Source: Luís Pinheiro de Almeida /

Chinchilas (1967): Filipe Mendes, 20 years old, soloist, Alfredo José, 19 years old, bass, José Machado, 18 years old, keyboardist, and Vítor Mamede, 17 years old, drummer.

A pioneering group of psychedelic rock in Portugal, Chinchilas were formed in 1964 around guitarist Filipe Mendes, 16 years old, still active today, and considered the Portuguese Jimi Hendrix.

The other musicians were Alfredo José, 15 years old, bass guitar, José Machado, 14 years old, keyboard player, and Vítor Mamede, 13 years old, drums.

We met in Belém, because my grandfather, who gave me my first guitar, lived in the same neighborhood as Vítor, Zé and Joe. We started rehearsing and playing at Sociedade Recreativa Sol & Dó. A year later, we started rehearsing at my house and the group then needed a name, recalls Filipe Mendes.

As we liked Animals, it was one of the influences, and as chinchilla coats and creations were in fashion… and the girls thought the animals were really cute, we became Chinchillas!

We started at the proms, lengthening the songs, improvising and lengthening the instrumental parts and getting into psychedelicism, from the distorted sound of the guitar to the bizarre clothes, including decorating the instruments with psychedelic motifs.

In 1965, the Chinchilas won the Costa do Sol Modern Music Festival and in 1966 they came in 6th place in the Yé-Yé Competition, held at the Teatro Monumental, in Lisbon, on the initiative of the National Women’s Movement.

In the knockout stage of the Competition, held on November 6, 1965, won by the Boys, from Coimbra, future Conjunto Universitário Hi-Fi, the Chinchillas came in 2nd place.

Reports from the time indicate that the group’s performance caused a great buzz in the room, due to the noisy support of the fans.

The band was then formed by Filipe Mendes, 17 years old, solo viola, José Machado, 16 years old, keys, Mário Piçarra, 18 years old, accompanying viola, Fernando, 19 years old, bass guitar, and Vítor Mamede, 15 years old, drums.

They wore a black coat with white metal buttons and gray pants and played “Around On Around”, “In Down”, “Do You Love Me?” and “I Love You So”, the latter written by the group.

In the final of the Competition, played on August 29, 1966, won by the Claves, the Chinchillas came in 6th place.

Carlos Bastos, a unique figure in Lisbon’s fado and author of notable naughty fado versions of pop songs such as “Hey Jude”, by the Beatles, and/or “Satisfaction”, by the Rolling Stones, claims that one of his crowning glory was precisely having participated, at the age of 19, in this Chinchilla final.

It was a viola accompaniment. His bandmates were then Mário João, 19 years old, solo guitar, Alfredo José, 17 years old, bass guitar, José Machado, 16 years old, keys, and Vítor Mamede, 16 years old, drums.

In 1967, Chinchilas released their 1st EP (Tecla 1017) with “I’m A Believer” (Neil Diamond), “Take That Train” (Filipe Mendes), “Crying” (Filipe Mendes) and “Marry Me” (Vítor Mamede/Filipe Mendes).

They were then formed by Filipe Mendes (voice and solo viola), Salvatore Klumbos (guitar accompaniment), José Machado (organ), Alfredo José (bass guitar) and Vítor Mamede (drums).

The second album (Tecla 20001) appeared in 1968 with “Calmas São As Imagens” (Filipe Mendes) and “Don’t Want You No More” (Spencer Davis).

By this time, Salvatore Klumbos had already left the group and João Maló replaced Alfredo José who had joined the group, remaining until its dissolution in 1969.

Even so, we played many concerts and recorded the “Imagens” album. I think our music at the time was based on rhythm ‘n blues, soul and pure, hard rock. Some psychedelic influence only from Hendrix, it’s clear that he missed it, remembers João Maló.

With the end of Chinchilas in 1969, Filipe Mendes recorded a solo single that “Diário Popular” classified as an “unusual musical marathon” (Tecla TE 20005, “”Ring Stone Eyes” and “O Urso Ki”.

My joining the army forced me to get rid of the Chinchillas. And the lack of anyone to accompany me made it imperative to use my resources. As I reasonably play several instruments, I was able to do the work of a group alone.

But in 1970, Chinchilas also released a 3rd album (Tecla TE 20020) with “D. João” and “Barbarela”, with keyboardist Luís Pedro Fonseca and drummer Guilherme Inês, later from Salada de Frutas, and bassist Pedro Romeiro.

“Barbarela” had to do with the Barbarela International Festival, held in 1970 in Palma de Mallorca.

Although not included in the program, the Chinchilas later came together as a trio to participate for free in the first Vilar de Mouros Festival, in 1971, alongside Elton John and Manfred Mann, among others.

Having barely slept, they had a heavy sound, hampered by the poor quality of an amplifier that had already been working for eight hours, writes Fernando Zamith in “Vilar de Mouros – 35 Anos de Festivals” (Edições Afrontamento, 2003).

I remember a high quality sound and even though we were “badly asleep”, which does not correspond to reality, as Dr. Barge was an excellent host and even welcomed us at home, it was an “up” sound, with a trio composed of a rhythm section with the virtuoso drummer João Heitor (later Rão Kyao, Araripa Jazz, Da Vinci), reminiscent, in turn, of Filipe Mendes.

The group disbanded soon after and Filipe Mendes founded Grupo 5/Heavy Band (1971-1975), influenced by heavier rock.

Afterwards, he was in Psico (1977) and Roxigénio (1978-1982). In the 90s he joined Ena Pá 2000 and Irmãos Catita.

Vítor Mamede, on the other hand, was in Sindicato (early 70s), with Jorge Palma, Rão Kyao, João Maló, Rui Cardoso and Ricardo Levy, collaborated with Banda do Casaco and Green Windows, accompanied dozens of other artists and was a successful author at Festivals RTP da Canção (for example, “Dai-Li, “Dai-li Dou”, in 1978).

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18 May 2024 7:47 PM

Grande banda!

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