(Text in greek)
A retrospection of the “Trojan Horse” of his lyric writing.
The case of the songwriter – poet, Sidiropoulos, needs a treatise, certainly not in an academic context though. It requires long study and persistent effort on decoding his poetic speech. In order to emphasize on his psychological - sociological content and teach it - yes, that’s right- teach it formally as a text to the youths at schools and universities, just like Bob Dylan’s lyrics are being taught. Only then he might rest in peace who left with a grievance: “Listen to what I am saying; I write music, but I have a grievance inside me, that they don’t listen to my lyrics, and I want them to listen to my lyrics. What can I say?” (from an interview on 22/11/1990).
Today he would have been 72 years old. His genealogy is pretty much well known. His father was a left-winged industrialist, his mother a strict but warm presence, he had intellectual relatives (nephew of Elli Alexiou) and a heart like a deer’s (great grandson of Zorbas). With a blooming and bright face. With a voice that sometimes scratches like asharp claw and sometimes rampages like an angry horse. Always manly. Always erotic, whether towards Anna or towards Heroin. He could have been the answer of Greece to the same age as him rock stars of foreign lands, Robert Plant, Brian Ferry, Neil Young, etc. Probably he wore a sock on his head and filled with posters the streets of Athens for advertising his performances. But conjectures help neither life nor death. The fact is that he came, lived and departed, leaving us his rock dowry.
(“flu”, a Greek word with a wide spectrum of meaning; when it concerns people, it means someone who is slack, takes the things of life as they come, doesn’t rummage through, he takes lightly whatever comes in life, is philosophical, is detached (like the famous “Babis, the flu”, from Sidiropoulos’ record “Flu”), someone that you cannot categorize because he is sui generis and certainly he plays without any kind of an agreement) Flu, my friend, everything is flu.
About his lyrics. Which even today have to face, except from the eternal demon of their sound (rock and Greek lyrics is an incongruous pair, as they continue to say), also the stigma of the marginal man, the man of the closed society of Exarchia and the phenomena of the social pathology of that time. Rock with Greek lyrics. For most people it was unthinkable until then: “There is a great difficulty in entering Greek lyrics in rock music, but what to do, you need to fight. At first it will be a little lame, slightly injured, but then it will find its way. It needs special study. I got tired but I found the secrets of the Greek language and now the verse fits. Briskly, word by word. And I feel a great satisfaction because this “journey I did it by myself” Did Sidiropoulos clean himself from “H” (“H”, is the acronym of the Greek word for heroin) once and for all? I don’t think so.
It’s just that the marginal issues are not “in” for the modern music industry. But how to talk about hot topics, when the triangle of Exarchia-Omonia-Syntagma became virtual for artists on Facebook-Twitter-mySpace? But let’s not talk about the past. Our topic is the Prince’s lyrics, as he was called (since the kings’ seats were reserved). His unique as a kind – in Greece- lyrics. A mixture of poetry, sociology, history, sprinkled with the grounds of the streets he lived and the smoke that circled him in the underground hangouts. No one else ever wrote the way he did in the country. Because no one ever before managed to pass both the pure life and the pure poetry through his lyrics. Not vaguely. Specifically. Not descriptively. Tangibly. Not mincing his words. But speaking his mind.
The marginal Flu of 1979 changed in one night the map of rock lyric writing in Greece and certainly of rock generally. At the age of 31 created with his hand the dividing line of what must and what must not be called rock lyrics. Furthermore he used the Greek language, which was not obvious at the time, and especially he used neither the political nor the meta-political dialect. Moreover he stated that himself in the Music Magazine in May 1979 (Issue 18): “This is everyday life. Theodorakis and the others didn’t fit me. That was not enough for me. I wanted more relaxed, dirtier and more expressive lyrics. I think they were so vociferously revolutionary that they ended up not being revolutionaryat all.” This record includes everything. From marginal heroes of his personal mythology (Babis the Flou, Lefteris of 69), who fall in forms over time, where everyone can find pieces of themselves, up to pure poetic lyrics either his own or borrowed. Because that’s why Pavlos was unique: he was the street highbrow. So, in the poem “The Serious Clowns”, a realistic description of his student years -with hope and frustration being the two sides of the same coin – he embodies the lyrics of Allen Ginsberg (dying in the terror that they are dying), the lyrics of Manolis Anagnostakis (naked from love and hate), and clearly he refers to poets and writers (Poe, de Sade and Mark Twain). He writes “to leave with the taste of the half, to spell the alphabet of the scream” etc., without having anything to envy from the most talented writers. Also in
his cryptic poem “Of the Unknown God” he pays a tribute to people who have influenced him by borrowing some lyrics: Lou Reed (I hate my body), Dionysis Savvopoulos (with pieces of statues in her two eyes) and Brendan Behan (from the famous song of Theodorakis, “T’was on an August morning, all in the dawning hours”, a phrase - counterpoint to the next verse “he was flirting with death there in the tank”).
