Aphrodite’s Child were formed in Athens, Greece, by singer Demis Roussos and keyboard player Evangahlos O. Papathanassiou (better known later as Vangelis) in the mid-1960’s.
They originally recorded a single for Philips Records in Greece (Plastics Nevermore b/w The Other People) under the name The Papathanassiou Set.
The group’s music was deeply rooted in Greek traditionalism, and they even adapted national folk songs to contemporary treatment.
The recordings were passed to Mercury Records in London who requested that the band should come over to England to record. By this time Greece had undergone a right-wing military coup led by Colonel Papadopoulos, with both political and artistic freedom becoming severely limited.
Prior to departure for England, guitarist Koulouris received his military call-up papers and was forced to undertake domestic National Service. The remaining three musicians made their way to England, but on arrival at Dover they were refused entry to the UK due to problems with their work permits.
The trio headed back to Paris while their British visa issues were resolved. The group then found themselves stranded in France due to a nationwide transport strike – the first stages of the French industrial and student unrest of 1968. Philips Records in France took up the option to sign the band to Philips’ Mercury label.
The first release by Aphrodite’s Child was the single Rain and Tears, released in May 1968. It was a worldwide hit and reached the Top 10 in France, Holland and Belgium, and climbed to Number 27 in the UK.
The band re-entered the studio in June 1968 to record their first album, End Of The World, Rain and Tears, which was released in October, adorned in an elaborate psychedelic sleeve with the track selection demonstrating the slightly schizophrenic musical nature of the band. Aphrodite’s Child were by now established as a major act in continental Europe.
The band’s second album, It’s Five O’ Clock, was released in November 1969 and was a hit again across Europe – although it failed to chart in Britain.
By now Vangelis was becoming frustrated with the musical direction of Aphrodite’s Child and the band began undertaking live work in Italy and Spain without their keyboard player (Greek musician Harris Chalkitis deputised on keyboards).
By the end of 1970 “Silver” Koulouris had completed his military service and was invited to come to Paris to contribute to the next Aphrodite’s Child album, the stunning and expansive double set, 666. This album was a conceptual work with music by Vangelis and lyrics and text by Greek film director Costa Ferris.
The album’s concept was based on the Apocalypse of St John in the New Testament, with some references to the late 60searly 70s counter-culture. The music on the album could not have been more different from the band’s previous work and Mercury passed the album to its ‘progressive’ label, Vertigo, securing a release in France in late 1971.
The album was heralded as “a work of stunning complexity and originality” and received widespread critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the album did not fare well commercially.
With musical differences within the group now growing too wide to heal, the inevitable break-up of Aphrodite’s Child came later in 1971, with Roussos setting out on his own singing career, which culminated in British hit single Happy To Be On An Island in the Sun in 1975, followed a year later by the chart-topping EP The Roussos Phenomenon.
Vangelis Papathanassiou also went solo and made several albums. Then in 1979, he and Jon Anderson recorded the hit album Jon and Vangelis, from which their chart single I Hear You Now was taken.
In 1981, Vangelis composed the music for the score of the movie Chariots of Fire (1981) which was chosen for the year’s British Royal Film premiere.
Demis Roussos died on 26 January 2015 at the Hygeia Hospital in Athens. He was 68.