I would like to tell today about my most favorable rock band, besides the Beatles. Pix Lax is the name of a band that was active between 1989 and 2004, the most beloved and successful band, critically and commercially in Greek music history.
It all started in 1980s with the dream of two teenager friends from Agious Anargirous ,a working class neighborhood in north- western Athens. Babis Stockas (Μπάμπης Στόκας b.1968) and Filippos Pliatsikas (Φίλιππος Πλιάτσικας b.1967), like all their peers in the world showed strong affection to world’s rock music, beside their homeland music. Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Animals and soul music caught their hearts. They wrote songs, learned the guitar and joined various music armature groups of their age.
Their start was not a story of shut doors. In 1989, after military service, they formed with two others a band and send a demo-cassette to the record companies; all liked them and wanted them, but they prefer to cooperate with Minos- EMI because the marketing director there was Manos Xydous, (Μάνος Ξυδούς) a man of their neighborhood who had already got a reputation as a successful promoter of young singers.
And there is no special story behind the name. “Pix Lax” (Πυξ Λαξ ) was suggested by the sales manager of the company, meaning in ancient Greek “Punching and Kicking”, it was also a name of a theater play that was running that time in Athens.
Manos Xydous was older than the others (b. 1953). He was with them from the beginning, not only at his capacity in the company, but also as a producer, song writer and singer, an informal member of the group. The first two that joined Babis and Filippos left, other musicians joined; from them I would like to mention especially the accordionist Dimitra Karamberopoulou (Δήμητρα Καραμπεροπούλου) which her playing gives a special beautiful delicate flavor that, so I feel, stresses the link of the music to its folk roots. I like her very much.
Their first two albums were not a great success. They had to keep other jobs in order to make a living. Just before the third, Manos Xydous left his job at EMI and joined Pix Lax as a full member; he and Filippos Pliatsikas were the band’s main songs’ writers.
It was the third album “The Winter Sun Makes Me Melancholic” (Ο ήλιος του χειμώνα με μελαγχολεί-1993) which firmly established their reputation in Greece.
All the time, even of their great success, they had been living in their old neighborhood, they loved the simple people who were their inspiration and for them they wrote and sung. Like many other singers and writers, they felt that the essence as oppose to degenerative life, is in these people “Where a hand shake is still meaningful and not a mere formality”
One of the album’s songs is “Why?” (γιατι), a song that was on their first demo-cassette. It is clearly love song which tells about a crack in a relationship “when the ego wins over the feelings, and the pain of a person that gives it all without a response.”
The video-clip, as other clips of them, was taken in neighborhoods of the working class, to show their sympathy and identification with these people, so I feel. (Press the red bottom on the video for English subtitles on all the videos. One can enlarge the fonts by editing)
For the Princes of the West Bank
1994 marks a significant move forwards. The group reaches maturity in writing and singing, releases its first gold album. The “west bank” is that of the Kifissos River in Athens, where is their neighborhood. Again, this album is “dedicated to the people of the western suburbs of Athens, where we lived, people of labor, whom we saw as princes, because on their way back home from hard work they had always a hearted smile. They kept up their friendships and were very polite…” (Filippos Pliatsikas)
In the years after “Pix Lax” members were often referred as “Princes of the west bank”.
We have here two of their favorites from the album.
Silly (senseless) loves (Ανόητες αγάπες)
The twins Charis and Panos Katsimichas were among those musicians who found closed doors in the beginning of their careers. They had encountered in the 1980s Manos Xydous and his special scent for new artists who had said to Panos: “If I could I would make you an album tomorrow!” he said to them. We will dedicate to them one of our next posts. This song about silly, meaningless loves written by the twins is one of the most beautiful. Here is a live performance . Filippos begins and Babis follows:
I won’t shed tears for you anymore ( Δε θα δακρύσω πια για σένα)
By Filippos Pliatsikas. This is an “audience song” which is sung most enthusiastically wherever and by whoever it is sung. Babis Stokas sings the solo in the Iera Odos famous 1997 club show in which they cooperated with Giorgos Dalaras. After the song they continue with the song “Why”- Giati (for those who can’t watch the video clip):
The old loves go to Paradise (Οι παλιές αγάπες πάνε στον παράδεισο)
This is one of the most beautiful songs.The lyrics were written by the novelist Maro Vamvounaki (Μάρω Βαμβουνάκη) and are pieces from her novel with the same name.
