Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The albums of RITA PAVONE

This blog started out as a vehicle to express my opinions about albums recorded by Italian singer Rita Pavone. It spans from 1963, when Brazilian RCA Victor released Pavone’s first album, up to 1967, when RCA Italiana released ‘Little Rita nel West’ her last album before she switched record labels going to Ricordi.

This blog only covers Pavone’s first phase at RCA. It is biased towards particular albums that have been released in Brazil, Argentina, Germany and the USA. My point-of-view is the basis for these reviews. It is only my personal opinion which sometimes can be main-stream but may also be outrageous.  I don’t have to make sense at all although I have tried to be as fair as possible.

I confess I have been a dedicated fan of Rita Pavone’s ever since I saw her on Brazilian TV on 25 June 1964. I took an active role at the Brazilian Rita Pavone Fan-Club until 1967. After that, I guess, I grew up or changed tastes and habits. I still look upon those days with a wistful longing and love to write about 'them good old days'.

I’ve chosen 11 albums to ‘review’.  They are the ones I’ve had at some time or other in the course of my life. I skipped ‘compilation albums’ even though 1966's ‘Ci vuole poco’ could almost qualify as such. I welcome all kinds of comments coming from you, readers. If you agree or disagree about a song or opinon, please,  leave a note saying so. Thank you so much for your visit.

Toto Faria.

Rita Pavone's albums released in Brazil between 1963 and 1965.
Rita's Greatest Hits released in Peru is NOT reviewed here. 

Friday, 4 March 2011


RITA PAVONE    BBL-147   RCA Victor –
released in Brazil:  November 1963

1.  La partita di pallone [Carlo Rossi-Edoardo Vianello]
2.  Abbiamo sedici anni [Dino Verde-Bruno Canfora]
3.  Clémentine Chérie [Camucia-Tallino]
4.  T’ho conosciuto [Carlo Rossi-Dansavio]
5.  Sul cucuzzolo [della montagna] [Carlo Rossi-Edoardo Vianello]
6.  Le lentiggini [Dino Verde-Bruno Canfora]

1.  Il ballo del mattone [Dino Verde-Bruno Canfora]
2.  Come te non c’è nessuno [Franco Migliacci-Oreste Vassalo]
3.  Cuore [Heart] [Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill; v.: Carlo Rossi]
4.  Alla mia età [Carlo Rossi-Roby Ferrante]
5.  La commessa [Carlo Rossi-Piero Piccioni]
6.  Amore twist [Bovenzi]

As written in the liner-notes of Rita Pavone’s first album, she was a 17 year-old from Turin who won a talent contest in Rome in September 1962, and was given a contract to record a 45 rpm for RCA Italiana. The label didn’t think much of her and gaver her ‘La partita di pallone’ [The football match] a song already released in the summer of ‘62 to cash in on Football World Cup fever in Chile where Brazil came on top for the 2nd time in a row. Cocky Mazzetti’s original record was the lament of a married young woman who is left home alone on Sundays while her fancy-free hubby goes out to watch his favourite football team playoffs.  She suspects he might actually be seeing someone else and tells him she’ll go back to her mum’s if he doesn’t change his ways.  Pavone’s  record had an infectious guitar introduction devised by Argentine arranger Luis Enriquez that hooked the public immediately going all the way to number one in the Italian charts. That was Pavone’s way of saying: ‘Here I am, take heed!

Shortly after, Rita was featured in ‘Alta Pressione’ [High pressure] a youth-oriented programme on RAI One [Italy had only two TV channels then] that made her freckled face famous overnight. Rita’s luck continued when Mina, Italy’s number one songstress, had to leave ‘Studio Uno’ due to being pregnant. Producers Antonello Falqui and Guido Sacerdote had to re-arrange ‘Studio Uno’ to Rita’s teen-age appeal and she was given the mammoth task of compering the highest-rating show in the land. She was supported by I Collettoni [tall-collared boys] a 7-member singing-dancing group of young men who helped her introduce guests and songs. The new formula catering for a younger audience on a Saturday night show paid off in the end.  The times they were indeed a-changing.

The songs featured in Pavone’s first album were mostly written by staff composers and lycists working for RAI and RCA Italiana. Many of the tunes were custom-made especially for Rita’s idiosyncracy like her ageAlla mia età’ [At my age], ‘Abbiamo 16 anni’ [We are 16 year-olds],  her freckles Le lentiggini’ [Freckles] and her red hair in ‘Pel di carota’, even if this particular song was dropped out from the Brazilian LP in favour of ‘Cuore’ that was released after the Italian album.

At first I intended to review the Italian release [April 1963] but I changed my mind and decided instead to review the Brazilian release [November 1963] because the latter is a better album. 

LA PARTITA DI PALLONE’ – The football match – This was the first song I have ever heard of Pavone’s. It got some air play in Brazil around late 1963 when it was released as an EP [extended-play] along with 'Come te non c'è nessuno', ‘Alla mia età’ and ‘Clémentine Chérie’.  I remember my older brother coming home one day and saying there was a record out by an Italian singer who sang something ‘obscene’.  For some Brazilian ears the part Rita says: ‘u-una volta non ci porti pure me?’ [why don’t you take me to the match some time?] sounded like ‘o cú na boca...’ which means ‘the arse in the mouth’. For Anglo ears who are not used to hearing foreign hits played on their radios it may sound strange that such thing may have happened but to Brazilians whose hit parades were filled with hits sung in other languages [than Portuguese] everything was possible.  I remember my younger sister thought Gigliola Cinquetti sang ‘que belo cú de ferro’ [what a lovely iron arse] instead of ‘un bene cosi vero’ [a love so true] in ‘Dio come ti amo’.  So it is quite commom for commom folks to misunderstand foreign-language hits. Actually there’s a popular site in the net called ‘Am I right’ with thousands of entries by people telling what they misunderstood from hits sung in English.  Now fancy what they would misunderstand listening to a foreign sound. Here's the link to the site:

ABBIAMO SEDICI ANNI’ [We are sixteen-year-olds] -  Dino Verde, head of the writing team at RAI [Italy’s  public Radio & TV] wrote most of the texts and songs performed by Rita Pavone at Studio Uno 1963. This song was usually sung by I Collettoni with slightly different lyrics every time Pavone presented a new number in the show.  In the Brazilian vynil it was never properly identified as being sung by I Collettoni.  Nobody had a clue why Rita’s voice was so ‘low’.  It took me years to know that the voices in ‘Abbiamo 16 anni’ are those of Gianni Morandi, Roby Ferrante and other unidentified RCA singers. All the musical numbers shown on Studio Uno were previously recorded at the RCA studios and then taken to RAI where the show was pre-recorded too.

CLÉMENTINE CHÉRIE’ – Theme song from a French movie made in early 1963 where Rita appears at a Parigian dancing party where the adults talk about classical music and the young only think about the twist. Suddenly, someone mentions Mozart’s Turkish March and out of a corner comes Rita Pavone who starts singing a twist number based on the Mozart tune accompanied at the piano by Teddy Reno. The song had been written by two Italians but in the actual film Rita is dubbed in French by some female singer who is not credited.  In the Italian release of the same film, Rita appears at the very beginning  singing it in Italian, and later at the dancing party [in Italian again]. The Italians also inserted another musical number [Pel di carota] half way through the plot. The song itself is a rocker that starts with the strains of Mozart's Turkish March and tells the story of a funny girl who's not quite sane.  

