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.
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).
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.
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.
Hide and seek. Flavio Giurato: the man who uninvented himself.
Legend has it that back in 1982, right after the release of such an astonishing masterpiece as his second album, Il tuffatore (“the diver”), Flavio got completely hooked on the awesome tv series about Marco Polo, directed by Giuliano Montaldo and broadcasted by RAI. He would have sat at the piano after each episode, writing songs inspired by the story. This record would be the result of those automatic composing sessions.
We greatly thank our brother John Nicolò Martin, musician, lecturer, journalist, author of books about urban culture and revolutionary movements such as La luna sotto casa (“the moon just down the road”, 2007, written with the great, late Primo Moroni), and owner of the amazing John’s Classic Rock – perhaps the most exciting blog around dealing with Italian progressive and related – who supplied us with a passionate writing about this unique, daring, challenging work.
You can also check out the Italian version of this contribution in the Found in translation page.
We’re in the middle of the eighties. The capitalist frenzy reigns above big cities. Al Bano and Romina Power come first in Sanremo festival, Macintosh computer is born, Enrico Berlinguer dies, Berlusconi buys the tv station Rete4, and the masonic lodge P2 scandal breaks out. Communist party gives his last proof of life winning the european elections.
It’s the epic of Bettino Craxi, a modern equivalent of sixteenth century’s Milan Spanish governors: consumptions exceeding earnings, stellar mark-ups, rocketing corruption and fake progress based on virtual capital bound to crumble within a few years. There are fine urban brains, but they have to resist day by day, defending themselves against the new riches’ bullying: judges againt the PSI (the Italian socialist party), centri sociali against the evacuations, tram drivers against the mayors, workers against the “scala mobile” (the indexed wages scale) decree.
Showbiz is a social and media hotchpotch which flattens any transgression and from where only a handful of artists come out unharmed, and Flavio Giurato is one of them. Actually, otherwise than many of his colleagues, he insists in putting thought before materiality, risk before comfort, curiosity before habit: bearing a “clear creative madness” and alien to any compromise, the Roman artist makes his comeback after two years and two records as beautiful as mainly unnoticed.
The new album is called Marco Polo, that is, the story of the great explorer told through his feelings, his meetings and his passions. This release does not achieve the instant success it deserves either, yet, just like every single brick in a major city, it will remain grounded to its foundations, untouched by the ravages of time.
“Marco Polo è un bimbo, ma non così piccino” (“Marco Polo is a kid, but not that little”), that’s how the story begins of a just 17 years old twelfth century boy who moves to China to stay there more than fifteen years, discovering wonders never seen by the eye of a European man. From here on, Giurato captures each of his steps, each effort, each technical move obsessively repeated thousands of times, each peril and each marvel: from the origin of his passions (“I punti cardinali”) up to the court of the Great Khan and, finally, in the arms of his beloved Monica for a well deserved rest.
The poetical exposure is honest to such an extent that even fate and the randomness of events are exorcised by massively visual verses: “la provvidenza è vestita come un attore americano, e Marco destinato a ritornare andrà avanti” (“the providence is dressed like an american actor, and Marco, destined to come back, will go further”), while the horses fly.
At a certain point of the story, the listener is so involved in the plot that the music almost seems to slip in the background. But even under this aspect Giurato amazes everybody in “L’Oriente”, in which he condenses within few minutes all the different sounds and the stateless languages caught by the great explorer’s ears.
And the destination is near. There’s only the infinite armenian desert left to go beyond, the place where everything passes: heroes, plagues, wars, disappointments, and our springs as well. And where also our hero passes unhurt. Facing such a bravery even the cruel and magnificent Khan will loosen up and hug him.
In the end, the calm found in a love born in the shadow of a cave “sotto il morbido del mondo” (“under the soft of the world”). “Marco e Monica” is such an extraordinarily passionate song that it makes up for all the efforts endured by the listener in this fascinating, yet hard and sometimes clashing listening experience.
Unfortunately, we all know the album received little feedback. Flavio would have kept quiet for at least fifteen years, just to be reappraised later with all due honours. He travelled just like Marco Polo and has fortunately come back to tell us yet unheard and wonderful tales.
Here is the tracklist:
I, La teoria dell’orientamento (“the direction theory”)
01, I punti cardinali (“the cardinal points”)
02, Le funi (“the ropes”)
03, Vela e mare (“sail and sea”)
04, La provvidenza (“the providence”)
05, L’Oriente (“the east”)
II, La crescita (“the growth”)
06, Nel deserto armeno (“in the armenian desert”)
07, Il Gran Khan (“the great khan”)
08, Marco e Monica (“Marco and Monica”)
09, Marco Polo
Here’s the artist’s very good official site (in Italian).
