The Peppy '80s Song "Vamos a la Playa" Was About Nuclear War

Even if you don't remember anything else from that Spanish class you took in high school, you do know how to say "Let's go to the beach." For that you can thank the smash hit song of 1983, "Vamos a la Playa" by the Italian duo Righeira. It still shows up in Spanish classes today, as it does on the lips of moms and dads happily packing up the sunscreen and towels for a day at the beach.

But not many of us ever bothered to learn anything beyond the title lyric, and as it turns out, the song is not as carefree as it seems: It's about the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, though the image of apocalyptic destruction it presents is about as cheerful a version as you can get. Here's what the song is saying:

Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh x 4
Vamos a la playa, la bomba estalló
Las radiaciónes tuestan y matizan de azul

Translates to:

Let's go to the beach, oh oh oh oh x 4
Let's go to the beach, the bomb exploded
The radiation toasts and tints everything with blue

And this passage:

Vamos a la playa, todos con sombrero.
El viento radiactivo, despeina los cabellos.

Translates to:

Let's go to the beach, everyone in a sombrero.
The radioactive wind, messes up the hair

And this passage:

Vamos a la playa, al fin el mar es limpio.
No más peces hediondos, sino agua fluorescente.

Translates to:

Let's go to the beach, finally the sea is clean.
No more smelly fish, just fluorescent water.

Keep it in mind as you strap on your own wrist phones and head to the playa this summer.

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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