There isn’t much money: ‘Espaldas mojadas’, by Tam Tam Go!, or how the industry vampirized a ’90s hit’

03/22/2023 at 11:57


The story of that success, which was ahead of everyone in denouncing the situation of immigrants, well illustrates the abusive operation of the Spanish music industry in recent decades.

December 1990. Tam Tam Go! ranks at the top of Los 40 Principales with Espaldas mojadas. The trio formed by Nacho and Javier Campillo with Rafael Callejo released his third album that year, the second with EMI after Spanish romance (1989), successor to that debut titled Spanish shuffle (1988), released with Twins Productions. Both the LP and the single of the same title (wet backs) were the commercial zenith of Tam Tam Go! However, they signed a contract –like so many other artists of the time– that “took away& rdquor; the editorial rights of wet backs.

The song

“I have left my house / They persecute me and I don’t know what’s wrong with me / Without a passport and without a Visa I go / I sail against the current and the breeze…& rdquor ;. Nacho Campillo explains that the authentic and true version of the origin of the song wet backs He comes from a trip that he made between 1980 and 1981 accompanying a friend, the actress Patricia Adriani, who would ultimately be the protagonist of the video clip of the aforementioned theme. “The possibility of making a film in the United States arose for her and, since she did not speak English well and I had just arrived from London, she convinced me to accompany her as a manager. I put on a suit, we traveled to Los Angeles and for fifteen days I was doing representative work & rdquor ;. The movie was titled good king harry and was to be directed by Ken Kwapis and produced by Brian Grazer.

Patricia successfully auditioned, but the film was never made. Campillo continues with the story: “We stayed in Beverly Hills, they put us in a limousine… All paid for by the producer. we met all the staff from the Beverly Hills Hotel, who was Mexican. One of them told us the story of his life, how he got there by crossing the Rio Grande, without papers and illegally & rdquor ;. On the return plane, Nacho sketched out some of the lyrics and years later, around 1986, when they put together Tam Tam Go!, the entire lyrics emerged. “I wrote the lyrics and the music, but we finished off the song as a group at a soundcheck. My brother Javier did the chorus and Rafa did the riff famous. We all build it together.”

To know the other version of the birth of wet backs You don’t need the plane. Javier Campillo, Nacho’s brother and also a member of Tam Tam Go!, talks about the smugglers who crossed the Caya River to transport coffee from Portugal to Badajoz: “Our way of composing was a bit atypical. We have always had a certain commitment to society: homosexuality, cross-dressing, unemployment, old age… And we wanted to make an immigration song. My brother came with the idea of ​​Los Angeles and I with the idea of ​​Portugal, but we did it together.” “It is true that we carry the border in our DNA,” Nacho adds. “We lived a few kilometers from Portugal and, as kids, eight or nine years old, we used to see the Caya River from the balcony of our house and how smugglers passed by with backpacks of coffee. I think that stayed in our subconscious and the need to make that song also came from there.”


Although wet backs It was conceived in the early years of the 80s, it was not published until 1990, within the LP with the same title wet backswhere there were also topics such as crime of passion, Jennifer Bones, This is how the pelican dances, paper woman either An oath between you and mein addition to the cuts in English (Better ways, this payo and kiss me that way) or partially in the author’s native language (Asunción by plane). “We started singing in English and we put ideas in Spanish to one side until we decided, a little before 1990, to start singing in Spanish& rdquor ;. According to Nacho, Spanish romance sold much less than Spanish shuffle, which shipped 200,000 vinyls. He doubts, however, that with the second installment they will reach 50,000 copies sold. “We had a gold record but it was bare & rdquor ;, she adds. “At EMI there was Javier Lozano from A&R and the marketing director was Carlos San Martín, together with Ricardo Ortiz. Was when they started asking us to sing in Spanish”. “We sold 37,000 copies of Spanish romance. Cadena SER said that it would promote groups that sang in Spanish, not those that sang in English. So they stopped it, they didn’t let us do promotion, and no song from that record entered number one, so we had to do another one, which was wet backs& rdquor ;, adds Javier Campillo.

They forced us to sign with their publisher. That’s where they sneaked us in; we signed the copyright of the songs for life and received 50%

On EMI, Tam Tam Go! they continued with Elizabeth Marriedhis representative since the times of Twins. “She was the one who also fought with Paco Martín later because she wanted to force us to record another album with the same conditions as the first album. We had a contract and an extension. He could improve the contract a bit, but we refused. Paco rebounded, he sued us, we went to trial and we won.” Then EMI came along with a better contract and Tam Tam Go! signed for three albums: Spanish romance, wet backs and life and color. “We didn’t have much of an idea yet because we had just arrived. We had been in the industry for a couple of years, but according to Isabel, who was very aggressive, the contract with EMI was good for that time.” Campillo contributes that they received an advance of between 6 or 7 million pesetas and 10% of royalties, “but they forced us to sign with their publisher. That’s where they sneaked us in; we signed the copyright of the songs for life and received 50%”. Currently, you can no longer sign for life with the publisher. Nacho ventures that if they started to sue, they would surely recover part of the rights, but he regrets that it is not easy.

On April 12, 1996, a new law entered that changed everything. That allowed them to litigate with more advantage with companies and publishers. “We have won two or three lawsuits in our lives and getting into another one is exhausting, even if the justice system approves the artist, because they have been tangling us for many years. I have my own publishing house and I work with Peer Music, who treat me very well, but publishers and companies have stolen a lot from artists”. From then on, 60% went to the author and the remaining 40% to the publisher. “But that is a tacit rule & rdquor ;, Javier Campillo qualifies.