There’s a lot to discuss when defining what characteristics make up a ‘Rock Legend.’ Obviously, it begins with the quality of the music. When we evaluate the status of rock musicians, the artistic output in their career takes precedence. And, a lot more of their rise in prominence comes from an emphasis on their live performances. There are plenty of living rock legends, like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Benatar, Elton John, Billy Joel, and others.
Those that die prematurely tend to pull on our hearts, and when we look over their careers and listen to what they produced, if it’s been magical, then we more easily place their status as rock legends. Gustavo Cerati, the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the band, Soda Stereo, checks all the boxes. And, unfortunately, that includes dying prematurely.
After Soda Stereo’s last performance as a completely original band in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2010, at the age of 50, Cerati suffered a brain stroke and was hospitalized. Within a month, he fell into a coma, and he died four years later in 2014 having never come out of the coma.
His image is plastered all over Latin America on t-shirts, in bars, in graffiti, or in murals. Often, his likeness tends to be in close proximity to the revolutionary Che Guevara. Hundreds of thousands of people love and admire Cerati. He even had a Google Doodle specialized for his birthday a few years back.
The Soda Stereo catalog is a substantial one, with plenty of well-crafted hits to choose from. Cerati, along with two bandmates, formed the band in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1982. Zeta Bosio on bass guitar and Charly Alberti on drums stayed with Cerati for their entirety as the band, with no major changes among the three. They made seven studio albums beginning in 1984 through 1995.
Cerati had a successful solo career in the years after 1995, but the band would continue to reunite and tour together until their last performance together in Caracas in 2010.
In many ways, Soda Stereo was the first mainstream Spanish rock band. Their songs were hits all over Latin America. They paved the way for many bands, including Mana, Los Enanitos Verdes, Vilma Palma, Moenia, and others. Their music galvanized the radio stations and music scenes of the big cities in Latin America. They sold out venues on tour after tour in cities like Mexico City, Lima, Bogota, and Buenos Aires, just to name a few.
What makes the music of Soda Stereo so beautiful, and so significant, are the tons of rhythms and hooks that drive wonderful melodies to places we haven’t heard before. Their music is varied soft and steady, and then pushing us to the brink with bite and punch that we can’t forget.
They know how to infuse synths and jazz to keep the beat and get our attention. It’s unforgettable music in Spanish. Their poetry of lyrics are unforgettable too. What a band…what a rock legend!
It seems that the music of Soda Stereo lives on in perpetual youth. Cerati’s voice is always that of a young person, and the band backs him with youthful enthusiasm. If you can catch their Buenos Aires 1997 concert of more than two hours on YouTube…do it! This is a band built best for the live performance.
The song, el rito (the rite) from their 1986 third album, Signos, is a lengthy chunk of sound woven tightly around the band’s strengths. Many of their typical elements of rock are here to sample, including a variety of guitar rhythms and backing vocals.
# 10 – El Rito
The seductive opening of the combo guitars and synth for ‘Juegos de Seduccion’ is unforgettable and immediately sets up a mood. From their second album in 1985, Nada Personal, the song is catchy and made to be a single. This is rock-pop at its finest…with the best “Hey, Hey Hey” of all time. “Te llevare hasta el extremo” means I will take you to the extremes, and that’s how this song feels with great build-up, pauses and acceleration.
# 9 – Juegos de Seduccion
For Soda Stereo’s last studio album in 1995, Sueno Stereo, they delivered this gem of a song. ‘Paseando por Roma’ sees the band take their futuristic sound mixed with jazz. It is an upbeat hit with expertise on drums, guitars, and synths. It slows, then picks up with a muffled trumpet, and then the rest of the jazz ensemble is accompanied by a chorus of backing vocals.
# 8 – Paseando por Roma
‘Zoom’ also comes from their last album. By the time of this recording, the band had revamped aspects of their sound to keep themselves sounding fresh. They moved forward with their audience searching for different ways to be contemporary. The song has a kick on the drums backbeat throughout with a harmonica prominently on display as we our led to the ending where Cerati declares, “Luz, Camera, Accion” (lights, camera, action).
# 7 – Zoom
The last studio album, Sueno Stereo, provided ample superior material, including this heavy dose of a bass guitar-laced song. The song title translates in English to ‘She Used My Head Like a Gun’, so you can imagine the song having some kick to it. But, still, like Soda Stereo did so well, they slow it down some when they need to in order to emphasize the melody.
# 6 – Ella Usó Mi Cabeza Como Un Revolver
They did excellent ballads, too. This is one of their best for sure. It’s from their self-titled first album, released in 1984. And, it does sound so 80’s. They are stripped down here for a good portion of the song, but they rev it up some in the middle. I would compare it to a Duran Duran song, in terms of gentleness with guitars and rhythm.
# 5 – Tratamente Suavemente
From their second album in 1985, Nada Personal, this was their lead single. It hits a high bar for engagement. The song never lets up. From the beginning, we are thrust with the band into an array of sounds designed to be earth shattering. Translated in English, the title of the song is ‘When the Tremor Passes.’ Cerati sings “Despiertame cuando pasa el temblor”, meaning wake me up when the tremor passes. A flute-like instrument is used to provide Andean ambience.
# 4 – Cuando Pase el Temblor
This second album released in the heart of the 80’s produced another classic. The title song from the album is a mix-mash of beats, sounds and vocals. It is clear this is a band that understood the times. If they were singing in English, they may be one of the biggest bands in the history of rock and roll. As it is, whether you speak Spanish or not, it is easy to tell how adept they were at getting to the roots of making varied, intelligent music.
# 3 – Nada Personal
The three members of the band are clearly an extraordinary team. They work so well off each other and support the drive of the band to design songs with tremendous pop-rock reach. These next two songs are their most famous, and still played at high volumes on the radio and in the clubs. It is Cerati’s voice that assures us. He always comes through with the right temperature in his voice, and there are always backing vocals that match the moment. From the album Signos, this song describes how one sees someone else through the blinds of American influence.
# 2 – Persiana Americana
In the number two spot on our Top 10 Soda Stereo Songs stands the legendary song in the band’s catalog entitled “Persiana Americana.” We have included the live performance below.
# 1 – De Musica Ligera
From their fifth album in 1990, Cancion Animal, the band started off the decade with a masterpiece. According to many references and resources, including the Netflix Doc ‘Break It All’ on the History of Latin Rock, Soda Stereo cemented their place in the history of Latin Rock with ‘De Musica Ligera.’ I’m making the argument for them to be Cleveland Hall Of Famers, not just Latin HOFers. The balance of guitars, synths, drums, poetry and voice of Cerati is one-of-a-kind that has lived on furiously for decades.
Top 10 Soda Stereo Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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