T’HO CONOSCIUTO’ – I have just met you – This is a beautiful soft ballad where Rita is accompanied mainly by a double-bass. It was written by Ennio Morricone under the alias of Dansavio; words by omnipresent Carlo Alberto Rossi. It could have easily been a single. Actually this first album is almost a ‘Greatest Hits’ if you come to think of it.

SUL CUCUZZOLO’ [Della montagna] –  At the top of the mountain – Even though it’s in the first album, that track was Pavone’s fourth hit-single in Brazil, coming after ‘Cuore’, ‘Datemi un martello’ and ‘Scrivi’. The reason for 'Sul cucuzzolo' being released as a single in Brazil is local. When Rita toured Brazil and first sang this rocker there was a tumultuous reception to it. It’s a great  song but the sensational reception had a different reason. In a part of ‘Sul cucuzzolo’ Rita sings the word ‘sci’ twice, ‘sci-sci’ which in Brazilian slang is ‘pee’ –  'urinate', in children's talk.  So every time Rita sang those words [pronunciation: 'shee-shee'] Brazilians of all age had to laugh... and children went wild about a grown-up singer who was allowed to say such word publicly. All of a sudden ‘Sul cucuzzolo’ became a hit in Brazil, and RCA had to released it as a single that went to number three in October 1964 almost two years after being released in the Italian album.

LE LENTIGGINI’ – Freckles – That’s a customized song for the girl who had a face full of freckles.  Dino Verde smart lyrics tells of a freckled girl who’s necking with  a boy a dark corner... all of a sudden the moon waxes large illuminating her freclked face and the boy is turned off by so many freckles.  The gist of it is when she summons that only because of those horrible and hateful freckles she won’t taste his kisses.

IL BALLO DEL MATTONE’ –  The square dance – But it ain’t those ‘regular ‘ square dances but one that the couples will only move in a 2 x 2 meters, meaning that they won’t move at all.  Why’s that? Because by 1963, most of the new dance-crazes like the twist, rock, hully-gully, madison etc. were danced by couples separately. They did not touch each other. ‘Il ballo del mattone’ is trying to revert that trend.  She tells her lover:  'don’t be jealous if I dance rock with someone, don’t be furious if I dance the twist with the other because with you I’ll dance the ‘square dance’ where we can dance cheek-to-cheek, hug and squeeze'.  Ain’t that a good proposition?

COME TE NON C’È NESSUNO’ – There’s no one like you – Probably the best ballad in the album, especially if one does not include ‘Cuore’ that was not in the original album. This was Rita’s second single. Actually this was her first ‘original’ because her first recorded song had been previously released by someone else.  When RCA realized they had a ‘gold mine’ in their hands they came up with ‘original material’ and what good material that was.  Perfectly recorded up to the last long finale... which in the Brazilian album invites the listener to prepare his ears for the Heart’s ‘thump thump’ beginning a few seconds later.

CUORE’ – Heart –  The best song in the album.  Maybe Rita’s best song ever.  It was written by wife-and-huband  Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann, who spent their formative years working for Al Nevins and Don Kirshner at Aldon Music, part of famous Brill Building on Broadway that manufactured pop hits as if it were an assembly-line in the early 60’s.  ‘Heart’ was recorded originally by Vegas singer Wayne Newton but it was never more than just a ‘plain’ song and went unnoticed in the US.  It took Luis Enriquez’s sensibility to arrange ‘Cuore’ in such a way that it starts with a faint beating of one’s heart marked by a double-bass and slowly goes in a crescendo with the gradual addition of voices, drums and strings to literally explode in the half time. Then Rita does what she does better: she shouts and contorts and plea and cries and begs!  She was no James Brown but should be called the hardest working woman in Italian show business.

ALLA MIA ETÀ’ – At my age – In 1963 it was common-place for teen-age performer to sing about their young ages. Françoise Hardy had her biggest hit with ‘Tous les garçons et les filles de mon age’ [All the boys and girls at my age] which Belgian teen-beauty Catherine Spaak sang in Italian.  Gigliola Cinquetti, the girl with a tear in her voice, won San Remo 1964 with the teary ‘Non ho l’età per amarti’ [I don’t have the proper age to love you].  Rita’s ‘At my age’ explains that ‘one starts to understand love’... it is an almost a sex-education class explaining how the hormones play havoc with poor teens’ bodies. Musically it reminds ‘Tous le garçons et les filles’.  It was Pavone’s third hit in a row.

LA COMMESSA’ –  The shop assistant – Jazzy tune about a shop-assistant who can’t wait for closing time for her to see her lover.  Accompanied mainly by a piano, Rita shows that even as a 17 year-old Italian girl she had already been exposed to 'scat' done most likely by Ella Fitzgerald.

AMORE TWIST’ – Nothing spetacular about this track.  It was the B-side of ‘La partita di pallone’ and as the title cannot hide... it was still ‘twisting time’ in Italy, so the year had to be 1962... even if it was late 1962.  Those dance crazes had a very short use-by-date. One can almost tell what month of the year it was by the title of a dance song then.

Rita Pavone & I Collettoni, the dancing boys who appeared with her at TV's Studio Uno at the Italian album back-cover.

2. MEUS 18 ANOS - BBL 159

MEUS  18  ANOS – BBL-159 – RCA Victor
recorded Sept. 1963; released in Brazil: March 1964.

1.  Datemi un martello [If I had a hammer] Lee Hays-Pete Seeger; Bardotti
2.  Non è facile avere 18 anni [Bernabini]
3.  Somigli ad un’ oca [Your baby’s gone surfin’] Duane Eddy-Hazlewood; Migliacci
4.  Ti vorrei parlare [Carlo Alberto Rossi & Roby Ferrante]
5.  Si fossi un uomo [Wenn ich ein Junge wär’] H.Buchholz-G.Loose-Müller; Rossi
6.  Quando sogno [On the sunny side of the street] Jimmy McHugh; v.: Gagis

1.  Che m’importa del mondo [Franco Migliacci-Luis Enriquez]
2.  Son finite le vacanze [Carlo Rossi-Pelleschi]
3.  Bianco Natale [White Christmas] Irving Berlin; v.: Devilli
4.  Non c’è un pò di pentimento [Gianni Meccia]
5.  Sotto il francobollo [Carlo Rossi-Luis Enriquez]
6.  Auguri a te [Carlo Rossi-Luis Enriquez]

In Brazil everyone knows that ‘life only starts after Carnival is over’. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere coincides with Carnival that was originally an European feast but has been ‘tropicalized’ in totum by us.  So Brazilian have the best of both worlds  – those few days before Lent when people were allowed to stuff themselves with as much food and sex as they could possibly get. As life only starts after the fun, that’s the time when children go back to school and the big record companies release their catalogues.


