In the high days of Queen, those gorgeous paraders of the World stage, Italy unveiled it's new wave of poets, skinny and talented young men and women singing about passion, love - found & lost.
That's when, in my teens, I moved there with my family to a small seaside tourist town on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Exposed to this glittering array of young Italian pop talents on the radio & in the dance clubs I, along with the rest of the country, fell in love. On Sunday afternoons teenagers could go to the Discotheques and dance from 4-10 unaccompanied. Mostly they played American and English songs, Rolling Stones and Donna Summer but just as often, especially in the less sophisticated halls, the Italians like Celentano and folk hero, Fabarizio D'Andre. Most beloved were the two Lucio's - Lucio Battisti and Lucio Dalla, unbelievable talents and captivating guides into the dreams of romance and poetic meaning, especially for blossoming fanciulle. They were two of my favorites. The top of the line was the music written and produced by lyricist Mogol and the inimitable singer Battisti and their hits permeated all of cool Italy from beach side cafe in Castiglioncello to the late night club scenes in Milano.
The video above though, is an iconic song from a singer songwriter who was part of the Celentao clan in the 60's, years before. Overshadowed by the egregious Mr. Celentano, he never quite recovered or became as famous as his contemporary.
His name is Don Backy. I heard his voice one afternoon on the radio, while driving down the Aurelia at breakneck speed in a frightfully small car and was immediately consumed by the Italian melancholia bug. Stars in the eyes kind of thing.
I was already hopelessly in love just as a matter of existence, Italy just pushed me over the precipice, thank god .
So a few days ago I finally saw a picture of him. He was quite handsome of course, which I had suspected all along, otherwise I wouldn't have remotely considered our marriage in such detail in my adolescent dreams
In the Stone Age, before smart phones and the internet, they had little devices called cassettes the cover for which were printed on two sides. Apparently it was preferable to put scantily clad women on the front. Presumably it sold the music better. Never saw the face, only heard the voice and the poetry it so sweetly produced. So, me and my ratty little cassette, with boobs on the cover, that I was on occasion able to listen to in someone's car, created a world of drama & longing. Honestly, it seemed that everyone was in love in those days.
There was an aura of romance mixed with prosperity, not to mention sex and kind of a chivalrous vibe at that time in Italy, that was defined by the Italian love song. It was a bit of a cocoon, I realize now. Many other things were going on: political unrest, Brigate Rosse. But these things were the dark corners of an otherwise lyrical post-card pretty explosion. Those who lived it know my meaning. At that time Italy and Italians were sexy, at least for most of the world, if a bit over the top for Waspy Americans, who called them names in that deprecating manner that winners of war often do. No matter. There was no lack of charm & fun.
Returning to Don Backy. Bit of a silly name really. So, Italian though. Real name is Aldo Caputo, born in a town not too far from where I lived then. Exceptional, if nothing else by the number of artists who recorded the songs he wrote and then became famous. I'm thinking of the translations to something like 'Canzone' and realize it might sound too syrupy to the English ear ...
Nel più bel sogno, ci sei solamente tu In the most beautiful of dreams, only you exist
sei come un'ombra che non tornerà mai più You are like a shadow that will never return
tristi sono le rondini nel cielo The Swallows are flying through the sky in sadness
mentre vanno verso il mare As they make their way towards the Sea
é la fine di un amore It's the end of our love
..but it was truly the height of sophisticated music story telling.
I learned how to look at love, how to see beyond the horizon, how to dream, with those songs. It's true, they are outdated listening to them now, but the memories of cold, winter beach days, my mind free to invent, - the smell of sea and salt, the promise of summer, - figuring out all that love stuff....that just never gets old.
PS - Here is Adriano Celentano, at the famous Festival di San Remo competition, singing Backy's song. He went on to become famous world wide with his cocky grin and daddy-o swagger. Probably much better suited to fame than the seemingly sensitive soul he might have had a hand in suppressing Maybe that's just conjecture from gossips, I'm not sure.