The rise and fall of Socrates

11 Sep

I think it was back in 1965 or 1966 when there was the first greek national tv broadcast.
At first, people were gathered at places like cafeterias to watch some football game or
Apollo 11 landing on the moon.
In the early 70s, when there was some “nice” soap opera to watch, the whole neighborhood was watching
it at the house of the family that owned a tv.
Well, today, the toilet is the last room in the greek house that has no tv….yet.
You could watch almost everything. Underline the word almost here cause there was still junda around.
A whole generation grew up on american tv series like this:

People watched a lot of tv back then. It was something new.
And people were scared too. There were a lot of reasons to be afraid.
During those dark years a band was formed that was considered by many as one of the best greek bands ever to come out of the first generation of greek rock bands:
Socrates Drank The Conium.
They were formed in 1969 playing a mixture of hard rock, blues, psychedelia, and prog rock, heavily influenced by bands such as the Cream or musicians like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
Yes, they were the top greek rock band during the 70s mostly thanks to their guitar player, Yannis Spathas.

I copied this from wikipedia:
“Spathas’ way of playing was characterized by speed, fluency and cleanness,
much like Deep Purple’s guitar virtuoso Ritchie Blackmore.
It is also highly reminiscent of the melodic playing of Tony Iommi,
lead guitar of Black Sabbath. Despite his confessed love for the music of Jimi Hendrix,
his music, and moreover his touch while playing, reminds one of the great
British guitarist Ollie Halsall, during those years playing with Patto and
then with John Hiseman’s Tempest (where he substituted for Alan Holdsworth i
n the late 1973). Spathas can be considered one of the most talented, original,
unfortunately unknown, guitarists in Europe during the ’70s, maybe the most
“guitaristic” decade for rock & roll music.”

My personal opinion is that Spathas filtered very nicely elements of greek folk music in his style and that
gave him a unique sound.

Here is an example:

Thanks to their constant gigs they had a large fan base that loved them and supported them for many years.
In 1971 they released their first album, “Socrates Drank the Conium” to be followed by “Taste of Conium” in 1972, “On the Wings” in 1973

and when in 1974 Vangelis produced their album “Phos” (mostly reworkings of older songs
of theirs) they reached a huge status in Greece.

Socrates (as the people used to call them) went through many lineup changes throughout the years,
but the two core members have remained: Yannis Spathas and bassist/singer Antonis Tourkoyorgis.
6 years later, in 1980, they released “Waiting for Something” and in 1981 “Breaking Through” came out.
I don’t know what happened at that point.
The band was signed to Virgin Records and for that reason, they moved to England for…I don’t exactly know what.
I guess that was the time when they convinced them to change their style cause it was kinda “old” (thats true…) and to change their name also cause probably “Socrates Drank the Conium” wasn’t the right name for a new wave band.
New Wave ?
So, the band changed their name to “Plaza” and by 1983 they released a new wave album by the same title.
Ok, that was it.
As far as I know, tha band was sitting there waiting to be promoted.
Waiting for someone to get interested into them.
After playing every known electronic game of those days, they packed their things and returned to Greece. Someone told me they supported the U.F.O. a couple of times but I am not sure.
I don’t think the album did great. I don’t think the album did anything at all…
New bands appeared, new music styles were around and Socrates would become a museum exhibit if they would carry on, so they called it a day.

I guess they would have a better luck if they were born in some other country but on the other hand I am sure they wouldn’t have that “special something” in Spathas’s way of playing if they weren’t born in Greece.

They were very talented musicians and for sure its a pity they weren’t better known out of the Greek borders in their time but like some Italian friend of mine, who works for the music industry, told me once: “Greece is in a grey area. Its very difficult to distribute some Greek band in Europe and by that I don’t mean that Greek bands are bad…”

Go figure, Greek bands are not bad. Greek bands are not lucky…

So, Socrates reformed for a few concerts in 1999 (released the CD “Live In Concert“) and again in 2006.

Socrates Drank The Conium (Live 1999) Red House

Although the band was always signed to major labels they were never distributed out of the country (for the very well known-unknown reason).  People can easily find today bootleg Socrates albums printed in Germany or elsewhere, released through some unknown indie label.


Posted by on September 11, 2008 in Music


Tags: , , , , ,

5 responses to “The rise and fall of Socrates

  1. Trish

    September 11, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Very interesting, Mike!

    Thanks for sharing that history and all those great videos with us! 🙂

    I have to say I’m more than a little relieved because I thought this quote was about the more commonly known Socrates. I know we should respect our ancestors, honor the dead, and admire the great thinkers …

    But Socrates just pisses me off.

    Thanks for giving me a new word association and keep on blogging!

  2. panole8riambos

    September 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you too.
    I am glad I introduced you to some Socrates that you might like :))

  3. Fayzzz

    September 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I had known Spathas years and years ago……he’s exellant !!!!!!!!!!!!! the best guitarist !!!! and guy!!too!!
    And Socrates was my favorite group when I was teen…..xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx!!
    they wrote music Greece!

  4. Andreas

    May 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    An excellent band, unfortunately unknown…

  5. panole8riambos

    May 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Yes, I agree. Hope Tourkogiorgis’s health is better now as he had a serious problem lately…


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