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:
02, C’est disco (reprise)
03, Bimba (“baby girl”)
05, C’est disco
07, Spacciatori (“pushers”)
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.
The Italian book of the dead. Too much words for one man alone: breathless. Imagination in spite of hope, desire gone bad.
There’s a song in this record, called “Analfabetizzazione” (that is to say: the contrary of literacy), which reads: “Ed il lavoro l’ho chiamato piacere, perché la semantica è violenza oppure è un’opinione. Ma non è colpa mia, non saltatemi addosso, se la mia voglia di libertà oggi è anche bisogno di confusione. Ed il piacere l’ho chiamato dovere, perché la primavera mi scoppiava dentro come una carezza. Fondere, confondere, rifondere, infine rifondare l’alfabeto della vita sulle pietre di miele della bellezza” (“and the work, i called it pleasure, because semantics is violence, or it’s an opinion. but it’s not my fault, don’t you pitch into me, if my wish for freedom is now also a need for confusion. and the pleasure, i called it duty, because springtime was bursting into me like a caress. blending, blurring, refunding, finally re-establishing the alphabet of life on beauty’s honey stones”). In short, it’s all about fucking the meaning up. Work becomes pleasure, and pleasure turns into duty. What’s at stake is a complete revaluation of all dreams. Wait: that’s a downright treason. Despair is always subversive, and disappointment stinks like counter-revolution.
In 1977 Claudio Lolli was in an awkward position. Born in Bologna in 1950, he had established himself as one of the most radical among the politically engaged cantautori, yet all of his anti-establishment anthems – such as “Borghesia” (“bourgeoisie”) – had been released by a huge corporate record company like EMI, to which he was introduced by his fellow citizen Francesco Guccini (Lolli tauntingly recalled his early days with the major in “Autobiografia industriale”). Well, this is usually called a contradiction. So that when his record deal expired, he felt like jumbling it all up. The odd thing is that he had to switch to an alternative music label such as Ultima Spiaggia to record his requiem for the revolutionary movement: the new rallying cry was Disoccupate le strade dai sogni, “let’s clear the streets of dreams”. Too many comrades passed away, too many failures to come to terms with. There was anger to be wasted, there were mistakes to be repeated, and fallen to be honoured, such as Ulrike Meinhof (in “Incubo numero zero” – the album has the same title of the italian version of Meinhof’s biography by Prinz Alois) and Francesco Lorusso, a student killed by carabinieri during a demonstration in Bologna (in “I giornali di Marzo”, whose lyrics are a cut-up of those days’ newspapers).
And he twisted his own musical language to follow the lyrics’ edges (keeping on a path opened by Ho visto anche zingari felici – “i have happened to see happy gypsies too”, 1976) introducing jazz rock, progressive, impro elements which were typical of Ultima Spiaggia’s art-rock style, even inventing a funny dixie funeral march for social democracy which anticipated Vinicio Capossela, and eventually peaking his career and perhaps the entire singer/songwriters movement – even if the result was much closer to the R.I.O. scene or Dalla/Roversi’s work than to Guccini, Paolo Pietrangeli or Ivan Della Mea.
An enthusiastic melancholy and a subtle death drive had always been his key features, but negativeness reached a whole different level here. We are anywhere near Mauro Pelosi’s self-titled album, but the latter’s alarming vein of insanity turns into a ruthless lucidity. An autopsy carried out upon a still warm corpse.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Alba meccanica (“mechanical dawn”)
02, Incubo numero zero (“nightmare number zero”)
03, La socialdemocrazia (“the social democracy”)
04, Analfabetizzazione (“unalphabetization”, also released as a 7″ b/w “I giardini di marzo”)
05, Attenzione (“watch out”)
06, Canzone dell’amore o della precarietà (“song of love or of uncertainty”)
07, Canzone scritta sul muro (“song written on the wall”)
08, Autobiografia industriale (“industrial autobiography”)
09, Da zero e dintorni (“from zero and so on”)
10, I giornali di marzo (“the newspapers of march”)
Unfortunately, Disoccupate… did not manage to repeat his previous records’ success, and Ultima Spiaggia went bankrupt right before a live album project could be realized. Ironically, Lolli came back to EMI, releasing four other LPs with them until the early nineties.
He has worked as a teacher at secondary school and is still active as a musician and writer. His latest album is La scoperta dell’America (“the discovery of America”, 2006). You can learn more about Claudio Lolli at his Wikipedia page (in italian).