Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

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

Archive for the ‘1981’ Category

[music:] Carmelo Bene, Lectura Dantis (1981)

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Do I really have to explain who Carmelo Bene – or C.B., as his friend Gilles Deleuze used to refer to him in his writings – was? A performer, theatre and cinema experimenter, philosopher, criminal, professional provocateur, he’s been one of the most controversial yet influential Italian artists in the past century. Try reading his obituary on The Guardian or his Wikipedia page (in italian) for a glimpse of his life and work.

On August 2nd, 1980, an infamous fascist bomb attack at the train station in Bologna killed 85 people and injured more than 200. Perhaps the most sensational act in the Strategy of tension, gone down in history as “strage di Bologna” (“Bologna massacre”). One year later, on 31st July, 1981, Carmelo Bene delivered a public reading with selected cantos of the Divine Comedy to an audience of more than 100.000 people from the Torre degli Asinelli, one of Bologna’s main monuments and the tallest medieval tower in Italy, to commemorate the  first anniversary of the bombing.

Pursuing his lifetime goal of establishing theatre as an acte vide, Carmelo was then perfecting his mutation into a “macchina attoriale” (“acting machine”), completely uprooting the voice from the body that produces it and magnifying it through heavy amplification, mixing and electronic processing, so that the obtrusive speaking subject is replaced by a device in which the actor and the equipment can’t be separated.

This process had begun with his magnificent Manfred after Byron/Schumann, first staged at La Scala in Milan in 1979, but the outdoor Bologna performance gave him the opportunity to have a powerful rock concert set up to experiment with. Reading from a tower’s window, virtually invisible to the audience, he appeared as a sheer sound presence, an air sculptor shaping the space. And, yeah, this is music to me. (Ok, the record actually includes some short entr’actes by sicilian contemporary classic composer Salvatore Sciarrino, but the real score here are Dante’s lines, while the voice of Carmelo rules as the the most versatile instrument.)

Here is the tracklist:

Inferno (“hell”)
01, Canto V (“5th canto”)
02, Canto XXVI (“26th canto”)
03, Canto XXXIII (“33rd canto”)

Purgatorio (“purgatory”)
04, Canto VI (6th canto”)
05, Canto VIII (8th canto”)

Paradiso (“paradise”)
06, Canto XXIII (“23rd canto”)
07, Canto XXVII (“27th canto”)
08, Canto VII (“7th canto”)

09, Sonetti (“sonnets”)

Get it: Carmelo Bene, Lectura Dantis (1981)

The immortal words that Carmelo pronounces at the end of the last track are: “Io mi scuso per il vento che ha turbato questa dizione, questo canto e, sebbene ringrazi gli astanti, ricordo un po’ a tutti che ho dedicato questa mia serata, da ferito a morte, non ai morti, ma ai feriti dell’orrenda strage” (“i apologize for the wind which troubled this reading, this chant, and although thanking the people in the audience, i would remember to everybody that i dedicated this night of mine, as someone wounded to death, not to the dead, but to those injured by the dreadful massacre”).

He eventually died in 2002, at the age of 64.

Two neofascists, Giusva Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, members of the NAR (a right-wing terrorist group) have been sentenced for life in 1995 as the executors of the attack, while other people – including several former secret service officers and directors – have been found guilty of aid and abet. All of them still claim their innocence.

Written by alteralter

June 14, 2009 at 5:03 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

[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

[music:] Rats, C’est disco (1981)

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I already wrote about Italian Records and its crucial role in the development of Italian new wave and italo disco in the post about Gaznevada’s first tape (by the way, finally available on cd via Shake Edizioni). The debut album by Rats is one of the lost gems from their back catalogue, lying at the nexus of the label’s two main interests, that is post-punk experiments and alternative dance music – even if the record was actually released through the subsidiary Nice Label.

Founded as Sextons in 1979 in a small town near Modena, Emilia Romagna, they changed their name to Rats, hired a young female singer – Claudia Lloyd – and made their live debut in 1980, soon establishing themselves as one of the most interesting act nationwide and drawing the attention of Gabriele Ansaloni aka Red Ronnie, a dj, agit-prop, pop entrepreneur and key figure in the last three decades of Italian music history, who co-financed their first LP.

