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"Complessi beat" - Italian groups 1960-1970

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A list of italian beat groups (in Italian, at that time, called "complessi") with some essential information about them. Additional groups and more complete information (in Italian) are reported here. Other Italian groups are described here.

Camaleonti / Corvi / Dik Dik / Equipe 84 / Kings / New Dada / Nomadi / Rokes

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Camaleonti (front man Riki Maiocchi)

I Camaleonti (the Chameleons) were a group formed in Milan in 1964 and specialized, during their first period, simply in performance of English and US covers for concerts in Milan and Lombardia. They signed afterwards a contract with the label Kansas and they published versions in Italian of songs by Manfred Mann, Animals, Herman's Hermits and even Rolling Stones (Get Off Of My Cloud, a very hard attempt) and Beatles (Norwegian Wood, even more difficult).
They were selected to participate to the very popular summer event Cantagiro during 1966, where they have arrived at the fourth place with the soft-beat song Chiedi chiedi ("ask, ask", an original) becoming so one of the well known groups during the most successful period of the Beat genre in Italy. During the same year the front-man Riki Maiocchi left definitely the group to start a solo career (initially with a good success) and two new musicians have reached the group, Tonino Cripezzi and Mario Lavezzi, coming from The Trappers. The group had the opportunity to propose in Italy the cover of Homburg, the international success of the Procol Harum group and afterwards the new members Cripezzi and Lavezzi have turned the repertory of the group more towards the pop genre, gathering a very large success with melodic songs as Eternità or Applausi or Io per lei.

See also the Discography

Gerry Manzoli (electric bass), Livio Macchia (guitar and voice), Tonino Cripezzi (keyboards and voice), Paolo Di Ceglie (drums), Riki Maiocchi (voice). Mario Lavezzi (voice) in place of Maiocchi since 1967.

  

Corvi

Probably the first (or maybe the only) Italian garage band of the sixties. Coming from Parma (Emilia) I Corvi (the Crows) have arrived to a wide success almost immediately, thanks to the participation to a very popular contest between beat groups (the Torneo Davoli, first edition of 1966) in which they arrived at the second place, having so the opportunity to publish their first single disc. Their choice was a cover, an italian version of I Ain't a Miracle Worker by the Brogues, that in Italy has became "Sono un ragazzo di strada" (I'm a street-boy) with a quite different text and also different sound arrangements (harder the voice and the guitars). The song was a great success, one of the best known beat songs in Italy, and I Corvi started a successful career. Their image was harder and stronger in comparison with other famous group of the period, as the rivals Equipe 84, something similar to The Rolling Stones versus The Beatles. After their first success they published other well selected covers, as Sospesa ad un filo, from I Had Too Much To Dream by The Electric Prunes, Bang Bang and Morning Dew (the title of their Italian version was Questo è giusto (this is right)). When the season of the beat has started to decline I Corvi was practically out of the market, too much linked with this period to evolve their sound to the new genres, as the forthcoming progressive rock, or to try the way of the pop, as I Pooh or I Camaelonti or even The Rokes. The group hence disbanded in 1969, after two changing of label (from Ariston to Bluebell and then to Rare).

See also the Complete discography

Fabrizio Levati (guitar), Italo Ferrari (electric bass), Claudio Benassi (drums), Angelo Ravasini (guitar and voice). Antonello Gabelli in place of Fabrizio Levati in 1969.

  

