Ricardo García Blaya

Alcohol, a sad tango

mong the customary subject matters we find in tango lyrics and in many of their titles, alcohol and drinks hold an outstanding place. It is usual that the characters, through the lines of these pieces, try to explain to us the reason of their drinking habit, their necessity to get inebriated in a framework of immense sadness.

Being deceived or forsaken by a woman is the most frequent reason even though there are others. Furthermore, of the large number of pages connected with the subject, not all of them have to do with the need of forgetting or remembering or with heartaches; they tell us about encounters or special times of a couple or confessions of their failures or, simply, portraits of daily life.

There are many examples in tango about characters that drink to forget, to avoid thinking. We find it in “La última copa” when the man asks for a glass full of champagne to drown the pain of his soul caused by a woman. Or when in “Bien frappé” he requires: «Come on, waiter, bring a very cold strong liquor, brandy or whisky to throw away this pain...». Or in the lines of “Destellos”: «You’re my guests to drink ‘cause by drinking you’ll forget the sparkle of forbidden loves...». Or in the best Discepolean style, after being surprised by the decrepit look of the one who had been his love, the character warns us: «Tonight I’ll get drunk, heavily drunk just not to think at all».

In other tangos is the other way around, unusually he drinks to remember like in the case of “Un copetín”, «…I wanna drink to remember that old time». Also in “Viejo curda” the character misses his deceased wife and for that reason he drinks: «My dear one, you’ve left but I’ll never forget your memory».

In “Noche de locura” a special situation is posed, the guy asks the girl not to think and begs: «No, don’t drink! Come and kiss me! What are you waiting for? Get drunk with love as I do».

There are three memorable tangos in which alcohol is shared with a woman.

In “Los mareadosEnrique Cadícamo suggests the moment when a couple reached a kind of final balance and the man announces their separation: «Today you’ll start to be part of my past». And, later, also understanding the woman’s heartache: «Each one has one’s sorrows and we have them… Tonight we’ll drink because we won’t see each other anymore». It’s a sorrow that expresses a loss for both of them, a joint confession presented as a fatal destiny.

Cátulo Castillo’s lines in “La última curda” have a different, quite profound meaning with a consideration with existentialist roots: «Life is an absurd wound, and everything is so brief that my confession means nothing else but a drunkenness». The character that drinks is acknowledging his failure in life, he discovers the nausea and he confesses it, possibly, to a floozy. The lyrics are complex and full of metaphors. Some are memorable like the following: «Close the large window ‘cause the sun is burning its slow snail of dreams. Don’t you see that I’m from a country that is oblivious, and always gray, behind alcohol?»

Continuing with lyrics that depict drinking between the two sexes, the third example has a raw drama, it’s the case of “Una canción” in which the lady is required to go on singing: «the hard misfortune of us», while they drink rum at a cold table. Both are drunk. Besides this pathetic, hopeless image the piece includes another memorable metaphor: «Come on, woman! Some more rum and close your calico robe ‘cause on the crystal I saw your naked heart trembling when it heard this song…». I think this is the most poetic way of telling a woman that he has seen her breast.

A special case because he explains from the start that he drinks neither to forget nor for any other reason, just for the sake of drinking, is the tango “De puro curda”: «I like it and for that I get drunk. I never challenge or press anyone and then if by drinking I hurt myself I do it to myself… just because I’m a drunkard!». There is also the case of the one who wants to celebrate and invites his friends to drink, like in “La garçonniere”.

Another case is the one of “Whisky”, in which the guy, due to an unrequited love, consciously drinks to hurt himself.

Furthermore, there are numbers in which there are toasts for varied reasons: “Brindemos compañero” (José Luis Padula and Cadícamo) recorded by Ángel Vargas with the orchestra led by the composer, “Brindis de sangre” (Azucena Maizani), both in 1935, “Brindis para navidad” (Aquiles Roggero and Julio César Curi) recorded by Adolfo Rivas with the Orquesta Símbolo Osmar Maderna in 1960, “Brindis de tango” (Carlos Demaría and Juan Maffia with words by Andrés Chinarro) recorded by the orchestra of the composer and Roberto Cortés on vocals in 1951.

