Alexis Petridis*2 “Vangelis wasn’t just a film composer – he blew apart the boundaries of pop” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/may/20/vangelis-film-composer-pop-music
The Forminx were successful in Greece, but it clearly wasn’t enough for Papathanassiou, who claimed his earliest musical endeavours involved experimenting, John Cage-style, with the sound of radio interference. After the Forminx broke up, he took up a career writing film scores before forming Aphrodite’s Child with another refugee from the Greek beat scene, singer and bassist Demis Roussos.
They were a completely different proposition from anything that had emerged from the country before, a product of the anything-goes atmosphere engendered by psychedelia. Their first two albums, End of the World and It’s Five O’Clock, offered a vast range of styles that had sprung up around the summer of love, from droning raga-rock on The Grass Is No Green to A Whiter Shade of Pale-inspired balladry on It’s Five O’Clock’s gorgeous title track; from You Always Stand In My Way’s heavy riffing to Mister Thomas’s mock vaudeville. Crucially, they didn’t just sound like a pale imitation: Roussos’s vocals – high, tremulous, but powerful – clearly weren’t from an Anglo-American rock tradition; nor was their use of bouzouki. In fact, Aphrodite’s Child occasionally didn’t sound like anyone else, as on the amazing warped funk-rock of Funky Mary.
Demis Roussos, Vangelis and Lucas Sideras of Aphrodite’s Child. Photograph: Chris Walter/WireImage
This uniqueness was underlined on their masterpiece, 1972’s astonishing double concept album 666, which delivered 77 minutes of wildly experimental music that touched on jazz, proto-metal, prog and stuff that still defies explication: it’s variously becalmed, richly melodic, punishingly heavy and, on ∞ (Infinity), unsettling. It was an incredible achievement, but it attracted less attention than the band’s earlier European hit singles. In any case, by the time of its release, Aphrodite’s Child had split, the other band members apparently unhappy with the increasingly avant-garde direction Papathanassiou’s music was taking.
He also unexpectedly developed a parallel career as a pop star, in the company of Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, an Aphrodite’s Child fan who had contributed to Heaven and Hell and Opera Sauvage. The three albums they released as Jon and Vangelis deftly bridged the gap between prog rock and the vogue for synth-pop. The songs were often long (the title track of 1981’s The Friends of Mr Cairo lasted the best part of 15 minutes) and, as always with Anderson, the lyrics tended to the opaque and ponderous – but Papathanassiou’s music was richly melodic and the sound of Anderson’s high voice in an electronic landscape was appealing. I Hear You Now, from their first album together, Short Stories, and I’ll Find My Way Home, from The Friends of Mr Cairo, were British hit singles, but their most lasting track proved to be the emotive State of Independence, from the same album, and subsequently alighted on by producer Quincy Jones and covered, brilliantly, by Donna Summer.
Then again, Papathanassiou didn’t need to dabble in rock and pop music: by the 1990s, his impact on those genres had become clear. Like Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to Risky Business, his score for Blade Runner – finally released in 1994 – became a set text within dance music, repeatedly covered by trance artists, sampled by the Future Sound of London, Unkle, Air and drum’n’bass producer Dillinja (Boards of Canada, meanwhile, alighted on his 1976 soundtrack to French wildlife documentary La Fete Sauvage). The rest of his back catalogue was creatively plundered in hip-hop circles: by Outkast, Jay-Z, Company Flow and, again and again, by J Dilla.
*2:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090309/1236622473 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100728/1280293011 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110729/1311871264 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120603/1338745679 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120708/1341677438 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20131028/1382925103 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20140901/1409591774 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160422/1461293723 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20161027/1477538541 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20161229/1482985097 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20170313/1489332422 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/20171001/1506871085 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/20171006/1507222739 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2019/10/07/101533 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2020/05/07/093756 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2020/05/07/104014 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2020/09/16/225732 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2021/01/19/142132 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2021/12/13/110420 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2022/01/22/093236 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/2022/02/24/112934