Archive for January 2009
Gender bender. Ivan Cattaneo has been among the first musicians in Italy, together with Alfredo Cohen and Andrea Tich, to openly and directly address gender-related issues in his work, not simply singing songs about homosexuality, but approaching music, songwriting and performing with a conscious and joyous gay attitude.
We thank our beloved friend and guest contributor Piergiorgio Pardo, musician – check out his outstanding band Egokid’s MySpace – teacher, writer, music journalist for “Blow Up”, for having kindly provided us with a piece about Cattaneo’s second album Primo secondo e frutta (IVAn compreso) (“first course, main course and fruit (iVAT included)” – being IVA the italian for VAT), released by Ultima Spiaggia in 1977, way before he achieved a huge success in the Eighties with his electropop renditions of Sixties’ hits.
You can read the italian version in our “Found in translation” page.
Homosexuality and food. Music and poetry under the sign of Milk? More than that. Definitively. Because here we get the irreverent, experimental, self-centered, out of line, living history of that movement – in these days faithfully reconstructed with a barrage of Hollywood-sized fees and Academy Awards nominations.
The grass-roots radicalism become avantgarde matter. Even that naive, late Seventies one which still made think of synaesthetic projects that could put together all the arts under improbable acronyms (T.U.V.O.G. Art, the art of TOUCHEARINGSIGHTSMELLTASTE, come off it!), or played with post-modernism, dreaming of a bildungsroman between Giovanni Pascoli and Diabolik (the pedagogy of “Maria-Batman”, or “Dadadidattico”s metapartisan echolalia), or solved diversity issues in a post-Franciscan nature worship (“l’amore è grande e santo anche fra l’asino e il canguro” – “love is great and saint even between the ass and the kangaroo” – he swears in “Psico-Fico”).
But there’s also pasolinian naivety (“le tue labbra sanno sempre di asfalto e cipria” – “your lips always taste of asphalt and face powder”), modern disenchantement with the still recent peaks of glam exoticism (“quando l’ufo qui passò sulla terra, ci lasciò annegare soli qui d’immaginazione” – “when the ufo passed here on earth, he let us here alone drowning in imagination”), as well as with the just carried out failure of the extraparliamentary groups’ season (“per me rivoluzione è niente, noia o déjà vu” – “revolution is nothing to me, boredom or deja vu”). Words of courage, playful but haughty; cynism, but still a devouring energy even beyond hedonism and that monument to lust as a political act which yet made sense in those years.
And the musical substance is magnificent. Ivan spends with an extraordinary verve his hysterical apprenticeship in UOAEI (1975), his London experience, the unconscious wisdom of Nanni Ricordi and, above all, the hypercultured irony of Roberto Colombo, a true co-author, accomplice and somehow director of the album. Just hear how the jazz rock-derived recipe which defined many italian records from that time grows here in originality and depth. Or how vocal experimentalism gives up for good the stand-offish – and out-of-date by now – coordinates that led an Alan Sorrenti, turning into a loose miracle of irony. Guitars’ darts and liquid pianisms, odd tempos, elegant and light funky strokes, hints of ballads promptly broken by an inexhaustible will to play it down.
Gay pop culture caught in one of its most adventurous yet universal expressions. Ever.
Here is the tracklist:
01, La segretaria ha colpito ancora (“the secretary struck again” also released as a 7″ b/w “Maria-Batman”)
02, Maria-Batman (“Mary-Batman”)
03, L’amore è una s/cossa meravigliossa (“love is a many ssplendored s/thing”)
04, Psico-Fico (“psycho-cool”)
05, Dadadidattico (“dadadidactic”)
06, Il vostro ombelico (“your belly button”)
07, Agitare prima dell’uso (“shake before use” also released as the b-side of “Tabù”, 1978 )
08, L’occhio ridente (“the laughing eye”)
10, Salve o Divina! (“hail, oh divine!”)
11, L’altra faccia della luna (“the other side of the moon”)
12, Uffa! (“phew!”)