Nothing is randomly written. Nothing is written just to provoke. Everything is designed, everything is chosen lyric by lyric. That means that he is perfectly aware of his writing and this was actually his biggest wish and curse at the same time. Because it takes awareness being able to write- let alone sing – after you’ve experienced the world of hard drugs: I know that they’ll find us on our backs one morning (Time of stuff). Dispassionate blood. Even though he was asking “if you saw my fear behind every kiss”. Even though through all his lyrics he was looking for what is summarized in the last track of the album: we sell body and soul, give us a little attention (In Conclusion). The influence from Lou Reed’s Goodnight Ladies is clear, but as reported by the journalist Manolis Daloukas, in a review on Audio Magazine, the original core of the idea isThomas Eliot and The Waste Land. Yet, Sidiropoulos was mentally healthy. And decent. And exponent. In the same record we also meet the unsurpassed song “to K.”, that along with the subsequent “Ultimate Moment”, underground with strass, and also “Once you’ll see”, they demonstrate his ability of aptly describing female psychology: on the one hand, the sealed girl who alone will have to discover the world (alone you stand on the way, the man you look in horror, looking for your dad in him); and on the other hand, the wild female playing with males (with a wild look, counting the pleasure for weakness). In both cases the conclusion is the same: their truths crawl on the floor naked.
The contribution of Flou in the beautiful and “cursed” history of rock was that it opened the way to a lot of other musicians, playing or wanting to play rock or at least being affected by this, to shape their musical mark. The words of Giannis Angelakas who later would create the band called “Tripes” were characteristic: “Pavlos is a saint of the Greek rock scene. He left before even seeing the seeds that he had planted and ultimately grew. He left chased, marginalized, but I think that if he exists somewhere now he is happy about what’s going on. Because everything got started from Pavlos and Poulikakos. “Flou” was a marginal disk for all of us.
Zorba the freak
“I am a great-grandson of Zorbas and as it is known Zorba was rock n roll at any rate; and actually a lot. Kazantzakis tells us that also. But on the other hand, I have also sperm from the Alexiou’s generation. Of Ellis Alexiou’s, who is my aunt. And so, in this way I have inside me the intellectual and the bum. From the crash of them two sometime it comes out catastrophe and some other time creation”.
Paulos Sidiropoulos was born in 1948 in Athens but he lived his childhood in Thessaloniki. He went there to study Mathematics. The songwriter Vaggelis Germanos speaks regarding that time:“With Paulos Sidiropoulos we were friends and roommates in 1970 in Thessaloniki, as students in the faculty of Mathematics. He was a sweet “spoiled” teenager. His dream was to become a writer. He had chosen and a pseudonym: Paulos Asteris. At that time he liked the drums and we made a duet in the house. I was playing guitar and he was playing the drums sitting on a cloth fabric armchair and playing with spoons and drum-sticks. We were playing joyfully and we had an endless goodtime making a lot of mischiefs. I remember him at the concert of James Brown in “Pallas” to be vibrating with the intensity and the rhythm of the band. Another time I remember him in the dressing rooms of “Metro” saying to me that soon he was going to be “clean”. Pavlos was an experiential type, as an artist mustbe, although the chemistry he chose to fight with is no joke and so he leftearly, leaving his songs back for comfort. I always remember him with love.”
