Kostas Nouros’s “Ouzo” – newly discovered take

In mid-2019 I contacted Charles Howard, who is a renowned record producer, compiler and collector of rebetiko music. I requested copies of digital transfers made by Howard from original 78rpm discs featuring the singing of the great Kostas Nouros (1892-1972). With a prolific recording career in Athens spanning from 1926-1934 in which he made over 75 recordings, his repertoire ranged from the popular urban genre of rebetiko, to traditional songs from Smyrna in Asia Minor (now Izmir, Turkey) as well as phenomenal performances of “amanédes” (vocal improvisations based on “Ottoman” musical modes).

Upon listening to the CD of transfers Howard sent me, I noticed that one track sounded different to pre-existing releases of the song that one can find on the internet or on already published CDs and LPs.

It turned out that the track on the CD was the previously-unheard-of first take of the enigmatic song “Ouzo”, which Nouros recorded in Athens for the German Odeon label in November 1927, featuring Yiannis Dragatsis (1886-1958) aka “Ogthondakis” on violin.

However, as Howard no longer owned the disc from which he made the transfer, it was difficult to confirm if this first take was actually issued commercially under the Odeon label like the commonly-heard second take, or if it was from a test pressing.

On the handwritten track listing that Howard sent me, the matrix number for the first take of “Ouzo” is simply GO-621. In the discography of Dionysis Maniatis and on the Kounadis archive website, the matrix number is GO-621-2, the number “2” suffix indicating a second take.

When I spoke to Howard in Athens in late-2019 he doubted that he transferred the first take of “Ouzo” from a test pressing. So in summary, we can consider this recording as an alternate issued take. Although the performances between the two takes are similar, the first take has different lyrics to the widely known second take circulating on the internet and on reissues. Discrepancies are dealt with below:

Title: Ούζο [Ouzo]
Composition credit: Traditional
Record company: Odeon (Germany)
Catalogue No: GA-1253
Matrix: GO-621-2

Lyrics to the widely-known second take

Όλοι ούζο με φωνάζουν,
τα κορίτσια με θαυμάζουν, αχ,
και στο δρόμο με πειράζουν.

Άιντε, βρε ούζο, γλέντι θα σε κάνω,
φέρε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, άιντε όπλες,
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω πάθει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά.

Μπαίνω, βγαίνω με το πάσο,
την μπουκάλα μην ξεχάσω, αχ,
κάντε τόπο να περάσω.

Άιντε, βρε ούζο, γλέντι θα σε κάνω,
φέρε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά τ’ Ογδοντάκη
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά.

-Γεια σου, Νούρο μου! [φωνή Ογδοντάκη]

Note the changes below in bold.

Title: Ούζο [Ouzo]
Composition credit: Traditional
Company: Odeon (Germany)
Cat No: GA-1253
Matrix: GO-621

Lyrics to the previously unheard first take

Όλοι ούζο με φωνάζουν,
τα κορίτσια με θαυμάζουν, αχ,
και στο δρόμο με πειράζουν.

Άιντε, βρε ούζο, γλέντι θα σε κάνω,
φέρε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, άιντε όπλες,
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω πάθει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά.

Σαν το πίνω κάνω κέφι
και παραπατώ στη μέθη, αχ,
αχ, το ούζο πώς μ’ αρέσει.

Άιντε, βρε ούζο, γλέντι θα σε κάνω,
φέρε μου σαντούρια και βιολιά τ’ Ογδοντάκη
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά.

-Γεια σου, Νούρο μου! [φωνή Ογδοντάκη]

-Γεια σου, Ογδοντάκη μου!

Very loose English translation of the song’s lyrics:

Ouzo [Take two]

They all call me “ouzo”
The girls admire me
And on the street they tease me

Ach, poor ouzo, we’ll put on a party
Bring us santurs and violins
And all the rest as a kid I endured,
In the Greece of old.

I go in, I come out as I please
I can’t forget the bottle, ach
Move aside so I can pass.*

Ach, poor ouzo, we’ll put on a party
Bring us santurs and violins
And all the rest I’ve done as a kid,
In the Greece of old.

-to your health my dear Nouro! [Ogthondaki’s voice] *


*In the first take this stanza is sung as:

When I drink I have a good time
And stagger in my drunkenness 
Ah, oh how I love my ouzo.

*In the first take another voice also exclaims following that of Ogthondakis’:

-to your health, my dear Ogthondaki!

According to rebetologist Panayotis Kounadis this song:

“…is one of the few [rebetika] songs which reference this particular kind of drink [ouzo], which was commonly consumed on the coasts of Asia Minor and on the islands of the Eastern Aegean, with its epicentre being in Lesvos. The recording makes reference to “Old Greece” [paliá Elláda] as it became known by refugees in Athens following the Asia Minor Catastrophe.”

“Old Greece” was the name used to describe the lands (including the city of Athens) that became part of the new independent Kingdom of Greece, which was established in 1832. Other areas of what is now the modern Greek state were then under Ottoman occupation, hence the “new” lands which were subsequently liberated.

The same song was also recorded by the singer Andonis Diamandidis aka “Dalgas” (1892-1945) with the following lyrics:

Title: Ούζο [Ouzo]
Composition credit: Traditional
Company: Polydor (Germany)
Cat No: V-50503
Matrix: ????

Recorded in Athens, 1929.

Όλοι Ούζο, με φωνάζουν
τα κορίτσια με θαυμάζουν, αμάν
και στο δρόμο με πειράζουν

Άιντε βρε ‘συ ούζο γλέντι θα σε κάνω
φερ’ τε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, άμαν-άμαν
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στου Γιαννούλη το εννιά

Άιντε βρε ‘συ ούζο γλέντι θα σε κάνω
φερ’ τε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, ώπααα!
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά

Σαν το πίνω, κάνω πάσο
τη μπουκάλα μην αδειάσω, αμάν
κάντε τόπο να περάσω

-Ώχ, να μην πεθάνεις, ούζο!

Άιντε βρε ‘συ ούζο γλέντι θα σε κάνω
φερ’ τε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, άμαν-άμαν
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά

Άιντε βρε ‘συ ούζο γλέντι θα σε κάνω
φερ’ τε μας σαντούρια και βιολιά, άμαν-άμαν
κι όλα τ’ άλλα σα μικρό παιδί τα έχω κάνει
μέσα στην Ελλάδα την παλιά

-Michael Alexandratos, Sydney,

August 13, 2020.


Note: Soon after I published this article and shared it online, musician Kostas Bournas sent me the full transcription of the stanza I couldn’t recognise in the first take. I have now updated the lyrics to the first and second takes with Bournas’s corrections of my original transcriptions, including the proper Greek punctuation. Many thanks, Michael. (14/8/2020).

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