[music:] Roberto Ferri, Se per caso un giorno la follia… (1977)
In the seventies there’s been a passionate debate in Italy about mental illness and psychiatric hospitals, mainly promoted by great psychiatrist and philosopher Franco Basaglia. He began experimenting new and different methods in treating lunatics in Gorizia, Parma and Trieste’s asylums, which he directed between late sixties and early seventies. In 1973 he founded Psichiatria democratica (“democratic psychiatry”), a movement for a reform in mental health system.
The fight against psychiatric abuses such as electroshocks and sedatives overuse, and for a new way of considering insanity, became a crucial issue for the broader social movement who struggled against repression and total institutions such as prisons or the army. A true and deep revolution in italian culture started here.
Se per caso un giorno la follia… (“if, by chance, one day the madness…”) would have possibly never existed out of this climate. Roberto Ferri had been discovered by Mina in the late sixties, and had released a series of 7″ between 1967 and 1970, but he had to wait since 1977 for his first LP, which was something completely different from the pop tunes – sometimes covers of foreign hits – he had been recording since then.
It actually was a concept album about social labelling, marginalization and exploitation, portraying characters suffering because of their diversity: psychotics, of course, but also dropouts, kids, animals. The contrast between the music – which is basically soft progressive rock added with sophisticated, melodic pop in the french chansonniers’ style, with even some folk hints – and the stories Ferri told made tracks like “Io povero pazzo” or “Requiem per Boby” (a shocking crude song about vivisection) even more heartbreaking. But there’s also space for a love triangle (“Tu e lui”) and for the closest thing to an anthem for the Indiani metropolitani’s generation: “Anno zero”. Ferri is great giving a coherent emotional mood to the whole work which, in spite of some naiveties, remains touching and challenging even thirty years later.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Alla piazza deserta (“to the empty square”)
02, Io povero pazzo (“i, poor madman”)
03, Ritagli di giornale (“newspaper cut-outs”)
04, Col vestito da indiano (“in a red indian costume”)
05, Il pavone (“the peacock”)
06, Requiem per Boby (“requiem for Boby”)
07, Giovannino seme di mela (“little appleseed John”)
08, Anno zero (“year zero”)
09, Tu e lui (“you and him”)
10, La goccia (“the drop”)
Italian asylums were closed in 1978 with the law number 180 (also known as “legge Basaglia”). Franco Basaglia died in 1980. Roberto Ferri continued his career as songwriter and performer, while teaching chemistry and working in the perfume industry. He collaborated with, among others, Fabrizio De Andrè, Adriano Celentano, New Trolls, Patty Pravo and Franco Battiato. He also wrote the 1983 Sanremo festival winning tune, “Sarà quel che sarà” (“what will be, will be”), sang by one-hit wonder Tiziana Rivale. In 2007 he returned to play live Se per caso un giorno la follia…
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