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