Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

Music from a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Archive for April 2009

[music:] Anna Arazzini, Vola, vola in alto amore mio (1970)

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Fabio Carboni from Die Schachtel lended me this album in a plain yet beautiful gatefold die-cut cover some time ago, saying something like: “it’s quite an interesting record, but there’s actually just one song which is worth the listening”. Oh, boy. Fabio, you definitely must have picky tastes – or maybe you were just kidding me. I brought it home, and I played it. Once and then again. And again. I was thunder-struck.

Is this an art pop female singer/songwriter? In 1970? Is she the same girl who wrote some songs for the popstar Iva Zanicchi? And that sitar-driven track? There are several reasons because Vola, vola in alto amore mio (“fly, fly high my love”, a line from “Se mi vuoi”) is astonishing. The most striking is perhaps its spectacular lack of impact on the early seventies Italian music scene, its being in vain, a grand miss; it’s like if the record, and Anna herself, imploded somewhere in outer space instead of burning like a bright sun at the centre of the star system as it, and she, should have done, undeterredly continuing to vanish for almost forty years.

Then come, of course, its strictly musical qualitites, such as the excellent songwriting (all tracks are credited to Arazzini and the producer Ezio Leoni), which spans classic ballads and torch songs, rarefied jazz, bloodless soul, bossa, Italian folk and world music (such as in the klezmer-like “Ballata di una bimba”) and seems not completely unaware of the recent achievements by Fairport Convention and Pentangle, Joni Mitchell, or Jefferson Airplane at their folkiest, while the lyrics astoundedly record in ecstatic surrender the beauty and pain of nature and love. Or the magnificent, ethereal and roomy arrangements by Enrico Intra, which shake and break their Morriconian mould by dint of insisting on the darkest and most troubled zones, eventually gracing the record with a pervading imaginary soundtrack mood (by the way, in 1969 Anna had performed the song “Un posto per un addio” – “a place for a farewell” – for the Piero Umiliani’s score to La morte bussa due volte by Harald Philipp – international title: Death knocks twice).

And, above all, the depth and intensity of her performance: starting from the positions of Mina or Patty Pravo she comes to expressive solutions and emotional lands that Italian female musicians such as Giuni Russo and Alice would have rediscovered after ages (try listen to “Quanti anni, ragazzo” or “Il mare è tranquillo”), approaching priestesses like Sandy Denny or Beth Gibbons (“Palden”, for instance, would have easily fit in the latter’s masterpiece with Rustin’ Man Out of Season).

Here is the tracklist:

01, Tu non sei più innamorato di me (“you’re no longer in love with me”)
02, Quanti anni, ragazzo (“how many years, boy”)
03, Sveglierai la luna (“you will wake up the moon”)
04, Sarà Emanuela (“it will be Emanuela” also released as a 7″ b/w “Lontano dall’inverno” – “far from winter” – in 1969)
05, Ballata di una bimba (“ballad of a baby girl”)
06, Come il vento notturno (“like the night wind”)
07, Se mi vuoi (“if you want me” also released as a 7″ b/w “Tu non sei più innamorato di me”)
08, Il mare è tranquillo (“the sea is still”)
09, Palden
10, Elegia (“elegy”)
11, Oggi il sole è il re (“today the sun is the king”)
12, Una volta (“once”)

Get it: Anna Arazzini, Vola, vola in alto amore mio (1970)

After this largely unnoticed exploit, Anna Arazzini went on working as a theatrical actress, mostly in musicals, before vanishing without a trace in the late eighties. You can see and hear her in an excerpt from the original 1980 staging of Tito Schipa jr.’s Er Dompasquale after the Don Pasquale by Donizetti, in which she played the role of Norina.


Written by alteralter

April 23, 2009 at 7:12 pm

[television:] The Great Complotto, “Mister Fantasy” (1981)

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Here’s a tiny excerpt from the 18-minute tv special dedicated to the Great Complotto by Mister Fantasy, a tv show pioneering post-modern aestethic and the fine art of music videos in Italian television when “MTV” was just a meaningless abbreviation to us, hosted by Carlo Massarini and broadcasted by RAI from 1981 to 1984.

The bearded guy you may see opening the door of the Complotto’s “General bureau” at the beginning of the clip, just to disclose the movement’s general staff frozen in funny poses, and then closing it back, is a young Roberto D’Agostino, now a well-known journalist and gossip guru, owner of the popular yet dreaded Dagospia website.