Since the 1950s Americans made movies located in Italy. In 1961 there was ‘Come September’ starring teen-idols Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin along with the ‘older couple’ Gina Lollobrigida and Rock Hudson. In 1962 it was 'Rome Adventure', called 'Candelabro Italiano' in Brazil, with Troy Donahue and lovely Suzanne Pleshette along with the usual ‘older couple’ Angie Dickinson and Rossano Brazzi. It was a romantic comedy that appealed to teens and they flocked to the movie houses to see. In its sound-track released by Warner Brothers was ‘Al di là’ sung by Emilio Pericoli that reached the unthinkable # 6 position in the Billboard charts in 9 June 1962. ‘Rome adventure’ was released in Brazil a year later, in 1963, with its main theme-song going straight to number one. Brazilians were enchanted by everything Italian, even if it was seen through American lenses. Brazilians loved  Rome’s travel-logue views and its Lambrettas but mostly we fell in love with Italian modern music that was heavily influenced by the American rock’n’roll and rhythm’n’blues. That’s when the ‘Italian invasion’ started for good.

Legata a un granello di sabbia’ by Nico Fidenco which had been a big hit in Europe in 1961 was realeased and went to number one. Soon enough radio started playing ‘La partita di pallone’ with rocker Rita Pavone realead as a extended-play with 3 more songs. ‘Cuore’, a powerful ballad was next and by the end of 1963, Pavone’s 1st album hit the record shop racks and was grabbed by teens in despair.

In early 1964, Brazilian airwaves were flooded with the likes of Peppino di Capri’s ‘Roberta’, Sergio Endrigo’s ‘Io che amo solo te’, EdoardoVianello's 'Abbronzadissima', Gino Paoli’s ‘Sapore di sale’, Michele’s ‘Se mi vuoi lasciare’ etc. After Carnival RCA released Pavone’s 2nd album and the single ‘Datemi un martello’ started playing daily, hourly, by the minute on the radio.

When Pavone finally reached our shores for personal appearances in June 1964, and her video-taped concert was beamed at Channel 7, she was Number One in the single charts [‘Martello’], the extended-play charts [‘Adorabile’] and the album charts [‘Meus 18 anos’]. Italians ruled and Rita Pavone was their Queen.

Pavone’s second album is something special. It’s my favourite favourite album. There is a fundamental difference between the Italian version [which includes ‘Cuore’] and the Brazilian one which features ‘Datemi un martello’ as its main track.

DATEMI UN MARTELLO’ [If I had a hammer] – ‘Give me a hammer, please’ is a celebration of sorts. Sergio Bardotti was given the task to transform ‘If I had a hammer’ into something more ‘palatable’ for the Italian younger set. ‘Hammer’, a folk song written by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger in support of the progressive movement in the U.S.A., and it was first recorded in 1950, by The Weavers, a folk music quartet composed of Seeger, Hays, Ronnie Gilber & Fred Hellerman. It was revived by Peter, Paul & Mary going to # 10 in 8 September 1962.Trini Lopez took it even higher going to # 3 on 1st July 1963, a few weeks before the March on Washington when Martin Luther King made his ‘I have a dream’ historical speech. The song had been used as a kind of chanting hymn during the marches for the Civil Rights. Its original lyrics says:  ‘It’s a song of justice, it’s a song of freedom, it’s a song about the love between my brothers and my sisters all over the land!’ The album producer, being on the other side of the globe from the tribulations that plagued the US, thought the lyrics were too ‘heavy’ for a teenager to sing, even though Trini Lopez’s version recorded ‘live’ at the P.J.’s in L.A. was as light as a feather . Well, Bardotti’s version was even more tongue-in-cheek than mindless Trini’s. It’s the plight of a girl who’s bored at a party where they refuse to play lively surf and hully-gully and the couples only dance cheek-to-cheek. She wishes she had a hammer to cause mayhem and finish the party off. It’s pure non-sense but fun! That’s the song that took Rita to Number One in Brazil – the biggest selling record of 1964.

SOMIGLI AD UN’OCA [Your baby’s gone surfin’] – You look like a goose - After 'Martello' it's the rockiest track in the album. A cover of a Duane Eddy hit that maybe supplants the original. It’s pure non-sense too.  She insults her lover saying he resembles a goose [Somigli ad un’oca] and in the spoken bit she shouts all kinds of abuses even calling him a banana-eating monkey.  Rita sang this particular rocker in one of her appearances at ‘Shindig’.  Later in 1965 she sang it again in her first featured film ‘Rita, la figlia americana’.

TI VORREI PARLARE –  I’d like to talk to you – Lovely ballad written by inspired Roby Ferrante the same youngster who  wrote ‘Alla mia età’.  Roby who wrote ‘Ogni volta’ for Paul Anka for San Remo 1965, died tragically in a car crash in 1966. ‘Ti vorrei parlare’ has been shortened by half in the album ending abruptly before the instrumental break. That’s something I’d like to know why.  If one wants to listen to the whole song one has to play the single or the many compilation albums that have been released in CD format.

SI FOSSI UN UOMO [Wenn ich ein Junge wär’] – If I were a man - That’s the cover of Rita’s German recording that went all the way to number one in late 1963.  See album ‘Ein Sonny Boy und  eine kleine Signorina’ for more information about it. The Italian cover is a 100% true to the original and sung in Italian on top of the play-back orchestrated by Werner Müller.

QUANDO SOGNO’ [On the sunny side of the street] – ‘When I dream’. Luis Enriquez transformed this evergreeen into a hully-gully and Rita shouts it all the way to the top of her lungs. It changes key at least twice getting higher and higher. That’s why some in the Italian press used to call Rita an ‘urlatrice’ [a shouter].

CHE M’IMPORTA DEL MONDO’ – What do I care about the world – The prettiest ballad in the album. It’s a very danceable masterpiece written by Luis Enriquez. Rita over-dubs herself... pretty. It came out as the A-side of ‘Datemi un martello’ that ultimately became a doube-sided hit in Italy. Even Mina sang it later.

SON FINITE LE VACANZE’ – Vacation is over – Another rocker! This time Rita is stuck in a beach resort, sort of a workers’ paradise and laments her impossibility to get in touch with her beau who stayed back in the city. Rita was a hard-working singer. She would give all her strength. She was no James Brown but she came close. She should have been dubbed the 'hardest working Italian girl in show business'. She shouts, pants, cries, jumps up and down... she twists and shouts and rocks and rolls.

BIANCO NATALE’ [‘White Christimas'] – I’d hate to be called an exaggerate but I think Pavone’s rendition of ‘Bianco Natale’, the Italian version of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’, is the best that has ever been recorded. Have a listen to it and tell me if I am mistaken. Look what Rita Pavone herself wrote about recording ‘Bianco Natale’:

I remember well my joy when I was told  I was going to record that famous American evergreen made famous world-wide by Bing Crosby in 1942.  A joy that turned into a childlike euphoria when my arranger at RCA, Luis Enriquez Bacalov showed me his orchestration for the first time. I was stunned with the beauty of the arrangement. I fell madly in love with the choir of voices that marks the rhythm as if it were a new, surreal instrument. And those magic violins that cascaded down in crystal-clear notes opening the way to my singing. I remember being so happy to sing this song that it took me only two takes to get the final cut which is in the album.