Almost immediately with the guitar player of the “Olympians” Pantelis Deligiannidis he formed the duet “Damon and Phidias”. Two of their songs went in the historic record “Live at the Kyttaro”. And because in those days “Kytarro” was the center of the microcosm of the Greek rock they got to know other musician and they joined their strength with the group “Mpourmpoulia” that was playing with Savvopoulos. It follows his teamwork with the composer Yiannis Markopoulos with the records “Thessalian Circle” and “Horopedio”. But his great moment is his meeting with the group “Spyridoula”, in 1976, with the record “Flu”, point of reference with the local version of rock. With influences from the Greek music scene of the ’60s and ’70s, from foreign rock groups and incorporating elements from traditional sounds, Paulos and “Spyridoula” created an album that made a bang, keeping in mind the analogies, in its time.
1987 Zorba The Freak. Less personal, more denunciatory, as he stated in interviews during that period: “Now I actively participate, I am not just an observer”. So, in an allegorical language via which he “slaughters with a scalpel” he talks about the working class and the longitudinal care of the party towards his children (the party now hastily deletes you... your companions: but he was anarchist by nature), for bank robberies (So long and good luck lads”), even for Mikis Theodorakis (Mickey Mouse) ... (with a debt of three agreements...folk classicist...throwing up with a common sound... the supposedly great secret ... epic sloganeering ... in five sweet notes). And regardless of how close he is to the truth, you cannot help but recognizing his courage to speak about forbidden subjects. In the same record we also meet the unique “Rock'n'Roll on the bed”. Role playing in its most truthful version. Sidiropoulos himself in his last radio interview, thirteen days before his death, was saying to Michalis Limnios: “What do you want to say about this piece?” “Listen to what I am saying; I wrote this piece like this, I was in a lonely situation, solitary, and I was looking to find something for myself”. “A Rock n roll?” “Not a Rock n roll”. “A Rock n roll life?” “Neither a Rock n roll life. Let’s don’t talk nonsense now. I was looking to find a woman”.
In his next live album, “Without Makeup” his optical lens goes on, diversified. He describes with perfect metric lyrics, fairly and disarmingly, the new social developments (sucked radioactivity milk... in power you meet the rebel party leader as a chamberlain). Above all he puts people and situations in their place (resistant ghosts now you wander in the square of EAT-ESA). Screaming his rage: who are you to make our words a cue for violence? He talked about immigration even before it became the favorite topic of the news and the scapegoat of national-patriotic purity for St. Panteleimon residents: (bouzouki and disco / racism a la Grec). And ofcourse, once again he praises women (woman passed knowledge to man).
So long and good luck lads
His posthumous album “So long and good luck guys” is in the same wavelength: sarcastic about the urban and incumbent reality (your chick is dumb ... and you look like porn), the city's gray color (with sick gray color ... an incurably magnified dirty cell), the dirt of the Power (thinking that you would find me there, straight in the shit, you shit of power). His poetic discourse is obvious here too, confessional and humanly tragic: they speak and I'm learning how to grope the darkness. The “Blues of Prince”, finally, show once again the talent of Pauvlos Sidiropoulos in entering the role of human figures (the Working-kid Blues, The blues of Roumpolas, If you were a friend), but also to serenade, like the creators of Rebetiko and light songs (with the trump you got involved with what were you seeking…fish of the foam in the big waters).
“Sidiropoulos, like all the dead heroes of rock, unintentionally created a myth; a myth for exploitation. But in a myth the human element is always forgotten. And Paulos, for them who knew him well, was a MAN.
At the same time, however, he was the artist that spoke to his generation (and beyond) with the harsh language of reality, without using beautified words and messages that would make him more commercial. AKIS LADIKOS Summarizing: Paulos Sidiropoulos would be laughing if he could see his biography under the title “Great Teachers”. But he was the one who “taught” more than anyone else with his songs and with his own life how marvelous, how magic, howdifficult and finally how painful is to create rock in Greece.
Manolis Ntaloukas, “Ellhniko rock, 1945-1990”, Agkyra, 2006
Akis Ladinos, “Where could you have been?”, Livanis, 1998
Akis Ladinos, “Paulos Sidiropoulos”, Nea Synora-Livanis
Dinos Dimatakis, “25 Years of Greek Rock”, Livanis, 1992
Dinos Dimatakis, “The lonely blues of the prince”, Kastanos, 1997
Interviews of Paulos Sidiropoulos in the magazines “Sound”, “Musical express” and in ET2.