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.

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