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Vangelis' real name is Evangelos Oddysey Papathanasiou. He was born in Agria, 8 kilometer from Volos, Greece, March 29th 1943. Volos is a harbour-town, the capital of Magnesia, which lays 325 kilometers North West of Athens.
Map of Greece Click to enlarge
At an early age, young Vangelis and his family moved to Athens, where Evangelos grew up. He has one brother, Niko, who works as a musical engineer in Italy. Their father named Ulysses (1900-1982), was a painter and their mother was a singer. An aunt was a pianist. Vangelis’ musical talent most likely came:
“…from my mothers side. (…) But not in a professional way. They never performed. I saw music as a science, rather than an artform."
He used to try out everything he could find to hear what sound it could make. In the house there was a grandpiano. He did like to try all the sounds it could make, not only in the usual way.
In 1949, he gave his very first concert in front of 2000 spectators. His parents tried to make him take music lessons. But he ended-up completely self-taught.
“I have always felt that you should not borrow knowledge from others because personal experience and development are of utmost significance".
In 2002 he said about composing:
"I compose from nothing. (...) I am trying to be as much objective as a human being can be. Maybe that sounds a bit odd, but when I'm composing I see nothing. (...) As long as I remember my contact of the understanding of the world was sound. I couldn't say what kind of object it is if I couldn't touch it and hit it to hear the sound. Human beings are always trying to produce instruments and call it instruments in order to produce a sound, that is already in nature."
In late 1963 it all started: Tassos Papastamatis, Vangelis Papathanasiou, Vasilis Bakopoulos, Sotiris Arnis and Kostas Skokos formed The Forminx. They were all in school. It was a great time, with growing success. In 1964 The Forminx became very popular nationwide. The recordcompany Pan Vox tried to promote the band internationally, which was possible due to the fact that they recorded their lyrics in English. Outside Greece promos and singles were released in the USA, UK and Australia. And a film was made, a movie about the group itself, but this film never came to a release. This film, called "Troubles", told the story about a group of young musicians and their uprising success. The music for "Troubles" has never been released on LP or CD.
In the years of existance The Forminx released nine singles and one EP with Christmas songs and they made several soundtracks for films. Because of their success, The Forminx were asked to perform on yet another movie, called "Theodore And The Double Barrel Shotgun" (in Greek "Ο Θοδωρος και το Δικανο".) This movie was directed by Dimos Dimpoulos and was released in 1962. When a lady goes to a bar, there is a band playing. The band is The Forminx. This is the very first time Vangelis, without beard, appears on the screen. In Greece this movie is released on DVD.
A third movie The Forminx helped maving the soundtrack is "My brother the traffic policeman" (Ο αδελφός μου ο αστυνομικός κυκλοφορίας) It is directed by Greek director Filipas Filaktos and was released in 1963.
The Forminx were very populair. Vangelis was seen as a big star. At this time, Vangelis was the first person in Greece who had a Hammond organ and he adjusted the settings to get strange sounds, just like he did with the piano in his youth. At the end of summer 1966 Vangelis met Demis Roussos. They got to know eachother when Lucas Sideras took Demis, aged 22, to his youthfriend Vangelis who lived with his parents in Athens. Lucas, Demis and Anarchyris Koulouris made music together since 1963, and they named themselves "The Minis" The four boys rehearsed some time and they decided that they should leave the country to try their succes outside Greece. To earn money they gave small concerts sometimes at the Hilton hotel. On April 21st 1967 general Papadopoulos took over power in Greece. It became nearly impossible to work as an artist. Many painters, musicians, sculpters and other artists left their country to build up a new life elsewhere. It's unknown if this was the main reason why The Forminx was disbanded, but at the top of their success the boys stopped their co-operation.The Forminx split up at the end of 1966.
The Forminx (1963 - 1966) From left to right: Vangelis, Tassos Papastamatis, Kostas Skokos, Sortiris Arnis, Vasilis Backopoulos
The start of a new era
The Forminx wasn't a band anymore but the name was still used. There is a demotrack on vinyl called “Plastics Nevermore”, the first track of Aphrodite’s Child, but they were still called “The Forminx". Sometimes another name like “The Papathanassiou Set” or “Mr. Papathanassiou and his orchestra" was used.