13, C’era una volta (“once upon a time”)
Get it: Ivan Cattaneo, Primo secondo e frutta (IVAn compreso) (1977)
[edit: rip now fixed with the correct tracklist]
If you want to know more about Ivan Cattaneo you can browse his official website.
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici (“social mechanical youngsters”, often shortened as GMM) was a multimedia collective pioneering computer art in Italy, founded in 1984 in Florence by the graphic designer Antonio “Tony” Glessi and the writer Andrea “Andy” Zingoni, whose name first appeared as the title of a computer-generated comic strip published on “Frigidaire” magazine starting from issue 42, May 1984.
Tony and Andy were soon joined by photographer Marco “Marc” Paoli and fashion designer and performer Loretta “Lore” Mugnai, and eventually by Maurizio Dami aka Alexander Robotnick – who had already released his first seminal efforts, such as the 12″ and 7″ versions of Problèmes d’amour (1983, 1984) and the LP Ce n’est qu’un debut (1984) – taking care of sound design and soundtracks to their performances, installations and videos.
A compilation of this music, most of the times proper songs with lyrics by Glessi and Zingoni, was released on a tape called GMM by Materiali Sonori in 1984. A vinyl album of the same title came out in 1985, featuring keyboards, programming and guitars by Alexander Robotnick, vocals by Robotnick himself, Marco Paoli and friends, and some jazz musicians playing winds and piano.
These kinds of releases often denote the original, functional purpose of the sounds contained by their lack of emotional and esthetical consistency and their disregard for the sheer listening experience, their pointless sniffy attitude and their exhausting reluctance to take any risk. But we’re having something completely different here: not just a background for a performance, but a performance in itself, which applies to the music the same vision, operational mode, and passionate detachment adopted by GMM in visual and performing arts (an approach to sound issues they shared with the experimental theatrical company Magazzini Generali, even if their musical outputs were slightly different).
The record (which incidentally is pure wonder, shining in beauty, humour and melancholy) provided the field for a clash of personal creativities, a ruthless and profitable confrontation between the diverse identities making up the collective; at the same time, it set up a testing ground for Robotnick to decompose his own language, precipitating traces of Tuxedomoon, EBM and jazz, synthpop and hip-hop, italo disco and mutant disco, presentiments of Pet Shop Boys and Matt Bianco’s cartoon swing caricatures. Disparate elements which prodigiously stay in balance and define in turn tracks such as the crepuscular Au jour de la separation and Petite soeur, Back and forth – which dangerously wanders out there, in a desolate suburban fringe, at night – and the hysterically high No fear nor destination and Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin – not to mention the amazing takes on Caravan by Duke Ellington, Gato Barbieri’s theme from Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”) and Gilbert Becaud’s Et maintenant.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Love supreme
03, Au jour de la separation
04, Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”)
05, Flashman swing
06, Back and forth
07, Don’t ask me why (also released as a 12″ b/w “Love supreme”)
08, Petite soeur
09, No fear nor destination
10, Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin (fake arab for “gimme a little benzina”, where “benzina” is the italian for “oil”)
11, Et maintenant
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici have produced short films, theatrical performances, tv series, festivals, music videos for the likes of Teresa De Sio and Claudio Rocchi, experimenting with information technology and virtual reality, and achieving a huge success in the late Nineties with their cartoon character Gino il pollo (“Gino the chicken”, created by Andrea Zingoni and Joshua Held). Even if the collective disbanded in 1998, some of the members keep on working as Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici from time to time. For italian speakers, here is GMM’s website.
As for Maurizio Dami, in the Nineties he got more and more involved with african, Middle and Far East music, giving up his stage name and working with musicians from all over the world in acts such as Data from Africa, Music for Meditation, Govinda, and The Third Planet. He revived Alexander Robotnick in 2002, and has been releasing a bunch of new stuff since then, both as Robotnick and Italcimenti, together with his long-time friend Lapo Lombardi aka Ludus Pinski. He is currently active as a musician, dj, performer and dance music living legend. You can learn more about his past and present projects at robotnick.it
I am massively happy and greatly proud to introduce you the first in a series of posts by special guest contributors; friends who will grace this blog with their deep knowledge and exquisite taste in music, and their brightening vision.
