Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

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

Posts Tagged ‘rock

[guests, music:] Flavio Giurato, Marco Polo (1984)

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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

Get it: Flavio Giurato, Marco Polo (1984)

Here’s the artist’s very good official site (in Italian).

Written by alteralter

March 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm

[music:] AA. VV., Rock ’80 (1980)

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Given its commitment for a musica totale (“total music”) and its endeavours to establish a new urban rock form supporting artists such as Eugenio Finardi, Alberto Camerini, Andrea Tich, the same Claudio Rocchi, it made somehow perfectly sense that in the late Seventies Cramps Records directed its attention to the then rising italian punk scene, releasing already in 1978 “Karabigniere blues/Io sono un autonomo”, a single by Skiantos, the “demented rock” band which I already mentioned in the post about Gaznevada’s tape, and then their LPs MONOtono (“MONOtone”, 1978 ) and Kinotto (1979).

Following these first steps, in 1980, during the difficult times after the death of Demetrio Stratos, in the middle of “riflusso” and when its founder Gianni Sassi was increasingly losing interest in the label’s events, a new series of coloured-vynil 7″ by seven (post)punk acts from Central-Northern Italy was launched, under the name of “Rock ’80”. The songs from these singles (with the exception of Skiantos’ b-side “Mi piaccion le sbarbine” and Kaos Rock’s “Oh! Caro amore/Policeman”) were then collected in the same name album, curated and mixed by Paolo Tofani. A record which I consider the most meaningful epitath for this daring, clumsy, glorious independent record company.

Bologna led off the dance with two bands which had debuted on Harpo’s tapes series: just Skiantos, with a bowel-moving delirious funky about beans (“i fagioli son la mia anfetamina, i fagioli saran la mia rovina”: “beans are my amphetamine, beans will ruin me”…) and street rockers Windopen, with their anthem “Sei in banana dura” and the sleazy “La testa”. Skiantos ended up being one of the most influential and long-lived outfits in italian rock history. They’re alive and kicking, and a new album, Dio ci deve delle spiegazioni (“god owes us some explanations”) has been recently released. Windopen founder Roberto Terzani later joined Litfiba as a bass player when Gianni Maroccolo left the band, in 1990.

The Stranglers/2-Tone-oriented Take Four Doses from Rome – featuring Stefano Pistolini, now a well-known journalist and writer – wheezing introduced the Milan contributions: Kaos Rock were Gianni Muciaccia’s band with Luigi Schiavone on the guitars, who later joined Enrico Ruggeri in his successful solo career. Their a-side “Basta, basta” was already included as the opening track in the live tribute to Demetrio Stratos 1979 Il concerto (“1979 the concert”, 1979), but not in their sole album WW3 (1980). Wavey-garage X-Rated also appeared in the legendary Gathered (1982) compilation, together with Diaframma, Pankow, Not Moving, Death SS, Victrola, and others, before disappearing. As for Kandeggina Gang, you can check out my post about Jo Squillo Eletrix’s Girl senza paura, which featured a different version of their b-side “Orrore”.

Dirty Actions from Genoa completed the line-up with their prodigious ironic, messy clang’n’roll (“siamo figli del demonio, vi spacchiamo le vetrine, vi bruciamo le officine, vi alziamo le cantine, vi traviamo le bambine, vi vuotiamo le piscine, vi turbiamo le vecchine”, “we are sons of the devil, we smash your shop-windows, we burn your garages, we lift up your cellars, we corrupt your baby girls, we empty your swimming pools, we upset your little old ladies”). Their song “Bandana boys” was later included in Gathered as well. They seem still active; you can learn more about them on their web page.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Skiantos, Fagioli (“beans”)
02, Windopen, Sei in banana dura (“you’re in a hard banana”, street slang referring to a drug-related state of confusion)
03, Windopen, La testa (“the head”)
04, Take Four Doses, Vita di strada (“street life”)
05, Take Four Doses, La notte che inventarono gli eroi (“the night they invented heroes”)
06, Kaos Rock, Basta, basta (“that’s enough, that’s enough”)
07, Kaos Rock, La rapina (“the robbery”)
08, X-Rated, Blockhead dance
09, X-Rated, Routine
10, Kandeggina Gang, Sono cattiva (“i’m bad”)
11, Kandeggina Gang, Orrore (“horror”)
12, Dirty Actions, Rosa shocking (“shocking pink”)
13, Dirty Actions, Figli del demonio (Dirty Actions S-Ha) (“sons of the devil (dirty actions s-ha)”)

Get it: AA. VV., Rock ’80 (1980)

Written by alteralter

February 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm

[guests, music:] Alberto Camerini, Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano (1976)

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I am massively happy and greatly proud to introduce you the first in a series of posts by special guest contributors; friends who will grace this blog with their deep knowledge and exquisite taste in music, and their brightening vision.

This time we warmly welcome Christian Zingales, journalist and writer, editor-in-chief of “Blow up” (the best italian music magazine), author of the book Italiani brava gente (“italians, good people”, 2008), “a sentimental trip into the sea of italian song” and the ultimate resource to properly comprehend italian pop. Christian supplied us with a feature story about Alberto Camerini’s first album. I know it has been recently posted by wago at Il golpe e l’uva, but this participation was scheduled way before I noticed that and, however, for such an important and criminally out-of-print record, two web resources are far better than one.

The original italian text is available in the new “Found in translation” page, here on top right.


Born in São Paulo, Brazil, from italian parents, Alberto Camerini moved back to Italy as a child, soon establishing himself in his late teenage years as a natural born talented guitarist in the protest-age Milan. After having debuted in a band called Il Pacco, together with his friends Eugenio Finardi and Donatella Bardi, he began to distinguish himself as a session musician around 1968, playing with the likes of Anna Identici, Patty Pravo, Fausto Leali, Rita Pavone. As the Seventies approached, he already stood as a reference figure in the milanese off-scene. His electric solos graced albums such as L’unità by Stormy Six, Volo magico n. 1 by Claudio Rocchi, Mai una signora by Patty Pravo and Megh by Mario Barbaja.

The contact moment came in 1975. He co-produced Finardi’s debut album, Non gettare alcun oggetto dai finestrini (“do not throw anything out of the windows”), released through the then-rising and highly quoted indipendent label Cramps, founded by Gianni Sassi. The record is an italian rock classic, and Alberto’s solos in long, electric rides such as “Se solo avessi” (“if only i had”) and “Saluteremo il signor padrone” (“we will salute our master”) instantly entered the myth: wrenching and acid scratches of a creativity taking shape.

In fact, one year later, his recording debut came as well, always on Cramps. Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano (“Cinderella and the daily bread”) – followed in the next two years by Gelato metropolitano (“metropolitan ice cream”, 1977) and Comici cosmetici (“comic cosmetics”, 1978 ) – is the opening act of one of the most peculiar and idiosyncratic trilogies in italian pop history, released years before he met his great tv success with a series of hits and albums produced with Roberto Colombo and released through CBS, turning himself into a post-punk, post-Bowie electro harlequin synthesizing electronics, pop and Commedia dell’arte with overflowing and uncontrolled istintivity. But Alberto’s masterpiece remains Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano, the genesis of all petitions to come, still cold from a control which put in a significant perspective the conceptual fooleries of a seemingly perfect metropolitan pixie, the joker who fell to the dull and luxuriant lands of late ’70 Milan.

Supported by Cramps’ crew musicians such as Hugh Bullen, Walter Calloni, Patrizio Fariselli, Claudio Pascoli, Camerini put together a patchwork of ludic and sharp visions which represented a real detachment from the whole engaged and post-cantautori antagonism: from the lysergic, subterranean rock of “La ballata dell’invasione degli extraterrestri” and “La straordinaria storia dell’invenzione della televisione (a colori)” to the brazilian legacies of “Maracatù F.C.” and “Pane quotidiano”, from pasteled nursery rhymes like “TV baby (Gli eroi della televisione)” to off-pop numbers such as “Sicurezza” and “Droga (Aiutami dottore)”, leading to the peak of the record, the closing track Cenerentola. Eight minutes of sheer metarock, an uncovered urban journey with a proto-rapping Camerini telling us about the saturday night of a working class girl looking for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll after an hard-working week – “e se otto ore vi sembran poche, provate voi a lavorare” (“and if  eight hours seem few to you, come and try to work”).  When, after thousands of coup de theatre and as many monstruous apparitions, the trip explodes in a rythmical queue with Bullen’s bass and Calloni’s drums on a war footing and Finardi singing, as from the liner notes, “coretti alla lurìd” (“looreed-ish backing vocals”), you get the long shot of one of the most incredible record ever in italian pop’s manifold manifestations. Having reprinted it in cd only in an ultralimited edition at the beginning of the Nineties it’s rather shameful.

Here is the tracklist:

01, La ballata dell’invasione degli extraterrestri (“the ballad of the extraterrestrial invasion”)
02, Maracatù F.C.
03, Pane quotidiano (“daily bread”, also released as a 7″ b/w “In giro per le strade”)
04, Sicurezza (“security”)
05, Droga (Aiutami dottore) (“drug (help me doctor”)
06, La straordinaria storia dell’invenzione della televisione (a colori) (“the amazing story of the invention of the (color) television”)
07, TV baby (Gli eroi della televisione) (“TV baby (television’s heroes)”)
08, Santa Marta (“saint Marta”)
09, Cenerentola (“Cinderella”)

Get it: Alberto Camerini, Cenerentola e il pane quotidiano (1976)

Check out the artist’s official page for more info.

Written by alteralter

January 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm

[requests, music:] Ultima spiaggia, Disco dell’angoscia (1975)

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Since many of you requested it, possibly time has come to make available this unidentified sound object swerving between musique concrète, pop, avant-garde, beat, rock’n’roll, old-fashioned melodies, progressive rock, which we already spoke of some months ago, in the post about Ricky Gianco’s Alla mia mam…: like continuously switching over the stations of a radio tuned on the distorted brainwaves of a man fallen in a coma after a car accident, who confusingly dreams of the Inquisition, of concentration camps, of war, torture, chain work, love, sex, painfully recovering splinters of his memory. Practically, the soundtrack of a nightmare. After all, it’s not called Disco dell’angoscia (“anguish record”) by chance.

But what really makes this record haunting and creepy to such extent is perhaps an immoderate and unreasonable expenditure, a raging emptiness hardly restrained, an extraordinary taste for bad taste, a morbid irony which results, for instance, in a children choir singing a nazi song, or a gloomy samba which cites Auschwitz.

Here is the tracklist:

01, L’incidente (“the accident”)
02, Voglio vivere (“i want to live”)
03, Motivo angoscia 1 (La religione e la morte) (“anguish theme 1 (religion and death)”)
04, Canto delle streghe e del demonio (“chant of the witches and the devil”)
05, Motivo angoscia 2 (Canto nazista) (“anguish theme 2 (nazi chant)”)
06, Samba della tortura e della guerra (“samba of torture and war”)
07, Che cosa è? (“what is it?”)
08, Motivo angoscia 3 (“anguish theme 3”)
09, Rock della ricostruzione (“reconstruction rock”)
10, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)
11, Motivo angoscia 4 (“anguish theme 4”)
12, Zucchero mio (“sugar of mine”)
13, Piacere e potere (“pleasure and power”)
14, Motivo angoscia 5 (“anguish theme 5”)
15, L’incidente (“the accident”)

Get it: Ultima spiaggia, Disco dell’angoscia (1975)

The complete lineup counts – apart from Ricky Gianco (guitar, vocals), Gianfranco Manfredi and Ivan Cattaneo (vocals), Tullio De Piscopo and Ellade Bandini (drums) – Nanni Ricordi and Ninni Carucci on the vocals (the latter being a singer/songwriter which released an album through the label Ultima spiaggia in 1975, now a successful cartoon music author), Sergio Farina (guitar), Claudio Bonechi (keys), Hugo Heredia (sax), Gigi Cappellotto (bass).

Written by alteralter

January 16, 2009 at 12:14 am

[music:] Ricky Gianco, Alla mia mam… (1976)

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Most of the people outside Italy know very little about our pop music. Just few, usual names: Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and, as for the past, Mina, Albano e Romina, Toto Cutugno. And, of course, Adriano Celentano. Our own king of rock’n’roll.

Celentano has possibly been the first italian popstar to claim full control about his work and to rebel against the established rules of music business. When in 1961 he broke up with his recording company Jolly and founded his own label, Il Clan, together with a posse of friends, Ricky Gianco was there: a talented, very young guitarist and songwriter from Lodi, near Milan, who had already played and recorded with people like Luigi Tenco, Enzo Jannacci, Gino Paoli.

Even if he had left Il Clan shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gianco had for sure that lesson in mind when, more than ten years later, he founded with Nanni Ricordi and other friends Ultima spiaggia. One of the cult italian indie labels in the Seventies, together with Cramps and Bla Bla, which delivered albums by Jannacci, Ivan Cattaneo, Roberto Colombo, Francesco Currà, Gramigna.

At that time, Ricky Gianco was mainly known as a rock’n’roll prime mover in Italy and a hitmaker – by the way, he wrote “Pugni chiusi” (“clunched fists”), the greatest success of Demetrio Stratos’ first band, I Ribelli – but the label’s manifesto, a collective effort called Disco dell’angoscia (“the anguish record”, 1975) had little to do with pop. It’s one of the most challenging and gloomy italian records of those years. An art-rock/prog concept album about a man involved in a car accident, played by an all-star band featuring the same Gianco, Cattaneo, Gianfranco Manfredi, Tullio De Piscopo, and Ellade Bandini.

Alla mia mam… (“to my momm…”), released in 1976, was an attempt to bring somehow the madness and the experimental attitude of Disco dell’angoscia into a more traditional rock song form. The result fitted perfectly with the oblique protest lyrics that Gianco and Gianfranco Manfredi wrote for the album. The wave of ’77 was rising and Ricky Gianco rode it, giving his own peculiar contribution to the movement’s political songbook.

Rage and pride, freakiness and irony, counterculture epic and ordinary tales of alienation are in a perfect balance in tracks such as “Un amore” (a thrilling, acoustic guitar-driven ballad), “Fango”, “Un pipistrello in abito da sera” (an odd pastiche of tropicalism and roman folk songs) or “Davanti al nastro che corre” (already released in a different version on Disco dell’angoscia). And even if none of these ever managed to become a generational anthem, Alla mia mam… still remains one of the best records to come out in that climate, and definitely the best album Ricky Gianco never made.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Un amore (“a love”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Mangia insieme a noi”)
02, Campo minato (“minefield”)
03, Fango (“mud”)
04, repubblicA (“republiC”)
05, Mangia insieme a noi (“come eat with us”)
06, Ospedale militare (“military hospital”)
07, Nel mio giardino (“in my garden”)
08, Un pipistrello in abito da sera (“a bat in evening dress”)
09, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)

Get it: Ricky Gianco, Alla mia mam… (1976)

More info and news about Ricky Gianco on his official website (in italian).

Written by alteralter

March 20, 2008 at 12:24 am