Digging for Miguel Bosé

Miguele Bosé Bandido (1984) on vinyl found at Sonido del Valle in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
My copy of Bandido by Miguel Bosé the day I found it inside Sonido del Valle in Boyle Heights (Pic: Liz O.)

I paused with the door of the convenience store fridge open when I heard the song. It sounded like Ultravox during the Midge Ure years, but it was in Spanish. Who was this? Shazam likely would have turned up the answer, but I asked the cashier instead. Miguel Bosé, she answered immediately. 

Maybe I should have known that? I think the cashier was surprised that I didn’t recognize the singer. We talked about music often when I popped into the store. She played a lot of ‘80s Spanish pop jams. Once I remarked, “ooh, I love this song!” while Flans’ version of “No Controles” played and that got us started. But, I also didn’t grow up with the music. I had some knowledge of the alternative bands that were in the 1990s ether, stuff like Cafe Tacuba and Kinky, but I didn’t start listening to Spanish ‘80s until the ‘00s and what I knew came via my friends who are DJs. 

I started looking for the song as soon as I got home, but there was a problem. I forgot to ask for the title of it. So, I googled Miguel Bosé and pulled up his discography. Since the song reminded me of Ultravox, I figured that it must have been released in the early 1980s and since I deduced from his Wikipedia entry that Bosé was more of a pop artist than a post-punk weirdo, I could narrow this down to sometime between 1982 and 1984.

This is the part where streaming really does come in handy. Where, once upon a time, we would have to go from record store to record store asking if anyone could recognize a song hummed out of tune, now we can scroll and find what we need without the embarrassment of recreating a half-remembered melody. So, I clicked play on song after song, mumbling, “no, that’s not it,” until I found “Amante Bandido.” That’s the one. It’s on Bosé’s seventh album, Bandido, released in 1984. 

Damn, I’m good at this. Somebody should pay me to track down songs. I mean, I guess they kind of do, so long as they’re in my DJ sets. I downloaded “Amante Bandido” and started playing it out. It did well at The Lash, where I was playing regularly at the time, and a few other gigs. Every once in a while, someone would come up and tell me how excited they were to hear him in a DJ set. At the same time, I searched for the vinyl, flipping through any bin where it might be filed, on the lookout for an album cover with the Bowie-ish face of a topless guy painted in the colors of sunlight. 

Miguel Bosé was born into a famous family— his dad was a Spanish bullfighter,  his mom, an Italian actress— and started out as an actor. He released his first album, Linda, in 1977, the same year that he appeared in Suspiria. (Yes, Miguel Bosé was in one of the best horror films ever. BTW, so was Joan Bennett, aka Elizabeth Collins from Dark Shadows.) Bandido was a turning point in Bosé’s music. His earlier albums were fairly conventional late ‘70s/early ‘80s pop, where Bandido is very much a new wave album: synth-heavy, a little melancholy and with a very clear David Bowie influence. He’s had a long, successful career since then, and is the subject of a recent Paramount+ biographical miniseries (I haven’t seen it yet), but let’s just stick with Bandido for today. 

When you live in the U.S., it’s easy to be oblivious to the fact that, elsewhere in the world, a singer you think you’ve heard for the first time is actually quite famous and the song that’s new to you is one of their big hits. Even in a city like L.A. that prides itself on diversity, the outlets for  music discovery are by and large separated by genre and language. I’m hesitant to say that streaming and social media has really changed that, since platforms serve recommendations based on what you previously liked, what’s trending and, I have to assume based on my own feeds, what demographic information they have on you. It’s still important to listen to the surrounding world— the best songs turn up in unexpected places— and do a lot of digging on your own. 

In the midst of my search for a vinyl copy of Bandido, the pandemic hit and the record stores shut down. I briefly set my sights on Discogs, but quickly gave up. The record was all over Discogs— everywhere from Spain to Venezuela— and pretty cheap if you didn’t include the shipping price. I have a rule, the only one that I actually do follow 100% of the time, to not spend more than the cost of the record on shipping. I can’t bring myself to spend $40 on something that costs $5, so I waited until I found this record in L.A. 

Months after lockdown ended— maybe closer to a year— I finally found Bandido on vinyl. It was literally the first record I flipped to in the New Wave bin at Sonido del Valle. At this point, at least three years had passed since I heard “Amante Bandido” inside the convenience store. That might seem like a long time, but maybe it’s not.

Back when I got into vinyl, when eBay existed but it was basically just the thing Beanie Baby collectors used, waiting was part of the process. You would live with what you had, whether that was a CD or just a song taped off a radio station, until you could find the record at a price you could afford. That’s the main reason why, even though I love vinyl, I’m not a format snob. The ideal format isn’t necessarily the accessible one. I would have been okay with just the digital album. However, since I found that record nearly two years ago, I’ve come to love it more. 

Before I got the record, I knew that, aside from “Amante Bandido,” I loved the song “South of the Sahara,” which also pops up in my DJ sets from time to time. While listening to the album intentionally as a whole, instead of flipping between artists in a game of song-association that always happens when I’m on my laptop, I hear other moments that I love on the album. There’s that short, piano-based bridge on “Horizante de las Estrellas,” the almost whisper-like vocal delivery in the chorus of “Y Fue” and the intense tempo of the punk-ish closing track “Domine Mundi.” It’s a great album, but it’s also one I only know because I happened to be in a convenience store at the perfect time and one that took some patience to acquire for myself. That makes it all the more special. 

If you’re looking for Bandido on CD or digital, it’s available on Amazon. Also, Miguel Bosé’s book Historia secreta de mis mejores cancionces (which is going on my reading list for this year) is available in multiple formats on Amazon. ( As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases made from these links. Thanks for your support!)

Liz O. is an L.A.-based writer and DJ. Read her recently published work and check out her upcoming gigs.