This time we warmly welcome Christian Zingales, journalist and writer, editor-in-chief of “Blow up” (the best italian music magazine), author of the book Italiani brava gente (“italians, good people”, 2008), “a sentimental trip into the sea of italian song” and the ultimate resource to properly comprehend italian pop. Christian supplied us with a feature story about Alberto Camerini’s first album. I know it has been recently posted by wago at Il golpe e l’uva, but this participation was scheduled way before I noticed that and, however, for such an important and criminally out-of-print record, two web resources are far better than one.
The original italian text is available in the new “Found in translation” page, here on top right.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, from italian parents, Alberto Camerini moved back to Italy as a child, soon establishing himself in his late teenage years as a natural born talented guitarist in the protest-age Milan. After having debuted in a band called Il Pacco, together with his friends Eugenio Finardi and Donatella Bardi, he began to distinguish himself as a session musician around 1968, playing with the likes of Anna Identici, Patty Pravo, Fausto Leali, Rita Pavone. As the Seventies approached, he already stood as a reference figure in the milanese off-scene. His electric solos graced albums such as L’unità by Stormy Six, Volo magico n. 1 by Claudio Rocchi, Mai una signora by Patty Pravo and Megh by Mario Barbaja.
The contact moment came in 1975. He co-produced Finardi’s debut album, Non gettare alcun oggetto dai finestrini (“do not throw anything out of the windows”), released through the then-rising and highly quoted indipendent label Cramps, founded by Gianni Sassi. The record is an italian rock classic, and Alberto’s solos in long, electric rides such as “Se solo avessi” (“if only i had”) and “Saluteremo il signor padrone” (“we will salute our master”) instantly entered the myth: wrenching and acid scratches of a creativity taking shape.
In fact, one year later, his recording debut came as well, always on Cramps. Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano (“Cinderella and the daily bread”) – followed in the next two years by Gelato metropolitano (“metropolitan ice cream”, 1977) and Comici cosmetici (“comic cosmetics”, 1978 ) – is the opening act of one of the most peculiar and idiosyncratic trilogies in italian pop history, released years before he met his great tv success with a series of hits and albums produced with Roberto Colombo and released through CBS, turning himself into a post-punk, post-Bowie electro harlequin synthesizing electronics, pop and Commedia dell’arte with overflowing and uncontrolled istintivity. But Alberto’s masterpiece remains Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano, the genesis of all petitions to come, still cold from a control which put in a significant perspective the conceptual fooleries of a seemingly perfect metropolitan pixie, the joker who fell to the dull and luxuriant lands of late ’70 Milan.
Supported by Cramps’ crew musicians such as Hugh Bullen, Walter Calloni, Patrizio Fariselli, Claudio Pascoli, Camerini put together a patchwork of ludic and sharp visions which represented a real detachment from the whole engaged and post-cantautori antagonism: from the lysergic, subterranean rock of “La ballata dell’invasione degli extraterrestri” and “La straordinaria storia dell’invenzione della televisione (a colori)” to the brazilian legacies of “Maracatù F.C.” and “Pane quotidiano”, from pasteled nursery rhymes like “TV baby (Gli eroi della televisione)” to off-pop numbers such as “Sicurezza” and “Droga (Aiutami dottore)”, leading to the peak of the record, the closing track Cenerentola. Eight minutes of sheer metarock, an uncovered urban journey with a proto-rapping Camerini telling us about the saturday night of a working class girl looking for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll after an hard-working week – “e se otto ore vi sembran poche, provate voi a lavorare” (“and if eight hours seem few to you, come and try to work”). When, after thousands of coup de theatre and as many monstruous apparitions, the trip explodes in a rythmical queue with Bullen’s bass and Calloni’s drums on a war footing and Finardi singing, as from the liner notes, “coretti alla lurìd” (“looreed-ish backing vocals”), you get the long shot of one of the most incredible record ever in italian pop’s manifold manifestations. Having reprinted it in cd only in an ultralimited edition at the beginning of the Nineties it’s rather shameful.