I would add that Rita’s recording is a true masterpiece because the ending is ‘well-resolved’. I always thought Bing Crosby version has an anti-climax at the end when he sings: ...’and may all your Christmases be white.’  Rita’s finale is much more dramatic with: ‘è natale, è natale, è natale, non soffrire più... uh uh uh uh’. That’s something thought out by Luis Enriquez that even Mr. Berlin would have applauded.

NON C’È UN PÒ DI PENTIMENTOYou’re never sorry!Singer-songwriter Gianni Meccia wrote this melodious rocker where she complains that her boy-friend is a bloody no good bastard who only thinks of himself.  The guitar is probably played by Enrico Ciacci, singer Little Tony’s bother, who was the best session guitarrist at RCA’s stable.

SOTTO IL FRANCOBOLLOUnder the postage stamps – Music by Luis Enriquez and words by inventive Carlo Rossi who tells about this girl whose boy-friend lives out of town.  As their romance should remain a secret she’ll write how much she loves him ‘under the postage stamps’.  That’s a really original idea!  The same play-back arrangement was used as base for ‘Ce petite jeu’ recorded by Pavone in France and only released in that country.

AUGURI A TEI wish you happiness  – the 3rd Luis Enriquez song in the album. Such a haunting melody, such a wistful finale for such a great album.  Enriquez’s use of strings is masterful. The male-female choir gives the tune such a beautiful harmony.  ‘Meus 18 anos’ was the first album I bought in my life.  I remember playing it non-stop and every time the stylus hit this last track I felt a strange feeling of nostalgia. 

Carlo Rossi’s words are really poignant:  “Tutte le cose che il mondo può darti, tutte le gioie che al mondo hai sognato;  io le voglio per te, io le sogno per te, mio caro, mio caro, mio amor!” ‘All the things the world may give you, all the things you have dreamed about;  I wish they will come true to you, my dear, my dear, my love!’.

'Meus 18 anos' is the Brazilian version of Italy's 'Non è facile avere 18 anni'. The Italian album was released in November 1963 just in time for the Christmas sales. It had a double-sleeve that opened as a book, having a few pages telling Rita's daily routine. Note that this de-luxe version was expensive and was immediately discontinued. Here are the inside photos of that original release:

original Italian glossy cover 
original Italian back-cover 
sleeve with poster included.

3. The International Teen-age Sensation LSP-2900

1. Remember me (Shelley Coburn)  5 May 64 – ar.: Teacho Wiltshire
2. Wait and see (Larry Kusik-Richie Adams) – ar.: Stanley Applebaum
3. Big deal (James Smith-Phil Andreen) – ar.: Teacho Wiltshire
4. Don’t tell me not to love you (Chip Taylor) – ar.: Stanley Applebaum
5. I can’t hold back the tears (Kornfeld-Keller-Kauffman-Ross) – G. Sherman
6. Kissin’ time (Kal Mann-Bernie Lowe) –  5 May 64 – ar.: Teacho Wiltshire

1. Just once more (Al Western)  – 5 May 64 – ar.: Teacho Wiltshire
2. Like I did (Ben Raleigh-Russ Damon) –  6 May 64 – ar.: Stanley Applebaum
3. The boy most likely to succeed (Lor Crane-Nadine Lewis) 6.5.64 S. Appleb.
4. Little by little (Jean Thomas-Ted Cooper) –  6 May  64 – ar.: Garry Sherman
5. Too many (Earl Shuman-Leon Carr) – ar.: Garry Sherman
6. Say goodbye to Bobby (Stewart-Bryant) – 6 May 64 – ar: Garry Sherman

By the end of 1963 with Soeur Sourire, the Belgian Singing Nun strumming ‘Dominique’ all the way up to Number One in the Billboard charts, the executives at RCA in New York thought it would be a good idea to try and record the tiny Italian singer Rita Pavone in English for a big US launch. Pavone, the 1963 European rock’n’roll sensation had been selling records like hot cakes not only in her native country but was also at the top of charts in Germany singing  in German, and making inroads in France singing in the French language. 

Rita was invited to come to New York to record a whole album under the guidance of independent producer Joe Rene of ‘Tossin’ and turnin’’-fame (1961's best selling single). A language-coach would deal with pronunciation problems that Rita might have and RCA would have a gold mine in the shape of myriads of 45 rpms sold State-wise and around the world.

Rita had been successful in Germany singing ‘Wenn ein Junge waer’ in German, so why shouldn’t she do it again in the US? Even though she didn’t know a word of English she would surely ‘pick it up’ as she went along. She had everything going for her: a strong voice that could be melodious too, a natural rhythmic sense and most of all... an atittude. She was telegenic even though she had a face covered with freckles and was very short. She had ‘oomph’ as they used to say in the 1940s.

The only thing the RCA executives didn’t realize at that point was that the winds of change had arrived in America in February 1964, with the Beatles and the British Invasion. The likes of  Bobby Rydell, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton (Bobbys for all tastes), Frankie Avalon, Fabian and all the so-called ‘teen-idols’ were on the wane to give way to the more rebelious Liverpoodians. The times they were a-changing, indeed, as the ‘other’ Bob... Dylan had stated.

But as the project was already on, Rita recorded the album at the RCA Studio on 24th Street and went on a promotion tour of radio stations around the East Coast and Mid-west. 

So Joe Rene assigned three of the best arrangers in the RCA hit-factory to work on a bunch of songs; gathered the very best session musicians  and back-vocal singers to record one of the best orchestral accompaniments of the early 1960s. Each arranger had one-third of the album (4 tracks) and after a few listens one can easily tell them apart. 

Teacho Wiltshire arranges the up-tempo numbers with a stress on a lively brass section. Stanley Applebaum arranges the slow-ballads with the use of a lot of xylophone and glockenspiel and, finally, Garry Sherman the mid-tempo numbers with a pench for good choral harmonies. Actually I would have bought this album even if it had no Pavone’s voice; the orchestrations are precious. I really like the arrangements for themselves. It’s a magnificent collectively work done by the best session musicians in New York circa 1964. 

Rita was featured twice at the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS, and appeared a few times in ‘Shindig’, Hullabaloo and other teenager TV shows. Rita did the most she could to become a household-name in the US but she was swimming against the tide. Not knowing English properly was an unsurmountable mountain in a extremely competitive market like the US, and soon enough she left the States to go on a tour of South America where she was a really big star! 

When Rita finally returned to Italy in the summer of 1964 she was in for a shock: new talents had taken her place and she had to work on the double to regain the time she'd lost trying to break into the US market to no avail. As the old saying goes: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Here’s the whole album track by track:

REMEMBER ME’ – Teacho Wiltshire – If one doesn’t consider the pre-women's-lib lyrics it is an impressive track. I’ve heard versions of ‘Remember me’ sung by Helen Shapiro and the Shirelles and none of them is nearly as good as Pavone’s. I kept wondering why Rita’s version is so much better and I think the secret is in its phrasing. Rita’s phrasing is sort of staccato whereas the others are ‘legato’. Rhythm is king in a simple song like this. That’s why Rita’s Italian version (‘L’amore mio’) was such a dud. The Italian arranger couldn’t reproduce the ‘dry’ pace Mr. Teacho Wiltshire devised. It’s one of the best tracks in the album and the right choice for a single. There are 3 guitar players in the recording plus bass, drums, 2 guys playing percussion, piano, baritone saxophone, 2 trumpets, 2 flügehorns, trombone, reeds and 4 female back-vocal singers that were double-tracked. 