Dik Dik

Together with Camaleonti, Corvi and Equipe 84, I Dik Dik, a group coming from Milan, was in the top five between the Italian "complessi" during the mid sixties, specifically for their commercial success. Their image was extremely plain but they were supported by the main Italian label of that period (Dischi Ricordi) and the choice of the songs to cover very well focused. They were in fact, almost for their first years of activity, a sort of cover band, specialized in Italian versions of very well known international successes. So they have arrived in Italy many songs as California Dreamin' by The Mamas and Papas (Sognando la California in Italian, exact translation), If I Were A Carpenter by Tim hardin (Se fossi un falegname, misleading translation: the meaning in Italian is "if I were a wood worker"), A Whiter Shade of pale by The Procol Harum, in Italian Senza luce (without light), I Saw Her Again Last Night, by The Mamas and papas (Il mondo è con noi: The world is with us), Let's Go To San Francisco by The Flower Pot Men (Inno: hymn), Mighty Quinn by The Manfred Mann Group, Wight Is Wight by Michel Delpech, in Italian L'isola di Wight (the island of Wight). Starting from 1967-'68, they have proposed original songs, mainly written by the famous duo of composers Mogol and Battisti (Mogol, Giulio Rapetti, lyrics, Lucio Battisti, the most famous Italian chansonnier of that period and even now, music), as Il vento (the wind), Guardo te e vedo mio figlio (I watch you and I see my son), Vendo casa (I'm selling my house) and other originals up to the mid seventies (Viaggio di un poeta: "a travel of a poet", Help me, about the space exploration). They tried to participate to the new progressive movement (the LP "Suite per una donna assolutamente relativa", very difficult translation ...) with scarce success and then they remained active only in the revival scene, up to the '80s, when a new strong interest returned in Italy for the Beat period.
"Dik Dik", the name of the group, is the name of an african gazelle.

See also the Discography

Pietro Montalbetti "Pietruccio" (voice and guitar), Giancarlo Sbriziolo "Lallo" (guitar and voice), Mario Totaro (keyboards), Sergio Panno (drums), Erminio Salvadori "Pepe" (electric bass), Roberto Carlotto "Hunka Munka", keyboards, since 1969.

 

Equipe 84

The most famous Italian group during the whole decade. Formed in Modena in 1964, they published their first single discs, mainly covers from US and UK songs, with the label Vedette. In 1966 they signed a contract with the main Italian label of the period, Dischi Ricordi (the same of the Dik Dik) and with its support they had the opportunity to propose for the Italian market the versions of Bang Bang, the international success of Cher, very well known also in the peninsula, an announced success, and then, with a very good intuition, You Were On My Mind by the We Five (and Barry McGuire), in Italian Io ho in mente te (you are in my mind), the song that they proposed in the Cantagiro on summer of 1966, the main music event of that period (a series of concerts in the main Italian towns, associated to a competition, inspired to the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, the bike race). They won this competition after a long head-to-head competition with The Rokes, confirming so to be the n.1 in Italy.

The name of the group, according to the official version, comes from the sum of the age of the four members, Maurizio Vandelli, the leader and the singer, characterized by his curly hair, Victor Sogliani (recently passed-by), the electric bass, you can remember him being extremely tall, Alfio Cantarella, the drummer, that was instead very short, and finally the second guitar Franco Ceccarelli, the handsome one of the group. A very good mix that helped the beat people in Italy to remember the group. But the sum of their ages was 85 when the group started the activity ...

After the period of the covers and starting the declining phase of the beat genre, the group started to propose original songs, by important Italian authors as Francesco Guccini (also from Modena and friend of the four musicians) with songs as Auschwitz, L'antisociale, E' dall'amore che nasce l'uomo and especially Mogol and Battisti, that gave to the Equipe 84 their peculiar song 29 Settembre, a great success in 1967 (n.1 in May).
Starting from this point the Equipe 84 became a modern pop group, reaching again the success with songs as Nel cuore, nell'anima (in the heart, in the soul), Tutta mia la città (the town is only mine, cover of Blackberry Way by the Move) Pomeriggio ore 6 (6 p.m., cover totally unrelated of Marley Purt Drive by the Bee Gees) Una giornata al mare (a day at the sea), a good song by Paolo Conte, up to the participation at the Sanremo Festival in 1971 with one of the most known Italian songs of the sixties, 4 marzo 1943, but known almost only in the version of the author, Lucio Dalla. After this participation, third place in the competition, Maurizio Vandelli continued to propose musical works for the whole seventies, to a public more interested, however, to the new proposals in the progressive and political genres.