Here is the tracklist:
01, La ballata dell’invasione degli extraterrestri (“the ballad of the extraterrestrial invasion”)
02, Maracatù F.C.
03, Pane quotidiano (“daily bread”, also released as a 7″ b/w “In giro per le strade”)
04, Sicurezza (“security”)
05, Droga (Aiutami dottore) (“drug (help me doctor”)
06, La straordinaria storia dell’invenzione della televisione (a colori) (“the amazing story of the invention of the (color) television”)
07, TV baby (Gli eroi della televisione) (“TV baby (television’s heroes)”)
08, Santa Marta (“saint Marta”)
09, Cenerentola (“Cinderella”)
Check out the artist’s official page for more info.
Since many of you requested it, possibly time has come to make available this unidentified sound object swerving between musique concrète, pop, avant-garde, beat, rock’n’roll, old-fashioned melodies, progressive rock, which we already spoke of some months ago, in the post about Ricky Gianco’s Alla mia mam…: like continuously switching over the stations of a radio tuned on the distorted brainwaves of a man fallen in a coma after a car accident, who confusingly dreams of the Inquisition, of concentration camps, of war, torture, chain work, love, sex, painfully recovering splinters of his memory. Practically, the soundtrack of a nightmare. After all, it’s not called Disco dell’angoscia (“anguish record”) by chance.
But what really makes this record haunting and creepy to such extent is perhaps an immoderate and unreasonable expenditure, a raging emptiness hardly restrained, an extraordinary taste for bad taste, a morbid irony which results, for instance, in a children choir singing a nazi song, or a gloomy samba which cites Auschwitz.
Here is the tracklist:
01, L’incidente (“the accident”)
02, Voglio vivere (“i want to live”)
03, Motivo angoscia 1 (La religione e la morte) (“anguish theme 1 (religion and death)”)
04, Canto delle streghe e del demonio (“chant of the witches and the devil”)
05, Motivo angoscia 2 (Canto nazista) (“anguish theme 2 (nazi chant)”)
06, Samba della tortura e della guerra (“samba of torture and war”)
07, Che cosa è? (“what is it?”)
08, Motivo angoscia 3 (“anguish theme 3”)
09, Rock della ricostruzione (“reconstruction rock”)
10, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)
11, Motivo angoscia 4 (“anguish theme 4”)
12, Zucchero mio (“sugar of mine”)
13, Piacere e potere (“pleasure and power”)
14, Motivo angoscia 5 (“anguish theme 5”)
15, L’incidente (“the accident”)
The complete lineup counts – apart from Ricky Gianco (guitar, vocals), Gianfranco Manfredi and Ivan Cattaneo (vocals), Tullio De Piscopo and Ellade Bandini (drums) – Nanni Ricordi and Ninni Carucci on the vocals (the latter being a singer/songwriter which released an album through the label Ultima spiaggia in 1975, now a successful cartoon music author), Sergio Farina (guitar), Claudio Bonechi (keys), Hugo Heredia (sax), Gigi Cappellotto (bass).
Here is the beforementioned sequence from the movie Berlinguer ti voglio bene by Giuseppe Bertolucci (younger brother of the celebrated Bernardo) in which Franco Fanigliulo, playing a ramshackle liscio singer, reads a note from the stage of an outdoor ballroom informing Mario Cioni (a then-debutant Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni) that his mother has died.
Liscio is a traditional popular dancing music genre from Romagna (Central-Northern Italy). Enrico Berlinguer, to whom the movie is ironically and affectionally dedicated, has been leading the PCI (italian communist party) from 1972 to his death, in 1984. Benigni’s mother was played by the great, late Alida Valli.
The film’s international title is Berlinguer: I love You.
