13 October 2008

Caterina Caselli - Il Volto Della Vita

Year of Release: 1968
Label: CGD

It's a peculiarity of Italian popular culture that they did very much seem to enjoy taking the foreign hits of the day and putting out their own native language versions. All European nations indulged in this behaviour to a certain degree (not least the British who upset Nena by wanting an English version of "99 Red Balloons" where even the Yanks were happy with a German version) but the Italians seemed to have a whole industry going on. Sixties garage freaks can dig up endless Italian versions of tracks which were barely even hits in America, ska freaks can find some really rather ropey covers of Two Tone classics, and for all I know somebody right now is doing an Italian cover of Kate Nash. Pass it on if so - I'd like to hear it.

There is, of course, a marvellous "What The Fuck?" factor to finding some flop ditty being widely enjoyed by an Italian audience, and the above YouTube clip chronicles one of those very moments. Up above you'll find Italian actress, music producer and singer Caterina Caselli performing a frighteningly bouyant version of David McWilliams' "Days of Pearly Spencer" to a stadium filled with equally enthused folk. One can only assume that she didn't translate the lyrics literally, as obviously the subject of homelessness combined with hints of the end of the human race shouldn't naturally lead itself to this much cheer. It's a bit like seeing a stadium going bonkers to somebody doing a bouncy version of Scott Walker's "Next".

Caterina has had a long career in film and music in her native Italy, and was still releasing singles as late as 1990. I'm not too sure about her vocal rendition here, it sounds very off-key in places to my ears, but that could possibly just be because I'm so used to McWilliams' understated original.


Roman Empress said...

I like this but I'd still rather listen to Cilla's Non C'E' Domani (Where is tommorow?)

.mau. said...

Songs were never literally traslated in Italy bach then: writers preferred love songs (In this case the singers daydreams about her love, who eventually knocks to her door).

There are examples really freaking, like La tua immagine from Sound of silence (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcfPTtCDnPs there is a version, but it is re-recorded). On the other side, Scende la pioggia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IijfX4DV_g ) is much better than Eleanore IMNHO.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for those, .mau. Really interesting stuff - this is a whole area I know very little about (as you can probably tell!) and the translations do create some interesting results.

It's a pity there's not a blog out there somewhere focussing on this sort of thing - although there probably is, and I just don't know about it.

.mau. said...

(I'm sorry for the typos in my previous comment - I have the bad habit of not rereading what I write)

It could be that there is some (Italian or Spanish) blog which talks about the "translations" of the lyrics, but I don't know any of them either. Keep in mind that the localization of songs dwindled in the 70s, and I don't think there are a lot of examples after the 80s; whoever wants to talk about this must be rather old :-)

23 Daves said...

I'd like to think that music industry peculiarities from all eras are of interest to all generations - but then again, the age range of people visiting this blog doesn't hold my hopes up much on that score!

Madness definitely had some Italian translations of their songs hanging around in the eighties - they thought they were so awful that they re-recorded some of their own songs in Italian to try and get around the problem. I can't speak a word of the language myself so I've absolutely no idea how successful they were.

.mau. said...

Really? I only heard Madness sing in English :-)