The song is “Stimolation” by Fhedolts.

Written by alteralter

April 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

[requests, music:] AA. VV., Pordenone/The Great Complotto (1980)

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The sleep of province produces monsters.

As repeatedly requested, here’s the manifesto of the Great Complotto (“grande conspiracy”), or: how a handful of kids from Pordenone, a well-off, outlying small town in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, North-East Italy, turned their city into the imaginary state of Naon (a republic with its own flag, money, government, football team, customs and habits – an official guide was included in the 1983 IV3SCR compilation) and managed to make it one of the capitals of international situationism and the cradle of Italian punk beside Milan, Bologna, Turin, Florence. Featuring bleeps, noises, screechings, drones, the legendary London performance by Tampax and HitlerSS – when they sent fake tour dates to “Time Out” and then went to the scheduled locations with cardboard instruments just to see what their audience could look like – and the Naon national anthem “Atoms for energy” in two different versions.

And remember: Pordenone could be London, but London can’t be Pordenone.

Here is the tracklist:

Lato A (“A side”)
01, Mess, Paraguay
02, Fhedolts, Stimolation
03, Sexy Angels, La beat
04, Andy Warhol Banana Technicolor, I’m in love with my computer
05, Mind Invaders, Individual therapy
06, 001100111100011001011101 (Cancer), 000010
07, 001100111100011001011101 (Cancer), 000001
08, Musique Mecanique, Atoms for energy
09, Musique Mecanique, Good ideas must not fall in the hands of the enemy
10, Tampax/HitlerSS, London cartoon concert

Lato I (“I side”)
11, Fhedolts, Hearthing
12, Andy Warhol Banana Technicolor, The future
13, Mess, Foolish girls
14, W.K.W., Wyatt Earp
15, Sexy Angels, Atoms for energy
16, Little Chemists, Fe2Cr 0
17, Waalt Diisneey prod., Chips dorè (I.D.Y.)
18, Waalt Diisneey prod., (I need) Action

Get it: AA. VV., Pordenone/The Great Complotto (1980)
[edit August 23rd, 2009: the all-worthy publishing house Shake Edizioni has at last made available again this record on cd, added with extra tracks, a video and a 68-pages book stuffed with pics and lyrics! Useless to say, the download link has been removed. You can get the box here.]

The album was produced by The Great Complotto, Oderso Rubini, Red Ronnie, Ado (Scaini, from Tampax) and Compact Cassette Records, and released through Italian Records Service. The cover features a postcard of Pordenone. Among the several outfits involved in the movement you can also count Futuritmi, Ice & The Iced and the amazing XX Century Zorro.

Everything you may need to know about the Complotto is here on its official website mantained by StEvE (unfortunately, in Italian only).

Written by alteralter

April 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm

[guests, music:] Enzo Maolucci, L’industria dell’obbligo (1976)

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Renato Q., among a bunch of other things we won’t mention here, is currently the lyricist for the lo-res brain-pop sensation Humpty Dumpty (make sure to check out their blog and enjoy the freely downloadable Q.b., or even better, buy the cd).

As a conscious and judgmental citizen of Turin, he dramatically helped us in diggin’ up the debut album by Enzo Maolucci, one of the signature singer/songwriters in town in the late seventies and early eighties, who provided with his records a kind of a loath soundtrack to those city’s difficult years.

The Italian version of the post by Renato is available in our Found in translation page.

“Da un mese sto insegnando in una scuola media” (“it’s been a month i’ve been teaching at a middle school”). Enzo Maolucci’s debut album opens with a declaration of double identity: here is a rock musician who is also a new teacher in a public school. Two conditions which aren’t necessarily consistent; and it’s easy to see that Maolucci doesn’t feel that comfortable in his role as a professor just looking at the cover, where he shows his face in a close-up, but prefers identifying with those who are on the other side, with the students: inattentive, mocking students, positively devoted to disobedience.

