10. Mystical Arrogance: Franco Battiato’s Esoteric Pop

ALESSANDRO CARRERA

 


1. Franco Battiato, “E ti vengo a cercare”

From: Fisiognomica. EMI Italiana 64 7903141, 1988, 33⅓ rpm; EMI 077 7 90314 2, 1988, cd.

 

Filippo Destrieri: keyboards, computer programming; Michele Fedrigotti: piano, organ; Ricky Belloni: guitars; Danilo Grassi, percussions; Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia conducted by Giusto Pio; Coro Ferdinando Paër conducted by Ugo Rolli.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

A non-denominational religious hymn, meant to be addressed to a beloved one, a spiritual master, or a divinity. It is one of Battiato’s most famous songs, immortalized in films and parodies. Its luscious melody and grand orchestral arrangement set it apart from pop musical landscape, aiming for the aura of the late-Romantic Lied instead.


 

2. Franco Battiato, “La convenzione”

From: “La convenzione” / “Paranoia”. Bla Bla BBR 1333, 1972, 45rpm;
then in Franco Battiato, Juri Camisasca, The Osage Tribe, La convenzione, D’autore-Azzurra Music DA 1008, 2002, cd.

 

Produced by Pino Massara; Lyrics: Frankenstein (Sergio Albergoni)

 

Lyrics

Discogs (1972 – 45 rpm)

Discogs (2002- cd)

 

Recorded as a single soon after Fetus, Battiato’s first LP, “La convenzione” is a “sci-fi” song about a not-so-distant scary future in which every choice will be subjected to “convention.” It anticipates Battiato’s songs of the late 1970s.


 

3. Franco Battiato, “L’Egitto prima delle sabbie”

 From: L’Egitto prima delle sabbie. Ricordi SMRL 6220, 1978, 33⅓ rpm; Artis ARCD 049, 1993, cd.

 

Antonio Ballista: piano.

 

Discogs

 

A single, brief ascending arpeggio is repeated over and over again at different time intervals. While the right hand plays the arpeggio, the left hand keeps a few keys silently pressed, each time a different set of keys. Every time the arpeggio is repeated the harmonics will vary.


 

4. Franco Battiato, “L’era del cinghiale bianco”

From: L’era del cinghiale bianco. EMI Italiana 3C 064-18285, 1979, 33⅓ rpm; EMI 0777 7 46796 2 6, 1990, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice; Roberto Colombo and Antonio Ballista, keyboards; Alberto Radius, guitars; Julius Farmer: bass; Tullio De Piscopo: drums and percussions; Giusto Pio, violin and orchestra conductor.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

The song marked the beginning of Battiato’s “pop” phase, after the minimalistic experiments of the previous years. The combination of the Vivaldi-like violin break and the Middle-Eastern references in the text (Tunis, Damascus) give the song a unique “Mediterranean” atmosphere.


 

5. Franco Battiato, “Aria di rivoluzione”

 From: Sulle corde di Aries. Bla Bla, BBXL 10003, 1973, 33⅓ rpm; Artis ARCD 036, 1992, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice, guitar, VCS 3, prepared piano, kalimba; Gianni Mocchetti: guitar, mandola, voice; Gianfranco D’Adda, percussions; Jane Robertson, cello; Daniele Cavallanti, clarinet, soprano sax; Jutta Niehaus: speaker.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

One of Battiato’s best evocative and experimental songs of his early years. On a background of synthesizers and reed instruments, Battiato sings like a European muezzin, of distant wars, present revolutions, and the desire to leave home to search for one’s destiny.


 

6. Franco Battiato, “Cuccurucucù”

 From: La voce del padrone. EMI 3C 064-18558, 1981, 33⅓ rpm; EMI 0777 7 46357 2 1, 1990, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice; Alfredo Golino: drums; Paolo Donnarumma: bass; Filippo Destrieri: keyboards; Alberto Radius: guitars; Claudio Pascoli: sax; Donato Scolese: vibraphone; Coro “Madrigalisti di Milano”; Orchestra conducted by Giusto Pio.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

“Cuccurucucù” takes the title from a 1950s Mexican song. On a swift up-tempo rhythm, perfectly in tune with British and U.S. “new wave” rock of the late 1970s, the text mixes up personal memories of the author’s childhood in Sicily with random quotes from ubiquitous 1960s songs. The song’s perfectly delivered deadpan humor has made it a perennial favorite at Battiato concerts.


 

7. Franco Battiato, “Centro di gravità permanente”

From: La voce del padrone. EMI, 3C 064-18558, 1981, 33⅓ rpm; EMI 0777 7 46357 2 1, 1990, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice; Alfredo Golino, drums; Paolo Donnarumma, bass; Filippo Destrieri: keyboards; Alberto Radius: guitars; Claudio Pascoli: sax; Donato Scolese: vibraphone; choir “Madrigalisti di Milano”; orchestra conducted by Giusto Pio.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

What has been said for “Cuccurucucù” can be repeated “Centro di gravità,” which mixes up references to the esoteric teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff with a “postmodern” landscape of global cultural confusion. The “search for a permanent center of gravity” is both ironic and serious.


 

8. Franco Battiato, “Povera patria”

 From: Come un cammello in una grondaia. EMI 66 7981211, 1991, 33⅓ rpm; EMI 090 7981212, 1991, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice; Gavyn Wright: violin; Roger Chase: viola; Anthony Pleeth: cello; Antonio Ballista: piano; Filippo Destrieri: keyboards.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

An austere meditation on the woes of Italy amidst the pervasive political corruption of the late 1980s, the song is a free-form aria for voice, piano, and orchestra. Although the text may seem awkward at times, the simplicity of the music and Battiato’s voice carry the message effectively.


 

9. Franco Battiato, “La cura”

 From: L’imboscata. Mercury , 534 091-2, 1996, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice, guitars; Benedict Fenner: computer, guitars, keyboards; Carlo Guaitoli: piano, keyboards; Gavin Harrison: drums and percussions; Nuovo Quartetto Archi.
Lyrics: Manlio Sgalambro.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

Born from his collaboration with philosopher-lyricist Manlio Sgalambro, “La cura” (The Care) may prove to be, on the long run, Battiato’s most effective song ever. As if answering to “E ti vengo a cercare” (his 1988 prayer),“La cura” is the reassuring speech of someone (a parent, a spouse, a friend, or God himself) who pledges to help and protect that “special being” who is in his or her care. From initial, Laurie Anderson-style computerized voices, a winding melody soars, giving the song its remarkable power.


 

10. Franco Battiato, “Niente è come sembra”

 From: Franco Battiato, Il vuoto. Mercury , 1722972, 2007, cd.

 

Franco Battiato: voice, guitars, keyboards, synth bass; Davide Ferrario: guitars; Andrea Polato: drums; Raffaele Gulisano: bass; Pino “Pinaxa” Pischetola: computerized rhythms; Carlo Guaitoli: piano and conducing the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.
Lyrics: Manlio Sgalambro.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

A simple, intimate song about the relief of understanding that “nothing is as it seems” because, like in Lennon-McCartney’s “Strawberry Fields”, “nothing is real.” Spare electronic drums give way to a sweeping orchestral sound in the chorus.