First, I want to start off this post with a big shout out to my friend and classmate Alessandro! He’s a big rock music fan from Italy and I have a lot of memories talking about rock music and we even got to see Afterhours together in Dublin.
Earlier in my blog’s history, I used to write posts about different countries and the rock music of the 60s and 70s from there. One of my goals was to write all about rock music from all over Europe and I want to start that again this year. Why talk about mainland Europe? Simply put, if the music isn’t in English, it isn’t going to get radio airplay in America and probably not in the UK. I don’t think people should limit themselves to listening to music in their language. People in other countries outside the Anglosphere listen to music in English even though they may or may not understand the lyrics so why can’t we do the same with music in other languages? It can be intimidating trying to find music from other countries, so what I aim to do is to share the best of the best rock music from all over the world and bring it to you and give you my recommendations and see what I can learn about rock music in these countries.
Rock History in Italy
Italy is a big and long country and there are differences between the north and the south whether it’s cuisine, weather, . It’s also important to keep in mind that Italy wasn’t always all one country and unification was actually quite recent in history, happening between 1848 and 1871 – to put it in perspective for the Americans and Brits reading this blog, that’s around the time of the Gold Rush, Civil War, and Reconstruction and the Victorian Era. The Italian peninsula was originally made up of a lot of states: city-states, kingdoms, republics. Another important thing to remember is that Italian isn’t the only language from the Italian peninsula and not all the languages are Romance languages. This is a common misconception that Americans have about European countries, that each country only has one language. Absolutely not true! Borders are manmade and people groups can be found on both sides of a border. There are heaps of languages, but here’s just a few: Franco-provençal, Alemmanic, Venetian, Lombard, Piedmontese, Neapolitan, Corsican, Sardinian, and Sicilian for starters.
Like a lot of countries in Europe, rock music came to Italy from the United States and the UK and the first rock stars recorded cover versions of popular songs. However, Italy for the most part didn’t have much interest in rock music until the 70s with the Italian Progressive Rock scene, that was the big explosion of rock music. One theory I have for why that might be is that while bands in the 60s and 70s did tour mainland Europe, Italy didn’t get a lot of tour dates, most of the tour dates were concentrated in Northwest Europe and Scandinavia. A lot of bands just skipped over Italy or only played a couple dates in Rome or Milan once in the 60s or 70s and didn’t come back for decades. It’s still common now (or at least before the pandemic) for music fans from Italy to travel elsewhere in Europe for concerts, often Germany, The Netherlands, or France. When I read about what inspires people to make music, that one key moment for people is seeing their favourite band live. It’s a totally different experience and so much more immersive than just hearing them on the radio. It’s your idols and they’re right in front of you.
What British musicians lacked in tour dates for Italy, they made up for it by travelling there often. Remember that touring isn’t the only travelling a musician does, they also need their leisure time! It’s only a couple hours flight and you have beautiful beaches, mountains, and who could forget about the food? It was common for British celebs to fly over and hook up with Italian celebs.
One reason for sure behind the soaring popularity of rock music in Italy in the 70s was the 1968 student protests movement. It seems like 1968 all over the world was a year of revolutions, mass movements, protests, and unrest: you saw it in the US, France, Spain, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Italy too. While the world wasn’t close to as globalised as it is now with the internet and cheap flights, it was still globalised then and people knew what was going on outside their country thanks to TV and newspapers. Young, educated Italians identified a lot with counterculture youth in France, Mexico, and the US and many of them had a background in classical music or opera, as a lot of classical music and opera comes from Italy and those who grew up in well-off families were exposed to classical and opera and those who became rock stars incorporated those influences into their music, so naturally progressive rock was the path for these musicians since progressive rock fuses classical, hard/psychedelic rock, and jazz. If you want a comprehensive website all about Italian prog rock, click here.
One of the biggest events in music in Italy is the Sanremo Music Festival, a competition held every year since 1951 in Sanremo, near the French border, about an hour away from Monaco. Each song is performed twice, one version by an Italian artist and another version by a foreign artist, which was a great way for musicians to share their songs with the Italian market and boost their profile there. It has a huge cultural impact and Eurovision is based on the format of the Sanremo Music Festival.
For those not in the know, Eurovision is the Olympics of TV music talent shows and it’s really campy, kitsch, and a lot of fun. It’s a big part of LGBT culture in Europe too. Different countries submit a song to be performed at the festival, but not all make it to the main show. Viewers in the countries that compete vote for their favourites (that are not their own country) and based on the vote tallies, the countries are awarded between 1-12 points. Based on that and the jury vote, there’s a winner. What’s the big deal, right? Well, that’s the contest that launched ABBA’s career. They were Sweden’s first winner with their classic song “Waterloo”. The musicians also don’t have to be European. For example, Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988 and she won that year!
I can’t write about Italy without mentioning the impact the diaspora had on American and even British popular music (yes! did you know there are quite a few Italian-British rock stars?). Starting with the UK since that’s the smaller list, you had: Brian Johnson of Geordie and AC/DC, Francis Rossi of Status Quo, Jim Capaldi of Traffic, Lita Ford of The Runaways, Perry Bamonte of The Cure, and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. As for the United States, an entire article could be written about Italian-American pop stars. Here’s just a small part of that list: Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Dion DiMucci, Frankie Avalon, Lou Christie, Bobby Darin, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Tim Buckley, Felix Pappalardi, Laura Nyro, Jim Croce, Chick Corea, Frank Zappa, Suzi Quatro, Peter Criss, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, Joe Satriani, Johnny Thunders, Jon Bon Jovi, Nikki Sixx, and Madonna.
In this section, we’re going to talk about the musicians, what you came to this blog post for! Like all my posts on different countries, it’s an alphabetical list of musicians and I’ll be sharing some biographical info and some listening recommendations.
Adriano Celentano: You might know this name because his 1972 song “Prisencolinensinainciusol” went viral and if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must watch! It’s a genius song that simulates what English (particularly American English) sounds like to someone who doesn’t understand it. Or what the wifi password looks and sounds like to you. Ever wanted to know what you sound like to someone who doesn’t speak English? Here it is! Celentano was inspired by Bob Dylan (especially with that harmonica bit) and imitated him in his delivery of the vocals. It could even possibly be one of the first rap songs, if you don’t count talking blues as rap.
There’s more to Adriano Celentano than that song, he’s incredibly prolific – releasing 40 albums in 50 years and one of the most popular musicians in Italy – selling millions of records. He was born in Milan in 1938 and wrote a song about his birthplace, 14 Via Cristoforo Gluck, “Il ragazzo della via Gluck”, on his 1966 album, La Festa. If you want other song recommendations from this album, I personally like “Chi Ce L’Ha Con Me”, “Il Problema Più Importante”, “La Festa”, “Stai Lontana Da Me”, and “Uno Strano Tipo”. If you want to hear something more familiar, listen to his version of “Stand By Me”.
Two of his biggest influences were Elvis Presley and actor Jerry Lewis. Before getting a record deal, he was in a rock band with Giorgio Gaber and Enzo Jannacci. He got discovered in the late 50s and was in a couple movies around that time, Ragazzi del Juke-Box in 1959 and La Dolce Vita in 1960. He started his own record label in the 60s called Celentano Clan. He wanted to have freedom to do what he wanted and not have to listen to record label bosses. Through that, he had his own answer to the Rat Pack. Giorgio Gaber made a song about it called “C’era una volta il clan”, which talks about the realities of the music industry and how people will screw you over.
As for a discography rundown, listen to his early work if you like that early 60s sound – only difference is the language! He’s considered the Italian Elvis. I like the songs “Desidero te”, “Pronto pronto”, “Teddy Girl”, “Il ribelle”, “Hei stella”, “Pitagora”, “Rock matto”, and “I raggazi del juke box”. On his debut album, you can find two covers: “Jailhouse Rock” and “Tutti Frutti”.
In 1963, he released A New Orleans, which explores some different sounds and that’s something I like to see, evolution in an artist’s discography. Still, if you like his earlier work, you’ll like “Ciao amore”. I like the title track, “Non existe l’amor”, “Coccolona”, and “24 mila baci”.
In 1968, he released some of his best known songs “Eravamo en 100.000”, “Azzurro”, and “La Coppia Più Bella Del Mundo” from his album Azzurro. “Torno Sui Miei Passi” is another great song from that album. “La Lotta Dell’Amore” has some R&B influences and English lyrics.
Since it’s hard to find his whole discography on Spotify, I’ll highlight a couple of tracks of his from the 70s I found cool.
“L’unica chance” is really funky:
“Svaluation” has a rockabilly/boogie-woogie rock sound and the lyrics talk about the political situation at the time in Italy, a lot of inflation.
Agorà: Progressive/jazz fusion rock band from the mid 70s. The band chose their name because it’s a reference to the Mediterranean, the word for a central public space in ancient Greek city states, the centre of the life of the city: sports, arts, business, and social life. The band’s lineup were Roberto Bacchiocchi on piano, Ovidio Urbani on saxophone, Renato Gasparini on guitar, Paolo Colafrancesco on bass, and Mauro Mencaroni on drums. They released two albums in the 70s, a live album and Agorà 2.
I don’t usually look at live albums when I do these deep dive posts, but their Live in Montreux album is a great album. No audience cheering or noises, just music, like Casiopea’s Mint Jams, which is another great live album. Great music to do your homework to or relax to. A great album from start to finish.
Their second album is all instrumental and it’s really good. If you’re a prog fan and looking for something more obscure, you might like this album.
Aktuala: Prog rock/experimental, maybe even ambient band formed in 1972 by husband and wife Walter and Laura Maioli, who at one point lived in a musical commune with other band members. The name is “actually” in Esperanto, the most widely spoken constructed language. What makes them different from other Italian prog rock bands is that instead of being more symphonic and using typical rock band instruments, they use instruments from around the world to make their music. Not only was their sound unconventional, but also the venues they would play: asylums and wharfs. Their third album, Tappeto Volante, was recorded in Morocco. Band leader Walter Maioli is a researcher who specialises in the field of prehistoric instruments and has worked with museums and written books about it. If you like Krautrock, this band might be something you’ll like. Here are a couple of their songs I found cool:
A bit of raga rock in this one.
A mix of raga rock, lots of flute, and maybe some jazz.
Alphataurus: Early 70s prog rock band from Milan. They only released one album at the time and tried to work on a follow up, but they broke up before that could happen. Definitely something worth checking out if you’re a prog fan and like that kind of music with a hard rock/space rock sound. For fans of Deep Purple and Hawkwind. “Croma” has some “Atom Heart Mother” vibes, but it’s a much much shorter song.
Area: One of the most respected and well known prog rock bands from Italy. Greek lead singer Demitrio Stratos and drummer Giulio Capiozzo formed the group in Milan in 1972. Their sound incorporates the sounds of Middle Eastern and Greek music. Great for fans of Mahavishnu Orchestra.
In 1973, they released their debut, the edgy titled Arbeit Macht Frei, which is considered an excellent debut album. Don’t worry, they’re not a right wing band, far from it – they’re politically left wing and even performed at anti-war events, and their intention with the title was to subvert that phrase. Lots of free jams in this one. In 1974, they started touring around Europe and even played shows in South America.
The band’s second album, Caution Radiation Area is more synth heavy and experimental and less Middle Eastern influenced. Not the most accessible album for mainstream normie rock listeners since it has a lot of weird sounds and time signatures. The first track’s lyrics are in Greek. Unless you’re really into experimental stuff, I think you can skip this album.
Arti & Mestieri: Prog/jazz rock band formed in Torino in 1974, made up of members of The Trip, Sogno Di Archimede, and Mystics. Their name translates to arts and crafts. They made their debut at the Festival del Re Nudo, which was the Italian Woodstock. Their debut album, Tilt, has an original sound and is considered a prog rock masterpiece for that, it sounds like nothing else – definitely listen to it as a whole at least once. After releasing that, they toured with Gentle Giant and Area.
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso: Prog rock band in the style of Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and Aphrodite’s Child. They formed in Rome in 1969. Keyboard player Vittorio Nocenzi auditioned for RCA Records, but they didn’t want to sign a solo artist, so he needed a band so he put together BMS. Like their contemporaries PFM, they were noticed by Greg Lake of ELP, who encouraged them to sign onto his label, Manticore Records and record some songs in English so they could have wider popularity, English being the lingua franca of music and most musicians’ goal being to make it to America. In 1976, they opened for Gentle Giant on their European tour.
They released their first album in 1972 and it got their name out there. I like the epic length tracks “RIP”, “Metamorfosi”, and “Il Giardino Del Mago”. True to their name, which translates to Mutual Aid Bank, covers of original pressings of this album are shaped like a piggy bank.
If you’re a concept album fan like I am, you might like their sophomore, more theatric album, Darwin, which is all about evolution and is included in Rolling Stone Italy’s top 100 list of beautiful Italian albums. Nice piano on this one, but this isn’t for the normies!
Their first three albums are considered their best work. In 1973, they released Io Sono Nato Libero, which translates to I was born free. I find this album more accessible than the last two and a much easier listen. I really like the tracks “Non mi rompete” and the instrumental “Traccia II”. The epic length opening track, “Canto nomade per un prigioniero politico” has a nice guitar solo at 10:50.
In 1975, they released Banco, which has some translated older tracks in English. It’s more of a compilation, so might be good for those in a hurry who want to listen to the highlights and understand the lyrics. They weren’t the only band to do this concept, PFM did that as well. Of the English tracks 3-6, I liked “Outside” and “Leave Me Alone”.
In 1976, they released Come in un’ultima cena, which they also released in English as As in a Last Supper. As you can guess by the title, there’s a religious theme. I’ll only be talking about the original Italian version since this blog post focuses on Italian music. It’s a lot more accessible than the earlier albums in sound and not as much as an acquired taste. I like the tracks “Il Ragno”, “È Cosi Buono Giovanni, Ma…”, “Voilà Mida!”, “Quando La Buona Gente Dice”, “La Notte É Piena”, and “Fino Alla Mia Porta”.
In 1978 and 1979, Banco and a bunch of musicians were part of La Carovana del Mediterraneo, a European tour where the musicians would alternate on stage. A second edition of this tour happened in 1980 and 1981 with some international artists like Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Richie Havens. Studio albums wise, they released …Di terra and Canto di primavera. The former is an instrumental album, so no language barrier to worry about, but I know that jazz-prog isn’t for everyone. Interesting sounds on it like on “Lo Vivo” – a real mix of jazz and classical. “Né Più Un Albero Non Meno Di Una Stella” is a nice instrumental and my favourite on …Di Terra. Canto di primavera has more of a Canterbury/Camel sound to it.
Biglietto Per L’Inferno: Progressive rock band formed in 1972 in Lecco, name translates to Ticket to Hell (sounds really metal! I love it!). They famously performed at the Be-In Festival in Naples in 1973. They only released one album in the 70s, a self titled album in 1974. They didn’t release any more albums after that because it was a commercial flop. Remember, just because something didn’t do well commercially doesn’t mean that it’s a bad album. Their style of prog is more symphonic with synthesisers, which makes it easier to listen to and more approachable for the normies. If you’re into the mainstream prog bands of the 70s, their music might be a good listen for you. I like the songs “Ansia” – a little folk/psychedelic rock on this one, “Confessione” – to hear the hard rock side of them (for fans of Purple, Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and UFO), “Una Strana Regina” is very theatric yet hard rock and has different movements even some softer Procol Harum like ones with organ, “Il Nevare” is another good track – more hard rock, and “L’Amico Suicida” mixes flute with heavy rock sounds. Definitely one of the best “flops” I’ve heard!
Caterina Caselli: Pop singer from the 60s who later became a record producer in the 70s, retiring from performing after getting married. She was born in Modena in 1946 and got her start in music playing bass in bands that played at clubs. In 1963, she competed in the Castrocaro Festival and made it to the semifinals. She made her debut in 1966 at the Sanremo Festival singing “Nessuno mi può giudicare” (Nobody can judge me), definitely a song worth listening to. American singer Gene Pitney performed it at the festival too. Adriano Celentano originally was going to perform it, but he instead sang his own song, “Il raggazzo della via Gluck”. The single sold over a million copies. Around this time she had her trademark blonde Beatle like bob, which was called a golden helmet.
Below is a compilation album. Some covers of popular English language songs like “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Paint It Black”, and “I’m a Believer” if you want something more familiar. One of her best known covers is of “Days of Pearly Spencer”. Some other good songs on here are “Cento Giorni”, “Sole Spento”, “Incubo n. 4”, “Pere fare un uomo”, “Cima vallona”, and “Il carnevale”.
Dana Valery: English speakers familiar with the Northern Soul scene might know her for her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies”, released in 1967. Definitely my favourite song of hers. If you want some more soul covers, I really like her version of Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher”.
She was born Fausta Dana Galli in Codogno, Italy in 1944 and raised in South Africa since the age of 3. She’s Sergio Franchi’s younger sister. She started her career in South Africa in the early 60s in the satirical musical Wait a Minim!. She was part of the cast of that musical when it toured South Africa, London, and New York. It’s not easy to find much of Dana Valery’s music, as most of it is not on Spotify. She sang music both in English and Italian. In the mid 60s, she sang with a group called The Diamonds. Below, you can find a compilation album of some of those songs. She won Sarie Awards (essentially South Africa’s Grammys) in 1964 and 1965 for best female vocalist.
Dik Dik: Funny sounding name aside, they’re named after a species of antelope that lives in Southern Africa, they picked that name randomly from a dictionary. They formed in Milan in 1965 and many of their hits were covers of American and British pop songs. Their debut single was a cover of Len Barry’s “1-2-3”:
What they were best known for was their Italian version of The Mamas and The Papas’ “California Dreamin'”, their second single, which was a big success, reaching #2. That wasn’t the only Mamas and the Papas song they covered, they also covered “I Saw Her Again”, but the song title is “Il mondo è con noi”, definitely not a direct translation of the title.
Another big success for them was their version of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Senza Luce” – without light, again not a direct translation of the title.
Dik Dik were more of a singles band and didn’t really release a proper album until the early 70s – Suite per una donna assolutamente relativa, when they decided to try their hand at prog rock, and that was a big commercial mistake for them and an alienation of their fanbase who liked them for their short, sweet poppy covers. As someone who likes prog rock, I liked it. I liked the tracks”Donna Paesaggio”, “Il Viso”, “Le Gambe”, “Suite Relativa”, and “Monti e Valli”. After that, they went back to popper music, but it wouldn’t be long until disco took over and their music declined in popularity because of the changing musical trends.
Ennio Morricone: Prolific composer, orchestrator, conductor, and trumpet player. An entire series of posts could be written on him and it would take a lifetime to hear it all since he did the scores for 400 films/tv shows. Definitely a lot of material to cover. One of his best known works is the score for The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Whether or not you know the name of the film, you almost certainly recognise the music. He scored a lot of music for Spaghetti Westerns, which are basically European made western films, mostly made by Italians, hence the name. He also did the score for A Fistful of Dollars, the movie that popularised the genre.
In more recent years, you might have seen the Quentin Tarantino film The Hateful Eight. He made the music for that:
He was born in Rome in 1928. His father was a trumpet player and his mother ran a textile business. He took trumpet lessons when he was a kid and got into a conservatory when he was 12. He did very well in his diploma programme and was very much a child prodigy, starting to compose songs when he was just 6. His professional career started in the 40s when he composed “Il Mattino”, “Imitazione”, and “Intimità”. He started composing music for jazz and pop artists in the 50s and continued doing this in the 60s – working with musicians like Gianni Morandi, Alberto Lionello, Edoardo Vianello, Jimmy Fontana, Rita Pavone, Catherine Spaak, Luigi Tenco, Mina, and more! But he was even better known for his film scores. Paul Anka performed one of his songs, “Ogni Volta” at the Sanremo Festival in 1964.
He got his start in film scores as a ghostwriter for films credited to already well known composers in 1955. In America he was best known for composing for Spaghetti Westerns like the Dollars Trilogy, which wasn’t distributed there until 1967 – when United Artists saw the success of James Bond and decided to bring more movies from overseas to the US. But he also composed music for comedy films – actually some of his earliest film scores for movies like Eighteen in the Sun, Il Successo, Slalom, The Harem, L’Alibi, and more! His best known comedy film scores were for La Cage aux Folles and Il Ladrone. He also scored music for Giallo films, like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, The Cat o’ Nine Tails, Nightmare Castle, A Quiet Place in the Country, and The Antichrist. He also did the music for Exorcist II.
He scored one of the best selling film scores of all time, with 10 million copies sold, Once Upon a Time in the West:
Enrico Rosenbaum: The lead singer of Minneapolis prog rock band Gypsy. He was born in Italy in 1944 to Jewish parents and raised in Minneapolis. Very little is known of his life, but he took his life at age 35. His music was incredibly underrated and I remember one of my friends sharing the song “Gypsy Queen” on Facebook and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s such a beautiful song. Definitely listen to the whole self titled debut. Their second album In The Garden is also excellent.
Enzo Jannacci: Singer-songwriter, pianist, actor, and comedian and considered one of the founders of Italian rock music – often working with other pioneers in that scene like Adriano Celentano, Luigi Tenco, and Giorgio Gaber. Additionally, he worked a day job as a cardiologist – training in the US and South Africa. He was born in Milan in 1935. His father was an aeronautical official and worked at the airport and was part of the Italian resistance movement against the forces of Nazi Germany and the fascist government in Italy, a puppet state of the Nazis.
He started his music career in the 50s as part of rock bands like the Rocky Mountains and the Rock Boys. In the early 60s, he went solo and his career took off in 1964 with 22 canzoni. “L’Armando” was his first big hit:
His biggest hit though was “Vengo anch’io (no tu no)”, released in 1968.
In the 60s, he competed in Canzonissima, a song tournament broadcast on TV. He made it to the finals, but the national broadcaster RAI censored his original song choice “Ho visto un re” (I’ve seen a king), and instead it was replaced with a different song. Still, this banned song was a top 10 hit on the charts. The reason for the song’s ban was likely that the lyrics mocked power and questioned authority.
Equipe 84: Beat group formed in 1964 in Modena. They chose the name because they thought the Italian word for team would resonate well internationally and it’s unknown why they picked 84, possibly because that might have been the total age of the band members at the time of the group’s founding. Their first album had covers such as “La Fine Del Libro”(Time Is On My Side as popularised by The Rolling Stones, but title means ‘the end of the book’), “Sei Felice” (Tired of Waiting For You by The Kinks, but title means ‘you’re happy’), and “Ora Puoi Tornare” (Go Now by The Moody Blues).
In 1966, they released their second album, Io Ho In Mente Te (I have you in mind). This album has some Italian covers of English language pop songs like “Alti Nel Cielo” (“Somebody Groovy” by The Mamas and The Papas), “Ieri In Lei” (“Everyday” by The Moody Blues), “Bang Bang” (originally by Cher) – a big hit for the band, “Stay” (originally by Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs), and “Spiegami Come Mai” (“Funny How Love Can Be by The Ivy League). The last three tracks seem to be originals by the band. “Auschwitz” is a really sad song about the holocaust, calling for peace and love. Some of the lyrics translated: “I wonder how a man can kill his brother, yet we are millions in dust here in the wind, dust here in the wind.” and “I ask when it will be that man will be able to learn to live without killing and the wind will settle and the wind will settle.”
In 1967, Equipe 84 got a #1 with “29 Settembre” – on that song you can hear a mock radio DJ. It’s about betrayal. In 1968, they released their 3rd album, Stereoequipe. There are more original songs, but there are some covers of English language songs like “Nella terra dei sogni”, original version is “Land of Make Believe” by The Easybeats. “Ladro” is a good song from that album and has sort of a raga rock sound to it.
1970 was a turbulent year for the group with their drummer Alfio Cantarella being arrested for possession of marijuana and RAI therefore banning them from appearing on their programmes. He was sacked and the band went through a lineup change with members of other bands like The Rokes, PFM, and Dik Dik recording on their album, ID. The prog rock influenced album was a commercial flop because of the broadcasting ban, but vinyl pressings have since become a rare collector’s item. The 70s were really a time when Italian rock music came into its own and brought something unique, all thanks to the vibrant prog rock scene. Some tracks worth listening to are “Buon giorno amico mio”, “Un brutto sogno”, “La notte di San Luigi” (my favourite on the album), “Il re dei re”, and “Fine”.
In 1971, they released Casa Mia as Nuova Equipe 84. My favourite track on it is “Il Sapone, La Pistola, La Chitarra E Altre Meraviglie” and I also like “2000 km”. “Paranoia” is a heavy, stoner rock sounding track.
In 1973, they released Dr Jekyll e Mr Hyde, which as the title suggests indicates a different style on either side of the record. This time, they changed record labels because their old one didn’t support them anymore. “Primavera” is a pretty song.
Sacrificio is the last album they released in the 70s and it’s the most prog rock sounding of theirs, in my opinion, but it still has some poppy melodies. It has a very weird beginning and it reminded me of Pink Floyd because I had to check that my speakers weren’t muted because it had such a quiet intro. First track is weird, but it gets better! I like the songs “La montagna sacra” (some really cool synths on this one) and “Porte chiuse”.
Francesco Guccini: Considered one of Italy’s greatest singer-songwriters. Not only does he write music, he also writes novels and comics. He was born in Modena in 1940 and raised by his grandparents when his father was fighting in WWII. Before becoming a professional musician, he worked as a teacher and as a journalist. He notably interviewed Domenico Modugno, who got an international hit and won a Grammy for “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” and won the Samremo Festival two years in a row. This inspired him to write “L’antisociale”, which was his first composition and is the last track on the album Folk Beat N.1. He was in a few bands, playing guitar before releasing his solo debut in 1967. His song, “Auschwitz” was performed by Equipe 84, a band I spoke about earlier in the post. If you like Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Phil Ochs, you might like this album – “Talkin’ Milano” is very Bob Dylan style. Overall, the album is worth listening to. Early on in his career, he translated “Mrs Robinson” into Italian and wrote a song called “Dio è morto” (God is dead) that was considered controversial because of “blasphemy” and was therefore censored by RAI.
In 1970, he released Due Anni Dopo (Two years later). As the title suggests, some of themes of the songs are about time and how it passes. Other topics include everyday life and class issues. There’s some nice fingerstyle guitar by Deborah Kooperman, a musician he frequently collaborated with for a decade. This style of guitar playing wasn’t really heard or seen in Italy before this album. I like the tracks “Lui E Lei”, “Due Anni Dopo”, “Per Quando È Tardi”, “Vedi Cara”, “Ophelia, and “Al Trist”.
That same year, he released L’Isola Non Trovata (the island not found). I like the title track, “La Collina”, “Un Altro Giorno È Andato”, “Canzione Di Notte”, and “L’Uomo”.
In 1972, he released Radici (Roots), which as the title suggests is about him exploring his roots: personal and cultural – it’s semi-autobiographical with songs like “Radici”, “Piccola Cittá”, and “Incontro” being about his life experiences and upbringing. The album cover is a photo of his family. This album was one of his first big successes. Some prog mellotron and moog synthesiser sounds can be heard on this album.
In 1974, he released Stanze Di Vita Quotidiana (stanzas of everyday life). Each song starts with “song of” and they all have a sombre, melancholic theme.
Since not all of his 70s albums are on Spotify, we’ll end this section with Via Paolo Fabbri 43, the album he released in 1976. “L’Avvelenata” is one of his most popular songs and something you should definitely listen to.
Giorgio Gaber: Singer who started his career in the late 50s and wrote one of Italy’s first rock songs – the Elvis inspired “Ciao ti Dirò”. He was one of the pioneers of the teatro canzone (song theatre) genre. He was born Giorgio Gaberscik in Milan to parents from Trieste and Veneto. His last name is Slovene. After suffering from polio as a child, he was encouraged to play guitar because it was the perfect activity to recover his motor skills since it wasn’t strenuous and it was something that consistently used the hands. In Milan, he would frequent the Santa Tecla, a venue where a lot of musicians would go. He got a record deal, but at first because he wasn’t a member of the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, he couldn’t trademark his own compositions. He would frequently collaborate with Luigi Tenco and Enzo Jannacci. He also competed in the Sanremo Festival 4 times in the 60s. French pop music was a big influence on his sound, as well as American pop and rock music.
Since it’s not easy to find all his work on Spotify, I’ll be going through what I can find, album by album:
In 1970, he released Sexus Et Politica. It’s his only album where he is singing songs that he didn’t write. The lyrics are derived from Latin literature.
That same year, he released the live album Il Signor G. If you like music hall, you might like this album. It’s a theatrical concept album where he plays a character called Mr G, who he describes as being like most people – full of contradictions and pains. The following year, he released I Borghesi, a studio album. There’s an Italian cover of the Jacques Brel song “Ces gens-là” – “Che Bella Gente”. The album as a whole takes a lot of inspiration from Jacques Brel.
In 1972 he released Dialogo tra un impegnato e un non so, which is a live theatrical song performance where he portrays two characters who deal with reality differently. The album was recorded during a live performance in Genoa and his tour often sold out thanks to good word of mouth. From here, his performances keep increasing in popularity with hundreds of thousands of fans seeing him.
In 1974, he released Anche per oggi non si vola, which translates to “even for today we won’t fly”. He got the phrase from a friend who said that to him when he found he was being a bit of a pretentious artist. In 1975 he
In 1976, he released Libertà obbligatoria, which translates to obligatory freedom, and the album explores the question whether or not we are truly free or obligated to be and whether or not people are genuine about what they believe when it comes to the system. Are people truly rebels? What becomes part of the mainstream?
In 1978, he released Polli di allevamento, which translates to breeding chickens and this album expresses the frustrations he has with “fake hippies/activists” who claim to fight against the system, but their battle is fake. The album was recorded in Bologna. The following year, The Municipality of Milan awarded him a Gold Medal.
Giorgio Moroder: The father of disco and pioneer of Euro disco and electronic music. You probably know him for his work with Donna Summer and Daft Punk. He was born in South Tyrol, a part of Italy where people speak Ladin and German, in addition to Italian. In the 60s, he left Italy for Germany to start his music career, moving to Aachen, then Berlin, and finally Munich. His earliest singles in the 60s and early 70s were bubblegum pop. His earliest success was “Looky Looky”, which was certified gold in Germany. On this album you can hear his poppier pre-disco songs. At times they have a Beatles or Beach Boys influenced sound.
While his version wasn’t a success, Chicory Tip got a hit with “Son of My Father” in 1972. In the late 70s, he started releasing disco music and his career took off thanks to his work with Donna Summer as well as music he recorded himself. He wrote Donna Summer’s 1977 hit, “I Feel Love”, which is considered to be the first Hi-NRG song, coming out years before the genre became mainstream. In 1978, he released “Chase”, which was the theme for the film, Midnight Express. He won an Oscar for the soundtrack album.
He continued composing soundtracks for films like Foxes, American Gigolo, Scarface, Cat People, and Metropolis and worked with a lot of big names in music. Donna Summer’s big hit “On The Radio” was on the Foxes soundtrack. He produced Blondie’s “Call Me”, which was on the American Gigolo soundtrack. He co-wrote “Cat People” with David Bowie.
In 1984, Giorgio Moroder released a shortened version of the 1927 German silent film Metropolis with a contemporary soundtrack with artists like Freddie Mercury, Jon Anderson, Bonnie Tyler, Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, and Adam Ant.
Goblin: Prog rock band who often collaborated with director Dario Argento. They formed in the early 70s, originally calling themselves the Cherry Five and Oliver. While in London, they met ELP and Yes’ producer Eddy Offord by chance and he liked their sound and they rehearsed in London for a bit, but they had to go back to Italy because they ran out of money. They recorded one album in 1975 as Cherry Five – all the music is in English so no need to worry about language barrier. You can really hear the influence of Yes on it. My favourite tracks on it are “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Swan is a Murderer Part 2”.
In 1975, they started their working relationship with Dario Argento, making soundtracks for him. Their first one was for Profondo Rosso. Even here I can hear some things that remind me of Yes, like the organs in the title track remind me of “Everydays”.
Goblin also made TV themes like for Chi?. This one is kinda funky, but still prog – two of my favourite sounds of the 70s, put them together and you get this beauty:
One of Dario Argento’s most famous films was Suspiria, a must watch giallo film. Goblin did the music for it and it’s really spooky.
In 1977, they did the soundtrack for La via della droga, known in English as The Heroin Busters. I like the guitar in it.
In 1978 they released Il fantastico viaggio del “bagarozzo” Mark and the George A. Romero film Zombi, among other soundtracks. In the former, you’ll hear some vocals, which is a change from the usual instrumentals they do for movies. “Un ragazzo d’argento” has a nice beat to it and sounds disco/electronic music influenced – makes me think of Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless”. “Zombi” makes me think of Genesis, particularly “Watcher of the Skies”.
In 1979, they released soundtracks for Buio Omega and Squadra Antigangsters. The former’s soundtrack is very synth heavy and a bit jazz influenced. The soundtrack for the latter is more varied in sound: some reggae influence, some country, some disco.
This concludes part 1 of this series! Stay tuned for Part 2!
Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!
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