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Dec 14/08

The Italian Invasion

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 13:10

Caterina Caselli

My father has a great little collection of 45rpm records. Much to his dismay I spent many years playing them to death on my Fisher-Price record player, but luckily most survived my early audiophile days.

I think it speaks volumes that my favourite of the bunch was a cover of La poupée qui fait non by Les Sultans. (They’re an amazing Québecois garage rock band from the 1960s, by the way. Maybe that could be another post…)

Anyway, back in 1994 the MP3 codec started getting popular, the web got big, and I was learning how to digitize and edit audio. The 45 collection became my guinea pig. These were the days before powerful home computers and sophisticated, easily available audio filters. I laboured over waveforms, trying to clean-up some of the more damaged 45s in my father’s collection.

The product? I present one of my first MP3s: a crude, home-cleaned version of a badly damaged 45 of The Who’s Can’t Explain.

So what does any of this have to do with Italy?

While searching for some Italian music for another post I stumbled upon Gli Uragani’s cover of Can’t Explain. The lyrics don’t have much to do with the original, but the melody is unmistakable.

I dug a little deeper and found myself in the hilarious and apparently very popular world of cult Italian 1960s American pop music. Today we’ll hear a small sample of covers from the almost 700 tracks that I found with the help of Annie, Louise and a few bottles of red wine from Le salon des vignerons indépendents.

Oh yes, music fans, put in your earplugs. It’s time for such amazing tunes as “Like a stone that is rolling” by Gianni Pettenati & The Juniors.

Now before you dismiss this musical movement it’s worth noting that many of these groups were very popular and some continue to be megastars in Italy. Guys like Bobby Solo, who I’ll save for tomorrow because he’s the greatest, and Fausto Leali, who you’ll hear today, have been playing San Remo since the early 60s right up until 2008.

Welcome to the wonderful world of 1960s Roma. Further proof that Italians are Europe’s musical powerhouse!

P.S. Sorry for any typos. I’m typing this with one hand because I broke two bones in my right hand on Friday. Ouch.

P.P.S. In a way this brings Benn loxo full circle; this blog started out with American-influenced pop-rock from Nigeria in the 1960s and 70s.

The Who – Can’t Explain
Gli Uragani – Con quella voce
Caterina Caselli – Paint It Black
Caterina Caselli – Sono Bugiarda
Davide e Sara – Facciamo lamore non la guerra
Equipe 84 – Bang Bang
I Corvi – Bang Bang
Fausto Leali – Lei ti ama
The Little Boys – Lei t’ama
Gianni Pettenati & The Juniors – Come una pietra che rotola
I Barritas – Rhonda, aiuto
I Jaguars – Barbara Ann
I Dik Dik – Senza Luce
I Dik Dik – Sognando la California
Jimmy Fontana – Per Vivere Insieme
The Ravers – Tanto carina

And before you go thinking this trend is over,

Cor Veleno – Pimp remix

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21 Responses to “The Italian Invasion”

  1. Your site helps satisfy my travel bug which I can’t accomplish enough on my own with everything else going on, such great and inspiring music. thanks and keep traveling

  2. One amazing fact fueling the proliferation of italian versions of international hits was the fact that, by only writing italian lyrics for those songs they could cash 100% of the royalties earned in Italy, something that nowadays would raise a hell of international trade war but was the norm back then.
    If you go one little step back in time compared to what you have in this post, one of the real geniuses of Italian music definitely was Renato Carosone ( ), not only able to write huge commercial hits but also to blend humor and amazing playing dexterity (every member of his original band was worth originating a little cult, starting from Gege DiGiacomo).
    You will also be amazed at the pre-revolutionary cuban sounds echoing in Italian acts such as Peppino di Capri. Try to listen side by side to his hits and the successes of Los Zafiros.
    Mina Mazzini should definitely be part of this overview and Domenico Modugno as well, although he was kind of doomed by his own success and a not always successful exploration of the popular roots of the italian popular music.

  3. Thanks for the credit, Matt. One extra bit of trivia that has nothing to do with Italy:
    the B side of “La Poupee…” is a cover of the 1965 Kinks tune “Il n’y a rien au monde que je ne ferais pas pour cette fille”. I actually prefer it to the Ray Davies version!

    Your blog continues to be a true original — keep up the great work.


  4. Hey Matt!

    Sorry to hear about your hand!Ouch for real! Will you put up Questione di Feeing and Vorrei Incontrarti in some way? I can’t find them on any of my lame (free) download programs!

    I’ve got a hankerin’ for them both.


  5. Ouch.
    Once again, you made my day.
    ‘Como una pietra che rooooooooooola’
    Oh, yeah.

  6. oops, get well soon.

    This stuff’s brilliant, pure ‘all your bases are belong to us’ territory.

  7. There are many other examples:
    “Ciao ciao” by Petula Clark (italian version of “Downtown”)
    “Chariot” by Petula Clark or Betty Curtis (italian version of “I will follow him”)
    “Ragazzo triste” by Patty Pravo (italian version of “But you’re mine” by Sonny and Cher) – really famous in Italy, nobody would suspect it wasn’t original
    “I giardini di Kensington” by Patty Pravo (italian version of “Take a walk on the wild side” by Lou Reed)
    “L’ora dell’amore” by I camaleonti (italian version of “Homburg” by Procol Harum)
    “Non dirmi niente” by Ornella Vanoni (italian version of “Don’t make me over” by Dionne Warwick)

    You can find most of these songs of YouTube, I think.

  8. fantastico ragazzi. ‘senza luce’ my clear favourite ;)

  9. Hey its really funny to find here on your site my mom’s favourite italian classics!!!
    Greetings from Naples

  10. I haven’t been here for quite some time… i somehow couldn’t switch so easily from the old benn loxo to the new one. So i somehow started resignating a little… but now a couple of months later i’m discovering again something new!

    This is amazing, thank you so much for the good work!!!! This blog continues to be an inspiration!

    The last entries on this page are making my new soundtrack for the coming weeks, taking me through the cold time of the year in Austria! Thanks especially for the hungarian, icelandic and romanian stuff!

    When it comes to the italians… well i guess i would need some more evidence that they can actually come up with good music!

  11. Amazing stuff, really. Those song are… something else. I’m surprised to see a mention of Les Sultans and though I’m not a fan of Québecois yéyé, you can’t go wrong with La poupée qui fait non.

  12. On a personal nostalgia kick: in the 60s Italy even had its own private army of Brit rockers doing covers in fractured Anglo-Italian – great stuff!
    Check out “the Rokes” –

  13. (So one hand can type, then?)

    Just thought you might like to see this post. Hope I’m not wrong.
    Great song, and I look forward to more on them.

  14. bravo. and thanks.

  15. Oh Mr Main Man, we need an update baddd! Well, we, as in my split personas! Keep keepin’ the treats!

  16. Wow, I didn’t know that the Italian “tradition” of ripping off other people’s music goes back to the 60′s if not earlier. They did it with disco in the 80′s and house/techno in the early 90′s too. There’s this pretty ridiculous disco cover of “Whole Lotta Love” for example:

  17. What happened to the posts, Matt?!

  18. Matt, thanks for all the good times and good music.
    Wherever you are, whatever you are up to, have a good time.
    Thanks again, zeno.

  19. [...] I’m typing this with one hand because I broke two bones in my right hand on Friday. [...]

  20. I find some album of Renato Carosone here

  21. Hi

    I’ve just discovered your blog – and am gutted that I missed these italian songs – I have several french ones; and some thai. Is there any chance that you can repost them so that I can hear them?

    Yours hopefully


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