Champagne, wine and brandy are the drinks most mentioned in tangos —either in those which refer to this subject or in others related to cabaret and low life—. Also are mentioned whisky, gin, pernaud, wormwood and rum.

About the older numbers, I recall some of the early period, like for example, the above mentioned “Un copetín”, that Juan Maglio Pacho —its composer—, recorded in 1912 and, that time later a lyric was added by José Fernández and it was committed to record in the unforgettable rendition by Vargas with Ángel D’Agostino in 1941; “Curda completa”, an instrumental by Roberto Firpo, recorded by the Genaro Espósito’s quintet in 1913 and by its composer in 1914; “Champagne tango”, instrumental cut by Firpo in 1914; “La copa del olvido” and “El curdela” recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1921 and in 1923, respectively.

It would turn out impossible to describe and enumerate all the numbers, tangos or milongas, that talk about alcohol and its variants. Here there is a list of many of them with some of their recordings. We begin with the tangos:

“Anoche estaba curda” (Charlo) recorded by Hernán Salinas with the Carlos García Orchestra in 1977.

Bien frappé”, committed to disc by Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino on vocals in 1941.

“Brindis de tango [b]” (Ángel Sanzó and Alberto Morales) recorded by the authors in 2005.

Caña” (Enrique Mónaco and Enrique Esviza; lyrics by Julián Araujo) recorded by D’Arienzo with Laborde on vocals in 1949.

“Caña amarga” (Roberto Lurati and Juan Bautista Abad Reyes) recorded by Alberto Vila in 1928.

“Con cuatro copas encima” (Toto Rodríguez and Enrique Dizeo), radio broadcast by Alfredo De Angelis with Carlos Dante on vocals.

Copa de ajenjo” recorded by Canaro with Francisco Amor on vocals in 1941 and by Azucena Maizani in 1942.

Copa de amargura” recorded by Ada Falcón with the Canaro’s orchestra in 1932.

“Copa de silencio” (Alberto Arenas) recorded by the author on vocals with the Canaro’s orchestra in 1956.

Copas, amigas y besos” recorded by Troilo with the vocalist Alberto Marino in 1944 and by Alberto Castillo in 1945.

“Copas y llantos” (A. Marano) recorded by Gloria Díaz with José Canet in 1978.

Copetín vos sos mi hermano” (Andrés Domenech and Diego Flores) recorded by Gardel in 1927.

De puro curda” recorded by José Basso with Alfredo Belusi on vocals in 1957.

Destellos” recorded by Ignacio Corsini in 1925 and 1928.

“Dos copas” (Anselmo Aieta and Reinaldo Yiso) recorded by Horacio Casares in 1974.

“Eche más caña patrón” (J. Rodríguez and R. F. Torres) recorded by Corsini in 1926.

El borracho” without known recordings.

“El curda” (José Zas, Francisco García and Pantaleón Mosca) recorded by Juan D'Arienzo with Armando Laborde in 1953.

El encopao” recorded by Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino in 1942.

El vino triste” recorded by Alberto Echagüe in 1939 and by Armando Laborde in 1954, both with the orchestra led by the composer, Juan D'Arienzo.

En la copa de la vida” (Roberto Videla and Reinaldo Yiso) recorded by Ricardo Tanturi with Roberto Videla in 1946.

Entre tangos y champagne” (Carlos Rocco) recorded by Firpo with Teófilo Ibáñez in 1928.

Esta noche de copas” recorded by Héctor Varela with Fontán Reyes in 1958.

Esta noche me emborracho”. There are many renditions, among them those by Gardel and by Corsini, both in 1928.

“Estoy borracha” (Anselmo Aieta and Luis Rubistein) recorded by Rosita Quiroga in 1926.