In this time Vangelis recorded music with many different Greek artists, while travelling around. Artists as Aleka Kanelidou, Maria, Zoitsa Kouroukli, The Minis, George Romanos, Ricardo Credi and Vilma Ladopoulos, known as Vilma Lado. It is known that Vangelis had a relationship with Vilma. He recorded “Une Etoile / Le Vent” some days before Vangelis and Vilma left Greece for London, and to end up in France. With George Romanos he recorded five songs, four of them were released on Romanos’ LP “In concert and in the studio”. The missing one is “The Clock”, which was released with and without Romanos singing. The one without his lyrics was released by "Vangelis and his group" and also included the track “Our love sleeps on the water”. The members of this band were the same boys who later became known as Aphrodite’s Child: Evangelos Papathanasiou (leader/piano/organ, Loukas Sideras (drums) and Anarchyros Koulouris (guitars). Early 1967 Vangelis asked Demis Roussos (singer) to join them. But the boys came to the conclusion that if they wanted to have a succesfull career, they couldn’t stay in Greece.
So they decided to leave the country, heading for London. At the time, the UK was seen as the place to be for pop musicians. Once he left school, Vangelis had the idea to leave the country and now, the time had come to do so. Loukas, Demis and Anarchyros left Greece together. Vangelis and his girlfriend Vilma would leave some days later. In 1991, Vangelis said about this:
"Ooh, I think it was a mixture of reasons and I think it was a time that I had to leave my country then. But we have the tendency all the time to turn it to political. Because it’s better for… it creates more interest. Well, I cannot say it was a very nice period, but then I was very very young, after school, I felt that I had to leave, so I left. Mainly for technological things, because I think the technological was much more developed in other countries. But I wonder if I’ve ever left Greece. In my heart."
One of the first movies Vangelis recorded music for, was "Epiheirisis Apollon" in English translated as "Apollo Goes On Holiday". This movie was showed in Belgium, Greece and Spain. Another movie which Vangelis made music for is Frenzy, the famous story which was also filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Epiherisis Apollon (1968) with a snippet of "Road Song"
A fragment of Frenzy by Jan Christian (1968)
Talking about leaving Greece, this romantic roadmovie must have taken Vangelis back to Greece in his mind. There is only one song Vangelis made, with the name "Road Trip". Besides a release as free giveaway DVD with a Greek magazine, this movie has never seen a release. The Road Trip song is only to be found on an illegal bootleg CD, called "Apollo Goes on Holiday" In 2008 the Greek singer Agni covered the song for her CD. So only this cover is the way to hear the music legally.
Click here to see some pics of The Forminx (under construction)
On the way to London
Leaving Greece wasn’t easy. First of all, Anarchyros received his military call-up papers and he was forced to go back to Greece to undertake military service. The target of their journey was London via France. But at the port of Dover, Loukas and Demis were refused entrance to the UK due to problems with their work permits. They were forced to go back to France where a nationwide transport strike was going on, the first signs of the French unrest of 1968. The album Fais Que Ton Rêve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit tells the story of this unrest.
The first issue LP of Fais Que Ton Reve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit (1972))
Rain and Tears". In 1999 Demis Roussos said about Rain and Tears:
Demis heard that Vangelis had arrived in Paris, March 26th. For him, it was a big surprise Vangelis would meet his friends here, as he assumed that they were in London. So, the boys were struck in Paris. Without money, without work, sleeping in cheap hotels. There was nothing else to do but to try to earn some money. Because they were not able to speak French properly and because of the political unrest, it was impossible to arrange concerts. Loukas and Vangelis spent hours and hours at the postoffice trying to get a telephoneconnection with their parents in Athens. Maybe they could help the boys out with wired money. When he left his homecountry, Vangelis had a contract with Phonogram Greece. They came across a meeting of international Phonogram officials. Pierre Seberro, an executive of Philips Records France, signed them to Philips’ label Mercury. This contract was worth nothing. The band would receive very little money, but finally there was a chance to record music. The company introduced Boris Bergman to the band, who wrote the lyrics for the first big international succes of Aphrodite's Child: "
"The idea of Rain and Tears came from the gasbombs the police used at the studentupheavals. The bombs produced some 'rain', which made your eyes wet. The tears".
Click here to listen to a fragment of Pachelbel's Canon, on which Rain and Tears is based upon.
