It’s said that we’re living in the golden age of TV, but even nowadays something like the iconic Spanish program La Edad de Oro seems impossible on a network channel. It’s almost unimaginable that something so wild, out of control, and countercultural could be greenlit by small screen execs anywhere in the world. La Edad de Oro was groundbreaking primarily because it brought avant-garde figures from the art and music world into Spanish homes, at the height of la movida madrileña. The variety show ran from 1983 to 1985 and featured controversial guests like film director Derek Jarman, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, conceptual artist Christo, street theater troupe La Fura Dels Baus, legendary drag queen and John Waters collaborator Divine, and more. At the center of the show was its wonderfully goth host Paloma Chamorro, who died at the age of 68 on Sunday. To honor her, we’re taking a look back at the show’s inimitable influence.
Music was undoubtedly La Edad de Oro‘s biggest selling point and legacy. Instead of going the easy route and inviting major label acts, Chamorro highlighted artists from the darkest and most subversive corners of the underground scene. Culture Club, Echo and The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, and Spandau Ballet were probably the most commercial artists to appear on the show, while more extreme acts like Psychic TV, SPK, The Residents, and Killing Joke also made the rounds. There were concert broadcasts and interviews with everyone from Lou Reed to Nick Cave and The Smiths (Chamorro even got to interview Morrissey and Johnny Marr). Even punk legends like Johnny Thunders, Alan Vega, and Tom Verlaine appeared performing on set.
La Edad de Oro was also instrumental in bringing the homegrown musical scene – la movida – to a bigger audience, which galvanized and legitimized the movement. At a time without the interconnectivity and immediacy of the internet, it gave music fans a chance to see the bands they had been hearing so much about on screen. Kaka De Luxe, Radio Futura, La Mode, Parálisis Permanente, Siniestro Total, Aviador Dro, Alaska y Dinarama, Glutamato Ye-Ye, Los Nikis, and many others were interviewed and performed live on the show. Even the most enduring and famous member of la movida, Pedro Almodóvar, guested a few times. He performed with his musical duo Almodóvar and McNamara in a 1983 episode of the program.
These days, Spain remains a haven for the international music community, a place that continues to bring together the most out-there acts of the past and present. La Edad de Oro predated other innovative (and sometimes wild) programs like MTV’s 120 Minutes and similar variety shows in the U.S. and Europe. While the occasional underground band plays late night TV, we are rarely blessed with the sense of danger that comes with seeing envelope-pushing talent on the small screen.
It’s been more than 30 years since La Edad de Oro broadcasted its last episode, but the show’s weirdo legacy lives on, thanks to the magic of YouTube and RTVE’s own digital archive. For those of us who were not alive – or ready – for 80s death rock or industrial, these clips are valuable cultural artifacts of another time. Above all, it’s proof that once upon a time, strange things happened in mainstream media.
Dive into the La Edad de Oro generation with this playlist, which features some of the bands that made an appearance on the show: