Os Paralamas do Sucesso (also known simply as Paralamas) is a Brazilian rock band, formed in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1970s. Its members since 1982 are Herbert Vianna (guitar and lead vocals), Bi Ribeiro (bass), and João Barone (drums). In its beginning, the band combined reggae and ska with rock, but later added horn arrangements and Latin rhythms. The Paralamas are considered one of the original "Big Four" bands of 1980s Brazilian rock, along with Barão Vermelho, Legião Urbana, and Titãs.
Although considered part of the "Brasília gang", because they lived there and were friends with local bands, Paralamas' proper birthplace was Rio de Janeiro. Herbert Vianna and Felipe "Bi" Ribeiro were childhood friends and neighbors in that city. Herbert's father was in the military, while Bi's was a diplomat. In 1977, Herbert went to Rio to attend military school, and met Bi once again. They decided to form a band, Herbert with his Gibson guitar and Bi, which had no musical training whatsoever, with a bass guitar bought during a trip to England. The drummer Vital Dias would later join them. They parted ways in 1979, around the time all of them were busy studying for their vestibular tests, but resumed their musical activity in 1981.
The trio rehearsed in the house of Bi's grandmother (which provided inspiration for the song "Vovó Ondina é Gente Fina", or "Grandma Ondina is Really Cool") and in a farm in Mendes, and performed in small venues. Their setlist was not quite serious (with songs like "Pingüins, Já Não Os Vejo Pois Não Está na Estação", or "I No Longer See Penguins, Because They're Out of Season"), and they tried to create a name for the band in the same spirit, with the first option being "As Cadeirinhas da Vovó", or "Grandma's Little Chairs". The name "Paralamas do Sucesso" (meaning "Mudflaps of Success") was coined by Bi, and adopted because all three of them thought it was really funny. In the beginning, Herbert was only the guitar player, and the group had two lead singers, Ronel e Naldo, both of whom departed in 1982.
In 1982, Vital missed a gig at the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro and was replaced by João Barone, which became the drummer after he decided to leave the band. Vital would later inspire the demo song "Vital e sua Moto", which the band sent to FM station Rádio Fluminense, which was the first to broadcast many bands that would eventually achieve national recognition in Brazil. The song received substantial airplay in the summer of 1983, and the Paralamas made their first major appearance opening for Lulu Santos, another popular singer of their generation, in the Circo Voador. It was around that time which they signed a deal with EMI Brasil, recording their first album Cinema Mudo (later defined by Herbert as "manipulated by the record company people"), and achieving moderate success.
In 1984, they released their second album, O Passo do Lui. It spanned the hits "Óculos", "Me Liga", "Meu Erro", "Romance Ideal", and "Ska", leading the band to perform at the first edition of Rock in Rio, in which Paralamas' concert was considered one of the best.
After a national tour, they released Selvagem? in 1986. The album opposed the "manipulation" of the band's first release from its cover (featuring Bi's younger brother in the middle of the woods wearing only a shirt around his waist) and incorporated a bold mixture of reggae, rock and African rhythms. Produced by Liminha (former bass player for Os Mutantes), it spanned the hits "Alagados", "A Novidade" (their first collaboration with Gilberto Gil, and the second track co-written with him), "Melô do Marinheiro", and "Você" (a cover version of Tim Maia), and sold over 700,000 copies, accrediting the Paralamas to play in the Montreux Jazz Festival in the following year.
In 1987, the band released their first live album, D, recorded from their performance in Montreux. The album first featured a band's constant collaborator, keyboard player João Fera, which still tours with the band as a sideman nowadays. After Montreux, Paralamas also played in L'Olympia and toured through South America, becoming popular in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Their fourth studio album, Bora-Bora, was released in 1988. It introduced the usage of piano, horns and samplers by the band. The album has both social-political focused songs such as "O Beco" and more introspective tracks, such as "Quase Um Segundo" (perhaps a reflection of the end of Vianna's relationship with Paula Toller, the lead singer of Kid Abelha). Bora-Bora is the first of several attempts of the band in self-producing their recordings. Big Bang, released in the following year, continued in the same vein, with cheerful songs with a deep critical social messages, like "Perplexo", and poetical/lyrical ones such as "Lanterna dos Afogados".
In 1990, the Paralamas released their first compilation, Arquivo, which featured a new version of "Vital e Sua Moto", titled "Vital 1990", and an unreleased song, "Caleidoscópio" (originally recorded by Dulce Quental of the all-female band Sempre Livre), that got massive radio play.
1991-1994: Success in Argentina only:
The band would dedicate the first half of the 1990s to experimentation. The sixth studio album, Os Grãos, was released in 1991. It contained keyboard-driven songs of minor popular appeal, achieving a low sales record for the band, although it spanned two successful hits: "Trac-Trac", a Portuguese version of a Fito Páez song, and "Tendo a Lua". Its failure, however, can also be attributed to the deep economic crisis Brazil went through during the Fernando Collor administration.
After a small break, in which Vianna released his first solo album, the trio returned to live performances, which were sold out, although the band was under heavy criticism from the press. On late 1993, Herbert, Bi and Barone spent three months in London, where they recorded Severino, produced by Phil Manzanera. Released in 1994, the album featured Brian May in the song "El Vampiro Bajo El Sol". It was even more experimental than the band's last release, with over elaborated arrangements, being completely ignored by radio stations and the general public, selling only 55,000 copies, an all time low for Paralamas.
But as they were becoming oblivious in their native Brazil they were also gaining huge popularity in Argentina. In 1992, their compilation Paralamas, released in the Hispanic American countries, and featuring Spanish language versions of their hits, was a huge hit in the neighboring country. They became each time more requested for live performances, due to the great success of Dos Margaritas, their following release in the Hispanic market (a Spanish version of Severino).
1995-2000: Back to the hit parades:
Despite the low sales figures for the album, Severino's tour was a huge success among the public. A series of three performances, recorded on late 1994, was released in the next year as the band's second live album, Vamo Batê Lata. It was accompanied by an EP featuring four unreleased tracks: "Uma Brasileira" (a collaboration of Herbert with Djavan), "Saber Amar", "Esta Tarde", and the controversial "Luís Inácio (300 Picaretas)", which drew the spotlight back to the band after it was banished from the Federal District. The song was a reference to a declaration by former Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at the time a Federal Deputy, that the National Congress was formed by some honored men and 300 quacks. The return to easily understandable songs and the pop genre definitely helped the band's comeback to commercial and critical acclaim, resulting in the best-selling album of their career, with almost a million copies sold.
It was also around that period in which the band invested in overtly produced music videos, which would lead them to win the MTV Video Music Brasil Awards eleven times from 1995 to 1999. Their first two awards came in 1995 with the video for "Uma Brasileira", which received the awards for the Best Pop Video and Viewer's Choice Award.
From there on, the Paralamas spanned a string of hits such as "Lourinha Bombril", "Busca Vida", "Ela Disse Adeus", and "O Amor não Sabe Esperar" (a collaboration with Marisa Monte and Dado Villa-Lobos). with their next two studio albums, 1996's Nove Luas and 1998's Hey Na Na. Nove Luas sold 250,000 copies in a month, while Hey Na Na sold the equivalent to that in just a week.
In 1999, MTV Brasil invited the band to record the album MTV Unplugged. Instead of making a revision of their career through the successes, they opted by a repertoire dominated by significant songs that had not received the due attention, such as "Bora Bora", "Vai Valer", and "Trem da Juventude". The Paralamas also made homages to Chico Science and Legião Urbana. Two new songs were featured: "Sincero Breu", and "Um Amor Um Lugar", originally recorded by Fernanda Abreu. The album sold more than 500,000 copies, won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Brazilian Rock Album, and spanned a sold-out tour.
The Unplugged tour was extended until the end of 2000, when the trio released their second compilation, Arquivo II. It featured songs from all the band's albums (except Severino), a re-recording of "Mensagem de Amor" and the new track "Aonde Quer que Eu Vá", result of a partnership between Herbert Vianna and Paulo Sérgio Valle, which also spanned two hits by Ivete Sangalo.
At that time, Paralamas announced a six month vacation and a reformulation in the sound of the group, after almost two decades of career. The plans pointed to a new rock album.
2001-2006: An accident, not the end:
On February 4, 2001, tragedy strikes: Herbert and his wife suffer an accident with an ultralight plane in the Angra dos Reis Bay, Rio de Janeiro, when they were on the way to Dado Villa-Lobos's house. The fall killed Herbert's wife, Lucy Needham Vianna, and left him between life and death. There was a huge commotion in Brazil, as the entire country followed Herbert's fight for survival in the hospital Copa D'Or, in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.
The musician later woke up from his coma, but Herbert found himself in a wheelchair, with difficulties in speaking and playing. Since then, Herbert has achieved great partial recovery, even if he has not yet fully recovered from nerve and brain damage. Despite all handicaps, his musical talent was not incapacitated and, in October 2002, he gradually started rehearsing with his band in his home studio. The result was very good and led to the recording of a new CD titled Longo Caminho (Long Way), with songs composed before the accident.
In 2005 they released Hoje.
In 2009 they released Brasil Afora, which was first available for digital download and soon after released on CD.
Influence on Brazilian Rock:
In the years of 1987-88, Afro-Bahian rhythms began to influence some of the main bands of Brazilian rock, notably Os Paralamas do Sucesso, creating a break with the original English-oriented, white rock that influenced national groups. They were able to criticize foreign mainstream while they simultaneously created new opportunities for Brazilian rock and a more genuinely Brazilian-oriented music, much in the fashion of what Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Raul Seixas have done in the 60´s and 70´s. Movement toward the "black sound" also followed the explosion of funk, hip-hop, and rap internationally. But Os Paralamas are more remembered for their reggae-afrobrazilian-ska beats. Throughout its 30 years of existence, the band has kept a regular production of albums and hits, including a few polemic works, such as Alagados, Selvagem and Perplexo, with deep social contexts in their lyrics and the song "Luís Inácio (300 Picaretas)", which openly criticized the Brazilian Congress up to a point that it was censored by the government, in 1995. The band was able to overcome adversity after Herbert´s accident and stand firm in the Brazilian rock. In 2011, the band celebrated 25 years of releasing their most influential album, Selvagem? (1986) with special appearances around Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela. Also, in 2011, the song O Calibre (Longo Caminho-2002) was included in the most successful film in the history of Brazilian movies, Tropa de Elite 2. Herbert Vianna was included in the Brazilian Rolling Stone list of the most influential guitarists. Bi Ribeiro follows the same steps as one of the best bass players in Brazil. João Barone is frequently referred as one of the top Brazilian drummers, with several prizes in local musical pools. The band is about to begin their celebrations of 30 years on the road in 2012.