Aphrodite's Child

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

The story of "Aphrodite's Child" starts in Greece during the early sixties, in the time that the local music scene is quickly developing a new movement, usually referred to as beat or garage music. Many young musicians and groups emerge in search of a new sound, breaking away from tradional Greek bouzouki and taking inspiration from similar movements in Western pop-scenes.

All members of Aphrodite's Child had been playing in different local groups before moving to Paris. Most notably Vangelis Papathanassiou already formed a highly successful band during his high school years, The Forminx (1963 to 1966), while Demis Roussos has been part of bands such as "The Idols" and "We five".

During 1967 Vangelis and Demis form an ensemble together with Lucas Sideras (drums) and Argyris Koulouris (guitars), sometimes referred to as "The Papathanassiou Set". It is during this time that the group plays with local artists as Ricardo Credi and Vilma Ladopoulou. Trying to make a name for themselves, they record a demo with two songs, "Plastics nevermore" and "The other people". Impressed with the demo, Philips Records in Greece proposes to have the group try their luck in England...


Early in 1968 Vangelis, Demis and Lucas travel from Greece to England in search for a better creative environment. Back in Greece a military regime has taken over the government, and just as many other Greek artists they decide to leave their country. The fourth friend, Argyris Koulouris has to stay behind to fulfil his army duty. Although aiming to travel to England, Vangelis, Demis and Lucas first get in trouble as they are not allowed to enter the UK due to their work-permits, and then get stuck in Paris due to a transportation strike. By that time they decide to stay in Paris, and sign up with the Mercury record label as the band "Aphrodite's Child", with the help of Philips producer Pierre Sberro.

Their first single "Rain and tears", based on a Canon by Pachelbel and released in May 1968, immediately strikes gold and becomes a huge hit. The song plays in France during the student riots, and is an instant success in France and other countries in Europe. Due to the success of the single it is time to record their first album "End of the world". The title song of the album, released in October 1968,  becomes their second single. A third single "Valley of sadness" is also shortly issued in France, but that is quickly  withdrawn.


To support their concerts and appearances in Italy, in January the band releases the songs "Lontano dagli occhi" and "Quando l'amore diventa poesia" as a single. Both songs are sung in Italian and recorded on occasion of the Italian San Remo music festival. 

Back in Paris Vangelis prepares the release of another single, "I want to live", an arrangement of the song "Plaisir' d'amour". The release of the single in June is another big success in Europe, especially in France and Holland. 

The success of the album "End of the world" calls for the release of another, so Vangelis, Demis and Lucas go back into the studio. What did not seem possible a year before now finally happens, the three Greeks, still astonished with their sudden success travel to London to record their next album "It's five o'clock" in the Trident Studios.

The first single from this album "Let me love, let me live", released in October 1969 rises to a number one position in the French charts, but it is the B-side "Marie Jolie" that is most popular in the rest of Europe. The title track "It's five o'clock" quickly follows the same path, released in December 1969 it does well in the charts of many European countries.

Shortly after the release of the album the band starts touring in Spain and Italy, but this time without Vangelis who prefers to stay in the studio. To replace Vangelis on keyboards fellow Greek Harris Chalkitis enforces the band on stage. In the meantime Vangelis works on his very first solo project, the score to the Henry Chapier film "Sex Power"....


While the band is touring to promote their latest album, Vangelis firmly sets himself in the studio in Paris. He uses his time among others to prepare for the bands next album, a concept album of which the recording will start later that year. In the meantime he finds himself composing the theme to that years "Rose d'or" festival, a theme performed by the orchestra of Raymond Lefevre. Also Vangelis produced a single for French single Paul Labbey, and around this time he probably also composed a song for fellow Greek artist Tassos Papastamatis.

Before the group would go back into the studio to record their third album, the record company insists on another single release, which becomes "Spring, summer, winter and fall". Released in August the epic song quickly becomes another big hit in Europe. Then the recording of the final Aphrodite's Child album can finally begin....


By the time Vangelis, Demis and Lucas start working on the their third album his friend Argyris Koulouris joins the band after fulfilling his army duty in Greece. The conceptual album "666" is based on a part of the New Testament, The Apocalypse of St. John and is conceived by Vangelis and Costas Ferris. The entire album takes more than a year to record and complete, and when it was finally ready for release, the band has already split up and each member working on solo albums.

Demis records his first solo single "We shall dance" (with Lucas on drums), and releases his first solo album "On the Greek side of my mind". Lucas also started working on his first solo album, which he released the next year titled "One day".

Vangelis in the meantime records the score for "L'apocalypse des animaux", his first collaborative work with the French director Frédéric Rossif. He also releases a single with his girlfriend Vilma Ladopoulou, performing with Arghyris Koulouris using the pseudonym "Alpha Beta".

Production problems for "666" are numerous, as the band members were not on very good terms during the recording sessions. Then Mercury, the band's record label starts objecting to the specific content of the album, and although Vangelis refuses to remove offending tracks (such as 'oo' Infinity) the album is brought back to the released issue of 80 minutes.


One single makes it off the album, "Break/Babylon" is released in November, but that can not turn the album into a commercial success at the time. Today however the experimental "666" has received widespread acknowledgement and is regarded as a classic work and milestone in progressive rock!


bulletTo read more about the interesting non-album releases by Aphrodite's Child, click here
bulletTo see more Aphrodite's Child photos click here.