First Tango in Buenos Aires

Notes on the song lyrics

The first tangos in Buenos Aires were often danced by men together ("Hombre y hombre") as they would practice moves with each other until the 'woman arrives' - perhaps because there was a dearth of women in the city at the time, with up to 100,000 more men in the city at the start of the last century. This was as a result of the mass of male migrant workers coming in and causing a disproportionately male population as well as contributing to the musical and cultural influences that shaped tango. A little more information appears on this website.

The lyrics are the thoughts and feelings of a male tango dancer who falls for his male partner at a time when such love 'cannot speak its name'. I figured that such a passionate and erotic dance might have aroused feelings amongst at least one partner, somewhere, sometime, in those early sensual and evocative days of the tango.

I saw the line describing tango as 'Vertical expression of horizontal desire' and just had to steal it. I also make reference to the shanty towns 'villa miseria' which is the name for the shanty towns in Argentina, based on the Spanish words for 'village' and 'misery'. The 'Shirtless Ones' (in Spanish "Descamisado") was a derogatory term of the workers who supported the then President of Argentina Juan Perón and his wife Eva, a term only to be reclaimed with affection.

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I hold out,
I never tire,
Vertical expression (of),
Horizontal desire.

I get to hold him,
Feel his breath,
But I'm unrequited,
The 1st tango bereft.

A little bit of love,
Gets you nowhere,
A little bit of love,
Gets abused.

A little bit of love,
Gets you nowhere,
A little bit of love,
Gets you abused.

Primero tango
Hombre y hombre,
Woman descends,
It loses its sway.

As the sun sets,
On villa miseria,
Where's my gaucho?
Here's a tear.


I smell the sweat,
I have the taste,
I have the moves,
That tightly grab his waist,

Silent tonight,
The 'shirtless ones',
But soon they'll gather,
Desperate mothers' sons.

The love that cannot
Speak its name,
Shouts in Tango time and time again.