C’est disco – recorded by the label’s founder Oderso Rubini and marked by the voice of Claudia – effectively captures their early darkest moments and their dance-punk attitude, while contorting themselves and screeching alongside Siouxsie and the Banshees, Malaria!, Bauhaus, Bush Tetras, Glaxo Babies, Au Pairs, Ludus, Chrisma, and obsessively evokes the unhealthy atmosphere of a sleazy, outlying night club.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Nazi
02, C’est disco (reprise)
03, Bimba (“baby girl”)
04, Please
05, C’est disco
06, Limbo
07, Spacciatori (“pushers”)
08, Off
09, Pill

Get it: Rats, C’est disco (1981)
[edit March 17th, 2009: download link has been fixed with the correct tracklist.]

Songs from the album were aired by the great, late John Peel, leading to a small and short-lived success accross Europe. Claudia Lloyd left the band shortly after the recordings of an unreleased follow-up to the first full-length, tentatively titled Tenera è la notte (“tender is the night”). These two records are longtime scheduled for a box-set reprint by Astroman, but no official release date has been yet announced.

The C’est disco line-up also appeared with “Tattoo” on the legendary double album Mission is terminated /Nice tracks, which featured four tracks by Throbbing Gristle and a cut up of songs by italian post-punk bands and excerpts from movies, interviews, radio broadcasts, field recordings, etc., released as a supplement to Red Ronnie’s magazine “Bazaar” in 1983.

Rats progressively shifted towards mainstream rock, achieving some fame in the early nineties, when they even happened to record with the notorious Italian rockstar Ligabue for the album Indiani padani (“padan indians”, 1992), and eventually disbanded in 1997. They reformed in 2007 and have been touring Italy since then. Here is their official website (in italian).

Red Ronnie has been a successful and influential tv presenter during the eighties and the nineties, and is still active as a promoter, a publisher, a music and pop culture consultant.

Written by alteralter

March 17, 2009 at 12:42 am

[music:] Enzo Carella, Sfinge (1981)

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One out of many. An average long-haired, moustached kid playing guitar, hitchhiking through Europe, going to rock festivals. Enzo Carella was in the Isle of Wight in 1970, at his hero Jimi Hendrix last gig. And in London, when Jimi died in his bed. What do you see when you turn out the light? I can’t tell you, but i know it could be mine.

I already mentioned Pasquale Panella in the previous post. Carella met him somewhere in Rome in the mid-seventies, while planning his personal way out of the post-prog swamp, fancying of an italian etnopop yet to come. The two teamed up in a songwriting plot to gently upset the scene.

1976. Enzo Carella releases his first single, “Fosse vero” (“should it be true”), followed some months later by the album Vocazione (“vocation”, 1977). Suddenly, a dazzling pop vision which looked like nothing before – and perhaps since – in Italy. Brightness, night, lightness, riddle, dance, rest, sex, suicide. Gold offered with simplicity and aloofness, just as everyone could do that. Only Lucio Battisti had likewise managed to sound so easy and complicated at the same time, joining britpop, soul, funky, latin influences, italian melodic tradition, often using opaque lyrics (by his songwriting partner Mogol) to challenge the listeners. Desperately seeking for a term of comparison, people sticked to this parallel and labelled Carella as a funny clone, justified by some superficial similarities such as the same thin, rough voice. Fact is, the ghost of Battisti has been haunting him since then – but who was influencing who, if in the end Lucio picked up Pasquale Panella to write the words to his songs from Don Giovanni (1986) on?

Enzo Carella was maybe looking for a spell that could disperse this shadow during the two years of silence that followed the release of a successful second album, Barbara e altri Carella (“Barbara and others Carella”, 1979), and a second place at the 1979 Sanremo festival. The same press sheet for his full-length comeback Sfinge (“sphinx”), finally out in 1981, reported him as “dealing with magic”.

