(According to our translators, the liner notes of this comp are written
in a very complex and obscure style, a "mixture of nonsense and ironic
thoughts about the Italian beat scene" which is difficult to make sense
of in English. So if some of the following isn't very clear to you, you're
not alone! - the editor).
Where does the Sardinian band i Pelati (the Shaved Heads)
fit in the Italian beat family tree? Would we have to designate a separate
"mod" branch and place these "proto skins" (pre-skinheads) - whose name
was the Devils at the beginning of their career - with phony mod poser
Ricky Shayne? Or should we just isolate them because until '67 (the year
they let their hair grow and changed their name to the Colours) they remind
us more of the baldheaded Californian surf band the Pyramids than the normal
longhaired denizens of our Italian beat scene?
Let's move on and examine the strong roots of the hit record "Come i Ragazzi di via Paal": the emphatic heavy rebelliousness that spread over the Sardinian beat-land like a menacing, psychedelic fog drifting in from America during that unforgettable, glorious year of grace, 1966.
The Planets (from Tuscany?) must have inhaled some of the same air. Could it have been mere chance that, after playing in Sardinia for the first "Sardinia Sings" festival, they pulled this version of the Raiders' "Just Like Me" out of their collective hat?
And wasn't the Italian beat "style" just a frantic bout of musical pillaging anyway? Nick Casablanca & the New Blues must have been as eager as the rest to cover someone else's material. In the case of "Ti vorrei con me," we might as well just listen to the original, "Hang On Sloopy."
It's easy to recognize the sound of the record "Sta Arrivando Il Beat" ("Here Comes The Beat") in the 1962 track "Droga" ("Drugs") by the Fuggiaschi from Milan. But the correlation with this archetypal song is lessened by the lyrics of "Droga," which are about a girl rather than what the title promises. Later Celentano, the band's sponsor, and singer/composer/producer Don Backy were to blame the death of Beat music on the growing drug culture (see his 1967 song "Tre Passi Avanti," or "Three Steps Forward").
The story of I Fuggiaschi is a bit pathetic. They started out as a support band in nightclubs, then signed on as Celentano's backing band. [He was known as "the flexible" for the exaggerated way he imitated Elvis' movements. Celentano had his own TV shows, appeared in a few movies, and had his own label, "Clan." - the translator].
I Balordi were another band from the Lombard beat scene. They were longhairs in real life, not just for their publicity shots, with all the repercussions this brings (it seems that their name came from a guy who told them "You'll never accomplish anything, balordi (fools) as you are"). They brought underground music into the charts, and gave birth to a new "dementia" genre, starting with their cover of "They're Coming To Take Me Away," originally by Napoleon XIV (alias musicologist-composer Jerry Samuel).
Swiss band les Sauterelles responded to the "lousy" Balordi's cry for help with "Aiuto!...va sempre male?" ("Help!...Still Going Wrong?"). Here's what often happened: a band like les Sauterelles innocently came down to Italy to "spend a day with the heroes of Beat." Maybe they were attracted by the various "manifestos" issued from the Italian beat scene, and the Swiss bands didn't realize that they were dealing with a rebelliousness that was mild and without urgency, and therefore doomed to disappear shortly.
The Red Roosters from Milan had an obvious pre-punk attitude, with a rhythm section suggestive of Yankee garage music. Club 76 from Brescia was rooted in rhythm & blues; here the band covers a song by the Dutch band Cuby & The Blizzards. The weaving of the vocals and guitars in "Domani sapro" by the Kolmans (something of a mystery band) is so sweetly delirious it could have been produced under the influence of LSD. The Impacts, whose twelve strings and sitar sound could have been their ticket to enter the stars 'n' stripes folk-rock hall of fame, were fairly popular.
The more believable heroes of the less famous beat bands had the bad luck to start on the wrong foot, by wanting to measure themselves in the agonistic gladiatorial arena of the inexpert guitarists, squeezed under the Battle of the Bands' circus tents or, in the best cases, playing anonymously at "beat" clubs that on most nights served as old folks' polka dance clubs.
At the most some country Pygmalion accompanying a moderately wild band might have thought of a misunderstood educative function that this type of music played (what's that middle-aged man on the cover doing surrounded by six, that's six, beardless young Rowers?).
And why couldn't a kick-ass band like the Dutch-influenced, Florence-based Tremendi (whose bass player Fix Richard Ursillo was at the same time a member of the Black Angels/Chewing Gum, and later joined the Sensations) record for a better label than that employment bureau for poor imitators of more famous artists known as "Enigmistica?" I'm sure that must have been an embarrassing subject for the entire Florence scene....
Lucky Beat Boy
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