To Paul Bottomer, the creator and the driving force
behind “Today’s Tango Is…”, with appreciation.
Juan D’Arienzo and Rodofo Biagi met in the end of 1935, overnight turned upside down the whole tango world… and broke up only two and half years later, in the middle of 1938. The common legend about the break up tells us that one evening, when the orquesta was performing vals “Lágrimas and Sonrisas”, Biagi was on fire, and the crowd would not stop applauding, until Biagi rose from his sit, and produced a slightest bow. Maddened D’Arienzo jumped to Biagi, and whispered to his ear, “I am the only star in my orquesta! And you are fired!” While this incident indeed might have taken place, if we look at the history of their recordings, the story might look just a bit different…
The very first recording session occurred on the last day of 1935. At this day they recorded vals “Orillas del Plata” and tango “Nuevo de Julio” (9th of July). Now, 9th of July is the Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Independence Act by the Congress de Tucuman in 1816. However, the events leading to this act started with the the May’s Revolution of 1810, followed by six years of the Independence War. Was D’Arienzo indeed making a statement of an upcoming tango revolution by choosing “Nuevo de Julio” for his first recording with Biagi? Was it “just” a foresight? Or was it a pure coincidence?
The last recording session occurred on June 22, 1938. In this session they have recorded instrumental “Champagne tango” and “Pensalo bien” with Alberto Echagüe vocal. While “Champagne tango” was quite a famous tango, “Pensalo bien” (“Think it over!”) was never recorded before this session… and, as a matter of fact was never recorded after, as well: https://youtu.be/VniBL1hkTuA
If the name of this tango have not arisen any suspicions yet, you just have to read its lyrics:
antes de dar ese paso,
que tal vez mañana acaso
no puedas retroceder.
ya que tanto te he querido,
y me has echado al olvido
tal vez por otro querer.
Or in English:
Think it over,
before taking that step,
for maybe tomorrow,
you may not back down.
Think it over,
for so much I’ve loved you,
and you cast me into oblivion
perhaps for another love.
Well, the incident with “Lágrimas y sonrisas” obviously have not occurred yet. Then what are those words? A warning? A foresight? A coincidence? Pensalo bien…
The music of “Pensalo bien” was composed by Juan Visciglio. Never heard of him? Well, neither did I. Juan Visciglio was a bandoneon player in D’Arienzo orquesta. In total he composed 2 (two) tangos, “Pensalo Bien”, 1938 and “Que Dios te ayude“, 1939, both performed by D’Arienzo. Were they written on request, for some special occasion? Pensalo bien…
The lyrics is signed by two names – Nolo López and Julio Alberto. Julio Alberto wrote 2 (two) tangos. Both performed by D’Arienzo. This is all we know about him. Pensalo bien…
Nolo López is much better known. He was the author of the lyrics for famous “Huracán”, “Illusion de mi vida” and “Adiós para siempre”. One of his first tangos was “Chirusa”, to the music of Juan D’Arienzo himself. D’Arienzo obviously liked it as he recorded “Chirusa” three times during his career. However, López lyrics would often, if not always, follow the already written music, such as “Huracán” or “Ilusion de mi vida”. Also a quote from Todo Tango about his lyrics is quite intriguing:
He is rather a story teller of short stories or situations that include characters of Buenos Aires, some times in a romantic mood, and in others, an eclectic one. He did not achieve an outstanding success because of his lyrics but it was rather due to the music that contained them and because of the great orchestras that included his numbers in their songbooks.
But this is definitely not the end of the story yet. After the split with Biagi, D’Arienzo is back in the recording studio with Juan Polito only two weeks later – on July 8, 1938. So, just in two weeks D’Arienzo managed to select and train a new pianist, prepare the arrangements, so that Polito could sound at least somewhat similar to Biagi and went back to the recording studio? And what did they record there? They recorded the famous “Nada más” (“I want nothing, nothing more than you not leaving me”), which was also Ada’s Falcón last plea to Francisco Canaro (see “Tango stories: Nada mas”)
And, to finish the story, Rodolfo Biagi not only formed his full orquesta with a singer Teófilo Ibáñez within less than two months after the split. He also managed to secure a contract with Radio Belgrano, as well as a recording contract with RCA Victor, and, on his very first session on August 15th, 1938 he recorded his own composition, a tango named “Gólgota” (“Golgotha”), with quite telling line “I was not allowed more than the comfort of my nights of bohemia, dreams mixed with alcohol, but I want just be alone, by myself…”: https://youtu.be/UgPirWE0m40
Here is a short summary of the events, pensalo bien…
- On their last recording session together, D’Arienzo forewarns Biagi with the voice of Alberto Echagüe “Think it over, as there will be no return”.
- The music is composed by a member of D’Arienzo orquesta known for as much as one more tango. The lyrics for both of them was written by the same poet.
- The lyrics is written by a poet who “liked to tell short stories of situations that include characters of Buenos Aires”, a very old friend of D’Arienzo
- Only two weeks later, D’Arienzo is back in the studio, recording “Nada más”, with his own music and freshly re-written lyrics begging “I want nothing, nothing more than you not leaving me”
- Only one more month later, Biagi fully forms his own orquesta, and on the first recording session replies with “Golgotha”, his own, freshly written tango where he begs to allow him to carry his own cross.
These were the facts. The only conclusion that I can possibly draw from them is that Rodolfo Biagi was longing for his own orquesta for quite a while before June 1938. And, this way or another, Juan D’Arienzo himself, as well as some of his friends and orquesta members, knew about it. The break up was a painful ordeal for both and did not happen overnight. As for the incident with “Lágrimas y sonrisas” quoted in the beginning, even if it actually happened, it was a consequence of Biagi desire to take his own path, not at all the cause of the split between the two pioneers of the Golden Age.