CULTURE

Tribute night for late rocker

A little over 12 years have elapsed since the death of pioneering Greek rock musician Pavlos Sidiropoulos, but tributes have been held regularly since then to reflect a lasting appreciation of the man widely credited for merging the Greek language, and to a lesser extent Greek music, with rock at a time when these fields were considered incongruent. The latest tribute, this Thursday, will be held, fittingly, at the An Club in the capital’s Exarchia district (13-15 Solomou Street, tel 210.330.5056), a stomping ground for Sidiropoulos. He died of a heroin overdose on December 6, 1990, at the age of 42, after two decades as a peripheral musical figure who produced deeply personal work that eloquently conveyed an anguished life. Thursday’s tribute has been coordinated by one of Sidiropoulos’s close friends and self-proclaimed fans, Dimitris Dimitrakas, who has fronted several local groups since the early 1980s, including Panx Romana. Dimitrakas will deliver a career-spanning set of Sidiropoulos songs backed by his current outfit, Hroma. The evening will also feature audible excerpts of an old Sidiropoulos interview – conducted by Dimitrakas himself, just days before the rocker’s untimely demise, for the local station Rock FM during a stint there as a radio producer – and projections of old photos. The tribute will end with a screening of «O Asymvivastos,» a feature film starring Sidiropoulos, one of the charismatic figure’s several acting side-projects. Dimitrakas also plans to present some of his own material during the show’s latter half. «I intend to talk a bit, too, and recall some older stories. But I don’t want this whole thing to be blown up and billed as the latest in the series of Sidiropoulos tributes. I’d rather think of it as a simple way of showing that we haven’t forgotten him,» said Dimitrakas in a telephone interview, during which he stressed the strong appeal he had felt for Sidiropoulos the artist. «I was a big fan and a regular at his shows. Why? Wherever and whenever Pavlos played, the atmosphere stunk of rock ‘n’ roll – absolutely. There’s no doubt, he was an original. And that was important for me as a younger person,» Dimitrakas added. The two never collaborated directly, but their respective groups did share stages on numerous occasions for double-header shows in the early 1980s. Recalling his interview with Sidiropoulos, days before the artist’s death, Dimitrakas recalled a jovial interviewee focusing his thoughts on music, without referring to sociopolitical issues, a common inclination for the politically aware musician. There were no obvious signs, Dimitrakas noted, of an impending end. «He spoke cheerfully and was full of humor, but it’s hard to tell with heroin addicts. I suppose the only ominous sign was that bandaged arm, which left a question hanging in the air,» said Dimitrakas, referring to a paralyzed arm Sidiropoulos had carried during his final months. Sidiropoulos, who was born in Athens but spent his first seven years living in Thessaloniki before the family resettled in the capital, where the youngster’s father launched a paper-producing business, eventually returned to the second city in 1970, at 22, to study mathematics. It was during these early student days that Sidiropoulos turned to music instead. Over the first 10 years he worked with various outfits before settling with a more permanent band, Aprosarmostous, from 1980 until his end. While studying in Thessaloniki, Sidiropoulos formed his first outfit, a duet, with Pantelis Deliagiannidis, whose group, the Olympians, was virtually through after enjoying considerable commercial success here with Greek-language Western pop in the late 1960s. Together the duet released just one single, and was also included on a live compilation album, «Live at Kyttaro,» with two tracks. During performances at the Kyttaro venue, the pair met and formed what developed into a key merger with another regular act, Bourboulia, the backing band of Dionysis Savvopoulos at the time. It was through this collaboration, between 1972 and 1974, that Sidiropoulos began displaying an interest in fusing rock with Greek music. In the mid-1970s, Sidiropoulos side-stepped in order to sing on two albums by the composer Yiannis Marcopoulos, «Oropedio» and «Thessalikos Kyklos,» before refocusing on his specifically Greek brand of rock again. In 1976, Sidiropoulos released a signature album, «Flou,» with his backing group at the time, Spyridoula. Later, in 1985, he released another local rock classic, «Zorba the Freak,» with contributions, including production, by another groundbreaker in Greek rock, Dimitris Poulikakos. Both are widely regarded as the prime instigators of the local rock scene. Yiannis Angelakas, frontman of the Thessaloniki-based band Trypes, probably the country’s most popular rock act over the past decade, testifies to their influence in comments that appear on a Sidiropoulos website: «Pavlos is a saint of the Greek rock circuit. He departed before seeing the results of the seeds that he sowed. No matter what goes on these days stems from Pavlos and Poulikakos.»