The reason that inspired “Como dos extraños”
t is an excellent tango that the composer, with his own orchestra and Juan Carlos Casas on vocals, committed to record on June 28, 1940 for the Victor label, and which he would cut again in 1969 with his new quintet for the Microfón label in a long-playing record that included twelve pieces.
A tango piece with a wide acclaim in its time which was falling into oblivion together with the lack of interest for our tango music, in general —from the 60’s on— and, especially, because our youth turned to rock ‘n’ roll and other foreign rhythms.
In this case, something that is worthwhile mentioning, because it is curious, happened. As long as the singers of the glorious past of tango were passing away, the songbooks were shrinking to such an extent that they were cut down to a couple of dozen classics, and many beautiful pieces were forgotten: such is the case with “Como dos extraños”. The last important recording of it was by Floreal Ruiz with the José Basso orchestra in 1961. But one day, back in the late 80’s, more precisely, in May 1989, Roberto Goyeneche recorded it with the accompaniment of the group led by Néstor Marconi, and picked it up again from the storehouse of memory. Two years later, Adriana Varela did the same, and since then an amazing comeback has ensued, and it was included in repertoires and recordings of a large number of singers, especially female singers.
It is not the only example, but it is the most significant. There were other forgotten tangos, maybe with a similar attraction, but this was the one chosen for the beginning of a revival that, later, made other exquisite pieces of the forties come out of their lethargy.
The story was the following: Pedro Laurenz delivered its melody to José María Contursi, who was a loyal follower of Aníbal Troilo, when the latter played at the Marabú. There, the poet came to know about something peculiar. Good-looking girls were needed to work at that cabaret. One of them, who had come from the province of Córdoba, was soon hired because of her beauty. Time later, she fell in love with a worker of the locale, who was also from Córdoba.
The relationship was growing in intensity and they promised themselves a happy future, but one evening a man appeared and went straight to her, held her forcefully by her hair and dragged her toward the stairs that led to the street. Everybody reacted, but the man was no gangster, he did not draw a weapon from his pocket but something more convincing instead: a marriage license. She was his wife and he had come to bring her back. It seems that the waiter went on with his job and did not let a single tray fall down. But his spirits were awfully down.
A couple of years passed and the memory of that woman stayed unaltered in the boy’s head. His work-mates encouraged him to go to fetch her. Finally, with a great effort, he went to Córdoba. He had some information and contacts and took advantage of a leave. It was not easy, but he found her at a storehouse where she waited on behind a counter. He was surprised when he saw her fat, untidy, with worn-out clothes and her eyes with no sparkle. How had she changed so much in so little time? Only those who have undergone a situation like that may understand what that man felt.
Surely, Contursi heard the story told by the hurt party himself. He had no need of either princes or princesses, he only turned to two very simple people for his inspiration, and wrote a lyric deprived of melodramatic resources, subtle and suggesting. But we think that an explanation must be done: the lines do not represent the story in a linear way, nor try to copy that relationship at all – the tale only acts as trigger of the tango. There is not, then, a disillusionment due to the woman’s looks, but a more spiritual denouement, of pain and impotence, that involves both lovers, in an encounter turned into a failed meeting, the end of passion and the frustration that the impossibility of returning to the past always causes.
It is, undoubtedly, a much more romantic and poetic vision, a constant resource in all his oeuvre, something similar to what Alfredo Le Pera suggests to us with his unforgettable “Volvió una noche”.