Cinco de Mayo. It’s the date when the Mexican army kicked the French army’s butt at the Battle of Puebla. Not that that ended French rule in Mexico on the spot but it did get people excited. In any case, it’s become, in the U.S., an excuse to eat Mexican food (if any excuse is needed) and drink margaritas and tequila shots and Dos Equis and Coronas. And it’s an excuse for me to feature the Latino rock band Santana, and its Mexican-born leader, Carlos Santana.
Santana, the band, was very hot on the radio in those fabled days of 1969-71. As in: inescapable. Not only were they prominent on AM radio, with hits like “Oy ye como va,” but also on FM radio with their longer, jammier LP tracks. Today’s song is from the third album and was a Top Twenty hit in 1971. I got to like it a lot, hearing it on the Top 40 Countdown, but never picked up a copy, in the day.
Much later, “limbo time,” I started to acquire some of the music I’d let slip by in my kid days. One element that fuels a “mid-life crisis,” folks, is that you can now afford things and tastes you couldn’t when you were a pre-teen or teen. Picking up old rock albums isn’t the same as buying a classic car, I guess, but it’s all part of that same retro vibe. And so I got CDs of the first four Santana albums, and later got the first three on vinyl. Just putting these records on is like a trip in the Way Back Machine.
“Everybody’s Everything” is just a fast-paced rave-up with an amazing dexterous guitar solo by Neal Schon, who was only 17 at the time. The cool thing—which I don’t usually like much— about this track is that a lot of it is sung in unison. It really sounds like “everybody” is joining in on this one. I guess if I’d picked up any of the three albums at the time—Abraxas (1970), the second album, was the best-known, though Santana III is more likely as the one I would’ve bought, in part because of today's song—I might’ve got into Latin rhythms and all that much more than I ever did. In a sense the music felt like “the new change” that everybody’s waiting “to come around.” The percussion on Santana tracks flaunts a texture that is different from any other kind of rock, but it is still rock, that’s what makes it rather distinctive. Santana had the insight to blend the musical idioms from Mexico and “south of the border,” as people say, with the kind of extended rock and blues riffing that was all the rage, c. 1970. Congas and Hammond organs combine. Horns and fiery leads.
Back then you could go hear the Allmans Bros. play southern blues, Santana play Latino blues, The Grateful Dead play acid-bluegrass blues, and Clapton et al. play Brit-born black-based blues. And, for just a bit, you had Hendrix playing acid-black-prog-jazz blues, or getting there. It was a good time for guitar heroes.
But I didn’t associate this track with guitar heroes, actually. I liked the horns, the way they hit on “Siiiiing it now.” Though a wild guitar thing certainly happens around 2:20 to 3:00, in a way that is so energetic and blended with the track that it doesn’t feel the least bit intrusive. Then a little drum solo too. Obviously this song could be extended well beyond Top 40 play times, but I liked it as a short and sweet rave-up, a jolt on your radio to let you know some people were having fun, somewhere. “Dig this sound, it’s been ‘round and ‘round and ‘round.”
The other reason I didn’t fully pick up on Santana and this song back then is that for me the kick of this song had nothing to do with its lyrics. “Turn the wisdom key”? Yeah, whatever. In fact, bookish, square, white-kid that I was, you could say that the fact that this song did something to me, got to me, says something about a curiosity about other kinds of sounds. And I loved that title: “Everybody’s Everything.” Like saying “no need to make distinctions, we all contain multitudes, kid.” “You can understand everything’s to share”—sure it was a hippy song, essentially, at a time when that was waning, but it felt so good and so all-inclusive.
Time for you to all get down!