Discography

Maurizio Vandelli (guitar and voice), Franco Ceccarelli (guitar), Victor Sogliani (electric bass) [for a period Romano Morandi], Alfio Cantarella (drums)

 

Kings (front-man Dino, then Renato Bernuzzi)

A group of Verona, very much appreciated during their years of activity. The first singer and front-man of the group has been Dino Zambelli, a very popular singer and performer during the sixties in Italy (known simply as Dino). In the first years The Kings was practically the support group of Dino (Dino e i Kings). Dino has embraced soon after a brilliant career as a pop singer, and The Kings continued alone with another front-man, Renato Bernuzzi.
The group abandoned the pop sounds and, thanks also to the more modern and strong voice of the new singer, the Kings were claimed by their fans a "real beat" group. During the summer event Cantagiro in 1966 they were choosen as one of the eight beat groups invited to the contest. The song they presented in the concerts was Cerca (look for). They proposed also covers, as many other groups (La risposta, the answer, from the famous song of Bob Dylan Blowin' In The Wind) but also some songs written by The Kings themselves (specifically D'Adda and Ottofaro) as the interesting Caffè amaro (bitter coffee).
See also the discography of the Kings of Verona.

Renato Bernuzzi (voice), Ennio Ottofaro (lead guitar ), Gilberto Storari (rhythmic guitar ), Andy De Bruyn (electric bass), Pierpaolo Adda (drums); in the first records when the name was  "Dino e i Kings" and after 1967 Damiano Pelanda at the electric bass.

 

New Dada (front man Maurizio Arcieri) 

The New Dada were one of the most influential beat group of the sixties in Italy.
The name was inspired by the dadaist artistic movement, and they have been very effective during their concerts, mainly thanks to the original approach of their front-man Maurizio Arcieri (maybe he was the inventor of the "moon-dance").
Their main successes have been La mia voce ("my voice", from Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk In The Room"), Non dirne più ("don't say anything", from Sick & Tired of Fats Domino), Batti i pugni (an original), Lady Jane (an Italian version of the famous song of the Rolling Stones).
Troubles between the members led the group to a separation in the first months of the 1967 and to the birth of a new formation. The new band was formed by Ferry Sansoni (the keyboardist), Franco Jadanza and Renè Vignocchi (guitars) of the original group and Gaby Lizmi (drummer in the Patrick Samson Group) and Danny Besquet (bass player of the group I Profeti). The name was simply Ferry, Franco, Renè, Danny & Gaby (maybe inspired by the UK group Dave, Dee, Doozy, Beacky, Mick & Tich).

See also the Discography, the history of the New Dada and an interview to Ferry Sansoni on

Maurizio Arcieri (voice), Ferruccio "Ferry" Sansoni (keyboards), Franco Jadanza (guitar), Renato "René" Vignocchi (guitar), Giorgio Fazzini (electric bass), Gianfranco "Pupo" Longo (drums)

 

Nomadi (front-man Augusto Daolio)

The only Italian beat group that has continued the activity with the same approach and with at least one member of the original line up to nowadays, I Nomadi (the nomads) have had furthermore a constant follow up by their fans, obviously with periods of success and others less, but always capable to fill of people ("il popolo dei Nomadi") their concerts. Characterized since the beginning by their front-man, the long-hair and big bearded Augusto Daolio, with his very peculiar voice, the Nomadi has started to publish their first disc, Donna la prima donna (woman the first woman, a cover from "Donna the Prima Donna" of Dion Di Mucci & The Belmonts, 1965), but since the second one they embraced a different way, more oriented towards the protest song. As their first success "Come potete giudicare" (how can you judge us, 1966) another cover, with different lyrics, by "The Revolution Kind" of Sonny Bono. Other songs had been written for the group by Francesco Guccini, one of the most known Italian chansonnier, from Modena (Emilia) as some of the Nomadi.