A lifetime-long heartache. A heartquake. The son of a sailor, and sailor himself, who has to give up life on the sea because of a rheumatic disease and ends up as a farmer and breeder in Liguria’s countryside. The kid with the guitar recruited by Caterina Caselli for her label Ascolto together with Pierangelo Bertoli, Faust’o, Pepe Maina, Mauro Pagani, post-Cramps Area. The liscio singer from Romeo e Los Gringos in Giuseppe Bertolucci’s movie Berlinguer ti voglio bene (1977) which announces from the stage to a young Roberto Benigni the death of his mother. The jester which forecasts his own death by cerebral hemorrhage ten years in advance in his most successful song, while people clap hands and smile.
Franco Fanigliulo’s first album, Mi ero scordato di me (“i had forgotten about myself”, 1977) introduced the audience to this outsider’s peculiar theatrical approach to pop songs, which mixed mid-seventies cantautori style with french chansonniers and early nineteenth-century italian cabaret; but it’s with his acclaimed participation in 1979 Sanremo festival with the apparently funny “A me mi piace vivere alla grande” (written with Oscar Avogadro, Daniele Pace and Riccardo Borghetti), which he suddenly appeared bound for success.
Shortly afterwards, Io e me (“i and me”), produced by the great Gian Piero Reverberi (arranger and producer for Fabrizio De Andrè, New Trolls, Le Orme, Lucio Battisti, Mina, Lucio Dalla, Patty Pravo, and founder of Rondò Veneziano) was released. A masterpiece which overturned the same concept of “cantautore”, hurling it into the upcoming decade, and places Fanigliulo among other terminal heroes such as Mauro Pelosi, Faust’o, Flavio Giurato. The hit single (which however remains a great take on his cabaret side) was literally buried with songs such as “Non si sa mai”, “Buffone”, “Il chirurgo”, “Con te” and, above all, the harrowing “Marco e Giuditta” about a couple of old lovers, which accomplish the dirty job that Jacques Brel had only started with “La chanson des vieux amants”.
Here is the tracklist:
01, L’artista (“the artist”)
02, A me mi piace vivere alla grande (“me like living it big time”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Non si sa mai”)
03, Il guerriero (“the warrior”)
04, Marco e Giuditta (“Marco and Giuditta”)
05, Buffone (“bufoon”)
06, Con te (“with you”)
07, Il chirurgo (“the surgeon”)
08, Non si sa mai (“one never knows”)
09, La Giovanna
Get it: Fanigliulo, Io e me (1979)
Unfortunately, the record did not manage to chart, and “A me mi piace vivere alla grande” itself did not go further than the 42nd place. As a result, after another unsuccessful album in 1980, Ratatam pum pum (featuring Mauro Pagani, Walter Calloni, Loredana Bertè), and a 7″ in 1982 (“La liberté”), Ascolto discharged him. Fanigliulo came back to his coutrylife, from where he briefly emerged in 1983 with a Q-disc (a four-tracks EP) called Benvenuti nella musica (“welcome to music”) released by Battisti’s Numero Uno.
It’s his friendship with Zucchero (Fanigliulo is credited in the latter’s 1987 bestseller Blue’s for his contribution to music and lyrics) and especially with Vasco Rossi, the most successful italian rockstar, which drew him back to the music business. Actually he released a couple of singles in 1987 and 1988 through Bollicine, Rossi’s label, and was working on his comeback album, with Steve Rogers Band as a backing band, when, on January 1989, at the age of 44, he was hit by a stroke and died after a couple of days at the hospital’s intensive care unit. Just like he sang in “A me mi piace vivere alla grande”: “Ho un nano nel cervello, un ictus cerebrale” (“I’ve got a dwarf in my brain, a cerebral ictus”).
The songs he left unfinished were released in 1990 as a posthumous album titled Goodbye mai (“arrivederci never”). You can pay tribute to Franco Fanigliulo visiting the site L’artista Franco Fanigliulo (in italian), stuffed with info, pictures, songs preview, interviews, etc.
This is a piece of my heart. A friend of mine made me a cassette with this ’77 punk/hardcore/Oi! compilation when I was 13 or something, back in the days. I used to listen obsessively to it on my walkman going to school or wandering in the streets of my hometown, and trying to track down the words to sing along with the tape (even the italian lyrics were hard to get, because of the infamous quality of the recording, perhaps a dubbing of a dubbing of a dubbing…). Unfortunately, we had neither the tracklist nor any other information about the record, so it took me a long time in the pre-Internet age to recover its whole story and eventually discover this shocking pink vynil anthology in a disaster sleeve, one of the most valuable outputs of the italian anarcopunx scene.
In the early Eighties, in the middle of “riflusso”, right when collective issues seemed completely discredited, the kids began to squat places such as dismissed factories, abandoned buildings, unfinished hospitals and schools to live and work together in liberated spaces and host concerts and performances which no regular venue, promoter, theatre or gallery would have been likely to handle, creating a nationwide network with its diy bulletins and fanzines, its self-produced record labels and publishing houses, its great mobilizations. It was the rise of a new and different movement, influenced by ’77 nihilism as well as by Crass hippy-punk anarchism and american straight-edge, anticipating and stimulating in many ways the exciting season of centri sociali (“social centers”) or CSOA (centro sociale occupato autogestito, “squatted self-managed social center”), which characterized italian political antagonism in the late Eighties and in the Nineties.
Raptus 1984 – with its follow-up Raptus. Negazione & superamento (“raptus. denial & overcoming”, 1984) – was the first attempt to gather all the different components of this movement (at least the musical ones) and document them as a whole, supplying a state of the art of italian punk scene. The man behind this project was Giulio Tedeschi, born in Piacenza in 1952 but living in Turin since 1971, a counterculture hero and founder of independent label Meccano Records (by the way, Meccano had originally a logo I would adopt immediately for this blog if I could find it somewhere: a pink wrench).
He managed to coordinate the efforts of people from all over the country, eventually recording and showcasing eight bands (the last track by “Raptus” seems rather a joke), most of which had hardly released a demo tape before: Drull from Savona (Liguria), Uart Punk from Messina (Sicily), Wrong Boys from Pavia (Lombardy), UDS from Turin, Petrolio from Rome, Wops from Venice, Last Call from Bari (Apulia), and Raw Power from Reggio Emilia (Emilia-Romagna) – the only act of the bunch that is still active, and which gained a worldwide reputation after signing with american label Toxic Shock, touring intensively the U.S. and Europe.
The music (punk rock, hardcore, oi! punk, some weird post punk/garage mixtures) is raw and rude as it should be, and the sound quality is obviously poor. Most of the lyrics seem now naive and full of elementary slogans (but they for sure didn’t seem that naive to a thirteen years old boy); anyway, it’s the spirit and the attitude which count here. Not disregarding a true gem like Italia/Italia by the sadly forgotten Petrolio, which manages to synthesize punk rage, cantautori’s grudge and italo-wave disruptive irony in one amazing song.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Drull, Tentacoli di potere (“tentacles of power”)
02, Drull, Militare (“in the army”)
03, Uart Punk, Anarchia in Italia (“anarchy in Italy”)
04, Uart Punk, Frustrazione (“frustration”)
05, Wrong Boys, Massacro (“massacre”)
06, UDS, Ma che bella società (“what a beautiful society”)
07, UDS, Basta (“that’s enough”)
08, Petrolio, Italia/Italia (“Italy/Italy”)
09, Wops, Hateful town
10, Wops, Kids
11, Last Call, Fall of italian empire
12, Last Call, Your solution
13, Raw Power, Raw Power
14, Raw Power, You are a victim
15, Raptus, The end
Get it: AA. VV., Raptus 1984 (1983)
In 1985 Meccano became Toast Records, one of the most active underground italian labels, hosting acts such as Afterhours, Fleurs du Mal, Limbo, Underground Life, Ritmo Tribale, Statuto, No Strange, Not Moving, Avvoltoi, Yo Yo Mundi, En Manque d’Autre, Kina, Franti, Marlene Kuntz, Pikes in Panic. You can visit the label’s site for more info.