The most obvious reading says that The love after Love, the album released by Fito Páez in 1992, is an ode to the fresh and refreshing wind that brings another love after having had a broken heart. But this album is much more than that. It is the story of redemption of an artist who had not had a good time and who knew how to navigate his own tragedies.
To understand why this album ended up becoming not only his masterpiece, but also the best-selling in the history of a country with a particularly fertile musical production, one must inevitably look back, before love, in 1986.
That year Fito Páez was already filling the Gran Rex Theater in Buenos Aires and sounding strong with hits like Turns, 11 and 6, either I come to offer my heart, while the newspaper El Clarín said that it was “the future of rock in Argentina”, as the Argentine journalist Federico Anzardi, specialized in local rock, tells us. His career was on the upswing, but then something unexpected and horrific happened.
They entered his childhood home, in Rosario, and murdered in cold blood the two women who raised him since he was a baby: his grandmother shot in the head and his great-aunt stabbed. His father had died the year before; his mother passed away when he was 8 months old. When Páez found out about the crimes – he was on tour in Brazil – he left the hotel room destroyed, while he drowned his sorrow with whiskey and benzodiazepines.
“After the murders, Fito ceases to be that musician who represented, in some way, the recent democratic recovery in the country. He went from singing ‘who said that everything is lost’, to saying ‘in this fucking city everything burns down and goes away’. There is an aesthetic and conceptual change in his music and in his life. In interviews he begins to behave differently. He becomes a much more negative, skeptical being”, says Anzardi, author of There are worse things than being alonea book in which he investigates the record city of poor hearts and narrates how the artist managed to get through those years.
“Fito begins to make increasingly darker music and he begins to be a character that is less and less suitable for all audiences. At the end of 1989, the record company did not renew his contract”, adds Anzardi.
With financial problems and living in friends’ houses, Páez manages to get them to lend him a studio to record his sixth album Third World, then gets a contract with Warner and, to the surprise of many, it does very well. That earned him a budget of 150 thousand dollars for his next album, with which he could make a luxury production.
Those were better times for Páez, which coincided with a new stage of love in his life.. He had ended a long, passionate and stormy relationship with the Argentine singer Fabiana Cantilo, and then he had met the actress Cecilia Roth, Almodóvar’s muse and well-known in Argentina. With her and a small team of musicians he left for 11 days in Punta del Este, to record most of the demos of what would later become the album The love after Love.
The result was an impeccably crafted album that not only had the production of the Chilean Carlos Narea and the Englishman Nigel Walker –who worked with Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney–, but also with the collaboration of heroes such as Charly García, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Mercedes Sosa, Andrés Calamaro, Fabiana Cantilo or Gustavo Cerati. It finished recording at Abbey Road Studios in London.
When it appeared, it was an unrivaled success. The songs played all day on the radio and in a week he had already sold 50,000 copies – his previous album, which had been considered successful, sold 30,000 in two months.
According to book data 50 years of rock in Argentina by the specialized journalist Marcelo Fernández Bitar, Páez filled the Gran Rex 10 times playing the album and ended up doing more than 120 concerts between 1992 and 1993, adding various tours. It is estimated that over the years it sold 1 million copies. “He made (Argentine rock) reach a point of massiveness never seen before,” said his friend, musician Tweety González, who was the programmer and keyboardist for the album, on the television program lp from 2008.
“It’s a record that was a real milestone. An impressive work wherever you look at it (…). There are albums that have filler songs, but you listen to this one from end to end and all (the songs) are hits”, journalist Marcelo Fernández Bitar commented a few days ago in the local Buenos Aires press.
A story that will surely pick up the series that Netflix is preparing about the life of the musician born in Rosario, who is precisely called the same way as the album. “If he had to tell me about a record, he could tell me about this album. It is one of the best albums I made, without a doubt”, said Fito Páez in that episode of lp.
Four hits to the HiHat cymbal of the drums. A brief and powerful gesture opens the entire album and the song that gives it its name: on this first track, The love after Love, everything advances in an enveloping escalation. First melodic, then with the voice of Fito Páez, until reaching that recognizable and monumental cry of the Argentinean Claudia Puyó in the choir. From there, what comes is a kind of celebration.
The song clearly alludes to his sentimental situation. If on her previous album she had dedicated Fue amor to Fabiana Cantilo and sang to her “it’s not okay to break a heart”, this time he said to Cecilia Roth “now I know that I can no longer live without your love”.
However, implicitly this song also speaks of a new energy of the artist; a declaration of principles that leaves the gloomy times behind and establishes that it is no longer possible to live without love. “The love that my grandmothers gave me helped me live when they were killed, they lived only for me. All that was not erased by a murderer. so when i did The love after Love, Many did not understand that I was not only talking about Cecilia… I was talking about my grandmothers. And for taking them with me. I know that living without love is a disease”, Páez would say years later.
two days in the lifetrack 2, is the song that Fito Páez made about the popular tape at that time, Thelma and Louisewhich had been launched in 1991. She is performed impeccably and energetically by Fabiana Cantilo and Celeste Carballo, taking over the characters of the film.
follows him Veronica that has electronic drums and a remarkable bass by Guillermo Vadalá, in addition to the piano, always present. It is the story of a shooting by Cecilia Roth in the middle of Holy Week scenes, in Rome.
Then in Traffic through Kathmanduone of the rockiest on the album, and also one of the most hopeless, Páez asks God for an explanation and alludes to AZT, the first drug to partially treat HIV: “I turned on the radio and listened, listened: 200 children die today without his AZT”, Páez sang.
the fifth song, salt petal, is a short and warm song of less than 3 minutes, which includes the piano and Fito’s voice, plus the guitars of Luis Alberto Spinetta and a verse that he sings himself. When Spinetta died 20 years later, in 2002, Páez celebrated the album’s two decades with a great concert in Buenos Aires in which he projected the skinny’s voice in front of an excited audience: “These years have something that makes me act like that. And tell you that I miss you, and I will see you happy.
Followed by the surreal Sacha, Sissi and the Circle of Baba, which tells a tragic love story inspired by a legend: a snake surrounds a toad in a circle of slime and the toad starves to death because it can’t get out. The video, in which Fito Páez and Cecilia Roth act and which was directed by the Argentine filmmaker Adolfo Aristarian, was censored for years on some television networks.
A dress and a love, track 7, is by far the most romantic song on the album –and probably in their complete discography–, and also one of the best known. In it, the musician talks about his history with Cecilia Roth; from her first meeting at a party in Punta del Este that Roth attended with a stunning and matched look (she arrived with a dress and a love). The song, which includes piano and violins, was composed by Fito in a very short time, while Roth was taking a shower, angry and after having thrown him out of the house. Leaving the bathroom, Páez sang it to her and they reconciled. It is one of the most successful songs by the musician, who has reissued it on four subsequent albums, and which has been remade by Mercedes Sosa, Miguel Bosé, Caetano Veloso and Ana Belén, among others.
tombs of glory it won every award after the album’s release. With rushed phrasing and a tango-tinged melody, the song is fascinating and complex. It alludes to the murders of his grandmothers-“he death came one day and swept away with a whole gale”-and it is also a kind of hymn of redemption for a man who has known pain. In addition to sampled guitars by Gustavo Cerati covered with keyboards, the song ends with the names of artists – which are heard backwards – of great personalities who influenced his life: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Luca Prodan, Janis Joplin or Che Guevara.
the ninth song, a magic wheel, stages Fito Páez, Charly García and Andrés Calamaro singing together. It is a kind of recognition of the lineage of Argentine rock. One of the verses was composed by Charly in the middle of the recording studio and in less than one morning: “I remember a day like today, I left home to play rock and roll and I never came back”.
I think sublimely touches the experience of love and heartbreak. “I don’t want anything to hurt us. I believe and that’s enough”, says this song with multiple interpretations, which was recorded with guitars and choirs by Gustavo Cerati.
follows him behind the wailing wall, the longest on the album, which pays tribute to Latin American folklore. It includes the unmissable voice of Mercedes Sosa and the participation of folklorists such as Lucho González, Chango Farías Gómez and Raúl Carnotta.
The album continues with the night Ballad of Donna Helenawhich starts out shy, but slowly takes on an extraordinary and wild flight through a story of sex and death.
track 13 is Brilliant on the mic, a song very loved by fans, because it is dedicated to his ex-love, Fabiana Cantilo, where he sings to her that time helps to forget, completing the circle and the maturity of love after love. “There are things that I will not forget, the night you stopped acting, just to give me love”, she sings to Cantilo, while she in turn is the one who does the choirs. When they have sung it together on stage, the complicity between the two is certainly moving.
“When I realized I was alive, I live forever and truly,” says Fito Páez in to roll my life, the best song he could have chosen to close this album and that he also usually uses at the end of his concerts while the audience beat their vests or shirts in circles. Optimistic and danceable, it might seem like a light song, but it is –finally– a way of declaring himself satisfied. The song was used in the Disney children’s series I am Luna: a sample button of the validity in the new generations that has a disc of three decades that is far from old.