Aphrodite’s Child was a big success. Throughout Europe many singles were released. Next to that, the band released LP’s and 7” in Brazil and Chile, USA, Lebanon, Singapore, Israël, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Venezuela, Angola, Iran, Argentina and Peru. This list is possibly complete! No lists of discography are complete as it comes to Vangelis, by the way. In 1969 the second LP “It’s five o’clock” came out. By this time it was possible to come to London and they recorded their LP in Soho, at the Trident Studios. That is the same studio where e.g. “Hey Jude” of the Beatles (1968) was recorded. Anarchyros returned to the boys and joined the band for the recordings of it. In 1969 some irritation about the musical direction of the group showed up. Vangelis wanted to go 'deeper' with his own style and his wish to make more sophisticated music met with resistance. The recordlabel didn't want to take the risk of releasing the next album, 666, for it was too experimental in their eyes and could probably be seen as blasphemy. Moreover, Vangelis wanted to stop touring to take more time and realize this new style of music. Demis couldn't afford stop touring, for it was the only income he had. Lucas Sideras started his own career in music and he released his own singles. Click here to view two examples. Vangelis recieved more money because he was the owner of the musical copyright as composer. While Vangelis finished 666, Demis and Anarchyris toured on. Just before 666 came out, the band was disbanded. The double album 666 was the last LP and became another big hit. This album has been pressed in several countries like USA, Japan, Germany and Greece.
There are some trivia to tell regarding the famous 666 LP. All over the world all the pressings are the same, exept for the Greek ones. They have some dfferent cuts in the music. In Japan, there is an extraordinary pressing with a different sleeve, a drawing of a Citroën 2CV crashing into a brickwall. A very rare pressing. A proof that Aphrodite's Child was such a succes, is the numerous covers band made worldwide of A.C.'s hits. Listen here to a fragment of Rain and Tears, performed by Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra.
Vangelis: “Right from the start I was only interested in playing my own music, not other peoples. When I moved to Paris I worked my way up through the music industry to make enough money to build up a studio of my own. We had a milion-seller and then another. I hate it when a project I’m involved in, but don’t particularly like, becomes succesful. I found myself doing things that I couldn’t bear at the time, but I don’t have any regrets as they were the means to an end.”
In 1975 Vangelis looked back:
"I like the whole spectrum of music. Jazz, pop, rock, the classics. I have no taboos, any kind of music is great, so long as it is honest. So I'm glad to help any artist whom I like. You see, I don't regard myself primarily as a producer. It's just that I have so many ideas, I can't put them all on my own records. Production allows me more flexability, more outlets. I was a prisoner of Aprodite's Child for three years, in the end I was desperate. I was forced in to the position of turning out music that didn't interest me because of our own success. When I first went to Paris, I had lots of ideas that I wanted the group to be. But I realised that, as a new and foreign act, we had to create confidence in ourselves from the record company. And that confidence comes only from proving that you can earn money for them. What I didn't realised is, that having created a precedent, it's very difficult to diverge from it. It takes years to change your product. I have no regrets about that period, but it did waste a lot of time."
The time of Aphrodite’s Child was a period he had to work through. To make music that would sell, in order to make money to fulfill his dreams of his “own” music and studio. When the riots in Paris and later the whole of France were going on, the first steps were taken to make “Fais Que Ton Rêve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit” (May your dreams last longer than the night) On this album a newsreporter is talking about the clearance of Sorbonne University by the police. This news is recorded off radio in 1968 by Luc Perini. The rest of the album is made in 1972. In this year, Vilma Ladopoulous and Vangelis their relationship came to an end. She now lives in Athens (2007).
Demis Roussos looked back to the first years of Aphrodite's Child in 2008 for Dutch television. In "Top 2000", broadcasted at the end of the year 2008, he said:
"When we founded Aphrodite's Child with Vangelis, we both knew inside without really saying out loud, that I was gonna be the vehicle to carry his music oput of Greece. Greece was a small place, this was not Europe. He was going to be the vehicle to carry my voice out. This was a sort of agreement. When we became known and famous we knew we had to stop. He was going his way and I was going my way. And we both did that with a lot of success."
Click here to see some more pics of Aphrodite's Child
Vangelis and Henry Chapier
In 1969, somehow in Paris, Vangelis and Henry Chapier got together. Henry is a French actor, director, writer, radio- and televisionjournalist and programmehost. He was born November 14th, 1933 in Bucarest. He played several small roles in films like "Les Idoles" (1964) "Erotissimo" (1968) "Un Homme Et Une Femme: Vingt Ans Deja" (1986) and "Comme Des Rois" (1987). Chapier and Vangelis agreed to co-operate and Vangelis received commission to make the score for “Sex Power”. After the break-up of Aphrodite’s Child, Demis Roussos and Vangelis remained good friends. Vangelis made the score, Demis sung some parts on it.