Actually, esotericism and erotism seem to be the two strenghts which join forces in this masterpiece, surprisingly produced by a veteran from the prog scene, former Osanna wind player Elio D’Anna (who also played sax and flute on the record). D’Anna basically supplied a pleasant yet uncomfortable mediterranean setting where the songs lay in the half-light, at midday (“Mare sopra e sotto”, “Sfinge”), or under the moonlight (“Che notte (qui con te)”, “Contatto”). It’s the power of opposites. Pop music as an acrobatics number gone bad.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Stai molto attenta (“be very careful”)
02, Sì, si può (“yes, you can”)
03, Sex show
04, Mare sopra e sotto (“sea above and below”)
05, Sfinge (“sphinx”, also release as a 7″ b/w “Sì, si può”))
06, Che notte (qui con te) (“what a night (here with you)”)
07, Contatto (“contact”)
08, Lei no (“not her”)
09, Rilfessione finale (“final reflection”)

Get it here: Enzo Carella, Sfinge (1981)

After Sfinge, Enzo Carella went on hiatus until 1992, when the semi-anthologic Carella de Carellis came out. Since then, he has released two other albums, Se non cantassi sarei nessuno (1995, an imaginary musical based on the Odissey), and Ahoh yè nanà (2007), both written with his long-time confederate Pasquale Panella.

You can also visit his MySpace (in italian) for updates and some amazing pics.

Written by alteralter

December 3, 2008 at 9:56 pm

[music:] Jo Squillo Eletrix, Girl senza paura (1981)

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If we ever had our own little rock’n’roll swindle in Italy, this could be it.

In 1979, Jo Squillo (Giovanna Coletti) was the lead singer of Kandeggina gang, a riot grrrl teen band based in Santa Marta, the squat/art school in Milan (Demetrio Stratos was a teacher there) where some of the first local punk acts used to rehearse. She was provocative, scary, unpleasant, sexy. And she had a boyfriend, too: Gianni Muciaccia, possibly the closest thing to an italian Malcolm McLaren.

Kandeggina gang gained some fame thanks to their brutal anti-male attitude, and performances such as throwing red painted Tampax tampons to the audience during concerts. They eventually released the single “Sono cattiva” (“i’m bad”) on Cramps in 1980. But Muciaccia had more ambitious plans for her girlfriend.

First, he founded the Partito Rock (“rock party”), which participated in the elections for Milan’s town council with Jo Squillo as the leading candidate. Then, he created his own label, 20th Secret, distributed by Polydor, to release her first solo effort, Girl senza paura (“ragazza without fear”): basically a collection of three-chords tracks in the early Ramones fashion, with synth lines and sax intermissions here and there which remind of Métal Urbain, X-Ray Spex, or Bow Wow Wow, celebrating Jo’s shrill, almost unbearable screaming. The music paired with the elementary, repetitive lyrics about (or should i say against) school, family, males, etc. Everything was put in the simplest possible way. The result was naive and rough, yet exciting.

Helped by the scandal about the song “Violentami” (“rape me”) and the brilliant music video for “Skizzo skizzo” co-starred by the popular melodic singer Christian, Squillo and Muciaccia managed to create a female outrageous pop/punk sensation suitable for mass media and the music mainstream. The next step, indeed, was a u-turn towards new pop and eventually italo disco, with singles such as “Avventurieri” (“adventurers”, 1983) and “I love muchacha” (1984). Unfortunately, the career of this former punk diva was not very successful until her 1991 first and last big hit: “Siamo donne” (“we are women”), a duet with pop pin-up Sabrina Salerno.

Jo Squillo is now a television presenter. She released her last album 2p LA-xy=(NOI) in 1994.

Here is the tracklist:

01, L’asta (“the auction”)
02, Muoversi (“hurry up”)
03, CX
04, Faccia da vipera (“viper’s face”)
05, Paranoia
06, Ma chi se ne frega (“who gives a fuck”)
07, Skizzo skizzo (“skuirt skuirt”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Energia interna”)
08, Orbita (“orbit”)
09, Cristina
10, Energia interna (“inner energy”)
11, Violentami (“rape me”)
12, China’s war
13, Voglio farlo con te (“i wanna do it with you”)
14, Orrore (“horror”)
15, Tuo Cesare (“yours Cesare”)
16, Fuggi fuggi (“run run”)

Get it: Jo Squillo Eletrix, Girl senza paura (1981)

Written by alteralter

April 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm