11 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Gustavo Cerati

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A lot has been written since Gustavo Cerati’s departure last week, and I didn’t wanna write yet another mourning piece.

I’m not gonna tell you how much of a genius he was—you already know that. I’m not gonna tell you how he was the most influential musician in Latin America during the past three decades—it’s obvious. I’m not gonna list his highest achievements or his most unforgettable rock anthems—we all know those by heart. Instead, I decided to list some factoids that, unless you’re a super, mega, obsessive fan, you probably didn’t know, and even if you did, revisiting them might bring you a smile back to your face.

1. He sung in English, too.

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During a visit to London in 1988, Soda Stereo recorded two never-officially-released demo versions of his hit songs “Cuando Pase El Temblor” and “Juegos de Seducción” with English lyrics. A full album in English should’ve followed, but it never materialized and was quickly forgotten.

2. He played in a band other than Soda Stereo.

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Formed in 1985, Fricción was a side project by Gustavo Cerati, Richard Coleman, Fernando Samalea and Christian Basso. They released a critically acclaimed debut album in 1986 produced by Cerati himself who soon abandoned the band to focus on his other, most successful venture.

After Gustavo left, Fricción continued making music for a couple more years led by Richard Coleman who, by the way, was a recurrent guest of Soda Stereo during the ‘80s and would eventually reunite with Cerati to be part of his solo band during the Ahí Vamos days.

3. The best song in Soda’s debut album wasn’t Cerati’s.

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“Tratame Suavemente” is arguably the only song of Soda’s self-titled 1984 debut album that stands the test of time. It’s also the only one in that album that wasn’t theirs– it was actually written by Gustavo’s friend Daniel Melero of Los Encargados (paradoxically, Los Encargados’ version didn’t get released until 1986, so Soda’s remain the cannon version of this classic).

As a side note, in 1992, Daniel Melero and Gustavo Cerati released an epic album together called Colores Santos. Now a cult piece, Colores Santos was never officially presented live and at the time it was considered too avant-garde for the predominant use of electronic samples and loops, something that wasn’t yet popularly accepted by the Latin American orthodox rockeros. That same year, also, both Melero and Cerati participated as guests in the recording of Babasónicos debut album, Pasto.

4. Soda’s most internationally famous song wasn’t his either.

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All over Latin America, “Persiana Americana” is considered synonymous with rock en español– it’s the ultimate anthem of that golden era. Even if you manage to find somebody who never listened to Soda Stereo, they’ll most likely know that one song.

Well, the lyrics of that one song weren’t penned by Cerati but by a guy named Jorge Antonio Daffunchio, who entered a write-a-song-for-Soda contest on an FM radio station and won! Cerati liked the lyrics so much that he ended up including the song in Soda’s third album, Signos (the first Latin American rock album ever released in CD format), and it became on of his biggest hits.

According to the urban legend, the story of the obsessive, voyeuristic stalker told in “Persiana Americana” was inspired by Brian De Palma’s 1984 movie “Body Double,” which has a poster featuring a man peeping through a persiana americana while a woman undresses.

PS: No need to panic, Cerati did write all the other genius songs that you love to sing along to.

5. He loved Chile and electronic music.

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The Argentine rivalry with neighbor Chile never really mattered to Gustavo. After marrying a Chilean actress, he spent some time living on the other side of the Andes, and during those days he got really deep into experimenting with electronic music (he also produced an album for Chilean pop songstress Nicole). Between 1996 and 1998 he recorded a couple of low-profile, instrumental albums of ambient techno under the name Plan V (where he shared credits with unknown Chilean musicians Andrés Bucci, Guillermo Ugarte, and Christian Powditch). Then, back in his hometown, he kept exploring that style with an Argentine musician, Flavio Etcheto. Together, as Ocio, they released an LP in 1999 followed by another a year later (Etcheto was also part of Cerati’s backing band during the Bocanada days, along with Leo García whose synth-pop solo debut Cerati produced as well).

When looking for an MC to do a rap in Siempre Es Hoy, Gustavo could’ve called anybody from the Argentine hip-hop scene; he had all the connections (Soda’s bassist Zeta Bosio produced the first Argentine hip-hop compilation in 1997, I bet you didn’t know that either) but instead he invited Tea-Time of the Chilean funk group Los Tetas.

