The legend of the time was published on June 16, 1979. Like a ferocious lightning bolt, that should have set fire to the meadow of Spanish music of the transition. Mysteriously, nothing happened: a few thousand copies sold, more indifference than misunderstanding. Even its author seemed to move away from that path. Only in later years has the boldness of that adventure been recognized.
José Monge Cruz, alias Camarón, sensed that The Legend … would take time to be accepted. But he is no longer with us to explain himself. Yes, its producer, Ricardo Pachón, accompanied by Juan de Dios Martín, the accomplice who has taken care of doing “sonic justice” on the album, for the so-called 35th anniversary edition (Universal), which includes a booklet and the documentary Tiempo de legend, by José Sánchez-Montes.
Pachón delights in crushing the birth of that prodigious work. “Camarón liked to listen to rock but did not assimilate it to the same extent as, for example, Raimundo Amador, who took my Hendrix and Deep Purple records. What did happen is that he was tired of making old-style LPs, which settled in a couple of days. The producer was the father of Paco de Lucía, who had them at bay: if they wanted to smoke a joint, they had to lock themselves in the sink. And he was attracted to things that I had done with Lole and Manuel ”.
In fact, the first plan was for José to sing Manuel Molina songs, but a misunderstanding between the women of both frustrated the idea. It was then that Pachón presented him with some adaptations he had made from texts by García Lorca. “It was not the most popular Lorca but, somehow, Camarón connected with that poetry. We spent a month at my house in Umbrete, shaping the arrangements; I never saw him so happy. ” Other pieces were also added, including what would become Kiko Veneno’s shrimp anthem, Volando voy.
To materialize The Legend …, it was urgent to revalue its expensive cache to its own label, then Philips. Pachón explains: “Camarón worked piecewise: 125,000 pesetas per LP, no royalties. I managed to record him with CBS, with star treatment: as a signing, two million pesetas. But Philips exercised the right of first refusal and had to stay. In return, I demanded that they let us use their large studio. Without time or means limit: it was recorded for a month, with musicians who came from Seville and jazz artists from Madrid ”.
The legend … was intended to bring the volcanic art of the Shrimp closer to the public of rock. After the arrival of democracy, the record labels were exploring new markets and —considering the success of Triana or Lole and Manuel— that made sense. But there was more voluntarism than strategy: the presentation of the album was in a winery in Jerez, which did not help much. Thanks to Gay Mercader, Pachón sneaked up on Camarón, backed by the Dolores group, as the opening act for a jazz-rock festival in Barcelona’s Monumental, headed by Weather Report.
There, everything that could have gone wrong turned out worse. Pachón is still outraged when he remembers it: “We couldn’t prove it. The volume, minimum, so that later the stars shone. But the criminal thing was that the table technician decided that he had to go to dinner and left me in charge of the live sound. I’ve never been in more trouble. ”
There was a second electric performance in Marbella, to which an embarrassed Pachón did not want to go. Today, he does not believe that Camarón got used to it: “The fact that old gypsies went to El Corte Inglés, returning The Legend of Time, could only make him laugh. But he did understand that this line was very overwhelming. You had to discipline some musicians, fight to achieve an acceptable sound. And total, for what? If he appeared with Tomatito as the only companion, he would take on the hassles and get more money ”.
Still, the change was considerable. Pachón produced the following albums: Como el agua, Calle Real, Viviré. They are usually described as an entrenchment, a return to classicism, but “one forgets that Paco de Lucía returned and that he brought the musicians who accompanied him then: Carles Benavent, Jorge Pardo, Rubem Dantas”. Besides, Camarón started experimenting at home: “He had a room full of recorders and oriental instruments. One day he assured me that he had invented … the triple stereo! Recently, we tried to hear that but the tapes had deteriorated. They tell me about a system that, through an oven, makes the tapes audible. It would be nice to see what he created alone. ”
Accompanying Pachón is Juan de Dios, musician and off-road producer, who discovered La leyenda … thanks to Xoel López. “He handed me a copy as something special. When I was asked to rebuild the mix, using the multitracks, I was terrified: it was to enter sacred territory. I started by saying to Ricardo, very scared, “maybe we should remove some reverb.”
Pachón interrupts: “And I replied: ‘Remove all the reverb you want.’ They were fashions of the moment, automatisms of the engineers. I shouldn’t admit it but I wasn’t good at mixing. After surviving very anarchic recordings, I faced mixing as a process, to overcome as quickly as possible. “
Now everything is more complex, adds Juan De Dios. “We have made four masters: for vinyl, CD, digital streaming and iTunes digital, of high quality. There is greater dynamics, previously buried parts shine. And Shrimp … Now you can hear him salivate, take a breath. The good news is that the seams are not noticeable: all the emotional power of the original recording is preserved. It gives you the creeps. ”