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Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Madrid
September 25, 1986

By Mahnuel Muñoz

On December 17, 2019, Arsenio Marcos Rodríguez died at the age of 76 in the Spanish city of Bilbao, whose name, until today, will be unknown to the vast majority, and yet he is a very important figure for all Spanish followers of Frank Sinatra. .

Born in Sabero, (León) he herded cows during his youth and one day, with more dreams than certainties, he took the train to Bilbao in search of a more prosperous future. He spent a few years working as a transporter with a humble motorcycle and managed to gain a prominent place in the Bilbao business scene while Frank Sinatra’s music sounded like the soundtrack of his upward path. He ran some of the most renowned nightclubs of his time and in 1986 he made some headlines in the Spanish national press when he achieved a dream: for Frank Sinatra to perform in Spain. The chosen date, September 25, 1986, and the place, the legendary Santiago Bernabéu stadium, temple of Real Madrid’s exploits.


The concert appears in the annals of Frank Sinatra’s history as one of the most resounding commercial failures. It is said that of the 65,000 tickets that the organization anticipated, only about 11,000 were sold, and that between 16,000 and 18,000 were given away to avoid offering the sad image of a practically empty stadium. Frank Sinatra hung the “No seats” sign at practically all of his concerts around the world. What happened in Madrid?

The public authorities and the distraught press put all kinds of obstacles to the organization of the event. The limited publicity was negative, and the willful and enterprising Arsenio, who was disparagingly nicknamed “The Shepherd,” was disqualified as an intruder and inexperience. Xavier Cugat, the legendary Catalan conductor who recorded with Sinatra in the 1940s, was particularly virulent: “They only know how to sell panties and nightgowns,” he snapped, referring to Arsenio and his team. Apparently Cugat’s irritation was due to the fact that he had previously tried unsuccessfully to hire the voice; This story deserves to be told separately, something I will do in the next few days.

Ticket prices were very high and the main distribution channel, the El Corte Inglés department store, terminated the contract with the organization the day before the concert, officially due to Arsenio’s proposal to lower the tickets in order to alleviate the economic debacle.
Furthermore, that was a Spain that was experiencing the death throes of the Movida Madrileña (for the international members of the group, indicate that it was a countercultural and artistic movement born in Madrid in the second half of the 1970s after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco. It was characterized as an innovative form of verbal and aesthetic expression that was developed in music, film, literature and photography) and Sinatra was perceived as a relic of the past, a representative of American imperialism, a vulgar and rude mobster. ; Nobody thought of doing a study on the acceptance of the singer and adapting the venue, the place and the price of the seats to reality.


The concert, on the other hand, presents a communicative and brilliant Frank Sinatra, singing with the support of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a superb manner his bouquet of great hits and a delicious concession to national folklore with the magnificent “Granada”. Some audio and video recordings that circulate privately attest to this. The Cadena SER radio station covered the concert and tried to give it a decent treatment, with some enthusiastic commentators who did not hide their admiration for the singer, and the finishing touch was the fireworks that illuminated the capital’s sky.

On the stadium grass, Arsenio knew that his great dream was going to be his financial ruin, but no one can erase the smile that illuminated his face and his satisfaction at being the one who managed to break Sinatra’s oath not to return. never to our “damned country”.


Fly Me To The Moon
Without A Song
What Now My Love
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Where Or When
My Heart Stood Still
New York New York
Summer Wind
night and day
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Come Rain Or Come Shine
L.A.Is My Lady
The Girl From Ipanema
April In Paris
The Lady Is A Tramp
For Once In My Life
Mack The Knife
All The Way
Strangers In The Night
My Way

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