'WAIT AND SEE’ – Stanley Applebaum – Beautiful ballad magistrally arranged by Mr. Applebaum with clever use of glockenspiel when it comes the time for ‘now I pray like all young lovers till the day that I’m free’.

'BIG DEAL’ – Teacho Wiltshire – That’s a powerfull arrangement. RCA thought it might be a single but ‘Just once more’ won in the end. I prefer ‘Big deal’ even though lyrically is not appropriate for a girl to sing. It’s easy to see that the subjetc matter is a male conundrum and not of a girl’s concern. ‘Big deal, so you’re going steady? You’re not her only one, she’s only out for fun, but I’m not gonna let her make a fool of my baby!’ This ain’t no girls’ talk but clearly a matter of male’s dominion. The brass section juxtaposed with the female background voices and a vigorous rhythm section makes it irresistable. It’s been released in Brazil as a B-side to ‘Kissin’ time’.

'DON'T TELL ME NOT TO LOVE YOU’ – Stanley Applebaum – A good sweet ballad that goes like: ‘You say you’re not good enough for me, I say that you’re good enough to be anything you want yourself to be!’ Well, try and top that self-help advice! Not even Mr. Dale Carnegie would be so positive-thinking. Then she goes on: ‘You say that you’re of another class; my friends don’t want our love to last; I know but my love’s still holding fast, it won’t let go.’ Wow, that’s another example of affirmative-action in the making. Chip Taylor, its author, proved that he didn’t have a chip on his shoulders.

'CAN’T HOLD BACK THE TEARS’ – Garry Sherman – That’s a winner too. I particularly love the female chorus and the lively rhythm. ‘I let him go because I wanted my freedom, how would I know just how much I would miss him...’ That sets the tone of the narrative. Then she goes on about crying: ‘I’m gonna cry till my eyes are sore as they can be, I’m gonna cry till I bring him back to me.

'KISSIN’ TIME’ –  Teacho Wiltshire – A rocker indeed. It’s a pity the song had already been a hit by Bobby Rydell in 1959. Besides, as in ‘Big deal’, lyrically it doesn’t make much sense for a girl to sing it. A girl singing this sort of lyrics would be called a ‘whore’ or a ‘hooker’.  Mr. Wiltshire rocks again! He was a master in arranging brass, guitars and a swinging rhythm section.

'JUST ONCE MORETeacho Wiltshire – the B-side of ‘Remember me’ US single. A sexually charged atmosphere where lovers have just kissed and want more of the same. Rita opened her second tour in Brazil singing it. It was a number one hit in Argentina translated in Spanish as ‘Pido paz’. It was recorded by Brazilian Jovem Guara (Young Guard) queen  Wanderlea as ‘Peço paz’.

'LIKE I DID - Stanley Applebaum – The whole B-side, apart from ‘Just once more’, is slow and melodic. This is the track that opens the tear-gates. It may be silly but it is pretty: ‘You found someone new but I doubt she loves you like I did.’  Look at the sequence:  ‘And when her kiss is no more a thrill and you’ll say goodbye like I know you will, will she go on loving you still like I did?’  Gee, how much more square can you get?

THE BOY MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEEDStanley Applebaum – That’s a cutie! ‘As years went by, you made me cry;  you thought that teasing me was so smart; if credit’s due they’d give it to you ‘cause you’d be the boy most likely to succeed in breaking my hear!’ Do we have to say more? One of the best tracks in the album. Its arrangement reminds me of the Brazilian Bossa-Nova rhythm that was catching up in the USA then.

'LITTLE BY LITTLEGarry Sherman – Nice little ballad about a girl who’s been left behind ‘little by little’. ‘The feeling’s going from your kisses and each kiss is ending much too fast;  now you get me wondering which kiss will be our last!’ Mr. Sherman really knows how to work with trumpets and a lonely trombone that is the highlight in this cutie.

'TOO MANYGarry Sherman – Another cutie!  Self-pity abounds again but supported by a nice trumpet playing and a good rhythm section. ‘Too many lies spoken, too many dates broken, too many people saying that they’d see you with somebody new!’  In such a case she should have dropped the dirty double-crossing philander.

'SAY GOODBYE TO BOBBYGarry Sherman -  That’s the last self-pity track. This time her self-esteem is the lowest it can possibly get. She asks her former ‘rival’ who’s taken her Bobby away from her to say goodbye to Bobby while you’re handing hands. I know he didn’t mean to hurt me, tell him that I undersdant!’. Then she goes and demeans herself further: ‘Many times he called me by your name, when you were near he didn’t act the same...’. And then she adds insult to injury by begging the ‘rival’: ‘... and please, love him tenderly, and if you’re not sincere, don’t hurt him, send Bobby back to me!’ Well, I guess that does it! This exercise in self-denial is beautifully arranged by Mr. Sherman in musical tones very pleasing to the ears. Actually if you believe this could be true you may even shed a few tears for such a self-effacing girl who is a strong candidate to be canonized by the Vatican next time around.

Further tracks arranged by Teacho Wiltshire featured at 'Small Wonder' - Rita's 2nd American album:  ‘Splish splash’ & ‘Turn her down’.

George 'Teacho' Wiltshire conducts his band in the 1950s. 

Billboard's add announcing Rita Pavone's appearance at the Ed Sullivan Show on 17 May 1964 and the release of the album 'The International Teen-age Sensation'. 

Stanley Applebaum 

Spanning almost half-a-century, Stanley Applebaum's career has been rich and diverse. His compositions and arrangements have earned him numerous awards, including 35 Top 10 hits and several #1 singles for such as Ben E. King, Bobby Vinton, Neil Sedaka, the Drifters, the Coasters, Connie Francis and Brook Benton. 

Mr. Applebaum's big band arrangements have been written for artists like Beeny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Harry James, Raymond Scott and Cootie Williams. Stan was an arranger and orchestrator for the Hit Parade, the US Navy, the US Air Force, the Goldbergs, Jimmy Durante, Radio City Music Hall, NBC and CBS.

4. Ein Sonny Boy und eine kleine Signorina LPS-10011


1. Ein Sunnyboy und eine Signorina [Karl Götz-Loose] Rita & Paul – 30.12.64
2. Okay, okay   [Rossi-Vianello; German words:  Hans Bradtke] – 4 Oct 1963
3. Zwei Mädchen aus Germany  [Heinz Buchholz-Günter Loose] – 28 April 1964
4. Wenn ich ein Junge waer’ [Heinz Buchholz-Günter Loose] 4 Oct. 1963
5. Sunshine Baby [Think about it] Paul Anka; G. ws.: Günter Loose – 28 April 1964
6. Wenn du deinen kleinen Brüder siehst [H.Buchholz-Joachim Relin] 26.9.64
7. Der schönste Ankerplatz  [Heinz Buchholz-Hans Bradtke]  30 Oct. 1964

1. Mein Jack, der ist 2 Meter gross [Johan Strauss; w.:C.U.Blecher] 23.01.64
2. Elizabeth  [Heinz Buchholz-Günter Loose]  30 Oct. 1964
3. Es ist aus [Heino Gaze-Fred Ignor]  26 Sept. 1964
4. Sweet sweet Rosalie  [Klaus Munro]  27 April 1964
5. Peppino aus Torino   [Heinz Buchholz-Günter Loose]  26 Sept. 1964
6. Dorch du has keine Zeit  [Paul Anka-Hans Bradtke]  27 April 1964
7. Kiddy, Kiddy kiss me [Klaus Munro] Rita & Paul – recorded 30 Oct. 1964

Released in late 1964.

