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Did Punk Rock Begin At A Cinema In Peru? These Psychos Think So
September 15, 2012
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Where did punk rock get started? Tough question. Was it at CBGB in NYC in the late seventies? Or over in the UK with Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols? Or maybe somewhere more obscure, like San Francisco?

How about Lima, Peru in the mid-1960s?

That's where a band called Los Saicos (The Psychos) used to play. And the local government seems to believe that the band kicked off the whole movement. A plaque in Lima reads "this is the place where punk music began."

Unlike later punk icons like The Clash and The Ramones, Los Saicos didn't play at a bar - they would rock out at the local matinee cinema to try to entice more people to go see the movie. In between love ballads, the band would play hard and fast tunes about prison breaks, funerals and destruction.

Check out a short Guardian documentary about the band below.

During their original mid-60s run, the band only recorded about a dozen songs. They were inspired by Elvis and the Beatles, but they didn't have the musical training or the equipment to imitate their idols accurately. The guitarist even built his own instrument in order to play shows.

Until recently, Los Saicos didn't receive a lot of attention outside of their native Peru. But the band's biggest song, 'Demolicion,' has been an underground hit for decades.

Nowadays it's serving as an anthem for both political protesters in Peru and drug barons in Mexico. Drummer Pancho Guevara says, "I heard a report from Mexico that the bosses of drug cartels drive into town in trucks with speakers playing it at full volume."

The band's claim to being the originators of the punk genre got a boost in December when the Spanish Dictionary of Punk and Hardcore named them the world's first punk band.

"They are definitely the first to play what later became punk. There was no name for that at the time, but the riffs are definitely punk," said Jose Beramendi, the producer of the documentary 'Saicomania.'

So did Los Saicos start punk? The idea is definitely controversial. They didn't look like punks back in the sixties - no Mohawks and no safety pins.


And rock historians have pointed out that bands like The Sonics and The Trashmen were producing loud, loose tunes at the same time that Los Saicos started performing.

Even the band members don't take the label too seriously. "I don't know what 'punk' is," said Guevara. "We wanted to play rock'n'roll, but this is the sound that came out."

These days, the surviving members of Los Saicos (guitarist Rolando Carpio died in 2005) are back together and playing shows. They've played in Spain, Argentina and Mexico. The remaining members are all in their sixties.

For more on the band, check out the full trailer for the documentary 'SaicoMania' below.

Related stories on Strombo.com:

Punk's Not Dead - But It's Under Arrest In Indonesia

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