Pliatsikas composed and it was released in the 1996 Platinum album “The Boogeyman Sings Alone At Nights” (Ο μπαμπούλας τραγουδάει μόνος του τις νύχτες)
It is our friend Katerina Siapanda’s favorite Pix Lax song. Katerina says that it is a poem with strong images which describe “lonely life without love in the anonymous big city” It is late night, just before Saturday’s dawn: Dangerous shadows, policemen, bikers from out of town showing off, “lonely women trying to hide under bright light and loud music…all of them hiding from their true selves “wearing masks”…playing dangerously”*
The solos are by Manos Xydous first and then by Filippos Pliatsikas with, again, the enthusiastic young audience:
The peak and the end
I think that Filppos Pliatsikas’ words reflect well what the three leading members of the group thought about themselves “The three of us Manos, Babis and me are not as good in theory of music as other members of the band… we consider ourselves mostly as directors …. We shoot life with our own eyes… …A good musician is not a virtuoso, but one who even without special knowledge deposits his soul…”
And when being asked about the melancholy in their songs, he answered that as the listener is passing through this melancholy while they perform their songs “the resulting feeling that comes out in the end, is optimism”. I think that the videos here shows just that!
The next years of the 90s they had the best years of their career, all their albums got platinum and peak sales, they had a huge number of funs and their open spaces shows were crowded; they were the only Greek singers that four concert of them had been sold out in London. “We were very lucky…. few people in this country lived what we lived… I think there is no artist or band in Greece that people know all their songs” said Babis Stokas.
In 2003 they released an album in which they cooperate with some important world singers. The album included some new songs trying to put the sound differently, and an adaptation of some of the band’s biggest hits in English. The album had been received purely by fans and critics, and despite awards that it got later, it was a kind of a single to the band’s leading members.
They decided to dissolve the band. “We stopped because we were feeling that we didn’t have to give something more … we had the impression that people had started to get bored with us and we got our final decision” (Babis stokas).
They said goodbye with three crowded concerts which were sold out in few hours. Great names like Giorgos Dalaras, Charis Alexiou, Lavrendis Macheritas and others joined them singing. “(It was) a great moment, to the point that I could not sing because I was very moved. We had a lot of love from the people” (Stokas). The first of the concerts in “Likavitos” open theater in Athens had been recorded into an album titled “End” (Τέλος).
Each of the band’s leading members started a personal solo, successful career. “From the moment we followed our separate paths in music, we never felt alone. We were filled of emotions and experiences”. In 13 of April 2010, Manos Xydous died suddenly at 57. His last concert was five days earlier in Cyprus. In summer of the next year the remaining two leading members, Babis and Filippos, brought into reality their friend’s wish to reunite for one more time. The reunion took place in a summer tour which its climax was the unforgettable, phenomenal concert in the Olympic Stadium in Athens in front of 80000 people.
And this is the end of the story of “the band that made friends to sit around bonfires on the beach with guitars, to hug each other and to sing about silly loves.”
One more song…
What is this that unite us (Τι `ναι αυτό που μας ενώνει) is about “dreams that may never come true, with nostalgia, with the short-lived crossing of people’s paths and the loneliness that follows after that'”* The lyrics are by Pliatsikas, the music by the Serbian Sasa Dragic, and this version is a duet of Babis Stokas and Giorgos Dalaras, again from the 1997 collaboration at Irea Odos.
“Silly loves” with the Katsimichas Brothers http://youtu.be/KuW2VMNArKs
I will not shade tears for you http://youtu.be/TKy39XNb7as
The old loves go to paradise http://youtu.be/LuOJW72sf68
From the “End” concert:
I will not shed tears for you http://youtu.be/RBjupRpre_I
The concert in the Olympic Stadium: http://youtu.be/FysNkSn4jDY
Research and translations: Nata Ostria
Editing: Shahaf Ifhar and Dan Matz
*Thanks to Katerina Siapanda for the explanations.