1963 was a big year for 17 year-old Rita Pavone.  She started the year on the top of the Italian charts and finished it at the top of the German charts singing ‘Wenn ich ein Junge wär’ [If I were a boy] in the German language. She had been invited by RCA in Berlin to record an original composition written especially for her by Heinz Buchholz and Günter Loose a famous duo of German pop. It was clear to all that Rita was a little ‘butch’ in her manner of dressing and posturing herself before a microphone.  So Günter Loose came with the bright idea of writing a tune where she declares that it would be fantastic to have been born a boy instead of a girl. Half the song she praises the advantages of being a male, like going out at night without having to be back home early, or to be a famous center-forward in an international football team. Then, towards the end Rita changes her mind and admits that it’s much better to be a lovely female and be pampered by her boy-friend with kisses and caresses.

Well, that’s the story-line of ‘Wenn ich ein Junge wär’ which Rita recorded in Berlin on 4 October 1963.  By the 1st of  February 1964, it was Number One in Germany among Cliff Richard’s ‘Rotte Lippen soll man küssen’,  Trini Lopez’s ‘If I had a hammer’ and ‘America’, Conny Froboess’s ‘Drei Musketiere’, Connie Francis’s ‘Die Nacht ist meine’ and Manuela’s ‘Ich geh noch zu Schule’.  That was what the German Hit Parade looked like in late 1963 and early 1964.

As one can easily see, Germans liked to have foreign acts singing in the Teutonic language.  So they usually invited them to Berlin to record original material or covers of their own hits.  Peggy March had a # 2 in August 1965, with ‘Mit siebzehn hat man noch Träume’;  Elvis Presley had a # 2 in January 1961, with ‘Wooden heart’ [Muss I denn]; Paul Anka had a # 4 in July 1964, with 'Zwei Mädchen aus Germany’; even the Beatles had a # 5 with the double-sided hit ‘Komm, gib mir deine Hand’ / ‘Sie liebt dich’ in April 1964, while ‘I want to hold your hand’ [in English] was Number One.

EIN SONNY BOY UND EINE SIGNORINA’ – As Rita Pavone and Paul Anka both had had German-language hits in 1963-1964, RCA thought it would be a good idea to get them together to record a single where they would poke fun at each other for their shortcomings in the articulation of the German language. That happened on 30th October 1964 in the Lichterfelder Festsäle – Teldec Studio, in Berlin. It was produced by Sigrid Volkmann and famous band-leader Werner Müller conducting the RIAS Tanzeorchester with the Günter Kalmann Choir. Paul sings the higher part in the duet and Rita does the lower harmony. An American young man makes a date with an Italian signorina under the moonlight only to find out that the only words he knows in Italian are gelatto, macaroni and tutti-frutti.  She doesn’t understand English at all so there they are stuck with each other with no communication at all.  In the end they find their way around and come up with words like ‘my honey’, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘I love you’!  Such a winner!  It is a much better song than the A side but for some reason the rockier ‘Kiddy Kiddy kiss me’ was the one the got more air play and went up the charts.

OKAY! OKAY!’ [La partita di pallone] – As far as my German goes this is are very tread-of-the-mill lyrics.  Nothing really interesting. The only thing I’d like to point out is that even though Rita didn’t speak German she did a wonderful job memorizing the sound of the words she didn’t know the meaning of. Apparently the result was pretty good.  I was told she sings much better in German than she does in English.

Zwei Mädchen aus Germany’ – I hereby invite any Paul Anka to review Paul’s songs in this album.

WENN ICH EIN JUNGE WÄR’ – If I were a boy – As I have already mentioned it is the story of a girl who ponders the advantage of being a male instead of a female but is convinced in the end that being the target of her Tino’s sexual advances is much better.  Well, a point to Tino I guess.  This was Pavone’s greatest hit in Germany. Nina Hagen who lived in Eastern Germany then recorded a 'live' cover in the 1980's when she became famous in the West.

Sunshine Baby

WENN DU DEINEN KLEINEN BRUDER SIEHST’ – When you see your little brother, tell him to stop ruining our dates. Tell him to stop pestering us! Tell him to leave us alone! Tell him to stop throwing pebbles at us while we’re necking. Tell him he’s too young but one day soon he’ll understand it.  That’s the ‘message’ of this little rocker. Rita recorded it in 26 September 1964 along with ‘Peppino’, ‘Blue Jeans’ and ‘Es ist aus’.  Actually that was her part in the album because ‘Okay’ and ‘Wenn ich ein Junge’ were already recorded in 1963.

Der schönste Ankerplatz

MEIN JACK, DER IST ZWEI METER GROSS’ – My Jack is 6 feet tallor 2 meters tall. The melody was borrowed from Johannes Strauss who wrote it in 1866. It was first recorded in January 1964 in the USA as ‘I’ll wait and I’ll wait’ [see ‘Small Wonder’] directed by Sammy Lowe and his orchestra. Rita recorded the German version in Berlin two weeks later. The German words are so much better: Rita being short – only 1.50 meters tall – something like 5 feet tall – fancies a guy called Jack who towers over her. Her ‘mission impossible’ is to impress Jack and she plans on dressing to kill to get his attention  wearing a pair of red shoes, a purple dress and green hat. Not only that but she’ll be a big star as well. I wish my German was better to tell you the end of the story.


ES IST AUS’ – That’s it!  No more hanky-panky!  You’re no damn good and I’m through with you!  That’s basically what this really good rocker says.

Sweet sweet Rosalie

PEPPINO AUS TORINO’ –  As in ‘If I were a boy’ [Wenn ich ein Junge wäre’] ‘Peppino from Torino’ is a song especially written for Pavone. Günter Loose writes about this famous singer [Rita] who is very popular among her peers. Louis Armstrong would like to play his trumpet especially for her; Frank Sinatra rings her up daily from Hollywood; Charles Chaplin invites her for tea; Elvis Presley thinks the world of her; Maurice Chevalier thinks she’s got it ; Cassius Clay [later Mohammed Ali] tells her she’s the Greatest; even the Beatles like her so much they want her to become the 5th Beatle. There’s only one thing she can never get: Peppino from Torino eludes her in every way; Peppino really doesn’t care about her. An up-tempo tune reminiscent of rag-time in a superb brass arrangement of Werner Müller, is arguably Rita’s best German recording. It came out as a single in October 1964 backed with ‘Bye Bye Blue Jeans’, a most poignant ballad that unfortunately never made it into the album. that was obviously planned to be realeased in early January ’65.