At the back there’s a wall, on top of the wall there’s barbed wire, and beyond the wall a town, Turin, for which this record nearly marks an official breakthrough in Italian rock imagination. Turin is the Detroit of Italy, the factory-city ruled by Fiat, a town where the same air is full of things that this record tends to deal little with, possibly for the same reason a fish would hardly write a song about the water it swims in. In the most tough Turin of the seventies, didactic songs about workers and assembly lines are willingly left to write to foreigner, to tourists, such as Lucio Dalla from Bologna, for instance, who exactly in 1976 has released an album, Automobili, whose opening track is an imaginary “Intervista con l’Avvocato” (“interview with the lawyer”, being “the Lawyer” the nickname of Gianni Agnelli, the president of Fiat). For Maolucci, the city is the backdrop for an autobiographical eye, which soon becomes his easily recognizable signature style: his approach may appear less direct, but it’s just because the power – the power of the “padroni” (the “masters”) – is there to be met and challenged everywhere, in café speeches, in the cultural institutions, in everyday life.

The first two stories are named after two proper nouns: Baradel and Rita Fenu, one a surname from Veneto, and the other from Sardinia; two characters who refer to the migration wave that brought to Turin something like a half-million people during the previous twenty years. People who can’t cope, who have a hard time at school, who face home violence day by day. Rita Fenu is a young mother forced several times to clandestine abortion (pregnancy interruptions will be legalized only in 1977) before giving birth to a baby she kills by her own hand, out of her mind. Baradel is the favourite pupil destined to always fail, the kid who never answers the questions, a symbol, with his sheer presence, of class struggle in the school. The song showers on this unforgettable, silent Franti (a character from the novel Cuore by Edmondo De Amicis) hopes which end in the classical double bind: “be free!”. The rest of the record is essentially dedicated to building the “Maolucci” character, yet before the ending there’s room for a third encounter, in “Omicidio e rapina”, with the nocturne appearance of a friend with his face covered in blood, who begs for a beer and theorizes hate and violence as the only way out of the “ridiculous ambitions” that bourgeois society throws on him.

The rage and phisicality with which Maolucci performs his songs, the political topics, the violence of language may make L’industria dell’obbligo (“compulsory factory”) look like a very straightforward record, while you need some listenings to get into its intellectual and almost snob side. Besides, this is the work of someone who made everything backwards: he debuts as a singer/songwriter at the age of 30, but in his twenties he has written a book about beat and rock which represents one of the first studies on this subject carried out in Italian university (Pop-under-Rock, 1972). A few months before entering the studio for this album, he has helped in establishing the first free radio in Turin, and has shortly hit the headlines in local newspapers disrupting with his protests a concert by Stockhausen, symbol of the hated avant-garde music. One of the strong points of L’industria dell’obbligo, and one of the reasons why it still sounds so alive after all this time, lies in the layered experiences which entered this music. Maolucci stages all of his contradictions, assumes in turn different poses and stereotypes just to emerge from this stream of words as a more and more shifty and enigmatic character, a provocative moustached icon. Not that bad for a pissed off civil servant.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Baradel (also released as a 7″ b/w “Omicidio e rapina”)
02, Rita Fenu (Ninna nanna per un figlio che non doveva nascere) (“Rita Fenu (lullaby for a baby who shouldn’t have been born)”)
03, La mia idea (“my idea”)
04, Omicidio e rapina (“murder and robbery”)
05, L’industria dell’obbligo (“compulsory factory”)
06, Al limite cioè (Ninna nanna per un cane sciolto) (“at a pinch, like (lullaby for a maverick”)

Get it: Enzo Maolucci, L’industria dell’obbligo (1976)

Enzo Maolucci released three other LPs within 1985: Barbari e bar (“barbarians and cafés”, 1978. A song from this record, “Torino che non è New York” – “Turin which is not New York” – has been featured in 2008 in the soundtrack of Anni spietati – “ruthless years” – a documentary about terrorist killings in Turin in the seventies by Stefano Caselli, Davide Valentini and Igor Mendolia), Immaginata (1982), and Tropico del toro (“tropic of bull”, 1985), then focusing on teaching and on his passion for survival (he has founded in 1983 the I.S.A. – International Survival Association – has published some books on the topic and has designed some outdoor garments). He also designed the legendary Eko Short-gun electric guitar.

Following his recording comeback in 2008 with De liberata mente, his first four albums have been recently reprinted in two cds (together with two stand-alone singles, but not including “American Football Game” the 7″ released as The Rams in 1982 for the Saint Louis NFL team). Visit his official website for more info.

