VIBE VIVA spotlights some of music’s most essential timepieces for Gen Y. Listen up.
Claim To Fame: Signing with then major Mexican record label Orfeón.
Elevator Pitch: Kaleidoscope began in 1967 in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a psychedelic band of teenagers — Raphael Cruz on the drums, Orlando Vazquez on the guitar, and vocalist Frank Tirado. The garage psych crew also went to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to play a weekend engagement, after which they ended up staying there for more than a year.
Why They Mattered: “We were for the “New Man” (a hippie/political term once used to describe a male who accepted equality on all playing fields) and for the active exploration of the mind,” Frank tells us. “Our album includes many examples of our views and experiences, such as “Colours” (a psychedelic experience laced with fear and Zappa humor) which was our only hit in Mexico, and “New Man”.”
It’s equally important to note that Kaleidoscope recorded music at a time where there was no production control, nor any adult supervision. They were simply operating under a sort of rawness made palpable by teenage heartbreaks and fantasies.
Musical Influences: The beatnik collective was influenced by the psychedelic bands of the late ’60s: Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, Hendrix and Frank Zappa.
Songs To Spin: ““Colours” is the song I am proudest of, because it is captures the essence of the psychedelic era,” Frank mentions. ““Let me try” because of its drive, its organ, and its breakup lyrics. “PS Come Back” for a personal experience.”
Bet You Didn’t Know: By the time Kaleidoscope got the contract with Orfeón in Mexico, they had picked up Frank’s brother Pol as lead singer and soon began to change their sound to “Latin rock.” In fact, soon after breaking their contract with Orfeón in 1970, the band changed their name to “Latino” and decided to move to the Big Apple.
Bet You Also Didn’t Know: Only 600 copies of their sole album was sold! “Because of the open references to hippie lifestyle values,” explains Franks, “Orfeón was not sure if they should actually release the album, and decided to send it to the radio stations and put us on a tour of Mexican cities.” Today, original copies of their debut album sell for a whopping $8,000.
On Touring In The Late ’60s: “It was a great experience. We loved the audiences and the loved us right back. The local Mexican bands and musicians were excellent,” Frank recalls, “and we all had a great time together during the tours. When we moved back to the U.S. we got mixed results during our cross-country from California to New York.
“During our tours in Mexico, the producers hired a psychedelic lightshow team from California, and they had the craziest after-the-show parties we had ever experienced. Kind of a “Momma told me not to come” situation,” he added.
The Breakup: The band called it quits when members found themselves wanting to go in different directions, musically. Some even felt the need to “go back to school.”
The Revival: Beyoncé sampled Kaleidoscope’s “Let Me Try” on Lemonade, a 12-track visual album that premiered exclusively on HBO. The instrumental specifically lives on “Freedom,” a liberation anthem dedicated to black women. The inspiration behind the original version by the band, however, pulls from love and heartbreak — a desperate teenage cry to the world.
Synopsis: If nothing else, Bey’s new LP introduced us to a cadre of musical acts we might not have engaged with otherwise. Kaleidoscope, for one, is a noteworthy throwback in the conversation of music that bridges the millennial experience in a climate of political upheaval and a past generation having similarly faced multiple concerns about war, democracy and the lack of collective power.
And while the band is no longer rocking as a unit (Raphael Cruz is a Jazz musician in New York, Orlando Vazquez blogs as “Don Jibaro” and Frank Tirado serves as an IT consultant in D.C.), the bevy of then radicals at least has given others like them the permission to move into non-specifically Latin genres, leaving behind a catalog of music for a youth swimming in the tide of growing pains and despair.
A more in-depth interview with Francisco Tirado can be found, here.