Music Graffiti / "Complessi beat" - Italian groups 1960-1970
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)
(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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maurizio Vandelli (guitar and voice), Franco Ceccarelli (guitar), Victor Sogliani (electric bass) [for a period Romano Morandi], Alfio Cantarella (drums)
New Dada (front man Maurizio Arcieri)
New Dada were one of the most influential beat group of the sixties
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.
First line-up: Augusto Daolio (voice), Beppe Carletti (keyboards), Gianni Coron (bass), Franco Midili (guitar), Gabriele Copellini (drums)
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.
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)
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