Frente a una copa” recorded by the singer Alberto Morán with Pugliese in 1949.

La borrachera del tango” recorded by Gardel in 1928 and under another title —forced by censorship—, “La embriaguez del tango”, by Floreal Ruiz with the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra in 1945.

La garçonniere”, two recordings by Corsini and by Gardel in 1924.

La novia del alcohol” (Dante Gilardoni and José Durany [Dan Durán]) recorded by Canaro with Guillermo Rico in 1959.

La última copa” with a large number of recordings, among them: the one by Gardel in 1927.

La última curda” with hundred of renderings. The most important ones: Edmundo Rivero’s in 1957 and Roberto Goyeneche’s in 1963, both with Troilo.

Los mareados”, also with a great number of renditions, recorded by Troilo with Fiorentino in 1942.

“Mi viejo copetín” (Paco Berón and Hugo Alcón) recorded by Carlos Barral in 1998.

Noche de locura” recorded, among others, by Héctor Mauré, Charlo and Vargas in 1954.

“Pedí una copa más” (Lucho Neves and Pedro Bevacqua) recorded by Mario Bustos.

“Pena, copa y tango” recorded by Oscar Ferrari with the orchestra of the composer, José Basso, in 1953.

Sirva otra copa” recorded by Carlos Dante with De Angelis in 1945.

“Sírvame caña”, instrumental composed by Agustín Paredes, recorded by the Donato-Zerrillo Orchestra in 1928.

Tal vez será mi alcohol” recorded by the orchestra of the composer with Raúl Berón on vocals in 1943.

“Tango, copas y amor” (Florindo Sassone and Ángel Di Rosa) recorded by the composer with Rodolfo Lemos in 1979.

“Tango en curda” (Mariano Mores with Rodolfo Taboada) recorded by Hugo del Carril with the orchestra of the composer in 1969.

Tango y copas (Otro tango)” recorded by Libertad Lamarque and by Troilo with Marino, both in 1943.

Tomo y obligo” recorded by Gardel in 1931.

Traiga otra caña” recorded by Corsini in 1926 and by Ángel Vargas in 1941 and in 1952.

Una copa más” recorded by Ricardo Malerba with Antonio Maida in 1944.

Un pobre borracho”, instrumental by Pedro Vettori, recorded by the Pedro Maffia Orchestra in 1929.

Una canción”, the rendition I like most is the one by Horacio Deval with Argentino Galván in 1953.

“Vaciar la copa”, instrumental by Raúl Garello, recorded by the composer in 1986.

Viejo curda” recorded by Gardel in 1927.

Whisky” recorded by Di Sarli with Jorge Durán in 1957.

Among the milongas we can mention:

“Cosas de borracho” (Ubaldo Martínez) recorded by Alberto Gómez in 1961.
Duelo curda” recorded by Jorge Vidal in 1956.

El vinacho” (José Razzano and Julio Navarrine) recorded by Francisco Rotundo with Carlos Roldán in 1950.

“El vino y mi guitarra” (Miguel Ángel Caruso and Roberto Eugenio Collia) recorded by Héctor Darío in 2003.

Entre curdas” committed to record by Vidal in 1958.

Entre copa y copa” (D’Agostino and Alfredo Attadía with lyrics by Héctor Marcó) recorded by Ángel Vargas in 1942.

“Testamento de un curda” (Enrique Mora, Walter Chiodini and Juana María González) recorded by the composer with Roberto Campos on vocals in 1955.

Lastly, an estilo, “Eche otra caña pulpero”, recorded by Gardel in 1923; a bailecito, “El borrachito” by Manuel Acosta Villafañe, recorded by Libertad Lamarque in 1944, and a waltz, “Brindis [b]”, by Enrique Rodríguez with lyrics by Carlos Goicoechea and Rogelio Cordone, recorded by the composer with Armando Moreno on vocals in 1943.