In particular, Guccini gave to them "Noi non ci saremo" (we won't be here) a song about the nuclear war, "Un figlio dei fiori non pensa al domani" (a hippie does not plan his future, 1967) a cover with different words by Death of a Clown of The Kinks, and above all their major hit of their first period, a protest song (original) even banned by the Italian radio and TV, Dio è morto (God is dead, 1967) about the contradictions of that period (or maybe also of the present one) that has became a classic in Italy.
After this period, declining the appeal of the beat movement, I Nomadi have diverted their production towards more popular songs, starting with a cover of Nights In White Satin by the Moody Blues, became in Italian Ho difeso il mio amore (I have defended my love, 1968, with different words and meaning) and, in the following decade, their biggest success Io vagabondo (I vagabond) one of the few songs that more or less all the Italians sing when they want to sing together. Pop songs, very melodic, but peculiar and easy to distinguish thanks to the penetrating voice of Augusto Daolio.

A period that has ended almost in the middle of the decade, when I Nomadi decided to return to the inspiration of their sixties, starting with an LP of covers of Guccini's songs, and afterwards with others, more up-to date, protest songs. At the end of the seventies they started their very long travel together with their fans, a travel made of hundreds of concerts and many LPs and CDs and many fan clubs all around Italy.
During these forty years (and more) some of the original members has left the group, and unfortunately also Augusto Daolio died on 1992 because of a fatal illness, but the original keyboardist, Beppe Carletti, remained as the focal point of the "nomads" up to now, the group has published their last CD (Orchestra, 2007) after other 14 CDs starting from the 2000 year and they are continuing their activity as ever.
 

First line-up: Augusto Daolio (voice), Beppe Carletti (keyboards), Gianni Coron (bass), Franco Midili (guitar), Gabriele Copellini (drums)

More infos on: Discography '60 / Official site / Per sempre Nomadi (in italian)

 

The Rokes

The Rokes were four musicians already active in the UK musical scene, since the beginning of the sixties, when they arrived in Italy for a tour as a support band of the singer Colin Hicks. The name of the band was then The Cabin Boys, with the same line-up (Shapiro, the band leader, Charlton, Posner, Shepstone). During this tour they were noticed by a well known Italian talent-scout, Teddy Reno, previosly a singer and actor and at that time the husband of the most famous female singer of the first sixties, Rita Pavone.
Teddy Reno invited them to an event and other concerts and created a contact with an Italian label (Arc) in order to publish their first single in Italy in 1964, a cover of a rock'n roll classic (Shake Rattle and Roll) and an Italian song on the other side, followed very soon by another disc with a melodic Italian song on the A-Side (Un'anima pura: a pure soul). They changed also their name to Rokes, a term not so common in English, but in Italian it sounds very well ...

Their first success has been a cover from Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk In The Room", in Italian C'è una strana espressione nei tuoi occhi (there is a strange glance in your eyes), in 1965, and the smash-hit, the year after, has been another cover, from Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home", in Italian Che colpa abbiamo noi (what is our blame?), with totally unrelated lyrics, speaking of the new beat movement.
In the meanwhile they have been also one of the more requested bands for live sets, thanks to their high professionality, and they have been also the performer of the starting concert at the Piper Club, on February 1965.

During 1966 also the participation to the summer event the Cantagiro, in which they arrived almost at the first place (only in the last concert their rivals, the Equipe 84, obtained a superior voting and were proclamed winner (with some doubt).
In 1966 and 1967 their main successes, E' la pioggia che va (another cover from Bob Lind's Remember the Rain), Bisogna saper perdere (you must learn to lose, an original proposed at the Sanremo Festival in 1967).

The Rokes, and specifically their leader Shel Shapiro, was the authors of many of the song they performed, being in that very differently by the other Italian groups of the period. One of their songs was Let's Live For Today. The powerful song, known in the version of the Grass Roots, were proposed by The Rokes initially in Italian, with the title Piangi con me (cry with me) and different lyrics, as the B-side of their main success in Italy, Che colpa abbiamo noi. The Rokes' version, published in England in 1967, is even superior to the Grass Roots one (that came few months later their recordings) but their attempt to impose it as an international hit failed. A complete history of the different versions can be read here.
See also: images from a rare videoclip of the Rokes performing this song.

Norman David "Shel" Shapiro (voice, second guitar), Bobby Posner (bass), Raymond John "Johnny" Charlton (lead guitar), Mike Shepstone (drums, voice)

See also: the Discography

       

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