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