Written by alteralter

April 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm

[music:] Enrico Ruggeri, Champagne Molotov (1981)

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Punk before you were. What made Enrico Ruggeri great, at least in his early moments, was his widely displayed conceit, his haughty attitude, a feeling of being outstanding, and that everybody should have acknowledged that, before having proved anything. A third-rate, polenta-flavoured Lou Reed, sunglasses after dark and dyed hair included; a wannabe John Lydon minus the proletarian background – and the rotten teeth – but plus a job as a literature teacher at a secondary school and a real python which he used to hang around with, together with his friend and bandmate Silvio Capeccia.

Yeah, the boy had nerves. And will. He steered his way into music business with a willingness to change (not to say betray) and a ruthless eagerness to climb success ladder, through launching, joining and remodelling outfits such as Josafat, Trifoglio, the “decadent progressive” Champagne Molotov (mark I) and, eventually, Decibel. The story of this latter band has been told several times, from any given point of view: their beginnings, the 1978 self-titled debut album (which is usually regarded as the first Italian “punk” LP), the synth-driven turn with the single “Indigestione disko” (“disko indigestion”, 1979), their striking and contested participation in the 1980’s Sanremo festival with the song “Contessa” (“countess”), the successful second release Vivo da re (“i live like a king”, 1980), up to the very moment Ruggeri suddenly quit the act and signed with SIF record company to pursue a solo career, with an aftermath of personal conflicts and legal quarrels.

Once out of the band, he needed to show everybody that he was the band, striving to fulfil the promises that Decibel, after all, had failed to keep. He recruited Luigi Schiavone from Kaos Rock as guitar player, around whom he were to build his new backing band Champagne Molotov (mark II), and started working hard with means pared to the bone night after night – Schiavone still had a regular job during daytime – eventually coming out with an explosive cocktail of wild self-assertion, performance anxiety, amphetamine-related nervousness, restrained rage, contempt and regret called, strangely enough, Champagne Molotov: camera shots of Magazine, Stranglers, Ultravox, Sparks, late seventies Roxy Music, XTC, and The Only Ones, sorted for an italo editing; sharp rock-wave blades (“Fingo di dormire”, “Sono proprio un infantile”, “Sempre giù”), edgy funk-punk numbers (“Travel cheque”, “Competitiva” ), hyperkinetic waltzes and minuets (“Con te, con me”, “Nostalgia”), minimal glam ballads (“…e sorride”, “Vecchia Europa”, “Passato, presente, futuro”); scattered hints of a refined yet unripe songwriting, influenced by Italian great classic melodists as well as french chansonniers, which would have shortly brought to flaming masterpieces such as “Polvere” (“dust”), “Nuovo swing” (“new swing”), or “Il portiere di notte” (“the night porter”).

Simply and perfectly, the record that post-punk Italy was missing.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Una fine isterica (“an hysterical ending”)
02, Con te, con me (“with you, with me”)
03, Competitiva (“competitive girl”)
04, … e sorride (“…and she smiles”)
05, Fingo di dormire (“i pretend to sleep”)
06, Vecchia Europa (“old Europe”)
07, Sono proprio un infantile (“i am really childish”)
08, Senorita (also released as a 7″ b/w “Amore isterico” (“hysterical love”), that is, “Una fine isterica” with different lyrics)
09, Travel cheque (“traveler’s cheque”)
10, Nostalgia (“homesickness”)
11, Sempre giù (“always down”)
12, Passato, presente, futuro (“past, present, future”)

Get it: Enrico Ruggeri, Champagne Molotov (1981)

Ironically, Ruggeri was not able to cash in. The album, in fact, was withdrawn from the stores during the promotion of the single “Senorita”, following a law suit by former Decibel’ label Spaghetti Records (it was reprinted only in 1984), and Enrico was forced by the court neither to record nor perform live for almost four years.

He killed time working in the backstage, like writing lyrics for the first two singles by Diana Est or shaping the concept behind the italo disco project called “Den Harrow”, and preparing his big comeback, which eventually came in 1983 with the successful Polvere.

Enrico Ruggeri has released more than twenty albums so far, winning two Sanremo festivals (1987 and 1993) and establishing himself as one of the most famous and respected pop musicians in Italy, also writing huge hits together with Luigi Schiavone for the likes of Loredana Bertè, Fiorella Mannoia, Anna Oxa. He works as a tv presenter too.

You can learn more about him at his official website. You can also visit the Decibel’s page, with interesting details and great pics.

Written by alteralter

April 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm