In those tough years of Salazar’s Portugal, movies were the mainly way people could listen to musics of discs that would luckly arrive much later. Inspired by those movies, young rockabillies’ groups started to pop up (or teddy boys as the press labeled them). They wore clothes, combed the hair and behaved like Elvis Presley or the “Wild One” Marlon Brando. At Parque Mayer, Joaquim Costa listened to Rock’n’Roll for the first time.
It was Bill Haley & His Comets. “I arrived there and saw two guys with a guitar and they put ten cents coins into the machine. I listened that and got overwhelmed. It was like an injection of adrenaline into my body.
I never left there. Bill Haley changed my life”. He immediately changed his passion for soccer and a posible entrance to Foreign Legend by that new sound. He went all over Lisbon looking for Elvis, the “wild singer” in the jukeboxes.
And that’s how he got dumbfounded by Arthur Smith’s “Guitar Boogie” just in front of the “Pastorinha’s” jukebox in Campolide. Though Bill Haley was his favorite at that time, and till today, Elvis became his prototype. Soon he became the “Campolide’s Elvis”, singing in a kind of improvised English to his friends and some navies. He refused to sing in Portuguese because in his very own opinion “Rock’n’Roll must be singed in its original language even if you know nothing about English.
I put together ‘Rock’n’Roll’, ‘Baby’, ‘Tonight’ and make something”. His passion for music did not begin at that time, though. It was just before, when he used to play soccer in the Cascalheira Team at the bathing resorts and to sing just for his friends entertainment. Friends and family even encouraged him to sing fados at a contest of Rádio Graça in 1955.
That was not for him. So he tried without success to convince the piano player he could sing “Rock around the clock” instead. Besides all that, he got the third place. 1958 was a remarkable year.
He lived in Casal Ventoso when as he was passing by his neighbor’s window he heard the first portuguese rocker José Manel Silva, known as Baby Rock or Elvis Silva, singing Rock’n’Roll on a TV Show. But 1959 was a decisive year. When Estrela’s Market opened, soon it became a point to where he and his friends could have some drinks and talking just near the jukeboxes. Then, they decided to start a band and to play for some change.
With a rebel and irreverent attitude they convinced the director, the producer Leitão de Barros, they should be the market resident musicians. Described by publicity as “Rock’n’Roll kings”, everynight Joaquim Costa and his “Estrela’s Guys” sang and played hit covers, from “Be Bop a Lula” to “Rip It Up”. Prematures punks, their concerts were memorables. “Guilherme was a mix of Bill Black and Elvis.
Just the same thing, jumping and threwing himself on the floor. And when I sing, I see nobody!”. With some changes and joined by Américo Bajouca “a black who sang and played at the Calçada da Estrela... to me, Rock’n’Roll has to do with blacks”, the band survived all through the summer.
At this time, he was invited by a mistic man all dressed in white to go to the United States. But Joaquim Costa was fed up of always play the same music. Three hours in a different stage each night five days a week made him leave the band all of a sudden. But when the Maket’s director did not see him there, he dismissed the rest of the band.
With no other ways to bring money back home, desperately they went to call him. He came back for a while but he gave up again soon. By that time, they decided to record a disc in Rádio Graça, a small local radio outfited by donatives and old equipments from a station which recently had got its brand new one. With a punk attitude, almost not knowing how to play, scarce money and no time at all, they recorded one of their most wild versions of “Rip it Up” and “Tutti Frutti”.
On the label, he wrote “Joaquim Costa and his Comets”. This was the first Rock’n’Roll record made in Portugal. Nevertheless, the only existing copy had disappeared maybe burned in a fire of the Valentim de Carvalhos’s studios. The only survivors were the acetates, which even Joaquim Costa judged lost.
Many years later, he himself found one of those at Feira da Ladra. Those are this edition source. Always faithful to his passion for Rock’n’Roll and Rockabilly, Joaquim Costa continued to sing. In the begginings of the 60’s he formed the “Os Jotas do Rock” with José Gouveia, a guy who had seen him at Feira da Estrela and together they even recorded some musics at Rádio Renascença.
This tape is lost though. In 1964, he started to play at baptisms accompanied by a teacher. In this same year, he took part with Victor Gomes and Paula Ribas in the Ritmos Modernos Festival at the Monumental Theatre. However, some time had passed and the word Yé-Yé substituted Rock’n’Roll...
Joaquim Costa worked as electrician, elevators technician, phone guide distributor, second-hand bookseller helper. But, “maybe influenced by movies, I always had a libertine life not so connected to work”. Away from Rock’n’Roll scene for a long time, it was 1978 - he was as a second-hand bookseller then – and his friend Paulo Castilho invited him to play in a party at his house. With a Vince Taylor look, Joaquim Costa sang with José Gouveia and Sonors’ Fernando Almeida.
“The best Rock’n’Roll singer I knew here. But he never gave his soul to this”. This EP also brings some musics from this session. There was another party which had been filmed but never edited...
At this heights, he got close to some people who lived in “a house where guys and girls slept on the floor, etc. There, we made Rock’n’Roll”. With them, he organized a party at the Zodiac Bar where was also “a nutty Rock’n’Roll guy who also sang in an adapted English”. Later, he collaborated with Rui Neves in the radio program “Pedras Rolantes” being responsible for the program guides and some help with the discs.
Confessed Hasil Adkins fan, Joaquim Costa puts himself into this rocker’s category. Beyond classics as Gene Vincent, Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers, Johnny Burnette Rock’n’Roll Trio, Little Richard, Joaquim Costa has a strange and bizarre taste. He listens to everything. From one man bands to Punk, he has references as Hank C.
Burnete, B.B.Q., Dean Martin, Ralph Nielsen & The Chan, The Phantom, Musical Lynn Twins, The Cramps, Porter Waggoner among others. Till today he remake the discs covers he do not like. Joaquim Costa, born in 1935, is the oldest portuguese rocker still alive. The 72 years old Joaquim continues to sing and play: “I am a fan of me, I sing to myself”.
“If you want to know who I am, I am rebel and a Rockabilly freak. I’ll follow rockabilly till I die”. “I was in Lisbon on the Summer of 1959. At the Estrela garden would be a market with many shows on improvised stages.
Five young guys who used to go there to talk and to listen to Rock’n’Roll, what was in fashion in the heights, had an idea: let’s try a way we can sing here and play what we all like, Rock’n’Roll. As everyone enjoyed the sound and even had some talent to sing, they thought, discussed and a time later they put the ideas to work”. They were: Joaquim Costa (singer), Sérgio Pinto (drummer and singer), Arménio Bajouca (singer), Luís Gomes (solist) e Guilherme Silveira (attendance). They went to the market’s offices and met some people of the city hall that were there.
After some talking they were all hired to work everynight for 50$00 in an agreed time and on all the market’s stages. And then, the dream came true. Those were three full of emotions years. Joaquim Costa, the singer of the band, thought a 78 rpm disc recorded at the extinct “Radio Graça”, at the Veronica Street in Lisbon would be a nice memory.
This is the disc you have in your hands to show 50’s Portugal already had Rock’n’Roll. Joaquim Costa, 15.04.2007 www.myspace.com/joaquimcosta Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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