Sex Power, featuring Jane Birkin, Alain Moury and Bernadette Lafont was part of the 18th Filmfestival of San Sebastien. It received a Silver Shell. The festival was held 5 – 14 July 1970. Chapier’s second movie (his first is “Un été Américain”) is not a soft porn movie as most sources claim, but a story told in many flashbacks and -forwards. It is an art movie, told in many likely loose scenes. There is no plot, no real end like most movies have, Sex Power is in the way of storytelling quite unique. The press wasn’t too enthousiastic about the film. Guy Hennebelle, a French filmjournalist, wrote in 1970:
“Nobody would doubt, if one would, that the 1960 generation gave a lot of not to neglect creators to French cinema. (...) Robert Benayoun, Cournot, Yves Boisset, Maurice Labro, Pierre Philippe and Gilson let us wait impatiently for their next films. Henry Chapier’s Sex Power would really not disturb that situation. This pretentious and overestimated film shows a fundamental inaptness and goes beyond the theory of filmmaking. It is not the intentions of Henry Chapier that are dishonourable and would be made really perceptible by one or another collegue. It is especially the bathing in boredom what is most regrettable and his avowed workout in a much too mannered style. And he loves bric-a-brac, an extraordinary way of makebelieve of intelligence and sensibillity, to show but not to appear what makes it irritant.”
An eyewitness wrote about the reaction of the audience at the film festival:
“Nods to other entries, such as Henry Chapier’s "Sex Power" were met with philosophical indulgence and polite applause".
Click here to see the Sex Power movie poster
The rare LP of Sex Power
After Sex Power two other movies were made by mister Chapier and Vangelis. "Salut Jerusalem" (1972) is a film without actors. This documentary has finally seen daylight to the public after 40 years on DVD and as stream on the French televisionarchive INA.fr. The third movie made by Chapier and second movie scored by Vangelis is “Amore”. A dreamy scored movie, the music has never been released separately like Sex Power, but is heard in the movie. Mister Chapier is now director of “@rt outsiders”, a French photography festival.
Vangelis and Frédéric Rossif
In Paris, around 1970, another co-operation started. Vangelis and the French documentary filmer Frédéric Rossif got to know eachother. It was the start of a very long friendship and a fertile co-operation. This ended April 18th 1990 with the death of mister Rossif. He is buried in graveyard Montparnasse in Paris. He made an impressive list of films, several of them are made with the music of Vangelis. Most of that music is never released on LP or CD so it could be heard only within the documentaries.
Hypothesis / The Dragon
In May 1971, Tony Oxley (drums), Brian Odger (bass guitar), Vangelis (keyboards) and Michel Ripoche (violin) jammed away at the Marquee Studios in London. Without any rehearsal they made a recording on a master tape.This recording was produced by Giorgio Gomelsky. The second time they jammed away together was in June 1971 with Arghiris on guitar, (the same Archyris Koulouris of Aphrodite’s Child) Michel Ripoche, Brian Odger, Mick Waller (drums) and Phil Dunne (engineer). The first jamsession is known as Hypothesis, the second one as The Dragon. Both recordings came out for the first time in 1978, but none of the musicians had given their permission for a release of the recordings. A lawsuit followed, the artists won and the records were taken out of the shops immediately. Despite of that, the vinyl is still quite easy to obtain, secondhand. There are illegal CD's in shops everywhere, but still they are illegal! The sleeve of Hypothesis is made by Angus McKie. The picture used for the sleeve of The Dragon is made by Terry Oakes. It is based upon the books by H.P. Lovecraft.
Tony Oxley, pictures taken and provided by Hans Kumpf
L' Apocalypse des Animaux / Earth
L ' Apocalypse des animaux and Earth were two new records, brought to public in 1973. They became worldwide hits. L' apocalypse des Animaux is a compilation of music that was made for the same titled wildlife documentary by Frederic Rossif. That is a reason why this LP isn't listed as Vangelis first solo album. Much of the music there was never included on the LP. Dick Morresey helped Vangelis out on one track. The first French LP pressing shows a track time of more than 17 minutes. Strange, all other pressings show a tracktime of ten minutes. Unfortunately, the track is no longer as those ten minutes, even on the French first pressing. A little mistake on the LP's sleeve. The music is very slow, relaxing, it sounds a bit like new age music of later times.
1st issue of Apocalypse des Animaux LP USA LP of Earth LP
Earth is a studio album recorded at Europa Sonor in Paris. The black and white sleeve shows a curlheaded Vangelis in close-up. There is a 7" made of this LP, which is quite rare to find nowadays. In 1974 Vangelis moved from Paris to London. There he set up his own studio, to realize a dream he had some time before. On this website, this period is called “The Nemo Years”.
The Early Years
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