Cover Songs in Italy in the Beat Era

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In the sixties Italy was one of the biggest and more improving markets for music and discs. In order to answer a constant growing demand, the music industry decided to take a simple way: to translate in Italian songs that were already successes in other country, mainly in US and UK, or even songs not so well known in their countries, but interesting for their potential. In this way more than 2000 cover songs were registered and published during the decade and within them they are included the major and more remembered successes of the sixties in the "Covers Country".

Other resources in this website

A list of 1300+ Cover Songs / Burt Bacharach In Italian / The Beatles' songs In Italian / The Rolling Stones in Italian / The Animals in Italian / The Them in Italian

 

In this page

Music in Italy in the '60s / The Italian version / The Italian lyrics / Examples / The Italian groups "I Complessi" /

 

Music in Italy in the sixties

 

I Satelliti covered With A Girl Like You of The Troggs (Babababa-ba in Italian)Since the ending of the II World War the whole music world was largely influenced by the Anglo-Saxon genres and artists. Maybe only starting from the '90 a wider interest started in the Western world, with the progressive success of the world music. But, coming back to the sixties, the models to refer have came almost totally from UK and US, as far the new music, the music for the young generation.

And so dozens and dozens of English and American songs have became Italians, mostly without a consciousness by the listeners, and an huge part of the Italian beat groups ("complessi") and singers have became famous thanks to the covers.

Italy was at that time quite different from today, but even more different was the Italian music market. At that time it was one the main markets in the whole Western world. A single 45 rpm reached easily over a million copies, and a real big success as "La bambola" by the Italian "princess of beat" Patty Pravo has sold more than nine millions of discs in Europe, most of them in Italy.

So, even very important UK and US musicians, as The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, surely under pressure by their producers,  issued Italian version of some of their most important hits.

 

The Italian version

 

Caterina Caselli covered Paint It Black of the Stones (Tutto nero)The Italian version could have been targeted to a song that was already an international hit, as for example I’m a Believer by the Monkees or The Whiter Shade Of Pale by the Procol Harum. The original version was already known and the Italian one was so pushed by the original one. In these cases there was sometimes a competition between several groups, in order to be the first and the preferred one. This was the case, for example, of the famous hit of Cher Bang Bang, covered in Italy by the Equipe 84 (the best selling version), by I Corvi, by Dalida (the famous french singer), by Milena Cantù (an Italian singer of that time).

 

The Italian lyrics

 

The Italian lyrics were rarely related to the original ones. The two languages are quite different, it's difficult to adapt the rock pace to the Italian words, and moreover the sensibility and the respect of the original work was not so high. Result: in many cases the meaning of the original tune was completely changed (sometimes reversed completely) in the Italian one. Sometimes the Italian lyrics were even better, in most cases the original ones were ignored.

The reason for an unrelated version of the original one could have been many.

  1. Another tune written by Bob Lind (Remember The Rain) became E' la pioggia che vaSimply, to bypass the copyrights; sometimes a well known international hit were proposed as an original one, forgetting the real authors, maybe for an error, maybe not; it was the case of very well known hits, as Stand By Me ("Pregherò", by Adriano Celentano), Reach Out, I'll Be There, by The Four Tops (Guardo l'ora, by I Rogers) and the controversial Pietre by Gian Pieretti (very similar to Rainy Day Women of Bob Dylan).

  2. The already mentioned differences in the metric and the accents between the two languages. So the main idea of the original tune could have been maintained, but the lyrics became slightly different. Examples are the above mentioned Sono un ragazzo di strada, much more strong than the original one, or "Un uomo rispettabile" by The Pops, a smoothed version of "Well Respected Man" by The Kinks..

  3. The difficulty of recreate complex and hermetic lyrics; it's the case of Keith Reid's of Procol Harum ones; an almost impossible task to translate in another language the images of A Wither Shade Of Pale.

  4. Censorship. Italy was at that time less free than UK or US. The Italian Radio & TV (government owned, private subjects were forbidden) applied a very careful censorship. mainly to avoid sex and improper situation (it's a catholic country, the Vatican was in the center of the hit and the main Italian party, and the prime ministers and so on, came all from a movement called Democrazia Cristiana, directly linked to the Catholic Church - but also to the US administration). So, even old songs, as The House Of The Rising Sun (in Italian La casa del sole), were strongly stopped as not appropriate, and the lyrics were almost all changed. Only the word "sun" remained ...

  5. Because the interest was only to the music and to the arrangements. Lyrics and ideas were already available, on the other side of the Ocean or the North Sea excellent tunes were created continuously so, why not? Lovers Of The World Unite became a quite different "Innamorati unitevi", "Nights In White Satin" became an incredible story of love and death ("Ho difeso il mio amore" by I Nomadi), and Delilah of  Tom Jones became became (incredibly) a happy-end love story, "La nostra favola" with the version of Jimmy Fontana.

  6. The very scarce knowledge of the English language at that time in Italy (even now, but this is another story ...) and the consequent impossibility for many people to compare the Italian text to the original one.

Examples?

 

Che colpa abbiamo noi is a cover from Cheryl's Going Home (Bob Lind)It is possible to visualize an almost complete list of Italian cover songs (more than 1300) here, from Adriano Celentano up to "The Wretched". It is also available a selection of reverse cover songs (where the original was Italian).

See also: a selection of 45rpm cover art

 
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