper, creatively and rhythmically embedded in folkloric Venezuelan and other disparate Latino origins, then reinterpreted in rock yet faithful to its cultural roots.
Moving on from that evening, we signed a management and production deal with Spiteri. We felt we had a chance to make it happen for them despite the band being outside of of mainstream rock . Importantly, They trusted us. The key was to get the band seen live – they were dynamite, exciting visually and musically, entertaining and different.
We hired a rehearsal room in South London and set about getting decision makers to come to see them. This is about as hard as it gets in the ‘ overworked’ music industry but we persevered, getting a few of the smaller fry and some good reactions. The band was using the time to rehearse and the performances were improving. Then one day we got one of the big fish, Dick Leahy, head of Bell records, an exciting small label with a fearsome track record. I knew immediately he arrived that this was a key moment. He loved the band and the guys and was excited but with one critical reservation. He wanted to see if their live performance could translate convincingly into a recording environment and he committed to some studio time to be sure of his initial instincts.
So we went into the studios,recorded a couple of tracks and held our breaths.
The music industry is a strange beast. It can be magic beyond belief or cruel and debilitating. The recordings were ok but I knew in my heart of hearts that they were not good enough. We hadn’t captured that spontaneous live magic and when Dick Leahy turned the band down, I wasn’t in all honesty surprised. You have to push to the limits in this game and being disheartened was not an option.
It was clear that more work would be needed to get the deal that we were hungry for. It didn’t matter. Time was on our side and we needed the right deal.
Sunny with Occasional Rain
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.