Doch du hast keine Zeit

KIDDY KIDDY KISS ME’ – Pavone and Anka sing a duet again. Paul carries the melody and Rita does the lower-harmony. It’s got a typical German-rock flavour while ‘Sonny Boy und Signorina’ is more like a County & Western German style. It was released in late ’64 getting to chart position # 7 in 20 February 1965. This tune has been covered by The Clevers, a Brazilian 5-member rock band that supported Rita Pavone in her 1964 Italian summer tour. It has also been covered by a South African act.


BYE BYE BLUE JEANS’ (TSCHAU LITTLE BOY) – even though this was not included in the Album that I have just reviewed I’d like to bend the rules to say that it is my favourite Pavone German song. It is so well constructed musically as well as lyrically! It is a little masterpiece of teen-age angst. Werner Müller’s arrangement is perfect. It starts really soft when the girl is saying goodbye to her childhood, it grows into a crescendo when she notices that she’ll have to face a new world, it has a dramatic key-change, it soars into the heights of a new-found maturity when she becomes a lady [Dame zu sein], only to go back to a really soft and sad [traurig] finale. What a tour-de-force! I suppose it didn’t make into the album because it is a ‘slow number’ as opposed to a ‘rocker’ – that was what was supposed to come from the likes of Rita Pavone and Paul Anka. It had a bit of air play in Brazil even if the record was never released here. It’s
one of those mysteries!


For a few months in the year of 1966 there was a radio manager [Helio Ribeiro] who tried to innovate programming and had Alberto Moraví, a Uruguayan disc-jockey who spoke only Spanish in the air of Radio Tupi of São Paulo. Moraví presented a daily one-hour show in the morning. He used to play all those latest records he received via-air-mail from Europe, US and Latin America. He played German records sung by the likes of Brenda Lee [‘Wiedersehn ist wunderschön’], Cliff Richard, Rita Pavone, Paul Anka. Cliff in Spanish [‘Maria Nomás’], Pavone in Spanish [‘Pido paz’, ‘Las papas con tomate’], Trini Lopez [‘San Francisco de Asis’], Herb Alperts [‘Whipped cream’ – Crema Batida].  The Rolling Stones in Italian [‘Con le mie lacrime’], the Kessler Twins in Italian [‘La notte è piccola’], Mina [‘Un anno d’amore’]. Then one day the Journalist Trade Union  had a meeting and decided that a foreign guy speaking a foreign language could not command the air waves one hour a day. And that’s all she wrote. Moraví was gone but his high-quality show stayed in the back of my mind forever. It was like opening the doors to the world. He spoke 80% Spanish and translated the titles of most of the songs into Spanish something that was really rare in our radio. When he really liked a certain song like Trini Lopez’s ‘We’ll sing in the sunshine’, he would play it many times and rave about it. I remember he playing ‘Bye Bye Blue Jeans’ and translating it into Spanish as ‘Adiós pantalones azules’. Very quaint and cute.

Rita Pavone & Paul Anka's 45 rpms singles released by RCA Victor

47-9454 - La partita di pallone / Come te non c’è nessuno

47-9468 - Alla mia età / Il ballo del mattone

47-9485 - Wenn ich ein Junge wär’ / Okay! Okay!

47-9472 - Cuore / Amore Twist

47-9513 - Mit siebzehn soll man nicht weinen/Mein Jack, der ist 2 Meter gross

47-9531 - Datemi un martello / Che m’importa del mondo                  

47-9539 - Zwei Mädchen aus Germany / Sunshine Baby

47-9576 - Sweet sweet Rosalie / Doch du hast keine Zeit

47-9583 - Peppino aus Torino / Bye bye blue Jeans [Tchau little Boy]

47-9601 - Kiddy Kiddy kiss me / Ein Sonny Boy und eine Signorina

47-9610 - Elisabeth / Der schönste Ankerplatz
47-9630 - Ich frage meinen Papa / Wenn du deinen kleinen Bruder siehst


S M A L L    W O N D E R   -  LSP-2996

1. Wait for me  (Sylvia Dee-Arthur Kent)  ar.:  Marty Manning 09.07.64
2. If you got a mind to  (P. Barrett-R. Maugeri) ar.: Charles Calello 08.07.64
3. Splish splash    (Bobby Darin-Jean Murray) ar.:  Teacho Wiltshire 07.07.64
4. He’s got everything  (Doc Pomus-Mort Shuman)  ar.: Sammy Lowe  + 09.01.64
5. Turn her down (Ben Raleigh-M. Barkan)  ar.: Teacho Wiltshire  07.07.64
6. Baby (When ya kiss me) – Jackie DeShannon-Sheeley – ar.: Sammy Lowe +

1. It’s not easy (Non è facile) (Bernabini; Eng. w: George David Weiss) ar.: Sammy Lowe + 10.01.64
2. Lipstick on your collar  (E. Lewis-G. Goehring)  ar.: Charles Calello  08.07.64
3. I’ll wait and wait  (Ben Raleigh-John Gluck, Jr.)   ar.: Sammy Lowe  + 10.01.64
4. Rubber ball  (A. Orlowski-A. Schroeder)  ar.:  Charles Calello 08.07.64
5. No one else will ever touch me (Come te non c'è nessuno) (Vassallo;  English words: Ebb)
6. How low is low  (Ben Raleigh-Jeff Barry)  ar.: Sammy Lowe  +

Released in the USA in December 1964

+  produced by Hugo & Luigi:

9 January 1964 – ‘He’s got everything’ arranged by Sammy Lowe
10 January 1964 – ‘It’s not easy’ and ‘I’ll wait and wait’ both arranged by Sammy Lowe
‘Baby (When ya kiss me) and ‘How low is low’ were probably recorded on the same dates, produced by H&L

the rest of the tracks were produced by Joe Rene:

7 July 1964 – ‘Turn her down’ and ‘Splish splash’ arranged by Teacho Wiltshire
8 July 1964 – ‘Rubber ball’, ‘If you got a mind to’ and ‘Lipstick on your collar’ arranged by Charles Calello
9 July 1964 – ‘Wait for me’ arranged by Martin Manning

Reading the chronology of Rita Pavone’s recording sessions in the USA one assumes that Rita went to New York in January 1964 in order to record an album that didn't actually come to fruition until later in the year.

At Rita's first US visit she recorded under the direction of Hugo Peretti & Luigi Creatore, a very experienced team of pop smiths who had produced hits like ‘The lion sleeps tonight’ by the Tokens (#1 in December 1961), ‘Can’t help falling in love’ by Elvis Presley (#2 in December 1961) and especially 'I will follow him’ by Little Peggy March (#1 in April 1963).

Hugo & Luigi had taken Little Peggy March (real name Margaret Annemarie Battavio) all the way to Number One so the RCA brass thought they might do it again with the little Italian rocker. Pavone recorded six songs produced by the duo -  all arranged by Sammy Lowe - and flew back to Europe. No one knows why the songs were not released. Maybe Rita was not ripe enough?

Rita returned to RCA Victor's A Studio on 24th Street only three months later, in May 1964, to start recording anew under the guidance now of Joe Rene, who ended up producing the whole ‘The International Teen-age Sensation’, her first US album which was released in July 1964.