6. He once played with Los Brujos.

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To some it might seem a bit uncharacteristic of rockstar of his dimensions, but it’s a well-known fact that Gustavo Cerati, even at his peak of transcontinental superstardom, kept a foot well grounded in Buenos Aires’ underground scene. During the early ‘90s he took some of the the-up-and-coming musicians of the younger generation under his wing, like Babasónicos and Los Brujos who at that time were the flagship of that underground scene labeled “los sónicos” (as opposed to “los modernos,” the term used to designate the bands that came out in the early ‘80s with the return to democracy, Soda included). So there you have him, a post-Dynamo Cerati lending his guitar skills to one of the most iconic bands of that era during the presentation of their second album.

7. He once had the protagonist role in an indie film.

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In 2001 visual artist/director Eduardo Capilla cast Gustavo Cerati for the main role in the indie flick “+Bien.” Gustavo shared the screen with Latin MTV’s former VJ Ruth Infarinato. Also, thanks to the movie, he earned a Latin Grammy nomination for instrumental pop album because he composed the soundtrack.

8. He once served tea for three. Kinda.

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The pretty girl covering Soda’s classic “Té Para Tres” is none other than top-model-turned-TV-show-hostess-turned-pop-singer Déborah de Corral. Déborah was Charly Alberti’s girlfriend during the mid ‘90s (they even recorded an album together under the name Plum). Then she got an upgrade and went from being drummer’s girlfriend to singer’s girlfriend when she had a very publicized affair with a recently separated Gustavo Cerati (she even had a couple of guest appearances on Gustavo’s third solo album, Siempre Es Hoy and did the album’s cover graphic design).

The song’s lyrics are actually a lot sadder (they evoke a conversation Gustavo had with his mother and sister when he found out about his dad’s cancer), but we’d rather think about a prophesied threesome of sorts.

9. Toy Selectah once produced Gustavo Cerati.

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Talking about Siempre Es Hoy, yeah, that album was produced by Control Machete’s Toy Hernández (along with Sacha Triujeque), who soon afterwards changed his stage name to Toy Selectah and revolutionized dance-floors across the world as ñu-cumbia’s ultimate ambassador.

No, there were no Toy-style cumbiatón beats on that album, in case you thought you missed something, but Toy once said he admired Cerati for being the first Latin American rocker to mess around with an MPC sampler (an iconic instrument in hip-hop production), and that’s probably where this unlikely match connected.

10. He once did vocals on jazz renditions of his early classics.

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Everybody remembers when Gustavo Cerati recorded self-indulgent symphonic versions of his compositions on that album where he dressed like The Little Prince, but did you know he also made Jazz versions of a couple of his classics?

I guess we should start the story by telling that Tweety González (the longest standing unofficial fourth member of Soda Stereo) used to have former-Fito-Paez-back-up-singer Alina Gandini for a girlfriend and together they had a short-lived downtempo electronic duo called Acida. Acida’s only album includes a guest appearance by Gustavo Cerati, of course. Well, after breaking up from Acida (and Tweety), Alina switched the electronic format for a live jazz band, Hotelera, and prepared a repertoire of Argentine rock standards in beautifully arranged loungy versions. In 2006’s Alina Gandini & Hotelera released an album with these versions and it includes Soda Stereo’s “Jet Set” and “Sobredosis De TV” with Gustavo himself on guest vocals.

11. He shared the stage with Shakira. More than once.

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If at a quiz show they asked to name a Colombian singer who performed “En La Ciudad De La Furia” along with Gustavo Cerati, most fans would automatically respond Andrea Echeverri, naturally, because of this unforgettable, epic moment. But it’d actually be a trick question, since Shakira also occupied that spot.

After producing three out of eleven tracks on Shakira’s groundbreaking Oral Fixation Vol. 2, Gustavo got invited to join her on stage in Buenos Aires in front of a massive crowd (and again in Hamburg, Germany).

PS: Isn’t she adorable when she gives him that sexy, playful look while she sings “entre tus piernas”?