By December 1964 , RCA decided they had enough material left over from the Joe Rene sessions and the earlier songs recorded by Hugo & Luigi to release another album which they called ‘Small Wonder’.

WAIT FOR ME – this was supposed to be the single that would take Pavone to the top of the Billboard charts but it never had a chance. Maybe because it was the wrong time to be singing about teen-age inadequacies when the Beatles were shouting their way to the top. Maybe because Rita’s articulation of the English language was not what it was supposed to be... that meaning Rita didn’t ‘belong’ to the American-teen-ager-way-of-life... she was a ‘foreigner’, she had an accent. Actually she was nothing more than a wop, a dago, derogatory words used to demean people from Italian extraction. Rita was ‘cool’ in Europe or South America, but in the US Rita was only another ‘wop’... and worse, a wop with an accent. That was unthinkable in the teen-age world. You might even be a wop like Frankie Valli (actually Castelluccio), Bobby Darin (Cassoto), Dion (Di Mucci), Bobby Rydell (Ridarelli), Fabian (Forte) , Connie Francis (Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero) but you could never have an accent. How could an American teen-ager dream with a girl who’s a wop? There was no way of hiding that fact. That was the main obstacle why Rita Pavone never ‘broke’ into the American market. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

IF YOU GOT A MIND TO – up-tempo energetic song. Beautifully arranged by Charles Calello. 

SPLISH SPLASHBobby Darin had taken it to # 3 at the Billboard chart in 30 June 1958. It makes no sense reviving it 6 years later sung by a girl with no command of the English language. It’s a very difficult up-tempo number for such a poor thing. I wonder who chose the repertoire for Rita to sing. The A&R [artist & repertoire] department was lacking in common/good sense. Try and pronounce ‘on my living room rug’ being an Italian and then you’ll know what I mean.

HE’S GOT EVERYTHING – First song ever recorded in the US by the Italian ‘wonder’. Rita stumbles her way through the song.

TURN HER DOWN – that’s my favourite song in the album by far. Orchestra arranger Teacho Wiltshire was very good in arranging the brass section and that is a winner in every sense.

BABY (WHEN YA KISS ME) – Jackie DeShannon wrote this song and recorded it herself in a more C&W style. Rita’s version has a little Latin flavour and it’s pretty good.

IT’S NOT EASY (Non è facile avere 18 anni) – there is not much information about this recording except that it was the second song recorded at the Studio A on 10 January under the production of Hugo & Luigi and direction of Sammy Lowe. It is an English version of a slow ballad that was her current hit in Italy then. Nothing special about that. Sometimes what is good in one language is poison in another.

LIPSTICK ON YOUR COLLAR – talking about wops, here’s a song that was first recorded by Italo-american Connie Francis and went to # 5 at the Billboard charts in 1 June 1959. Francis recording is a classic and still sounds pretty good today. Rita’s is not bad either, but it didn’t make much sense to cover a 1959 hit in 1964, when the Beatles and the British Invasion were all the rage. It looked like the A&R department was stuck in a 1958-1959 time warp. Connie Francis had been Bobby Darin’s sweetheart then. Both were also Italian-americans. Would there be any connection there or was it only a coincidence?

I’LL WAIT AND WAIT – Music based on 'Tales from the Vienna Woods' (1868) (G'schichten aus dem Wienerwal, Op. 325) by Johannes Strauss and English words by Ben Raleigh and John Gluck, Jr. That recording didn’t do much in the US but it was a sizeable hit for Pavone in her German-language version ‘Mein Jack, der ist Zwei Meter gross’. Maybe the Germans were more sympathetic to the Italian teen-ager, or maybe it was only because Strauss was, after all, an Austrian who spoke Goethe’s language.

RUBBER BALL - it’s in the same league as ‘Splish splash’ and ‘Lipstick on your collar’. ‘Rubber ball’ was # 6 at the Billboard charts in 12 December 1960 with Bobby Vee. Why should anybody have any interest in a cover done four years later?

NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER TOUCH ME (Come te non c’è nessuno) – the title is ridiculous for the 1964 scene. Teens weren’t that square anymore. The Italian version ‘There’s no one like you’ is so much better. Mr. Ebb, the man who wrote the English words must have been at a low ebb when he had this out-dated idea.

HOW LOW IS LOW – written by Jeff Barry & Ben Raleigh, it was recorded originally by Jamie Coe (from Detroit), in 1961; produced for ABC-Paramount Records by Sid Fuller with orchestra & chorus conducted by Dick Wolf. Rita Pavone recorded it in New York in January 1964 along with 'He's got everything' and 'I'll wait and I'll wait'. All three songs were arranged and conducted by Sammy Lowe.

What one learns at the end of this album is that Rita Pavone would never break into the US market because it is very difficult (not to say impossible) for a ‘foreign act’ to do it. The very few instances where a ‘foreign act’ broke into the US charts are so rare and spread apart that one comes to the conclusion that when that happens it is only a ‘whim’ of fate, something not explained by Science. How can one explain ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’ (Volare) sung in Italian by Domenico Modugno being Number One at the Billboard charts for 5 straight weeks in April 1958? How about ‘Sukiyaki’ (Ue O Muite Aruko), sung in Japanese being # 1 at Billboard for 3 weeks in May 1963? And wonder of all wonders... how can one explain a lightning striking the same spot twice? That happened with the Belgian Soeur Sourire singing ‘Dominique’ in French in November 1963 while President Kennedy was being shot at in Dallas. The Singing Nun took ‘Dominique’ all the way to Number One at the Billboard charts and stayed at the top for 4 weeks. Is there a possible explanation?

Rita Pavone never broke into the US market but her two English-language albums were fodder for many-a ‘Frankenstein-albums’ in Brazil, Argentina and other places where the local record-buying public were more used to listening to songs they didn’t understand the meaning of. I, myself feel included in that sort of public. Being born and raised in Brazil I was an avid fan of Rita Pavone and her Italian records. Italian and Portuguese are Latin languages and one can quite understand the other. When RCA Victor released Rita Pavone’s first English-language album in Brazil I felt a little surprised. At first I thought it was ‘strange’ but after a few times listening to the record I was completely won over. ‘Small Wonder’ was never released in Brazil or Argentina but only ‘fragments’ of it as 'fillers' for LPs or EPs. By the way, here’s an exerpt of the liner notes of ‘Small Wonder’:

‘Only 5 feet tall weighing 80 pounds. Sparrow with Jackie Coogan eyes. This is an antology of teen-age hits of the past few years – from ‘Splish splash’ and ‘Lipstick on your collar’ to recent twisters It is no wonder that the ‘Small Wonder’ is the singing world new wonder.'

Rita recorded 'He's got everything' with Sammy Lowe's arrangements on 9 January 1964. Next day, Rita recorded 'It's not easy' and 'I'll wait and wait' which she later added German words and became 'My Jack der ist 2wei Meter gross'. Even though these songs were the first Rita recorded in New York, they were only included in her 2nd album.

Rita Pavone is photographed at RCA Victor's A Studio with producers Hugo & Luigi while she records what would be released as 'Small Wonder' later in the year. Billboard magazine 25 January 1964 says Rita flew out of the USA on 14 January 1964 to return to native Italy after a press party.